Game 7 Saturday: Previewing NBA Playoffs Deciding Games
Previewing Hawks-Pacers, Grizzlies-Thunder, and Clippers-Warriors Game 7.
What are the two best words in basketball?
Tactical adjustment after tactical adjustment, move by move, six teams have fought to a draw after six games headed into Saturday. The motto for the playoffs is win or go home, but after three losses, you still have he chance to come back and fight another day. Not anymore. Win. Or go home.
Three teams are going on to the second round Saturday. Three teams are going fishing. Which ones? We're here to find out. Here's your guide to game Seven Saturday.
1. Where We Are: The Pacers have looked sluggish, outgunned, lost, and a total mess for this entire series... and they're tied 3-3 going into the decisiveGame 7 at home. Somehow, despite going down in this series three times, they've rallied. They are the story here, as Gregg Doyel wrote early in the series. What happens with them is what matters. The Hawksare an interesting side note. But what's really happening is that everyone smells blood in the water with the Pacers and are anxiously waiting for the final collapse of the once-contenders.
This is pretty much like when fans would root for the brutal finish in the Colliseum between gladiators.
This game is gravy for the Hawks. They've excused their poor record going into the playoffs, shown that they really were decimated by injuries (if Al Horford were healthy, this series would already be over; then again if Al Horford were healthy the Hawks wouldn't be the three-seed). They have a chance to make the second round vs. an inexperienced and inconistent (but playoffs hot) Wizards team and could even make a run to the ECF. But their front office knows what this team is.
For the Pacers, this is abut avoiding embarrassment and about somehow avoiding the ignominy of losing to an 8th seed. They aren't fixed, and it's hard to argue they'll learnanything from this series. Roy Hibbert looks broken, David West looks tired, Frank Vogel looks desperate. But all they have to do is win one game, and they get a chance to keep figuring things out.
2. The Big Number: 186. That's the number of three-point attempts the Hawks have in this series. The record for a series is 203, set twice. They are a virtual lock to break that record, and it's been the biggest problem for the Pacers. The Paces have won series after series,game after game because their defense prevented not only made threes, but attempts. They keep volume and percentages low. The three-point hit against them cause mayhem to their defensive scheme and makes it hard for them to keep up, points wise.
If the Hawks get another 30 three-point attempts in inGame 7, there's a good chance they advance.
3. Key Adjustment: Look, I can spit out the Pacers' small ball and how Chris Copelandneeds to play but Frank Vogel has already shown he's not budgnig. If he's going down, he's going down playing Roy Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi 20 minutes per game. That's just the way it is.
From there, this isGame 7. You're out of adjustments you're willing to make. You've seen everything you can. You just have to go out and hope you make your shots. That's the dirty secret of most (but not all)Game 7's. It just comes down to who hits shots. You've played one another six times. This seventh time is just about a few extra plays a few more made shots, and who gets that game that night.
Class is over, it's fate from here on out, man-made or otherwise.
4. The Big Story: How much failure can one team have? Bear in mind that before I watched the replay of Hawks-Pacers game 6, by following on Twitter, I thought the Pacers were down by 30. Everyone has jumped on the wreckage of the Pacers' season to help pushi it into the ocean. That's the story here.
How much can the Pacers fail in a three-month span?
Where We Are: Six games down, four of which included overtime. It's squared at 3-3, with theThunder back in their building for the decisiveGame 7. The Thunder battled off elimination and monumental disappointment with an impressive game 6 win, making an adjustment to their starting five which led to more space for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to operate.
So much of the build-up to game 6 centered around Durant and nonsense headlines, and whether that was the motivation he needed or not is unknown, but the MVP-to-be showed up. He popped the Grizzlies for 36 on 11 of 23 shooting, setting the tone from tipoff with 14 in the first quarter. Westbrook rediscovered the fine line between aggressive and reckless, scoring 25 with five assists. The Thunder looked like the dominant team we've all expected them to be, and the Grizzlies couldn't ever find a response.
The stage was set for another battle. Maybe this one would go 10 overtimes? But then word came down that Zach Randolph was suspended for punching Steven Adams, and now this series has been flipped on its head. The Grizzlies will be missive an interior force and while when they play small, they do it without Randolph and have had some success, you wingames 7s with your best players, and the Grizzlies are going to be missing one.
Still: The road team has won a combined four times already in this series, with the teams trading wins over the last four games. The Grizzlies have to dig in and get back to their physicality. The way this series has gone, don't rule them out.
The Big Number: 29.2. That's the number of 3-pointers the Thunder averaged in games 2 through 5 when their offense sputtered greatly. It's no coincidence that their two best games(game 1 and 6), they took a combined 37 3s. In the four middle games, they never took fewer than 28. The Thunder are at their best when they play downhill, attacking the basket with a relentless, athletic nature rather than firing away from deep nonstop.
Key Adjustment: The Grizzlies have to counter the Thunder's adjustment to start Caron Butler, while also figuring out how to play without Randolph. Dave Joerger and the Grizzlies need to insert Tony Allen into the starting five, along with Mike Miller and play smallball for 48 minutes. In some ways that plays into the Thunder's hands because it gets a bad offensive player in Kendrick Perkins off the floor, but there's really no great option here.
The Big Story: It's pretty straightforward at this point. Winner goes to the second round. But it's certainly a much bigger deal if it's the Grizzlies that do that, thereby sending the league's likely MVP home before the conference semifinals. An MVP hasn't had to accept his award while not playing since Dirk in 2007, which was one of the saddest things to watch you'll ever see. Durant has to show up again to avoid that disappointment.
Where We Are: We're all tied up at 3-3 and headed for aGame 7 at Staples CenterSaturday night. If you're wondering how we got here, we got here by chaos. Some of it was good chaos. The 40-point blowout in game 2 was a wild display of execution on one end of the floor. The game 1 and game 6 victories were the Golden State Warriors fighting through the sludge of poor officiating and games called far tighter than was necessary in order to keep pace with a Los Angeles Clippers' team that is better than them.
Then we had the game 4 loss for the Clippers and the game 5 victory, both were wildly affected by a situation involving their owner which couldn't have been prepared for in any way. The only semi-normal game of this series was game 3 in which we saw the Clippers control the game for most of the night until Stephen Curry nearly led an incredible comeback and just missed the tying shot on what was probably a savvy foul by Chris Paul, which went uncalled. The good and bad chaos of it all has shaped this series and led us to a Game 7 in which I'm not sure we know what to expect.
The Big Number: 6.6. That's the net rating the Warriors have with Draymond Green on the court. They are plus-6.6 points per 100 possessions when he's in the game, and he showed in Game 6 why he's such a valuable role player for this team. His defense on Blake Griffinwas phenomenal, forcing him into tough shots and not allowing great position all night. Plus, he's a talker on defense and is willing to do all of the dirty work necessary as the Warriors go small. Green's net rating is one of two positive net ratings for the Warriors in this series, with the other one being Harrison Barnes at a plus-0.1. It's Draymond Green or bust for the Warriors.
Key Adjustment: The Clippers have to find a way to get more out of Chris Paul and Griffin. This could be difficult because Paul looked pretty slow and he had a hand injury in the first half of Game 6. If whatever is ailing him follows into Game 7, we're going to see some problems with this Clippers' offense being consistent. Ideally, they'd get Griffin and Paul into a couple dozen side pick-and-rolls throughout Game 7 and try to get Griffin the best match-up possible in the process. But they have to ride their stars and their stars need to come through because it sets everything else up for their team. If they don't come through, they're going to get the same criticism they received last season when they lost to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Big Story: Can the Clippers rise above everything that has held them back, both on and off the court, and come through as the contenders they're supposed to be? Looking at this team, there isn't much reason they shouldn't be contending for a title this season, although the recent distraction -- even if it does seem resolved for the time being -- could prove to be too much to fully put out of their collective mind. The Clippers have the talent to play with the elite, but the Warriors may just have more fight in them at the moment.
The Facts: 10:30 p.m. ET. Hedo Turkoglu is questionable with a back injury and Chris Paul has a left hand injury but is unlikely to miss the game. The Warriors are without Andrew Bogut, due to a broken rib.
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