Saturday's NBA playoff action is destined to delight basketball fans across the nation. The playoffs have been an overwhelming success so far with so many close games and heroic performances (Troy Daniels, anyone?), and Saturday is set for more of the same.
It is a first for the NBA: three Game 7s taking place all on the same day and potentially three more set to tip off on Sunday. This is a life-affirming weekend if you're a basketball fan, so don't miss any of the hardwood heroics, and check out the updated television information for each game.
|7||Hawks at Pacers||May 3||5:30 p.m.||TNT|
|7||Grizzlies at Thunder||May 3||8 p.m.||TNT|
|7||Warriors at Clippers||May 3||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
|7*||Nets at Raptors||May 4||TBD||TBD|
|7*||Mavericks at Spurs||May 4||TBD||TBD|
|7*||Trail Blazers at Rockets||May 4||TBD||TBD|
NBA.com, *denotes if necessary
As always, the updated bracket for the entire playoffs can be found in all its glory right here.
Game 7s are designed to turn players into local pharaohs or national pariahs. There is simply too much at stake, and every player knows it long before he steps onto the court. Let's take a look at three such players who will have a big say on their teams' chances of advancing to the next round.
David West, Indiana Pacers
West saved the Pacers in Game 6. Down 3-2 and needing a win to stave off elimination at the hands of a No. 8 seed, West came up with 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to lead his team to a 95-88 victory with its back planted firmly against the wall. Twelve of West's 24 points came in the hotly contested fourth quarter.
The Pacers sorely needed someone to step up and make his presence known inside, especially considering the baffling incompetence of Roy Hibbert at center. Hibbert was an All-Star selection earlier this year but played just over 12 minutes in Game 6.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel was full of praise for his fundamentally sound forward, via Mike Wells of ESPN.com:
[West has] poise and composure. When a team is making a run like that and you're dealing with an eight seed trying to knock off a one seed in their building and the play is erupting on every play, [it's great to have] somebody out there with that level and composure. He's our rock. There's no other way to put it.
The potential loss of Paul George in Game 7 would only magnify his impact. George walked onto the court during an altercation between Mike Scott of the Atlanta Hawks and George Hill, which is against NBA rules.
David West will need to take the leadership role again on Saturday night if the Pacers are to avoid an embarrassing loss to the Atlanta Hawks, who stumbled into the playoffs with a 38-44 record.
Mike Conley Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies stood on the verge of moving on to the second round but were trounced by Kevin Durant and the Thunder in Game 6, losing by a score of 104-84. Conley had a disastrous game, finishing with just five points, four rebounds and six assists. He pulled up lame with the hamstring issue in the third quarter of Game 6.
Conley will play in Game 7 despite his right hamstring strain. Per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, Conley said, "You're not supposed to play through it, they say. I've got deaf ears right now. I'm going to get treatment on it and be as good as I can be."
The Grizzlies will need Conley at his best considering their post presence, which has done an excellent job of keeping Durant and Russell Westbrook out of the paint, will be diminished.
Which player will have the biggest impact for his team Saturday?
Zach Randolph is set to be suspended for Game 7 for punching Steven Adams, according to Royce Young of CBSSports.com. This means both Conley and Tony Allen are going to have to do their best defensively to force Westbrook, Durant and company into tough shots on the perimeter as Marc Gasol will have all he can handle in the post.
A hamstring strain means limited mobility for Conley, but the Grizzlies are thin at point guard and will need him to put his best out there on the court in Game 7 if they are to have a chance against the fearsomely talented Thunder.
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
These are tumultuous times for the Los Angeles Clippers, and it is going to take a leader to get through Game 7 and into the next round. Paul is the man in Los Angeles, despite the fact that Blake Griffin makes the majority of the nightly highlight reels.
ESPN's Bill Simmons hasn't been enamored with Paul's play so far this series, although it can be forgiven considering the circumstances.
For what it's worth - Chris Paul hasn't been the Best Guy On The Floor in any of these first 6 GSW-LAC games. Did not expect that.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 2, 2014
Still, the playoffs' small sample-size stats seem to back up Simmons' opinion if you compare them to his work during the regular season.
The uptick in steals has been the part of Paul's game that has really helped keep his team in contention. Never one to shy away on defense, his pocket-picking exploits have turned into plenty of fast-break opportunities and kept a steady supply of easy buckets for DeAndre Jordan and Griffin.
Paul did appear to be sufficiently banged up during Game 6, and the Orange County Register's Dan Woike kept tabs on the situation:
Giant wrap on Chris Paul's right leg, plus work on left hand -- not good news for LAC— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) May 2, 2014
If the Clippers want to move on, they will need a healthy and effective Paul to ratchet up the intensity and take over in Game 7 on both ends of the floor.