It took quite a few games in each of the four series, but each of the NBA Conference Semifinals showdowns are starting to kick it up a notch as they reach a conclusion.
It's about time. After the first round gave fans the best set of seven-game series the NBA has offered in quite some time, the second round was quite the dud up until a few games ago.
Now? Stars are stepping up. Some teams are collapsing, finding themselves and collapsing again. Those with their backs against the wall have fought back to some degree. The classic referee controversy adds another layer of intrigue.
Add it all up, and the final few games of each series are must-see action. Here's a look at the remainder of the slate.
|1||Clippers at Thunder||May 5||Clippers 122 Thunder 105||Clippers 1-0|
|2||Clippers at Thunder||May 7||Thunder 112 Clippers 101||Series tied 1-1|
|3||Thunder at Clippers||May 9||Thunder 118, Clippers 112||Thunder 2-1|
|4||Thunder at Clippers||May 11||Thunder 99, Clippers 101||Series tied 2-2|
|5*||Clippers at Thunder||May 13||Thunder 105, Clippers 104||Thunder 3-2|
|6*||Thunder at Clippers||May 15||10:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|7*||Clippers at Thunder||May 18||TBD||TNT|
|1||Blazers at Spurs||May 6||Spurs 116 Blazers 92||Spurs 1-0|
|2||Blazers at Spurs||May 8||Spurs 114 Blazers 97||Spurs 2-0|
|3||Spurs at Blazers||May 10||Spurs 118, Trail Blazers 103||Spurs 3-0|
|4||Spurs at Blazers||May 12||Trail Blazers 103, Spurs 92||Spurs 3-1|
|5*||Blazers at Spurs||May 14||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|6*||Spurs at Blazers||May 16||TBD||ESPN|
|7*||Blazers at Spurs||May 19||TBD||TNT|
|1||Wizards at Pacers||May 5||Wizards 102 Pacers 96||Wizards 1-0|
|2||Wizards at Pacers||May 7||Pacers 86 Wizards 82||Series tied 1-1|
|3||Pacers at Wizards||May 9||Pacers 85, Wizards 63||Pacers 2-1|
|4||Pacers at Wizards||May 11||Pacers 95, Wizards 92||Pacers 3-1|
|5*||Wizards at Pacers||May 13||Wizards 102, Pacers 79||Pacers 3-2|
|6*||Pacers at Wizards||May 15||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|7*||Wizards at Pacers||May 18||TBD||TBD|
|1||Nets at Heat||May 6||Heat 107 Nets 86||Heat 1-0|
|2||Nets at Heat||May 8||Heat 94 Nets 82||Heat 2-0|
|3||Heat at Nets||May 10||Heat 90, Nets 104||Heat 2-1|
|4||Heat at Nets||May 12||Heat 102, Nets 96||Heat 3-1|
|5*||Nets at Heat||May 14||7 p.m.||TNT|
|6*||Heat at Nets||May 16||TBD||ESPN|
|7*||Nets at Heat||May 19||TBD||ABC|
Indiana Pacers Look to Find Themselves Against Washington
It would be erroneous to suggest the Indiana Pacers' season is on the line Thursday night, but it sure feels like it.
After winning the third and fourth games of the series to take a commanding lead and put themselves in a position to put the young Washington Wizards away for good, Frank Vogel's team went out and laid an egg of epic proportions via a 102-79 loss at home.
Which would explain why it feels like everything rides on Thursday night. It's great the Pacers have two games to win the series, but them going home after a loss to Washington on Thursday and grabbing a win is no guarantee. That's why David West's line of thinking, via the Pacers Twitter account, is quite dangerous:
Effort and unity have been a question mark for quite some time. It won't go away any time soon after the Pacers were out-rebounded 62-23 in Game 5, which created some head-turning stats, via Numbers Never Lie:
Last night, Wizards' Marcin Gortat had MORE rebounds (16) than the Pacers' starters COMBINED (11).— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) May 14, 2014
Just saying... Pacers had the worst rebounding margin in a NBA game (regular or postseason) in 8,102 days.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) May 14, 2014
So once again, fans have no idea which version of the Pacers will show up. The NBA's most unpredictable team will be the surefire topic of conversation when all is said and done Thursday night.
The Los Angeles Clippers and Adversity
As if the Los Angeles Clippers needed any more drama, Chris Paul and Co. took a knockout punch in the final round of Tuesday's thriller via a 105-104 loss that was highlighted—and arguably decided—by a controversial call.
Coach Doc Rivers was none too thrilled with the call, as captured by ESPN:
Doc Rivers was NOT happy after the Clippers controversial Game 5 loss last night. http://t.co/Bn5IQHDlhc— ESPN (@espn) May 14, 2014
The call is an eye-of-the-beholder type deal, but the fact of the overarching matter is rather simple—the Clippers should not have been in that situation to begin with, as they surrendered a rather large lead in a short amount of time, as ESPN Stats & Info illustrates:
Who had the better comeback -- Clippers in Game 4 or Thunder in Game 5? pic.twitter.com/RfuNybTMFc— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 14, 2014
Those final four minutes saw the Clippers shoot 1-of-6 from the field and turn the ball over three times.
Sorry, but that's not playoff basketball. It most certainly will not get the job done in a tiebreaker showdown with the complexion of the series on the line.
For all the good Chris Paul and his 17 points and 14 assists did, he can shoulder the majority of the blame for the collapse. It does not help that the Clippers don't have anyone on the roster who can slow Russell Westbrook, who dropped 38 points on Tuesday.
Coincidentally enough, the alleged botch by the refs and collapse by the Clippers saved the woeful Pacers, as NBA.com's Sekou Smith points out:
Pacers are lucky the Clippers' meltdown happened last night. They'd have our full attention this morning if not for that final 49.2 seconds.— Sekou Smith (@SekouSmithNBA) May 14, 2014
There's no escaping the limelight for Paul and the Clippers. Thursday at home decides their season.