The New York Knicks aren’t in the playoffs, which always makes May a less exciting month. However, the NBA Gods passed along a favor to the oft-suffered Knicks fans by making the 2014 NBA Playoffs as terrific as they could be.
In eight first-round series, only one has resulted in a sweep (Miami-Charlotte), only one five-game series (Chicago-Washington), and the rest have basically gone the distance. The Portland Trailblazers dispatched the Houston Rockets in six gut-wrenching, close games, and nailing the coffin with Damian Lillard’s game-winner. And if that excitement wasn’t enough, the Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks both forced Game 7s by winning on their home-courts last night.
Which brings us to today. For the first time in NBA history, three Game 7s will be played in a row, all with the potential for excitement as the series have been tight and exciting. Here’s a closer look:
Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers, 5 PM ET
As a Knicks fan, it feels wrong to root for the Indiana Pacers — one of the most loathable teams in the league, plus the team that knocked out the Knicks last year. However, minus the Pacers, there is less excitement in the East, as hardly any of the other teams could realistically knock out the Miami Heat in seven games. Also, there may be some resentment from the Knicks’ fanbase as the Hawks stole the eighth seed from the Knicks (Atlanta totally deserved it over the Knicks). Nonetheless, Atlanta is the young, upstart, underdog team, and the Pacers are just so dang hate-able.
My prediction: Pacers are just the better team, coming off a big Game 6 win, in Indiana. I think they’ll take the game.
Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder, 8 PM ET
This series has been everything we could have hoped for. These two teams have had a history of rough, tough battles against one another, and this series hasn’t been any different. Through solid defensive execution from the Grizzlies, and the Thunder’s lack of offensive production — it’s really not all Kevin Durant’s fault — the Grizzlies have the chance to pull off a major upset.
However, once again, with the Thunder coming off a huge Game 6 victory on the road, playing on their homecourt, it’s hard not to consider them the favorites. Plus, Zach Randolph will be suspended, which will crush the Grizzlies’ low-post offense. Prediction: Thunder.
Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers, 10:30 PM ET
Mark Jackson dished a pretty good line in advance of tonight’s Game 7 of arguably the fan-favorite series of these playoffs:
“The pressure’s on them,” Jackson told to the Mercury News Friday. “They earned the right to have home court, and they’ve got some stars — some in uniform, and one in a suit and tie. The pressure’s on them.”
Jackson is right to an extent, and Chris Paul, who is battling a bad hamstring, is going to have to step up and actually look like the best point guard in the league. The Warriors, who have their fair share of injury problems, too, are going to need to beat a suffocating Clippers defense. The same defense that has stayed glued to Steph Curry and made him work for every shot he takes. The Clippers are the fun, lovable team, but Los Angeles has the depth, the home-court advantage, and truthfully, the better team.