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Thursday night NBA playoff previews: Does Pacers season end tonight?

May 1, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Paul George Paul George

Three elimination games on tap Thursday night — somebody’s season is ending.

Indiana Pacers at Atlanta Hawks (Hawks lead series 3-2). This is the big one Indiana — win or go home. This is the one for Atlanta — they do not want a Game 7 back in Indy. Indiana coach Frank Vogel may have could something late in their Game 5 loss to the Hawks — a small lineup featuring Chris Copeland playing the four and spacing the floor. Expect to see a lot of that lineup, Vogel can’t worry about anything other than winning Game 6 and if something works he needs to ride it as far as he can. That’s sort of what Mike Budenholzer has done for the Hawks this series — for example the pick-and-pop was working in Game 5 (Mike Scott always seemed to be open), the Pacers weren’t adjusting their coverage so the Hawks went to it again and again. The Pacers are going to have to defend like their reputation, but if the Hawks are just hitting shots the Pacers are going home.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies (Grizzlies lead series 3-2). Expect overtime. The last four games in this series have gone to OT, and we will all be disappointed if we do not get free basketball again. The real questions in this game hinge on the Thunder offense and how difficult the Grizzlies defense has made life difficult for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Tony Allen has been brilliant for Memphis, harassing and being physical with Durant — but this is bloody Kevin “about to be named MVP” Durant, he has to rise above that and make plays. He’s not, at least not consistently. Westbrook gets the ball and just pounds it and pounds it, and he Thunder offense stagnates. It stalls out. Durant and Westbrook aren’t passing, but the guys off the ball aren’t moving. The result is too much isolation ball, which the Grizzlies can defend. On the other end of the court, Memphis lacks the pure skill of the Thunder but they are making the extra pass, guys are cutting, the ball is switching sides and that is leading to Zach Randolph getting good looks inside or Mike Miller having space to set is feet for a three. If it all plays out like that Thursday night the Thunder will be done for the season — and there will be a lot of hard questions to answer.

Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors (Clippers lead series 3-2). The real Clippers were back in Game 5 and we can expect to see that same unburdened, energized team in Game 6. Which is trouble for Golden State — the Warriors had success this series going small with Draymond Green and David Lee up front, but in Game 5 DeAndre Jordan made them pay for that. Jordan is not always the most consistent of players but the Clippers need him to be. Golden State needs Stephen Curry to knock down shots — in every game but Game 4 (when the Clippers were distracted by the Donald Sterling fiasco) they have slowed Curry with aggressive pick-and-roll traps, with defenses designed to take the ball out of his hands. In Game 5 Curry was flustered and turning the ball over too much, he needs to be a force both hitting shots and setting up teammates in Game 6. The Warriors need the three ball to fall, or they will be golfing on Friday.

  1. abchome - May 1, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    Hawks, Thunder, Clippers

    • john242322 - May 1, 2014 at 9:24 AM

      Pacers will win this game no doubt. U guys are nuts thinking the Pacers go out in 6

      • miamatt - May 1, 2014 at 9:44 AM

        It’s not nuts when the Pacers are down 3-2 going on the road.

        It’s fine if you believe the Pacers will win, and I personally wouldn’t discount their chances.

        But Indiana has demonstrated a disturbing lack of urgency, maddening inconsistency, and the mental fortitude of a titmouse.

        Hard to call somebody nuts for thinking this is it for them tonight.

      • gostlcards5 - May 1, 2014 at 12:57 PM

        I’m a Pacers fan, and I totally agree. I will root like heck for them to win, but matt described it perfectly in his 3rd line below.

        Do I believe they’ll win? …. yes
        Do I think someone’s crazy for thinking they’re done?…Hell, no.
        Am I afraid of them being done with an elimination game on the road, with the way they’ve played?…Hell, yes!

    • fanofthegame79 - May 1, 2014 at 11:12 AM

      I’m thinking the Hawks, Grizzlies, and Clippers.

  2. void96eater - May 1, 2014 at 8:45 AM

    The Pacers will not win this game.

    • john242322 - May 1, 2014 at 9:27 AM

      Pacers will for sure win. Sorry to disappoint you

      • void96eater - May 1, 2014 at 9:32 AM

        The Pacers don’t play well on the road, and the Hawks will be motivated by their 3-2 lead (teams that win game 5 win the series 83% of the time).

        They had a good season though. 56 wins is nothing to scoff at.

      • void96eater - May 1, 2014 at 9:35 AM

        *game 5 after the series is tied 2-2.

    • bougin89 - May 1, 2014 at 12:25 PM

      “*game 5 after the series is tied 2-2.”

      This is game 6.

      • blueintown - May 1, 2014 at 6:26 PM

        Teams that win game 6 when they’re already up 3-2 win the series 97.8% of the time.

      • bougin89 - May 2, 2014 at 9:11 AM

        The Pacers are looking at a very good chance of being the 2.2% now at home.

      • ProBasketballPundit - May 1, 2014 at 6:30 PM

        Who said it wasn’t game 6? He was citing a statistic.

    • bougin89 - May 1, 2014 at 12:31 PM

      Ah my bad. Clearly I’m having reading issues. I like Indiana’s chances tonight. They’ve been a team that plays well with their back to the wall in previous playoff scenarios. We’ll see what happens tonight.

      • ProBasketballPundit - May 1, 2014 at 6:30 PM

        Oops, I’m having reading issues too. My bad.

      • bougin89 - May 2, 2014 at 9:12 AM

        Haha. It happens to the best of us.

  3. cruzan80 - May 1, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    Hawks win. This was simply a bad match up for the Pacers. They built that team to beat the Heat which would be a great plan if they met the Heat in the 1st round. The Hawks are home, they’re not scared of their opponent & the Pacers don’t have anyone capable of putting a team on his back to carry them to victory (I’m looking at you Paul George).

    Grizzlies win. If the game was in OKC I would have picked the Thunder. I t would be very hard to eliminate the Thunder in OKC in my opinion…but it’s in Memphis & I think the Grizzlies are better than their record is…they’re a team built for the playoffs & it’s showing…this really isn’t an “upset”.

    Clippers win. They are the better team…period. Also, let’s be honest…this series would’ve been over two days ago if not for Mr. Sterling.

  4. mat9844 - May 1, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    Clipper win; big win if Blake stays out of foul trouble.

  5. doc305 - May 1, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    Indiana has to start strong and get their confidence going early. If not than Indiana will be flying home for the season, the worst part is that a lot of the blame will be at the feet of Vogel. I think the guys a real good coach, it’s too bad that just because a hand full of the guys seem to have just shut it down that he will be the scapegoat. I was really looking forward to seeing how the ECF would turn out this year, considering how close it was last year.
    Even if they lose, I hope Larry Bird doesn’t clean house, this year can be used as a valuable lesson for Indiana, and they can be that much stronger next year because of it. If they can squeeze out the win though and somehow take the series, I can definitely see them making it to the ECF. All young teams need a lot of times is a shot of confidence and to get big time play from their big time players (PG & HIbbert) they can surprise a lot of people (Washington for example).

  6. 12444uggg - May 1, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    “Indiana coach Frank Vogel may have could something late in their Game 5 loss to the Hawks”

    I’m going to be stuck on this for awhile…

    I have no expectations that the Pacers will try, and “try” has been the primary issue lately for them.

  7. bougin89 - May 1, 2014 at 12:28 PM

    Paul George has been playign well for Indiana this series. The Pacers desperately need someone else to step up. West, Stephenson, Hill, even Scola. The Playoffs are a different beast and the Pacers(other than George) simply haven’t upped their game like they have to.

  8. freudnumb - May 1, 2014 at 12:32 PM

    Hang in there Pacers, OKC, and Warriors.

    Winner of Game 7 wins the series 100% of the time.

    • gostlcards5 - May 1, 2014 at 12:59 PM

      Well played.

  9. zoomy123 - May 1, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    Pacers win by routing the Hawks. As the Pacers proved during the final 16 minutes of game 5, when they even play average they demolish ATL. With their season on the line expect them to come out swinging.

    OKC beats Memphis and goes on to win in OKC in game 7. I can’t imagine how Kevin Durant will allow his team to lose…if he really is as good as everybody thinks he should be.

    I don’t care about Golden State vs Los Angeles.

  10. ranfan12 - May 1, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    Pacers making atlanta relevant again in basketball lol. That’s not an easy task. Hawks in 6

  11. marcuspokus - May 1, 2014 at 5:18 PM

    Pacers can win, but Vogel has to sit Hibbert. I understand he wants to stick by his big man and help him stay confident through his struggles on the court, but it should not come at the price of ending their season prematurely. The small lineups are the ones that have permitted the Pacers to compete with the Hawks spacing. Pacers also need to push the tempo more after every rebound, if Vogel chooses to go small. I say start Hill, Stephenson, George, West and Scola. Bring Mahinmi, Watson and Copeland of the bench. Hibbert in the case of foul trouble, After all, winning is about what is best for the team, not it’s individual pieces.

  12. Jeff - May 1, 2014 at 5:58 PM

    It’s hard to tell with the way this Pacers team plays lately.
    It’s certainly probable that the Pacers could win big, or they could lose big.
    This is one team I wouldn’t bet for nor against.
    Historically though, it doesn’t look good for the Pacers tonight.

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