There is a trio of critical Game 5s on tap Tuesday in the NBA playoffs, as two Western Conference home teams try to take control with a 3-2 series lead and an Eastern Conference upstart tries to close out one of the league’s most storied franchises.
Before we dig into Tuesday’s action, it’s worth getting up to date with all the postseason developments. An updated bracket for both conferences can be found here.
Let's take a look at the entire broadcast schedule for Tuesday:
|Washington Wizards at Chicago Bulls||3-1 (Wizards)||8 p.m.||TNT|
|Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder||2-2||9 p.m.||NBA TV|
|Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers||2-2||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder, Game 5
While the Washington Wizards could put an end to the Chicago Bulls’ season, and the Los Angeles Clippers are trying to find a way to stop Stephen Curry, the series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies has taken on particular interest because many assumed Kevin Durant would lead his squad to the NBA Finals as a No. 2 seed.
Instead, Oklahoma City’s first-round series with the No. 7 seed Grizzlies has been a back-and-forth affair that has seen Tony Allen frustrate the NBA’s scoring champion over the course of the first four games.
In fact, it was Reggie Jackson and not Durant or Russell Westbrook who played the role of unexpected hero in Game 3 for the Thunder. Jackson finished with 32 points and nine rebounds off the bench and possibly saved the team’s season in the process.
Gary Parrish of CBS Sports put Jackson’s night in perspective by comparing his efficiency numbers to those of the Thunder’s two superstars:
Reggie Jackson, on 29 fewer shots, scored 2 more points than KD/Russ combined to get and saved OKC’s season. Column: http://t.co/VUxtvUQBWi— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) April 27, 2014
While much of the attention for this series has centered around the performances of Westbrook and Durant, the Memphis Grizzlies have also gotten inconsistent production from one of their main cogs.
Zach Randolph is averaging 18.3 points per game in the playoffs, which is actually up from his 17.4 points per night in the regular season, but he is doing so behind a measly 36 percent shooting from the field. He is also only averaging 8.5 rebounds a night in the postseason compared to the 10.1 boards he averaged during the regular season.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks credited big man Kendrick Perkins for Randolph’s struggles, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com: "Perk is one of the premier defenders in the league. He does that game in, game out. He gives everything he has to stop his man from getting good post position. That's his first line of defense.”
The fact that the Thunder won Game 4 in Memphis while only getting 15 points each from Durant and Westbrook should worry Memphis even more than Randolph's struggles.
Who wins Game 5?
It feels like the Grizzlies missed a golden opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 lead in this series on their home floor. As great as Allen’s defense has been in this series, chances are that the scoring champion isn’t going to struggle so mightily again.
Look for the Thunder to get Durant involved early and often, be it through screens, pick-and-rolls or post-ups on the shorter Allen. If he can get a rhythm, Oklahoma City will use its momentum from its Game 4 win and the raucous home crowd to take a 3-2 series lead.
We might just get that Durant versus LeBron James matchup in the NBA Finals after all.
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