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Friday NBA playoff previews: Nets, Mavericks, Rockets look to avoid early vacation

May 2, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce

Thursday night there were three Game 6s, now there are three Game 7s. Friday night there are three Game 6s, we’ll see if anyone can close out a series.

Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets (Raptors lead series 3-2). You can bet that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will not be on the bench for the fourth quarter again. They were there with reason in Game 5 — the Raptors had been in complete control of that game and the Nets made their comeback with those two sitting — a 44-point fourth quarter. Still, they could have used Pierce’s shooting late. The Raptors looked rattled during that fourth quarter run, can they shake that off and stand up tall in Brooklyn? Can they get another big night where Kyle Lowry outplays Deron Williams (Lowry owned him in Game 5)? What the Nets really need is a big game from Joe Johnson, one where he gets to the free throw line.

San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks (Spurs lead series 3-2). Already this series has latest longer than many expected, but the Mavericks don’t want it to end quite yet. If they are going to keep it going and force a Game 7 the Mavericks are going to have to defend the Spurs pick-and-roll much better than they did in Game 5. And they are going to need Dirk Nowitzki to play for the entire game like he did the fourth quarter of Game 5 (14 in the fourth and 26 for the game). And Dallas will need a big night from Monta Ellis. There is a feeling around this series that the Spurs started out very sloppy and are just now starting to really find their groove. If so this is over… but I personally have counted out Dirk and Dallas too many times to do it again.

Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers (Blazers lead series 3-2). Houston has staved off elimination once, but now can they do it on the road? Of course the Rockets need another big night from Dwight Howard — particularly defensively helping out on a more aggressive defense on LaMarcus Aldridge. (On the flip side, Portland needs the Aldridge who was the best player in the series the first four games back, they need to do a better job of getting him touches.) Houston also got great performances from Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons in Game 5 and those two, or someone (we’re looking at you, James Harden) needs to step up if there is to be a Game 7. In Game 5 Houston was clearly the more desperate team, we’ll see if Portland can match that Friday at home.

  1. Kevin S. - May 2, 2014 at 8:16 AM

    Honestly, I don’t think bringing an ice cold Paul Pierce into the game would have made much of a difference. I wasn’t crazy about Blatche being on the floor at the very end – it gave Toronto the opportunity for the foul-up-three strategy without having to worry about a quick shot – but either he or his replacement should have been the inbounder, leaving Williams, Johnson, Anderson and Teletovic on the floor for that shot. If Lowry’s fingertips graze that ball, we’re looking at a game-winning goaltend against Valencunias after starting the quarter twenty-two points down. I’ll reserve my criticisms for the first three quarters of play, thank you.

    • casualcommenter - May 2, 2014 at 8:39 AM

      Pierce had one game in this series were he was incredible late in the game as he helped the Nets win, then in the next game, Pierce went just 2 for 11 from the field as the Nets lost the game.

      In game 5, Pierce’s plus minus was a near unbelievable -31 despite only playing 24 minutes, and the Nets made their huge run and played a lot better once Pierce was benched.

      Despite all the evidence that in this particular game the Nets played better without Pierce, some commentators pretend the “Paul Pierce always comes through in close games” reputation is still deserved, and that Kidd made some enormous tactical error in not having Pierce in the game. In reality, Pierce has been very inconsistent this series, and people need to stop pretending that Pierce at age 36 is as consistent as he was back in his prime.

      • casualcommenter - May 2, 2014 at 8:45 AM

        When your team falls behind by 20 points but then closes that 20 point gap when you use a different lineup, you stick with the lineup that has worked really well.

        Stubbornly favoring starters who haven’t been effective has been one of Scott Brooks’ major weaknesses as a coach, yet coincidentally, last night Scott Brooks finally altered his starting lineup to replace Sefolosha with Caron Butler, and the Thunder beat the Grizzlies on the road decisively.

        Kidd made an adjustment to his rotation that was very effective and nearly led to an enormous come from behind victory. The only reason why he’s being criticized for benching Pierce is that his tactic was so effective that it allowed the Nets to almost come away with a victory. If he had kept Pierce in the whole fourth quarter, the Nets wouldn’t have come close to stealing the game.

  2. saint1997 - May 2, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    This has got to be a record – imagine 6 game 7s!! I really would love the Blazers to close it out but the rest would be great game 7s

  3. canadatude - May 2, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    The writer here must have been reading Kidd’s comment from Thursday. He wants Johnson to flop more to get a call. With all the steroids he took to get to his enormous size, that just won’t happen. What is he now, 290?

  4. doug2626 - May 2, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    It seems like these teams that were built to beat the Heat should have just been built to win. Killing yourself in the first round is no way to win it all.

  5. the1nonlyk - May 2, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    all i hav to say is go spurs!!! play like u did last game (or even better) and we will b on our way to roud 2!!

  6. chargerdillon - May 2, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    Meanwhile the 2 time defending champs have been resting for days on end while the rest of their playoff competition is scratching tooth and nail to survive.

    By the time the Heat are on their 7th playoff game they’ll be close to wrapping another another series.

    I’m not exactly sure when the Heat are going to get the credit as much as they deserve for being so dominant. You can make excuses that they played a team like the Bobcats but hey they are not team getting taken to the wire by an 8th seed.

    I’d be shocked not to see the Heat win it again this year.

    • lunasceiling - May 2, 2014 at 4:07 PM

      “… they are not team getting taken to the wire by an 8th seed.”

      Well of course they aren’t…they play in the Leastern Conference, where the team that just missed the playoffs in the West (the Suns) would have been the #3 seed.

  7. shanelsweet - May 2, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    There’s nobody in the West that should scare the Wizards. They’ve beaten them all. They’ve got a young, speedy back court, a great wing defender and a couple of very talented big guys up front. Great players play great in the playoffs, and the Wiz have several great players in Nene, Gortat, Ariza, Wall and Beal.

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