No. 1 Rockets vs. No. 5 Jazz - Houston leads 3-1
A 13-point Game 4 victory has the Rockets one win away from their first Western Conference finals appearance since 2015. For Houston point guard Chris Paul, a win would mark his first conference finals appearance in his 13-year NBA career.
Paul led the Rockets in Game 4 with 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. James Harden added 24 points, but he also committed eight turnovers. While the backcourt duo of Paul and Harden led Houston's offensive attack with a strong scoring output in Game 4, expect both players to improve upon their combined 1-for-13 shooting from beyond the arc as they attempt to close out the Jazz.
The X-Factor in the Rockets' Game 4 was starting center Clint Capela. The 23-year-old scored 12 points, pulled down 15 rebounds (five offensive) and blocked six shots. Capela outplaying Jazz center Rudy Gobert is a big key to a Rockets Game 5 victory.
Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell led Utah's scoring efforts in Game 4 with 25 points despite shooting poorly from the field (8-for-24) and from beyond the arc (2-for-7). For the series, Mitchell is shooting 32.5 percent from the field while averaging 18.2 points, 5.2 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game.
The absence of Ricky Rubio, who was injured in Game 6 of the first round, has been detrimental to the Jazz's offense as a whole throughout the series. In addition to missing Rubio, Utah will be without Dante Exum, who suffered a hamstring injury in Game 4. Down two point guards, Mitchell will be responsible for being both a playmaker and scorer while Raul Neto will see increased time in the rotation.
The Jazz scored a postseason-low 87 points in Game 4, shooting 38.6 percent from the field and 24.1 percent from 3-point range. Utah must drastically improve upon its shooting to have a chance in Game 5.
No. 2 Warriors vs. No. 6 Pelicans - Golden State leads 3-1
The Warriors' 19-point loss in Game 3 prompted head coach Steve Kerr to roll out the "Hamptons Five" lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala to start Game 4, resulting in a 26-point win.
The lineup change set the tone early, as Golden State outscored the Pelicans 37-22 in the first frame. Durant scored 10 points in the first quarter alone, and New Orleans failed to find an answer for him defensively all game. The 2017 Finals MVP finished with 38 points (on 15-for-27 shooting), nine rebounds and five assists while the Pelicans tried a number of defenders on him.
Durant shined the brightest, but Curry (23 points) and Green (eight points, nine rebounds, nine assists, four steals, two blocks) each made a big impact in the game. If Kerr sticks with this talented lineup to start, expect the Warriors to try and put New Orleans away early in Game 5.
The Warriors' defense caused the Pelicans to struggle offensively throughout Game 4, as they shot 15.4 percent on 26 3-point attempts and 36.4 percent from the field. Another poor shooting performance would likely mark the end of the Pelicans' postseason run.
Anthony Davis led the way in the Game 4 loss with 26 points and 12 rebounds, but the All-Star also turned the ball over six times. New Orleans' 19 turnovers resulted in 21 Golden State points.
The Pelicans must take better care of the ball and will need more distribution from Rajon Rondo, who dished out a 2018 postseason-low six assists. Nikola Mirotic finished the game with seven points on 1-for-7 shooting - he must also bounce back from a poor performance in Game 5.
E'Twaun Moore scored a 2018 postseason-high 20 points (on 8-for-14 shooting), but that won't be easy to replicate. Whether Moore can follow up on that showing is important, but the Pelicans' chances depend on Davis and Jrue Holiday's ability to outplay all of the Warriors' stars.
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