Two teams have already punched their ticket to the conference semifinals, and now only six more spots remain as the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs comes to a close this weekend.
The Portland Trail Blazers can secure a second-round berth at the expense of the Houston Rockets with a third playoff road win on Wednesday, while four other teams will have a shot to move within one victory of the next round in a pair of pivotal Game 5s.
With the stage set for another dramatic night of playoff basketball, let's take a closer look at the updated postseason bracket and the upcoming television schedule.
2014 NBA Playoff Bracket (as of Wednesday, April 30 at 3 p.m. ET)
|First Round||Conf. Semis||Conf. Finals||NBA Finals|
|(1) Indiana Pacers|
|(8) Atlanta Hawks (Lead 3-2)|
|(4) Chicago Bulls|
|(5) Washington Wizards|
|(5) Washington Wizards (Win 4-1)|
|(3) Toronto Raptors (Tied 2-2)|
|(6) Brooklyn Nets|
|(2) Miami Heat (Win 4-0)|
|(2) Miami Heat|
|(7) Charlotte Bobcats|
|(1) San Antonio Spurs (Tied 2-2)|
|(8) Dallas Mavericks|
|(4) Houston Rockets|
|(5) Portland Trail Blazers (Lead 3-1)|
|(3) Los Angeles Clippers (Lead 3-2)|
|(6) Golden State Warriors|
|(2) Oklahoma City Thunder|
|(7) Memphis Grizzlies (Lead 3-2)|
|Wed, April 30||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV|
|Game 5: Mavericks at Spurs||7 p.m.||TNT|
|Game 5: Nets at Raptors||7:30 p.m.||NBATV|
|Game 5: Trail Blazers at Rockets||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|Thu, May 1||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV|
|Game 6: Pacers at Hawks||7 p.m.||NBATV|
|Game 6: Thunder at Grizzlies||8 p.m.||TNT|
|Game 6: Clippers at Warriors||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
|Fri, May 2||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV|
|Game 6: Spurs at Mavericks||TBD||ESPN|
|Game 6: Raptors at Nets||7 p.m.||TBD|
|Game 6: Rockets at Trail Blazers*||10:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sat, May 3||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV|
|Game 7: Hawks at Pacers*||TBD||TNT|
|Game 7: Grizzlies at Thunder*||TBD||TNT|
|Game 7: Warriors at Clippers*||TBD||TNT|
|Sun, May 4||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV|
|Game 7: Mavericks at Spurs*||TBD||TBD|
|Game 7: Nets at Raptors*||TBD||TBD|
|Game 7: Trail Blazers at Rockets*||TBD||TBD|
What to Watch for on Wednesday
San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors Look to Capitalize on Home-Court Advantage
The defending Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs avoided falling into a 3-1 hole and reclaimed home-court advantage with a dramatic road win over the rival Dallas Mavericks in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series on Monday.
But as Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy points out, the series is just beginning:
I give the Dallas Mavericks a ton of credit. This series against the San Antonio Spurs is way closer than I expected.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) April 29, 2014
Now, the Spurs must avoid suffering the same fate as the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder, who each lost Game 5 on their home floor to fall behind 3-2 in their respective first-round series.
With a win over the Mavericks on Wednesday, the Spurs would have a shot to close out the series in Dallas on Friday night. A win would also guarantee San Antonio a chance to close the series at home in a potential Game 7. On the flip side, a third win for the road team in this series would provide the Mavericks with a shot to advance on their home floor on Friday.
Simply put, Spurs-Mavs has become a best-of-three series, and the winner of Game 5 will be halfway to Round 2.
The key for the Mavericks will be finding a way to slow the Spurs' offense on the interior. Dallas has done a solid job of limiting San Antonio from beyond the arc this postseason, holding the Spurs to just 33.3 percent shooting as a team. However, the Spurs have had their way inside the arc, shooting nearly 53 percent on two-point field-goals in these playoffs.
As a result, San Antonio's team field-goal percentage of 48 percent ranks higher than any playoff team.
The Toronto Raptors find themselves in a similar situation to San Antonio. After earning a hard-fought road win over the Brooklyn Nets in Game 4 on Sunday, the East's No. 3 seeds have reclaimed home-court advantage and will have a shot to take their first series lead in front of a raucous crowd inside of the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night.
Considering both the Raptors and Nets have struggled to score the ball through four playoff games, it's obvious that the key to Wednesday's Game 5 will be turnovers.
Which home team is most likely to win Game 5 and go up 3-2 on Wednesday?
Toronto has absolutely dominated Brooklyn on the glass in the series, and the two teams are shooting similar percentages from the field and from long range. The only things keeping the Nets in the series are their ability to take care of the ball and Toronto's inability to do the same.
While Brooklyn ranks fifth among playoff teams in fewest turnovers per game, Toronto ranks 15th ahead of only the Golden State Warriors. On average in this series, the Raptors have turned the ball over nearly 18 times per game, six more than the Nets.
Toronto committed a playoff-low 10 turnovers in its Game 4 win and will want to turn in a similar effort in Game 5 in order to seize control of the series heading into Friday's Game 6.
Houston Rockets Try to Survive
After losing in overtime in Game 4 against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Houston Rockets, who trail 3-1, are gearing up for a do-or-die Game 5 in Clutch City on Wednesday night.
Despite going 33-8 at home during the regular season, the Rockets are 0-2 at home in these playoffs.
With two of the Rockets' three losses coming in overtime, head coach Kevin McHale reminded his team after Game 4 that postseason success requires an unrivaled amount of focus and intensity, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com):
"The playoffs are a grind. It's a different game than the regular season. You've got to be built for the grind."
With James Harden, Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons combining to average 74.5 points per game in this series, the Rockets will have to get it done on the defensive end of the floor, where they've surrendered a playoff-worst 118.3 points per game to Portland thus far.
Meanwhile, Portland will look to continue to ride the hot hand of LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 40-plus points in each of the two previous games in Houston and is averaging 35.3 points per game on 53 percent shooting from the floor in this series.
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