One of the best first rounds in the history of the NBA playoffs will finally come to an end with two Game 7 matchups on Sunday.
Five first-round series went the distance in this round, with seemingly every game going down to the wire. Fans certainly will not be disappointed if the rest of the postseason lives up to this standard.
Few are likely surprised to see the matchup between the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets go the distance. The Raptors earned the No. 3 seed in the East thanks to their quickness and athleticism to beat older teams, but the Nets have too much talent and experience to go away without a fight.
On the other hand, the Dallas Mavericks have turned some heads this postseason with their ability to play with the San Antonio Spurs, who have been dominant since the All-Star Break.
No matter what anyone was expecting, though, all four teams now have to play their hardest to avoid going home for the summer. Here is a look at what to expect in the two highly contested battles.
Brooklyn Nets at Toronto Raptors
Coming into the series, the big story was the battle between the experience of Brooklyn against the youth of the Raptors. This first part is something that could end up playing a huge role in Game 7.
Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press notes how much experience the Nets have in decisive games:
Nets say they have a combined 27 games of Game 7 experience, topped by Pierce with eight and Garnett with six.— Brian Mahoney (@briancmahoney) May 3, 2014
The veteran players even know how to stay calm and focused on playing while others might complain about the refs. Joe Johnson had this to say when asked about the calls in the series, via Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York:
I never get calls, man. It doesn't bother me, though. I just try to play through it. At the end of the day, playing to the refs is not gonna make it any easier.
I just try to be aggressive and just try to take whatever the defense presents to us as a team. We can't worry about the calls. We can't worry about getting calls. We can't complain to the referees. We've just got to play through it.
Johnson is the main reason the Nets are still in this series, as the guard has scored 21.2 points per game while hitting 54.7 percent of his shots from the field. He has been a consistent contributor while the rest of the team has been hot and cold.
However, Brooklyn recommitted to its defense in Game 6, preventing everyone but DeMar DeRozan from having a good game. If the squad can do this again in Game 7, all the fans in Toronto cannot help the home team win.
Prediction: Nets 90, Raptors 86
Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs
As good as the Spurs were throughout the season to end with the NBA's best record, fans were too quick to count out the Mavericks. Everyone seemed to forget that the veterans on Dallas know how to win in the playoffs and have had plenty of time competing against San Antonio.
Monta Ellis has also had an excellent series while averaging 21.8 points per game. Doug Gottlieb of CBS Sports had this note during Game 6:
Monta Ellis. Gets.Buckets.— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) May 3, 2014
Meanwhile, Tony Parker did his best to match the guard shot for shot, finishing with a team-high 22 points in the last game while impressing quite a few onlookers, including Mike Breen:
“A magician in the paint.” – Mike Breen on Tony Parker— ESPN (@espn) May 3, 2014
The problem is that Parker took 23 shots in the loss after taking the same amount in Game 5, totaling 19-of-46 from the field. Only three times during the season did the point guard take this many attempts in a game.
Although he is clearly the team's best player, he needs to make sure to do a better job of distributing the ball in Game 7.
Of course, the biggest problem is the defense. The Mavericks have now topped 100 points in four out of six games while they have made the most of their open looks.
The good news is that the Spurs know how to make adjustments in a hurry, and they should come out with their best game of the postseason at home in Game 7. This is bad news for the Mavericks, who will be unable to keep up in their final game of the year.
Prediction: Spurs 99, Mavericks 91
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