Both the Western and Eastern Conference Finals are now all tied up at two games a piece. Eight games have resulted in the home teams winning. No team has yet to win on the road. Will Game 5 change that?
Oklahoma City Thunder Visiting San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio looked out of sync when they visited Oklahoma City. The Thunder took full advantage and ran away with two wins to tie up the series. 21 turnovers in Game 3 alone does not help. Then the Spurs came out flat for Game 4 and with the lack of bench help for the Spurs, all of a sudden, the Thunder look to take control of this series and head for their first NBA final appearance.
There are several key things on why all of a sudden this is a series.
1) The bench play for the Spurs have all but disappeared. While arriving to play in Games 1 and 2, the lack of bench production hasn’t helped the Spurs as they also had a hard time to score in the paint in Games 3 and 4. With Tony Parker only scoring 12 points on Saturday and Daniel Green only have seven points, it is more important for the Spurs’ bench to pick it up. Which leads to….
2) Parker, who was on fire in San Antonio, couldn’t find any rhythm in Games 3 and 4 and the lack of execution on the pick and roll hurt that interior scoring. He only scored 12 points in Game 4 and has had an atrocious time finding some type of opening against the defense of Thabo Sefolosha. The Thunder may have found a winning formula with Sefolosha guarding their go-to’s scorers, while causing five turnovers. While opened up for….
3). The Thunder’s not big three of Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. On the road, combined, the trio only scored an average of 13 points while shooting a horrible 29%. A change of scenery changed those stats as the trio averaged 37 points and shot at amazing 78% from the field. The results? Two losses when shooting 29% and two wins when they shot 78%. So they key for Game 5 is……
4) Key players need to show up. When in San Antonio, the Spurs’ big three came to play. With the extra boost of the home crowd, the bench players came to work. When in Oklahoma City, the Thunder’s stars took over, while their bench proved productive for the wins. Momentum is on the side for the Thunder. But can they carry that momentum to San Antonio? We shall see tonight.
Boston Celtics Visiting Miami Heat
This series was suppose to be fast for the Heat. Many analysts predicted that the Heat would take care these old, aging, banged up Celtics in five games. And it was even looking like a sweep after two games and with Dwayne Wade dunk rejector, Avery Bradley, out for the playoffs. But with the resurgence of Ray Allen, the Celtics have notted this series up to two games a piece. Of course, there is always subplots to every story and this is no different.
1) Rajon Rondo – On the floor at one time with five future Hall of Famers, Rondo has certainly stole the show. After his playoff history performance in Game 2 with 44 points and 10 assists and eight boards, Rondo continued his game streak posting modest numbers: 21 points, 10 assists and six boards in the Game 3 win and 15 points, 15 assists and five boards in a Game 4 win. He is their motor. He is their heart. Of course, he shows his bone-headed moves by grabbing four offensive fouls and a technical (he has 4 right now and if he gets to 7, it will be one game suspension). But by and large, without Rondo, the Celtics are nowhere near being competitive in this series. But the other big dog for the Celtics is….
2) Kevin Garnett. There has been so much talk about the resurgence of two old guys in this playoffs. Tim Duncan has looked like vintage Tim Duncan. The same can be said about KG. After a mid-season move to the 5 position, KG has dominated the bigs and it has started with establishing the low block. A high release, makes it difficult for any defender to get even close to contest it. And, as always, KG brings the defensive presence, no matter how old or tired he is. Think about this. In Game 3 alone, the Celtics outscored the Heat by 27 points when Garnett is on the floor. When is out? The Heat outscored the Celtics by 17. Which makes us wonder……
3) Where is Dwayne Wade in the first half? In Games 3 and 4, it is has become obvious that Wade is in hiding…in
plain sight. First half belongs to King James. In Game 3 alone, Wade was 9-20 from the field and didn’t shoot one single free throw. That is a problem for the Heat and Wade. Maybe it’s the refs. Ultimately, this is a game refereed by humans and they’ll make human mistakes. And think about it. In Miami, Wade and James only got called for two fouls each in those games, resulting in a total of 8 fouls all together. You got to know that coming into Boston, you’re going to get called for more than 8 fouls in two games. That is just the way it is. Which leads me to….
4) Rondo’s comments. What he said was the truth (even he said it was the truth). The Heat were busy complaining about the lack of calls or bad calls that they failed to get back in transition. And that in itself is inexcuseable. Especially against an older, less athletic team (I mean, for christ’s sake, you literally got to be 30 and up to play for the Celtics). Refs are going to be bad, you just have to deal with them. Finally…
5) The bench (role) players have to play their roles. In Miami, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, played wonderful, while the Celtics’ bench players acted like they were just there to warm seats. And while Chalmers and Cole (they may have found the anti-Rondo-dote), in particular, played wonderful in Game 4, the Celtics’ bench awoke and helped their team to a victory. Keyon Dooling, provided three key three-pointers to help push the edge over.
Ultimately, these two series are now a best of three. Any pressure?
I think the pressure is on both the Western teams. Many people feel it should go to Game 7, but with all that championship experience, many feel that the Spurs should pull this out. But the Thunder have “championship material” written on them for years and with each passing year, the less patience their fans and critics have for them to achieve. So pressure is on both teams.
As for the East, the pressure is now on the Heat. After blowing a 2-0 series lead, they come back to Miami hoping to regroup (and maybe get Chris Bosh back) and get back to winning. A Game 5 win, will be pivital , as one team will have their backs against the wall. We’ve seen the Heat come together (after all that motivation from Indiana) and blow Indiana out of the water. But this is a prideful Celtics. You know they won’t take any punches laying down,it’s jsut a matter of them having enough gas to throw some of those punches back.