Houston Rockets

NBA Playoffs 2019: What to watch for in Game 4 of Celtics-Bucks and Rockets-Warriors

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(NBA Getty Images)

The Conference Semifinals are in full swing and continue today with a pair of Game 4s.

The action starts with the Boston Celtics looking to tie things up with the Milwaukee Bucks after losing at home in Game 3, followed by Part IV of the Warriors-Rockets series.

Boston and Houston will both be out for big wins on their home floor, staring at the prospect of going down 3-1, a deficit only 11 teams have ever managed to come back from in the playoffs.

Here are a few key things to watch for in each game:

Milwaukee Bucks @ Boston Celtics

The Marcus Smart factor

While the Bucks are still sweating on the return of Malcolm Brogdon who is still sidelined with a foot injury, the Celtics could welcome back Marcus Smart who is listed a 'questionable' for Game 4.

Smart has missed past last eight games with an oblique injury and the Celtics will be hoping he can replicate his well-timed return from injury last season in the first round against the Bucks, bringing his trademark defensive intensity and hustle, something the Celtics have sorely been lacking against the Bucks.

In the last three games of that series, Smart logged 83 minutes and the Celtics held a defensive rating of 96.8. With him off the court, that number jumped to 109.1.

Could his return be an x-factor for the series this time around?

The Celtics need Jayson Tatum to fire

After averaging 4.5 points, 5.5 rebounds in the first two games of the series, Tatum was much-improved in Game 3, recording his first post-season double-double with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting, adding 11 rebounds.

Tatum, a 37.3% three-point shooter in the regular season, has gone 0-of-8 from beyond the arc in three games against the Bucks. If he can find his stroke from downtown it will do wonders for the Celtics spacing, allowing Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to go to work in the pick-and-roll.

The Celtics simply need Tatum to fire on the offensive end, especially with Irving at times struggling with his shot.

Golden State Warriors @ Houston Rockets

Will Steph Curry break out of his slump?

It's no secret Steph Curry has had his struggles against Houston, with the Warriors star averaging just 18.3 points per game, hitting just eight of his 25 attempts from beyond the arc (25%).

In Game 3, Curry had one of his worst playoff performances, shooting 7-of-23 from the field, missing all six of his shot attempts in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Kevin Durant has shouldered the offensive load for the Warriors in this series, averaging 36.6 points per game, but if the Warriors are going to get past the Rockets, they will need Curry back to his best.

While he hasn't been his normal defence-warping self through three games, Curry's teammates are confident he will bounce back.

"He's pissed with himself, and I think that will bode well for us," Draymond Green said. "Probably it's going to lead to some aggressiveness, and we like when he's aggressive. I think it'll be fine."

Getting out to a fast start

The first quarter has set the tone through the first three games of the series.

In games 1 and 2, the Warriors outscored the Rockets a combined 57-39 in the opening quarter of the games, with the Rockets faring better in Game 3, trailing by just one point heading into the second.

If the Rockets want to dictate the tempo on their home floor in Game 4, they will need another big effort from role players like Clint Capela and Eric Gordon early in the game, to spread the defensive attention away from Chris Paul and James Harden.

Whichever team gets the jump in Game 4, could go a long way to deciding the game.

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