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NBA Playoffs: Pivotal Game 5 is Up for Grabs in Both Conferences

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Christmas definitely came early for basketball fans, as the NBA playoffs just keep getting more and more competitive as the postseason progresses.

The Celtics survived the Cavaliers’ late rally at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse to put them up 3-1 as the series makes its way back to Boston. OKC, on the other hand, put up a fourth-quarter masterclass to complete a come-from-behind win over the Dallas Mavericks to level the series at 2-2.

Meanwhile, the next pair of games will feature the Knicks and Pacers in the East and the Timberwolves and Nuggets in the West. Both series are tied up at 2-2 coming into their pivotal Game 5 bouts.

So, read more below for in-depth previews of the next set of playoff games, courtesy of SBOTOP.

 

Knicks struggle to cope with injuries

It’s well established that Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau likes to keep his rotation as thin as possible, especially during the postseason.

When healthy, only five Knicks players are given significant minutes on the court, with four players playing over 40 minutes and Josh Hart playing for literally the entire game!

But to be fair, Thibs and the Knicks were getting away with it, defeating Joel Embiid and the Sixers in six games, then claiming an early 2-0 lead in their series against the Pacers.

However, coach Thibs might need to go back to the drawing board after one of his main guys, OG Anunoby, went down with a hamstring injury during Game 2 against the Pacers.

Ever since OG went down, the Knicks were evidently scattering to fill the void Anunoby left, especially on the defensive end.

The Indiana Pacers are only 2 wins away from Western Conference Finals
Indiana Pacers Tyrese Haliburton reacts after hitting a three-point shot against New York Knicks in Game 4

The Pacers quickly pounced on the shorthanded Knicks, showcasing their fast-paced, high-octane gameplay. True enough, the Haliburton-led Pacers ran circles around the fatigued Knicks winning back-to-back games in Indiana to level the series at 2-2.

Despite OG’s unavailability for Game 5, the NBA 2024 odds have the Knicks winning in the Mecca of Basketball.

“We’ve been through this [rehab process before] it doesn’t change. That’s why we have routines for everything,” Thibodeau said. “So if you get nicked up in a game, your rehab is basically your game. So just lock into that. Get treatment three times a day, and just keep working at that. That’s where it is right now.”

OG was the primary defender of his former teammate in Toronto, Pascal Siakam. True enough, during Game 3, the first game without OG, Siakam went on a tear and scored 26 points. So expect to see an uptick in Siakam’s production for the rest of the series while the Knicks figure things out.

 

Can the Nuggets clinch first home win of the series?

Over in the West, the Nuggets and Timberwolves also have their series tied at 2-2. It’s important to take note that neither team has been able to win on their home court so far in the series.

The Timberwolves made NBA 2024 news headlines when they managed to gain a 2-0 series lead after two games in Denver.

While some already pushed the panic button, coach Mike Malone and the rest of his squad showed their championship pedigree and proceeded to take back-to-back games in Minnesota to level the series at 2-2.

In game 4, the Denver Nuggets leaned on the efforts of Aaron Gordon, who scored 27 points in 11-12 shooting to even the series. Nikola Jokic was his usual self, as the three-time MVP posted 35 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds, while Jamal Murray is slowly picking up the pace, draining crucial buckets throughout the game.

The Nuggets shot 57 per cent from the field in Game 4, but it wasn’t entirely the Minnesota defence’s fault. Gordon, Jokic, and Murray were respected, and their attempts were convincingly contested.

“A lot of them were contested so if Gordon turns into Kobe Bryant, we just got to live with that,” Minnesota big man and Defencive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert stated after the Game 4 loss.

Moreover, the Minnesota offence, their Achilles heel all throughout the season, was evident during their Game 4 loss.

It was once again the Anthony Edwards show for the Timberwolves. Ant Man scored the game-high 44 points, but it wasn’t enough to secure the win for his team. Karl-Anthony Towns, while tallying a double-double, only scored 13 points. On top of that, no other Minnesota player scored more than 15 points aside from Anthony Edwards, despite chucking up more attempts than Denver. The Timberwolves’ offence was clicking on all cylinders in the first two games in the series, so maybe going back to the Mile High City will ignite their scoring prowess once again.

   

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