The NBA playoffs have set a new standard for postseason entertainment so far. Three of the more entertaining series in the playoffs will potentially be wrapped up on Thursday night, and the action stretches from coast to coast with series from both conferences on the slate.
The Grizzlies and Thunder can't stop giving away free basketball to fans, the Clippers are the nation's new favorite team and the Pacers are on the verge of becoming the nation's leading provider of schadenfreude.
Let this updated TV schedule provide the key information needed to sort out exactly where and when to catch all the action.
|Pacers at Hawks||ATL 3-2||6||7 p.m.||NBA TV|
|Thunder at Grizzlies||MEM 3-2||6||8 p.m.||TNT|
|Clippers at Warriors||LAC 3-2||6||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
Full playoff schedule and bracket can be viewed at NBA.com
Now that everyone has a chance to clear their schedule or set their DVRs, let's take a look at how the action might play out Thursday night.
Indiana Pacers at Atlanta Hawks
The Pacers are on the brink of becoming infamous for one of the largest late-season collapses in NBA history. They had a chance to take the lead in the series on their home court in Game 5, but the Hawks—led by a combined 30 points from reserves Mike Scott and Shelvin Mack in the second quarter—downed the Pacers with a barrage of threes for a comfortable 107-97 victory. They shot an incredible 55.6 percent from beyond the arc and are shooting 39.1 percent overall from three-point range in the series.
The Hawks have utilized quick ball movement around the perimeter to flummox the Pacers while relying on Paul Millsap to take on Roy Hibbert inside. Hibbert has been historically dreadful so far in the playoffs, as ESPN Stats & Info points out.
Roy Hibbert is having the worst postseason of any player named to an All-Star team earlier that year. pic.twitter.com/2OmEt7WSZM— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 29, 2014
His grand total of 24 points and 17 rebounds in the series are numbers one would expect from Hasheem Thabeet, not an All-Star center and perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
As far as how the team is faring against the Hawks, David West voiced displeasure with the Pacers' inability to adjust to the Hawks' offensive display. Via Mike Wells of ESPN.com:
We have to be able to make better adjustments. We just didn't respond. I have no explanation on why we gave up 40-something [points] in the second quarter. "Coach [Frank Vogel] throws [the starters] back out there and says, 'Get us out of the hole.' Just tough, particularly when a team is rolling, feeling good. We're in an uphill battle the whole game.
This has all the telltale signs of a team in complete disarray. Aside from Paul George having a quietly stellar series (22.6 points, 11.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists), the Pacers have looked out of sorts, and a perceived lack of trust in coach Frank Vogel's tactics doesn't bode well for a road trip to Atlanta with a historic level of pressure at their backs.
Prediction: Hawks win
Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies
While the Pacers are completely out of sorts, the Thunder are struggling with a deep imbalance.
They can certainly feel hard-bitten after a 100-99 overtime loss in Game 5, where Kevin Durant was interrupted on his second free-throw attempt by referee Joey Crawford and Serge Ibaka's potential game-winning tip-in came in a split second too late in overtime.
The Grizzlies are one of the more difficult seventh seeds a team could draw in the playoffs, considering their regular-season record was deflated due to multiple injuries. Marc Gasol, who missed 23 games during the regular season, has once again formed a bruising partnership in the paint with Zach Randolph.
The Thunder bench, aside from a Game 4 outburst from Reggie Jackson, hasn't provided any scoring threat in the series. They have averaged 16.3 points in the Thunder's three losses so far.
This creates an overreliance on Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Normally, this wouldn't be a particularly terrible problem, but both players have struggled from the floor in the series.
Westbrook has shouldered plenty of the blame for his erratic shot selection. He scored 30 points in Game 5, but he was wildly inefficient, as it took him 31 field-goal attempts to do so. Of course, when he can trust few others besides Durant to pick up the slack, its no wonder Westbrook feels the need to take so many shots.
Despite the Thunder's imbalance on both ends of the court, the series has still gone to four overtime games in a row. The Grizzlies can't keep pace if either Westbrook or Durant finds his shooting stroke, and the Thunder have gone through too much in the regular season to drop out of the first series in six games. Look for Durant to take control on offense and lead his team to a thrilling Game 6 victory.
Prediction: Thunder win
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors
The Clippers have played two games under intense circumstances since the Donald Sterling controversy ignited a media firestorm. They looked drained in their Game 4 loss in Oakland but came back strong with a 113-103 victory at home in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.
Coach Doc Rivers had some words for the home boost the players received from the fans, via ESPN's Arash Markazi.
Doc on the fans: "That was as good as I've ever seen. They were unbelievable."— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) April 30, 2014
DeAndre Jordan was Jekyll in Game 4 (zero points), but he brought out his Mr. Hyde side with an incredible Game 5, tallying 25 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks.
On defense, the Clippers have had great success by swarming Stephen Curry and forcing him to dribble more than he wants to. In Game 5, Curry had eight turnovers, which were easily converted into fast-break points by the Clippers. It also limited Curry's number of shots early on in the game, as noted by NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper.
Halftime: Clippers lead 55-50 despite Griffin 1-8 FG and CP3 2-8 FG. Jordan 15 and 11. Curry has three shots and two makes.— Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper) April 30, 2014
The easy transition buckets and stifling of Curry are what separates these two teams so far in the playoffs. The Warriors don't have a solid corps of big men to contend with Jordan or Blake Griffin in the paint for the duration of the series, either. The Warriors' small ball can only take them so far when they consistently lose the handle.
The Clippers players and coaching staff have become instant heroes nationwide through their united and inspiring response. This may not always translate to hardwood success, but they are a team well equipped to handle the Warriors in Game 6 despite the exhaustive conditions of their playoff run.
Prediction: Clippers win