There really is nothing like the NBA Playoffs! Momentum changes from game to game and the games get more and more important. Game 4 can be the most crucial of them all because the difference between being tied 2 -2 and being up 3-1 makes all the difference in the world. In the West, the Spurs and the Grizzlies will try to put a stranglehold on their matchups while the Thunder and Warriors will try to tie it up. Here are some observations for each series.
Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs
1) The injuries to Tony Parker and Steph Curry will be the biggest factors of game 4. Both teams need to find a way to get their best player healthy and on the floor. Parker is going to play game 4 but how efficient will he be? The Spurs need Parker to be aggressive and break down the much improved Warrior defense. He is the only one that can penetrate at will and dish out to the open shooters. Curry’s injury is more serious (and depressing) because he has a history of ankle injuries. Curry has been the story of these playoffs, as he has used them as his coming out party; but there is no way that the Warriors will win the serious if Curry does not only play, but play well.
2) This series could easily have been (and probably should have been) 2-1 in favor of the Warriors if they could finish a game. The Warriors are a young team that is learning what it takes to win in the playoffs, but they are running out of time. If the Warriors find themselves winning in the 4th quarter of game 4, will doubt cross their minds or will they be able to close out the game? Losing game 1 could haunt them the entire offseason.
3) The Spurs are winning the series, but cannot be confident in how they are starting games. The Spurs need to start fast in game 4 and take the crowd (the loudest in the NBA) out of the game. The Warriors are a team that feeds off of the crowd noise. Starting fast could give Coach Pop the opportunity to rest Parker throughout the game. Keep an eye on Duncan as he has yet to take over a game.
Prediction: The Spurs know they need to finish this series quickly to get some needed rest. They will come out strong and win by a large margin against the Warriors and Curry, who is just too injured to make a difference. Spurs go up 3-1.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies
1) The Thunder need to find someone else to contribute other than Kevin Durant. In Game 1, Fisher and Martin were major contributors but scoring a combined 21 points like in Game 3 will not be enough. Serge Ibaka has to be the biggest disappointment of the entire playoffs. The injury to Westbrook means that Ibaka needs to step up and take some of the load off of Durant. That simply has not happened and it seems that his game does not have another level.
2) The Thunder must find a spark off the bench that will give them a boost of energy. Westbrook was more than just the starting point guard and second best player on the team; he was the emotional leader of the team. He plays with power and passion that not many players have, and the Thunder desperately need that. The problem is that there is no one on this roster that can duplicate that part of Westbrook’s game.
3) The Grizzlies best strategy is to keep doing what they are doing; beating up the Thunder with their size and smothering defense. They must not lose their composure and must match the energy that the Thunder will start the game with. Just keep on grinding and wearing the Thunder out.
Prediction: The Thunder are in big trouble. They are on the road and facing a veteran, confident team that will take advantage of home court. The Grizzlies win a low scoring game and go up 3-1 in the series.
Ruben Parga @RFParga82