NBA Playoffs: San Antonio Spurs show steel in first test against Thunder
Robbie Purves | April 29, 2016
Toronto Raptors @ Indiana Pacers
- Saturday, April 30th
- Tipoff: 00:30 BST
- Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Paul George to dominate scoring in Pacers win
Indiana Pacers came into this series with such high hopes and will look to overcome the 3-2 series disadvantage.
A win for Toronto Raptors would see them into the next round and their rally from 17 points down in the previous match-up, the largest in franchise history, should banish any lingering thoughts doubting this team’s mental toughness.
Pacers are 3-0 at home in elimination games, stretching back to 2013 and superstar Paul George leads the NBA in playoff scoring, averaging 28.8 points per game. Coral have Paul George to score 25 or more points and Pacers to win at 9/4.
Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have been far from their brilliant best so far in postseason, with Lowry averaging just 15.2 points at 31.4 per cent. For the NBA’s only Canadian side to win their second ever playoff series, beating New York Knicks in five games in 2001, their stars need to step up and match the occasion.
Two years ago, Toronto were in this position against Brooklyn Nets when they lost game six on the road and game seven at home.
Miami Heat @ Charlotte Hornets
- Saturday, April 30th
- Tipoff: 01:00 BST
- Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte
Buzzing Hornets to deliver final deadly sting
After leading the series 2-0, Miami Heat now trail 3-2 to Charlotte Hornets in a sensational collapse. Charlotte are now in a superb position to win their first playoff series in 14 years
The winner of game five in a series that was tied at 2-2, has gone on to win the series 82.7 per cent of the time. After navigating the regular season playing relativity smooth free flowing basketball, Heat have sunk into a sluggish, isolation heavy style.
Dwayne Wade is now dribbling the ball too much, running down the clock leaving little time and space for his teammates to operate. Erik Spoelstra’s side lost by just two points last time out and had the chance to draw level or even win with just seconds on the clock.
However, the coach didn’t bother to draw up a game-winning play; instead, he instructed his players to give the ball to Wade and the 34-year-old controversially failed to convert.
Miami have now won six in a row at home, are ahead in the series, yet remain underdogs. Hornets have been waiting to get their buzz back for a few years now but with a rejuvenated Jeremy Lin and dynamic Kemba Walker leading the line, it looks as though Charlotte a force to be reckoned with.
The Heat have lost three consecutive road games and have eight losses in their last 11 away games. Walker is 5/2 to score 22 or more points in a Hornets win that would seal a second round berth.
Los Angeles Clippers @ Portland Trail Blazers
- Saturday, April 30th
- Tipoff: 03:30 BST
- Moda Center, Portland
Lillard to sink Doc Rivers Clippers
Portland Trail Blazers lead the series 3-2 in a playoff match up full of twists and turns.
After losing their first two series games, Portland won three consecutive games and are now in the driving seat, taking all the momentum back to Oregon.
Last time out Damian Lillard scored 22 points, an incredible 16 of which came in the fourth quarter in a 108-98 victory. The guard has scored 27 points or more against Clippers twice already this season and is 6/5 to do it again in a Portland triumph. Lillard may be the team’s superstar, but C.J. McCollum has averaged 24.3 points in the Trail Blazers’ journey from 2-0 down and has be key for the side this season.
Portland outscored their LA opposition by 22 points in their game three and four victories against a fully fit Clippers and now, with vital players Blake Griffin and Chris Paul missing for the rest of the postseason, they will struggle to deal with a Portland side seeking a statement home victory.
LA have shot 39.5 percent in their three losses in the series – including a truly awful 25.4 average from three point range. Doc Rivers’ side looks down and almost out.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ San Antonio Spurs
- Sunday, May 1st
- Tipoff: 01:30 BST
- AT&T Center, San Antonio
Kawhi Leonard continues rise to super-stardom
This will be the first of the second round playoffs, as San Antonio Spurs face off against Oklahoma City Thunder in an intriguing series.
Spurs swept their first round series while Thunder lost just once. However, this contest has the makings of a seven game slog with both heavyweights trading blows.
Both teams possess star talent, San Antonio with the evergreen Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker – topped off with the phenomenal Kawhi Leonard. Oklahoma have two of the NBA’s top five talents in the form of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but will find it difficult to come out on top in a long tactical series.
The Thunder have a few too many potential weaknesses in depth and rotation to hold up against the scrutiny of an all-time great defence, the relentless San Antonio execution and the tactical mastery of Gregg Popovich.
Spurs will win this series if they can continue their exceptional defensive record but the big guns of Oklahoma will pose a real threat. Popovich’s men have experienced success dealing with Oklahoma’s talented duo but it is keeping a lid on Serge Ibaka that they may find challenging.
LaMarcus Aldridge was brought into the Texan team last summer and was expected to contribute significantly offensively, what has been a surprise is his defensive contribution. Combine this with the the news Leonard has been named Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, then you have championship winning calibre defensive wall.
In three of their last five meetings the teams have registered a points total of between 195-205 and are 12/5 to do the same this weekend.