Last night, the Portland Trail Blazers delayed their seemingly inevitably elimination by beating the Memphis Grizzlies 97-92 in Game 4 at the Moda Center.
It was a somewhat bizarre game that Memphis looked to have a firm grasp of as they were up 80-70 with 8:48 left in the fourth quarter after dominating Portland with 50% shooting in the third quarter. But Oakland native Damian Lillard got hot to score 10 of his game-high 30 points in the final eight minutes to lead the Blazers to a rather entertaining, if somewhat ugly, victory.
#Oakland https://t.co/urc717pQX9— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) April 28, 2015
So that means we're left to wait around a little bit longer until the Golden State Warriors officially have a second round opponent. And tonight's game between the L.A. Clippers and San Antonio Spurs should keep us entertained for tonight.
Clippers vs. Spurs Game 5
Ken Berger of CBS Sports summarized what makes the Spurs so difficult to beat in his analysis of what we learned from the Clippers' Game 4 win to tie the series at two games apiece:
Rivers' main point of emphasis coming into Game 4 was to cut down on the Spurs' straight-line drives to the basket, and they didn't do a good enough job of it. Once again, paint points were fairly even (48-46 in favor of San Antonio), but the Spurs once again did a lot of damage -- and created second-chance opportunities -- with drives to the paint.
So how did the Clippers' survive? After shooting only 34 percent in Game 3, the Clippers shot 54 percent in Game 4.
The thing is, as Berger referenced elsewhere in his analysis, that part of the reason that the Clippers are so wildly inconsistent in their scoring output is that they really struggle to get consistent bench production, particularly on the wings. If the Clippers hadn't shoot 54% for the game, it's hard to imagine them finding a way to win that one — consider that they shot a scorching 57.9% in the third quarter and only managed to outscore a Spurs team that shot 47.4% from the floor by 1 in that period.
Justin Russo of SB Nation's Clips Nation wrote up a great analysis of the Clippers' shooting during the series, summarizing the story of the series thus far by writing, "The team that hits around 50 percent in a game will win it. The Clippers did that in Game 1, the Spurs did that in Game 2 and Game 3, and the Clippers did it in Game 4."
In short, the Clippers aren't going to shoot like that every game and even if they did they'll struggle to pull away from a team that is getting easy buckets off the drive when they want. So personally, my gut feeling has been that the Spurs will be the team to win the shooting efficiency battle and thus win the series.
That's why the performance of Austin Rivers, who scored an impressive 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting in Game 4, was so significant.
You can/will probably read plenty about that around the web. For now, I'd like to direct you to a feel-good story by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo about Rivers and his coach-dad, Doc, who is, "More coach than father, he's trying to say. It's an honest admission, and it comes tinged with a touch of sadness."
For the Clippers this season, for the GM and coach, Doc River(s) is under intense scrutiny. Rivers traded his 2014 first-round pick, Reggie Bullock, for his son in January.
If the construction of the Clippers' bench is considered a blight on Rivers' tenure as GM, unloading assets for his son promised to bring a new level of scorn and mockery. And it did. Rivers is a hard target as a coach - because he's elite - but perhaps an easier one as top executive.
Woj found a nice subplot in that game that worked really well to get at some of the key issues with the Clippers' roster as currently constructed.
So who are we rooting for in this series as Warriors fans, perhaps prematurely thinking ahead to our team's path to the Finals during this extended break in the action?
On a purely emotional level, my distaste for the Clippers makes me actually enjoy watching them lose...perhaps a bit too much.
Taking future matchups into account, the Spurs just frighten me in ways that the Clippers don't for all the reasons above; it's feasible that the intense rivalry between the Clippers and Warriors could give the underdog an extra boost on the road in a hypothetical conference finals meeting.
But that's looking way too far ahead considering the Warriors don't even have a second round opponent set yet.
So who are you rooting for? Vote in the poll below and talk about tonight's games in the comments (this will be your open thread for the day).
- Dallas Mavericks vs. Houston Rockets, 5 p.m. PST (TNT)
- San Antonio Spurs vs. L.A. Clippers, 7:30 p.m. PST (TNT)