There is a legitimate chance that every single Western Conference series in the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs will go the full seven games.
Of course, a few dominoes have to fall into place, but it is a testament to how incredibly thrilling this postseason has been thus far. Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders summed up the developments in the Western Conference nicely:
I have no idea which team is going to come out of the Western Conference. This postseason is excellent.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) April 27, 2014
Wednesday brings two more Western Conference games. Here is a look at that schedule:
|Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs||2-2||7 p.m.||TNT|
|Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets||3-1 (Portland)||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
Now that we know what the schedule looks like, let’s dig into a couple of predictions for Wednesday’s Western Conference action.
San Antonio Takes Control
This is not the way a series between the No. 1 seed and the No. 8 seed is supposed to unfold, although the San Antonio Spurs are probably much happier to be in their 2-2 situation with the Dallas Mavericks than the 3-2 hole the Indiana Pacers are facing against the Atlanta Hawks.
The Spurs return home for a critical Game 5 and will thrive behind the support of their home fans and the resurgent play of Manu Ginobili.
Ginobili scored 23 points and dished out five assists in the Spurs’ Game 4 win and carried the offense while Tony Parker struggled. In fact, San Antonio holds a 17-point advantage in this series when Ginobili is on the floor, as opposed to a 30-point disadvantage when he is on the bench, according to ESPN.com.
Who wins Game 5?
Dallas has had trouble keeping the lefty out of the lane all series, and there is no reason to expect that to change in Game 5. Had Vince Carter not drilled the buzzer-beating three-pointer to win Game 3, it would have been Ginobili who hit the game-winning shot with less than two seconds remaining on his drive.
Parker is nursing an ankle issue, so Ginobili will be asked to step up again even if Parker does play. He will do just that.
Portland Closes Out Houston
Perhaps the safest bet in the entire NBA playoffs is the assumption that a game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Houston Rockets will come down to the final moments.
Three of the first four games went to overtime, and SportsCenter pointed out just how tight the entire series has been:
Portland leads Houston 3-1 in the series, despite only outscoring Rockets by 7 total points.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 28, 2014
Some might say the fact that the underdog Trail Blazers (at least by seeding) have taken a 3-1 lead over Houston is impressive in and of itself, but superstar point guard Damian Lillard pointed out to CSNNW.com’s Chris Haynes that his team has larger aspirations: "We’re not here for moral victories. We all want to win the championship. Of course we’re going to take it game-by-game, but we’re here for rings, man."
Just like every contest in this battle, Game 5 will come down to the end. Whichever team makes its shots in crunch time will emerge victorious, which is bad news for the Rockets if they continue to shoot like they have been, via InsideHoops:
#Rockets guards vs Blazers thru 4 playoff games: Jeremy Lin shooting 36%, Patrick Beverley 39%, James Harden 35%— InsideHoops.com NBA (@InsideHoops) April 28, 2014
Portland will win this game because Lillard is having his way with the Houston backcourt, LaMarcus Aldridge is turning into a monster before our eyes, and the Rockets’ key contributors have struggled in the biggest moments.
Dwight Howard’s free-throw shooting is something of a liability. Jeremy Lin has turned it over far too often in crunch time, and James Harden has forced his shot in traffic too often instead of looking for open teammates.
Like we have seen throughout the majority of the series, Portland’s playmakers will make the plays when it matters most and win the series.
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