The first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs has boasted some of the most exciting opening-round matchups in the history of the league. There has been plenty of thrilling overtime contests, a massive amount of intriguing subplots, unlikely heroes emerging under the bright lights and so much more.
That will continue Wednesday evening with three more thrilling games. Two tied series are set to start the night, as the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks vie for victory in a pivotal Game 5, followed by a bitter battle between the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors to determine which team has the upper-hand going into what may be the clinching showdown Friday.
This triple-header will wrap up with the Portland Trail Blazers returning to Houston, where they are currently undefeated in the playoffs. They will try to finish off the desperate Rockets, who have their backs against the wall and desperately need a win to keep their season alive.
Keep reading for a look at Wednesday's first-round schedule, plus updated odds for those games and more.
|Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs||7 p.m.||TNT||SAS -6||Spurs|
|Brooklyn Nets at Toronto Raptors||7:30 p.m.||NBATV||TOR -3.5||Nets|
|Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets||9:30 p.m.||TNT||HOU -5.5||Rockets|
Matchup to Watch: Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets
Both games preceding this one should be a blast to watch, but this one has higher stakes for both teams involved. That should make it a priority for fans who only have time to catch one contest.
The Rockets blew an opportunity to even things up in Portland this past weekend, losing 123-120 in overtime and are now staring down the distinct possibility of an early elimination.
It was the third game to go to extra time out of the four currently played in this series, and it proved just how evenly matched these teams really are.
Houston forward Chandler Parsons echoed that sentiment when speaking to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (subscription required) about Game 5:
We are positive. It's not over in our eyes, and we have a chance to play a team on our home court, and it has been competitive all series long. Every game has been so close it could easily be the other way, and we just have to continue to grind. Our season is on the line.
Unfortunately for Houston, it hasn’t been able to hold on to leads and has played its worst basketball in crunch time. Blown opportunities on the offensive end, fatigue and lack of heroics in the final moments have ultimately been the club’s downfall in this series.
Mike Richman of The Oregonian pointed out the Rockets are shooting just 26 percent (12-of-46) from the field when the score is within five points and there is less than five minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter and overtime. He also noted Houston has connected on just one of its 15 three-point attempts in that span.
That poor shooting is the main reason Portland was able to shake off double-digit fourth-quarter deficits in two Round 1 games and is now on the verge of advancing into the conference semifinals.
Blazers head coach Terry Stotts explained after Game 4 that his roster is at its best when facing tough situations, as per Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune:
Terry Stotts: "We're at our best when our backs are against the wall, have something to prove -- whatever phrase you want to use."— kerry eggers (@kerryeggers) April 28, 2014
Which team will win Game 5?
Unfortunately for the Blazers, they have put a lot of cushion between themselves and the wall. They will need to find a way to stay motivated with the pressure off if they are to advance into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Expect a back-and-forth battle Wednesday night, but it is more likely the Rockets dig deeper and come away with a victory at home. They will be playing with the unhinged desperation of a team on the brink and should be able to parlay that into a sound victory.
Prediction: Rockets by five.