Saturday's slate of NBA playoff action features three series culminating in Game 7, sending neutral fans into rapturous ecstasy while fans of the teams involved will be losing sleep and ignoring loved ones.
Will the Clippers and Warriors rack up even more technical and flagrant fouls? How far can Kevin Durant carry the Thunder? Do the Hawks have what it takes to upset the Pacers and make history as an eight seed?
ESPN Stats and Info noted the historic nature of Saturday's games.
Saturday will be the first day in NBA history with 3 Game 7s on the same day.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 2, 2014
With all the action taking place, it makes sense to check out how the oddsmakers are looking at these games, as well as make some final predictions for what is surely going to be a memorable night in the Association's vaunted history.
|Hawks at Pacers||Indiana (-5.5)||TBD|
|Grizzlies at Thunder||Oklahoma City (-6.5)||185|
|Warriors at Clippers||Los Angeles (-6.5)||209.5|
All odds courtesy of Oddshark.com as of May 2nd, 1pm ET.
Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers
The Pacers backed into the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and will face elimination for the second game in a row on Saturday against the Hawks. They managed to contain the Hawks and win 95-88 in Game 6, but the Hawks still prove to be a matchup problem for the Pacers, especially with the empty shell of Roy Hibbert continuing to disappoint.
The Hawks finally had a dreadful night from beyond the arc, going just 9-for-35 from long range. Their quick ball movement around the perimeter had been giving the Pacers fits all series long, but Pacers coach Frank Vogel was finally able to make some adjustments and utilized a smaller lineup—Hibbert was limited to just 12 minutes—to his team's advantage. Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star commented on the strategy's effectiveness.
Since falling behind 15-5 early, Pacers have outscored Hawks 36 21. With small lineup.— Bob Kravitz (@bkravitz) May 2, 2014
This does bring the Pacers home for Game 7, but Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer has outwitted Vogel for most of the series. Expect him to come back with an adjustment of his own in Game 7, and the Hawks will make history as they ensure the Pacers' late-season swoon turns into a full-on collapse.
Prediction: Hawks win
Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder finally got the solid shooting night they needed out of Durant in Game 6, and the Grizzlies looked well overmatched because of it as they lost by a score of 104-84.
The MVP-candidate had to contend with questionable headlines heading into Game 6, as noted by SportsCenter's Twitter feed.
The Oklahoman sports editor apologizes for Kevin Durant 'Mr. Unreliable' headline saying newspaper "failed". pic.twitter.com/dMsUu6Ef3O— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 1, 2014
He dropped 36 points on a helpless Grizzlies defense, which had been doing an excellent job all series of keeping Durant out of the paint and forcing him into tough shots in the perimeter.
NBA.com noted just how effective the Grizzlies' defensive strategy has been for most of the series.
OKC's had the biggest drop-off in Offensive Rtg from the season to the playoffs. Credit the Grizz D. Analysis here: http://t.co/COuwIUpOXy— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) May 1, 2014
Chris Herrington of ESPN's True Hoops shared his thoughts on the Thunder's talent which had been stifled for so many games.
Don't care for moralistic sports arguments. Core truth of series came roaring back: Thunder's best have higher ceiling than Grizzlies' best.— Chris Herrington (@HerringtonNBA) May 2, 2014
Now that Durant has some extra motivation and Westbrook's erractic game looks in control, the Grizzlies will be no match for the Thunder, who will roll on to the next round of the NBA playoffs.
Prediction: Thunder win
Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers
Once again, Stephen Curry proved himself to be a perpetual thorn in the Clippers' side. He found his shooting stroke early and often in Game 6, scoring 14 points in the first quarter en route to a grand total of 24 points and nine assists on the night. Curry was the only answer for the Warriors' offense early on.
Stephen Curry was 6-12 for 14 Pts in 1st quarter. His teammates were 5-19 for 11 Pts. pic.twitter.com/wyawHpnoFG— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 2, 2014
The Clippers also lost the turnover battle in Game 6, coughing up the ball 12 times to the Warriors' eight. Turnovers have been key to the Clippers getting out in transition and creating easy buckets for DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Their main focus in Game 7 will have to be forcing turnovers in the backcourt, disrupting the Warriors' small-ball offense and keeping Curry from getting hot early.
The Warriors will also have to contend with the possible absence of Jermaine O'Neal, who left Game 6 with a knee sprain after a collision with the Clippers’ Glen Davis and did not return to action. O’ Neal was upset with the play. Via Jimmy Durkin of the Contra Costa Times: "Either he has terrible balance for a professional athlete or he was diving for my legs," O'Neal said.
The contentious series could see a final round of angry flare-ups due to the play.
Andrew Bogut has been out of the entire series with a broken rib, and missing both O'Neal and Bogut will be too much to overcome on the road against the Clippers and their faithful fans.
Prediction: Clippers win