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Playoffs 2019

NBA Playoffs 2019: What to watch for in Tuesday's Game 5s

siakam-derozan-lillard-simmons.jpg
Pascal Siakam, DeMar DeRozan, Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons [NBA Getty Images]

Tuesday's slate features four Game 5s, three of which are potential elimination games.

In NBA history, teams to lead a best-of-7 series 3-1 have gone on to win the series 95% of the time. The last team to comeback from a 3-1 deficit was the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals.

Will the Raptors, 76ers and Trail Blazers finish off their 1st Round opponents? Who will take control in Spurs-Nuggets? Here are some of the key storylines to follow on Tuesday.

Magic-Raptors

Can the Raptors finish off the series?

Not only have the Raptors never won a best-of-7 series in either four or five games, they've never even had the opportunity to do so.

They've never gone up 3-0 in a playoff series and this is the first time they've led 3-1.

For a team with serious dreams of reaching the NBA Finals and that's battled a litany of minor injuries throughout the season, there's no better time to make quick work of an opening round opponent. Should all four top seeds in the Eastern Conference advance, which appears likely, the final two rounds promise to be quite the gauntlet with the Raptors, Bucks, Celtics and 76ers all taking turns looking like the best team in the conference at times during the regular season.

If the Raptors are going to reach the NBA Finals in a hotly contested East, an extra couple of days of rest could ultimately prove to be a deciding factor.

Can Playoff Kawhi keep it up?

Playoff Kawhi has been a sight to behold.

After struggling in Game 3, the 2014 Finals MVP dominated in Game 4 as he finished with 34 points on 12-20 shooting. Over the first four games of the series, Leonard is averaging 28.0 points per game while flirting with 50-40-90 shooting splits.

MORE: Playoff Kawhi is historically great

He's made a habit of improving in the postseason every year of his career, particularly on the offensive end as he's upped his scoring average in the playoffs every year of his career.

Nets-76ers

Can the Sixers take care of business?

Although health is paramount for every team at this stage, it's even more pronounced for the Philadelphia 76ers. They may have won Game 3 without Joel Embiid, but if the Sixers are truly going to contend, they're are only going as far as their All-Star centre takes them.

Maximizing rest is critical for a team whose hopes and dreams rest on the sore knees of a 7-footer with a checkered medical history.

The 76ers will look to take care of business at home just as they did in Game 5 of last year's 1st Round against a pesky Miami Heat team that stole a game early. Needing a win in order to avoid a Game 6 on the road, the 76ers rolled to a 13-point win in a game that was never in doubt in the fourth quarter.

Can the Nets hold it together late?

The Nets are understandably upset at a non-call on Jarrett Allen in the waning seconds of their tight Game 4 loss that prevented Allen from attempting a game-tying shot and instead resulted in a turnover.

Even though the league has since ruled that it should have been called a foul, that non-call overshadowed how for the second straight game the Nets were unable to execute down the stretch.

In Game 3 they trailed by seven entering the fourth quarter before shooting 7-25 including 1-11 from beyond the arc en route to being outscored 34-25 over the final period.

In Game 4 they led by six entering the fourth quarter before shooting 5-19 with six turnovers en route to being outscored 27-17 over the final period.

Over those two games, the Nets shot just 27 percent in the fourth quarter with more turnovers (eight) than assists (five). D'Angelo Russell (8-15) has received no help as his teammates have combined to shoot just 4-29 over that stretch.

For the Nets to get back in this series, they'll need to be much better down the stretch.

Spurs-Nuggets

Which version of Jamal Murray shows up?

After shooting 8-24 in his playoff debut, Jamal Murray was even worse through the first three quarter of Game 2 as he was 0-8 from the field. Then he exploded for 21 points on 8-9 shooting in the fourth quarter to even the series.

Murray was unable to carry that momentum into Game 3 as he struggled to the tune of six points on 2-6 shooting with twice as many turnovers (four) as assists (two). He then bounced back in Denver's Game 4 win, pouring in 24 points to go along with six assists and just a single turnover.

This isn't anything particularly new for Murray who was among the league's streakiest players during the regular season.

Which version shows up for Game 5 could ultimately decide who wins this series.

Can the Spurs right the ship defensively?

Spurs' head coach Gregg Popovich wasn't thrilled with his team's defensive effort following their Game 4 loss in which they allowed 117 points. Nikola Jokic lit them up for 29 points while Jamal Murray and Torrey Craig combined for 42 points - the 71 combined points from those three starters was more than San Antonio's entire starting five (69 points).

It echoes their similar loss in Game 2 where the Spurs had let up 114 points to Denver, allowing four of their five starters to eclipse 20 points on the night.

This season, San Antonio has been significantly better in defensive battles than shootouts. Including this first round series, the Spurs are 6-21 in games they allow their opponents to score 115 or more points.

San Antonio on average allowed 110.0 points per game this season. When they hold opponents under that mark, including this series, they're 34-10.

In their Game 1 win they allowed 96 points; in their Game 3 win they allowed 108 points.

Keep an eye for that 110 point mark - if it's below, you can expect the Spurs to be on the right side of the end result.

Thunder at Trail Blazers

Who wins the duel between All-Star point guards?

After delivering a vintage performance in Game 3 in which he finished with 33 points and 11 assists on 11-22 shooting, Russell Westbrook looked well on his way to another win in Game 4. One possession after drilling a tough 19-footer, the former MVP knocked down a deep three to put the Thunder up 46-39 late in the second quarter and force a Portland timeout. Westbrook was feeling it, the crowd was going bonkers and Damian Lillard was 0-6 from the field.

Then the tied turned. Lillard hit a couple of shots to close the half which foreshadowed a dominant third quarter in which he scored 15 points. Westbrook meanwhile missed his final 10 shots while assisting on just three of OKC's final 15 made shots.

So far in this series, Lillard has had the upper hand against Westbrook in a duel that extends even to the manner in which they approach the game. For all of Westbrook's fire and fury, Lillard has been steadfast and steady, never wavering from his approach that can be described as calm, cool and collected even in the midst of a shooting slump or foul trouble.

Regardless of the outcome, expect Westbrook to come out swinging with OKC's season on the line. In three games facing postseason elimination since Kevin Durant left the team, Westbrook has attempted 34, 39 and 43 shots respectively.

Can Steven Adams re-assert himself in the middle?

There's no doubt the light shines brightest on Lillard and Westbrook followed by Paul George and CJ McCollum.

But after the star duos, the next most accomplished player in this series is Steven Adams who figured to hold a major advantage in the middle given the absence of Jusuf Nurkic for Portland.

Not only has Adams regressed in each game in this series, there have been moments where he's been substantially outplayed not only by Enes Kanter, but also Zach Collins and even Meyers Leonard. He was even benched for the entire fourth quarter of Game 4.

  • Game 1: 17 points, 8-14 FG, nine rebounds in 36 minutes
  • Game 2: 16 points, 7-8 FG, nine rebounds in 30 minutes
  • Game 3: 10 points, 5-6 FG, seven rebounds in 35 minutes
  • Game 4: six points, 3-6 FG, seven rebounds in 29 minutes

Even if Westbrook and George deliver big performances, OKC still needs Adams to hold up his end especially with Nurkic out.

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