Western Conference First Round
No. 2 San Antonio at No. 7 Memphis (TNT, 9:35 p.m. ET)
FedEx Forum has been wonderful to the Grizzlies thus far in the series, producing both victories and offering up a legitimate shot to stay alive here. Despite a 116-103 loss in San Antonio on Tuesday, head coach David Fizdale felt correctable defensive miscues contributed to their demise so he’s expecting his team to be sharper here.
The Grizzlies held the Spurs to their lowest point total of the series in Game 3 and then survived a 43-point night from Kawhi Leonard last Saturday night when Marc Gasol drained an awkward buzzer-beater at the end of OT, evening things up 2-2 in unlikely fashion.
Memphis hung around in San Antonio for the better part of the first half in Game 5 and has proven capable of making the Spurs work for everything they get. The Griz got within 102-97 with 4:51 remaining before the Spurs broke off 13 consecutive points to put the game away.
The home team has won all nine meetings. Patty Mills, Danny Green and Manu Ginobili combined to shoot 4-for-21 in Game 4, which included a 1-for-14 effort from 3-point range. They rebounded to score 33 points on 12-for-19 shooting at the AT&T Center in Game 5, making seven of 11 3-pointers.
If the Spurs get those type of contributions from those guards to deflect some of the pressure off Tony Parker, they’re going to be nearly impossible to beat since the Griz continue to be shorthanded there. Tony Allen, who held Leonard to 39 percent shooting over three regular-season meetings, will miss his sixth game due to a leg injury.
Mike Conley shot just 40 percent against the Spurs during the regular season, averaging 18 points per game, and he scored just 13 points in a blowout loss in Game 1. Since that night, he’s averaged 27.3 points and 7.5 assists, shooting 53.5 percent and 12-for-25 from 3-point range. He’ll have to be the driving force for the Griz, who have defended their home court all four times the Spurs have come to town in 2017.
Leonard will match Tim Duncan’s team record of 26 consecutive playoff games scoring in double-digits here and has been dominant all series, coming off a 28-point game that dropped his postseason scoring average to 31.6. He’s shot nearly 58 percent from the field and has made 12 of his last 19 3-pointers, continuing to dominate at both ends.
Popovich has won just one of his last four elimination games since winning the 2013-14 title, putting away the Grizzlies last April to wrap up a sweep. The Thunder and Clippers have each dealt these Spurs tough losses over the last two postseasons, so it will be interesting to see how they fare as a road favorite here.
The under prevailed in seven of nine prior to the start of this series but is just 1-4, coming in only in Game 2. Despite this, the total has been set at 190, basically right where the books set it for Game 1. The Spurs have won three of four playoff series against Memphis, sweeping twice. They won 4-0 in the first round last year. The Griz pulled off a memorable upset in the first round back in 2011, beating top-seeded San Antonio in six games as the No. 8.
Eastern Conference First Round
No. 3 Toronto at No. 6 Milwaukee (TNT, 7:00 p.m. ET)
For the first time this postseason, Milwaukee will open a game trailing in a series. Since it’s a win-or-go-home situation, they’re going to have to handle the added pressure well or they’ll end their most successful season since 2010 in front of a disappointed home crowd.
The Raptors became the first team in the series to win consecutive games in rallying from a 2-1 deficit, thriving once head coach Dwane Casey decided to go small and insert Norman Powell into the starting five for center Jonas Valanciunas. Toronto won in its last trip into town, taking Game 4 87-76 last Saturday before dominating 118-93 on Monday back home at the Air Canada Centre.
The Raps are fighting a bit of history since they’ve never won three straight playoff games and have never had much success this deep into the postseason, so they could make a little history tonight. After winning their first Game 6 in franchise history back in 2001, avoiding elimination against eventual Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia, they’ve since lost every Game 6 they’ve played since. The run has reached five in a row entering this game. Casey has dropped four of those games, including all three Toronto played last season in series against the Pacers, Heat and Cavs.
The Bucks were eliminated in six games the last time they reached the playoffs back in 2015 and haven’t won a Game 6 since defeating that same Allen Iverson-led 76ers team back in ’01 before getting blown out in Philly with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line. Milwaukee is 0-3 in Game 6s since but opened as a slight favorite despite a 36-point deficit over its last two games.
All three of their most recent Game 6 losses have come at the Bradley Center and all came by double-digits. Current head coach Jason Kidd led the Nets to a 114-101 win back in ’03 on the way to reaching the NBA Finals, while the two setbacks this decade have come by scores of 83-69 and 120-66. Kidd was at the helm for the 54-point loss, which featured Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton in major roles. Outside of ring owners Jason Terry and Matthew Dellavedova, there are few positive experiences to draw upon among this group.
“We’re lacking the experience of what’s coming,” Kidd said. “We can talk about it, but we have to go through that process, we have to walk through that door. For a lot of these guys, they’ve never seen this.”
Powell has been the x-factor in this series despite barely playing in Game 1 and not getting off the bench at all in the second game. He scored 12 points in 15 minutes of a Toronto’s 104-77 loss in Milwaukee and found himself in the starting lineup for the next game, sparking his team with his energy and an ability to create off the dribble. He shot 32 percent from 3-point range during the regular season but has gone 7-for-7 over the last two games. Kyle Lowry has largely struggled, while DeMar DeRozan has been streaky, but Powell’s emergence has taken the pressure off everyone. Serge Ibaka, who was forcing shots in Game 4, went 8-for-10 on Tuesday. Powell has given the Raptors a much better rhythm that the Bucks must find a way to disrupt.
Giannis Antetokounmpo made 12 of his 18 shots in Game 5, but despite the Bucks shooting over 50 percent, they couldn’t stop the Raptors at all. Toronto shot 57.7 percent and hit 12 3-pointers, so we’ll see what adjustment Kidd has in store to try and slow Toronto down. Middleton skipped practice on Wednesday with an illness but should play. Kidd could turn to Greg Monroe as a starter to try and take advantage of the Raps in the halfcourt or could remove Tony Snell or Malcolm Brogdon and start Dellavedova just to offer a different look out of the gate.
The under is 3-2 in this series. Only one of the five games has been decided by single-digits as each team has posted two blowouts.