NBA Playoffs 2019: Four things to watch in Wednesday's Game 5s between Celtics-Bucks, Rockets-Warriors


Two game fives are set for Wednesday night as the Bucks will look to close out the Boston Celtics, and the Rockets will look to steal one on the road against the Golden State Warriors.

Here are a few things to watch in each game…

Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks (Milwaukee leads 3-1)

Which Kyrie Irving shows up?

Let's face it, if the Celtics plan on pulling off the near-impossible feat of coming back from their 3-1 series deficit they'll need much better play from Kyrie Irving.

Irving is in the middle of his worst three-game playoff slump after Game 4's poor 7-for-22 shooting night. In the past three games, Kyrie is 19-for-62 from the field.

"I missed shots, shots just didn't go in," Irving said after the Celtics' Game 4 loss. "You go out and prepare like I said. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't."

It's not just that Irving's shots aren't falling, he's also committing 3.7 turnovers per game and seems like he just can't find a rhythm on the floor.

These playoffs have yet to see a signature Kyrie Irving performance, where everything he touches falls or he gets to the basket at will. The only problem is that's not what the Celtics need - Boston needs the Kyrie Irving who wants to get everyone involved, moves the ball and puts his team in a position to win.

Boston was 39-12 in the regular season when the team goes for at least 25 assists. They averaged 26.3 per game this year.

If "hero ball" Kyrie shows up for Game 5 in Milwaukee this series won't last much longer.

Bucks Bench

By now you've heard the story: Game 4, Giannis and Khris Middleton go to the bench and the Bucks somehow manage to go on a 17-7 run to end the third quarter.

Not only did Milwaukee survive without their two best players on the floor - the bench left the game in the capable hands of their two All-Stars in a better position than they had left it in.

George Hill has been terrific in all three of Milwaukee's wins averaging 15.3 points while shooting 62% from the field. Pat Connaughton has given the Bucks solid minutes off the bench by averaging 9.3 points on 46% shooting. He's also been a pest defensively constantly getting his hands in passing lanes.

Whenever the Bucks have gone to their bench so far in the series, the intensity hasn't dropped off one bit. If they continue to play as well as they have in the Conference Semis there's no reason to believe that they won't be able to continue onto the Finals.

Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors (Series tied 2-2)

The Battle of the Boards

Rebounding has been one of the more telling statistics so far in this series.

In each of the first four games, the team that won the rebounding battle has gone on to win the game. Houston is coming off of a Game 4 performance in which it outrebounded Golden State 50-43 thanks to 10 rebounds from both PJ Tucker and James Harden while big man Clint Capela grabbed nine.

Half of Tucker's 10 rebounds came on the offensive end; Rockets grabbed 13 offensive boards which led to 11 second-chance points on the night. Eight of Houston's 13 offensive rebounds came in the second half, where they extended a number of possessions and made it difficult for Golden State to chip into a deficit that grew as large as 17 points.

Following Game 4, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr spoke on the Rockets physicality, telling reporters "they have a lot of middle linebackers on that team. Sturdy. And we look like volleyball players, tall and lean."

Houston has found a way to use this physicality to its advantage, especially on the glass. As Games 1 through 4 have indicated, rebounding is a critical factor for the success of each team in this series.

Expect a highly-contested battle on the boards in Game 5 with a direct impact on the game's outcome.

Durant vs. Harden

The league's reigning MVP and reigning back-to-back Finals MVP haven't disappointed through the first four games of the series.

In fact, some of their numbers have been pretty similar.

Harden is coming off of yet another impressive offensive performance in which he led the way for Houston with a game-high 38 points to go along with 10 rebounds and four assists. On the other end, Durant led Golden State with a team-high 34 points to go along with seven rebounds and five assists in Game 4.

With these two prolific scorers being two of the league's most difficult covers, both the Warriors and Rockets have tried a number of defensive looks in attempts to slow them down; they've even spent time guarding one another this series.

According to matchup data, Durant guarded Harden for 18 possessions in Game 4, second behind only Andre Iguodala. When asked about Harden's offensive exploits, Durant expressed familiarity with his former teammate's game, telling reporters that he's had a similar attack-first mindset since his high school years.

As Durant's length made some things difficult for Harden in Game 4, he could spend even more time guarding him in Game 5, but it could get tricky. Too much time dealing with Harden's deceptive skill set to result in foul trouble while not utilizing Durant's length and defensive ability could allow Harden to get comfortable.

With each player averaging over 35 points per game in the series so far, the duel between Kevin Durant and James Harden has the makings of one of the best head-to-head matchups in postseason history. With the offensive struggles of some of their teammates, the better performer of the two could very well dictate who comes out victorious in a pivotal Game 5.

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