What do the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors as well as the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks have in common?
After knotting each of their first-round series at three games apiece on Thursday, all six teams will be competing in a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday.
The home teams—OKC, L.A. and Indy—may have a distinct advantage by playing in a friendly environment. However, the road team has won a combined nine games in these three series thus far.
If the 2014 postseason has taught us anything, it’s that the outcome can never truly be expected.
The Clippers will need a bounce-back performance from All-Star Blake Griffin if they hope to close out the series and advance. The power forward scored 17 points in Game 6 on just 8-of-24 shooting from the field (33.3 percent).
Of course, LA’s biggest issue lies with its floor general. Chris Paul was clearly not playing at 100 percent due to a left hamstring injury coupled with an injured left hand—which was getting evaluated on the bench during the affair.
The Thunder, meanwhile, will hope to get more of the same from superstar Kevin Durant.
After struggling through the first five games of the series—prompting The Oklahoman to print a headline reading “Mr. Unreliable” in reference to the MVP front-runner—Durant looked like his usual self in Game 6.
He scored 14 points in the first quarter, which gave Oklahoma City a 25-17 lead heading into the second. He finished with 36 points, 10 rebounds and got to the free-throw line 15 times (cashing 14 of them).
That’s the type of performance head coach Scott Brooks will need if his team is going to outlast the “Grit and Grind” Grizzlies.
That fails to mention the final home team: Indiana. After locking up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Pacers haven’t been able to figure out the No. 8-seeded Hawks.
Their spread-five lineup of three-point shooters has caused Roy Hibbert fits, forcing him to watch the majority of games from the sidelines.
The big man failed to score and racked up four personal fouls in those 12 minutes of action. Frank
Vogel’s rotational adjustments will be key for Indy, because Atlanta has proven itself as a matchup nightmare.
As Kenny Smith noted during the NBA on TNT broadcast (referenced by CBS Sports' Matt Moore on Twitter), Game 7 contests often become a shooting percentage coin flip. Past matchups won't matter much, as one hot shooting night can be the difference.
Look for OKC to pull away from Memphis behind the exploits of Durant. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson could easily heat up as well—as they did in Game 4—and oust the Clips.
As for the Atlanta-Indiana series, body language says it all. When the Pacers have won games, they express sighs of relief rather than the swagger of a title contender. What reason have they given fans to believe at this juncture? The Hawks simply need to knock down those open treys to dispatch the No. 1 seed.
Do your best to wipe your calendars clean, NBA fans. You won’t want to miss any of the madness.