Three more first round match ups in the NBA Playoffs on Tuesday night. One of the series has potential for being over after tonight. We’ve got a preview for all three of the match ups below. Previews courtesy of Sports Illustrated.
Washington Wizards @ Chicago Bulls
Tip Off @ 6:00 p.m. MST
Wizards lead series 3-1
They have a chance to do just that on Tuesday night.
Game 5 is in Chicago, and if the Wizards prevail, they’ll move on in the playoffs for just the third time since the 1970s. But as commanding as their lead is, Gooden knows just how quickly it can go away.
The veteran forward was a rookie with Orlando in 2003 when the Magic went up 3-1 on Detroit, only to drop the next three to the Pistons and bow out in the first round.
“We had a chance to put `em down and finish them and we didn’t — and then they started a dynasty in the Eastern Conference for the next five, six years,” Gooden said Monday. “That was something I always looked back at. We could’ve beat that team, being up 3-1, just one (more) game. Who knows? The Pistons would’ve probably never been the Pistons.”
Detroit went on to make the first of six straight trips to the Eastern Conference finals and won the championship in 2004.
The Wizards just won 44 games with John Wall and Bradley Beal leading the way to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008, and if they take out Chicago, they’ll do something they’ve rarely done — make a run in the postseason. It’s been mostly one-and-done in the playoffs since losing in the 1979 finals to Seattle.
Two exceptions: They knocked off New Jersey 2-0 in the first round in 1982 and took out Chicago 4-2 in 2005 after dropping the first two games.
“I believe we have a resilient group and I believe we’ll find a way,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.
The Bulls have been bogged down by slow starts. They’ve had their difficulties with Wall, Beal and Trevor Ariza not to mention Nene — when he’s been available.
That was one of the most discouraging aspects for the Bulls of Sunday’s 98-89 loss. Even though Nene was serving a suspension for grabbing Jimmy Butler‘s head in Game 3, the Wizards still prevailed.
They got a career playoff-high 30 points from Ariza, who’s averaging 18 in the series and has helped contain D.J. Augustin, and once again had the Bulls playing catch-up. The Wizards scored the first 14 points after grabbing early leads in each of the first three games, and they didn’t need any late comebacks after wiping out double-digit deficits in the second half to win each of the first two in this series.
“They’re trying to be a bully to us, come out and punch us in the mouth early,” Augustin said. “We’ve got to come out and jump on them early.”
Washington’s Marcin Gortat is bracing for just that from the Bulls. He expects some changes and more pressure, anything to take the Wizards out of their rhythm early on.
“I believe they’re going to try to come out really hot from the first minute, and we’ve just got to stay tough,” he said.
Toughness carried the Bulls to the second round last year without Rose and allowed them to come together this season despite some big obstacles.
Now, they’re facing another huge hurdle.
“This team’s been up against it for two years,” Thibodeau said.
And the Wizards? Well, they’re not exactly breathing easy.
“I want our guys desperate,” coach Randy Wittman said. “I don’t care about Chicago. I want us to be greedy tomorrow.”
NOTE: The Bulls Mike Dunleavy Jr. practiced Monday after bruising his left thumb in Game 4 and is expected to play on Tuesday.
Memphis Grizzlies @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Tip Off @ 7:00 p.m. MST
Series tied 2-2
Memphis forward Zach Randolph usually imposes his will on opponents with his strong, aggressive play.
Randolph, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound forward, averaged 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds during the regular season. In the playoffs, he’s up to 18.3 points per game, but he has made just 36 percent of his shots. The Thunder say Perkins’ strength and Ibaka’s athletic ability have been a tough combination for Randolph to handle. The two have switched off on him and mostly defended him straight up, sometimes even switching during a play.
“They’re doing an amazing job,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. “I don’t think they’re getting the credit they deserve. I think a lot of the attention is on Kevin (Durant) and myself, but I think they’re doing a great job of defending those bigs, which is tough to do.”
In Game 4 on Saturday night, Randolph made 5 of 14 field goals and 1 of 5 free throws. The Thunder won in overtime to tie the series at two wins apiece, and they will try to keep their success going in Game 5 Tuesday in Oklahoma City.
In Game 1, Randolph made just 7 of 21 shots. He was back to normal in Game 2, making 10 of 20 shots and scoring 25 points. He bottomed out in Games 3 and 4. In Game 3, he made just 5 of 20 shots, but the Grizzlies managed to win in overtime. Things weren’t much better in Game 4.
It’s not just Randolph’s shooting that is suffering. His rebound average is down to 8.5 per game, and he has made just 19 of 30 free throws in the series. He will not change his approach.
“Just keep on being me, keep playing,” he said.
The Grizzlies are working to figure out ways to get Randolph open, but it is difficult to come up with new things against a team that knows him so well. This is the third time in four years the teams have met in the playoffs.
“We’ve got to try to get some motion with the ball movement from side to side, so when the ball does come back to him, he gets the ball at a better position closer to the basket,” Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said. “I think he’s been too far out having to work too hard to get to his spot.”
With Ibaka, the Thunder have one of the league’s most athletic interior defenders. The 6-10 forward was fourth in the Defensive Player of the Year balloting after finishing third in 2013 and second in 2012. Ibaka has at least four blocks in three of the four games.
In Perkins, the Thunder have a 6-10, 270-pound brick wall with veteran savvy who won’t give Randolph an inch.
“Perk is one of the premier defenders in the league,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He does that game in, game out. He gives everything he has to stop his man from getting good post position. That’s his first line of defense.”
Memphis coach Dave Joerger acknowledged that Perkins is keeping Randolph out of his comfort zone, and that the Grizzlies will need to do little things better to get him going.
“Ball movement is always good, where other guys are a threat,” Joerger said. “And then he (Randolph) gets duck-ins or advance passes and post-ups from there.”
Brooks said he expects Randolph to be his usual assertive self in Game 5.
“Zach is not going to give up,” Brooks said. “That guy is as good as any player in this league at playing aggressive low-post basketball. He’s relentless in his pursuit of the basket, and when the offensive boards are available, he’s always crashing. You always have to stay between him and the basket.”
Golden State Warriors @ Los Angeles Clippers
Tip Off @ 8:30 p.m. MST
Series tied 2-2
“I was asked, do I need to talk with Donald, and I passed, quite honestly,” Rivers said Monday. “I don’t think right now is the time or the place, for me, at least. I just took a pass.”
Sterling is purported to have told a woman not to bring black people to his games or associate with them.
“Yeah, I believe he said those things. But I still want to make sure,” Rivers said during a conference call. “As far as believing those things? I heard what he said. Until someone tells me differently, you usually listen to what people say. I haven’t given him his due process. I haven’t given him an opportunity to explain himself and quite honestly right now I don’t want him to. I want to wait for that further judgment.”
The coach canceled practice Monday, a day after a 118-97 loss to the Golden State Warriorsthat evened their playoff series at 2-2.
“I just felt like they needed to breathe. They’ve been inundated with this,” Rivers said.
Still, he said pretty much the entire team was at the club’s practice facility.
“I’ll go down and say hi to them and talk to them, make sure they’re in the right place. Right now it’s more than basketball. This is a non-basketball decision that I thought I had to make and I thought it was right decision. If you get your life better, then you can probably do your work better. They need to do that.”
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
“These last 48 hours or so have been really hard for our players and everyone,” Rivers said. “I’d just like to reiterate how disappointed I am in the comments attributed to our owner. I can’t tell you how upset I am, our players are.”
Warriors coach Mark Jackson suggested that Clippers fans should boycott the game.
“I believe if it was me, I wouldn’t come to the game,” Jackson said. “I believe the fans, the loudest statement that they can make as fans is to not show up to the game. … To me, it will make the noise of it not being tolerated. That this is a different time. It’s unfortunate, and we cannot allow someone with these feelings to profit.”
Rivers said he knew Jackson was speaking from his heart and that everyone has their opinion.
“I don’t share that. I hope it’s packed and people are cheering for us, the players. And they were cheering for the players before this happened. But if they feel differently, who can say they’re wrong? And I’m not the one that’s going to say that, I can tell you that.”
Rivers said it’s still to be determined whether he or a player will address the crowd.
“Again, we don’t know the right answer,” Rivers said. “We want to do right here. We want to make the best decisions here. If we feel that’s something will help our fans, then it will be done. If we feel it’s something they don’t need, we won’t do it. The tickets have already been sold. The fans, they’re in a dilemma as well. We want them to cheer for their players and their team. Because it’s still their players and their team, and it will be their players and their team. I think from what I get from the fans I’ve heard from, that’s how they feel, like, `This is my team, these are my players I’m cheering for, and that’s not going to change.’ I hope that continues.”
Rivers said the controversy has been tough on his players.
“What other players are going through `Should I be playing’ thoughts in the middle of a playoff series? I sympathize for my players. They didn’t sign on for this. Yet here they are and they’re in the middle of it and they have to deal with it. They didn’t do anything wrong and they’re in the middle of it, and they didn’t ask to be. I feel terrible for them. I’m going to try to do whatever I can to make them OK.”