Whether it’s cruising into the second round, battling to stay alive or gearing up for an offseason overhaul, everyone’s making headlines right now.
First, let’s take a quick series-by-series look at what’s going on in the playoffs tonight.
No. 6 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets: Golden State leads 3-1
Denver needs to face the reality that this series could have been over in four games had it not been for a time-warping performance from backup point guard Andre Miller in Game 1. Miller’s 28 points — including the game-winner — are the only reason Denver is still alive in these playoffs.
That being said, this has been — by far — the best series among the bunch.
Stephen Curry is displaying the offensive virtuosity that makes him a superstar, and the Warriors backcourt has been given the ceiling of the “best shooting backcourt of all-time” by Denver’s Hall of Fame coach George Karl.
Of course Karl did say they’ll have to continue to prove it over the next few years, but a loaded compliment nonetheless.
In a battle of playoff survival, the Nuggets will enter Game 5 banking on their 39-4 hone record to carry them onward. But even without All-Star forward David Lee, the Warriors have proved it won’t be easy.
Using their depth to wear down teams all season long, a few key pieces of the Nuggets bench have betrayed them in this series. First and foremost, Kenneth Faried has not played with the same energy-level since his injury, which has clearly neutralized his non-stop motor against the slower — but more skilled — tandem of Carl Landry and Andrew Bogut.
And without the injured Danilo Gallinari, Javale McGee has been asked to play a heavier dose of minutes. In the regular season this is not as problematic, as Karl and the Nuggets can live with a few wasted possessions. This is not the case in the playoffs, though, and McGee continues to waste far too many whether it’s a careless turnover or offensive goaltending or other common Javale McGee mishaps.
If my math is correct, that’s one key player out, and two key players playing far less effective, limiting the Nuggets ability to run the Warriors out of the gym.
This game will come down to precision, execution and personal pride, and if the Nuggets can’t match the unparalleled energy the Warriors have played with in this series, they’ll be going home earlier than expected.
After jumping out to a 2-0 lead against the battle-tested Grizzlies, the powerful Clippers’ engine has come to a stall. Returning home for a pivotal Game 5, they’ll look to rev it back up.
If they don’t, they’ll have a raucous crowd and a hungry Grizzlies team to deal with at the FedEx Forum in an unwanted elimination game this weekend.
Frankly, a home game could not come at a better time for the Clippers. The Clips have progressively waned as the series has evolved, while the Grizzlies have rediscovered what makes them so dangerous: destructive defense.
Memphis has been able to climb back into this series by doing what they do best: packing the paint and clogging the lanes, eliminating Chris Pauls room to work and Blake Griffins oversized launch pad. Because of the Clippers lack of long-range shooting, they’ve fallen into a stagnant offense that can’t produce enough points as the game wears on.
This can be improved with a dedicated pursuit of ball movement, and that all starts with Paul.
Both of these teams are so physical and so intent on bludgeoning the other that this series will likely come down to in-game adjustments, timely shooting, and who can summon the most playmaking ability down the stretch. Chris Paul obviously gives the Clippers the advantage in one of those categories (you should be able to guess which one), but is it enough to overcome the other two?
Tonight will go a long way in answering that question.
Onto more news around the NBA