The Pacers try again to close out the Knicks, this time back in Indianapolis. The Pacers were without point guard George Hill in game five, and as of this writing, his availability after suffering a concussion remains unknown. The Knicks managed to stave off elimination behind improved play from Raymond Felton and a break out performance by Chris Copeland. Hill's absence also contributed to the Pacers 19 turnovers in game five. Without him, they are extremely thin in ball handlers, and can be exploited by the Knicks' pressure defense. Another key is rebounding, as the Pacers dominated the boards early in the series, but the Knicks managed to hold their own on Thursday night. Roy Hibbert needs to stay out of foul trouble for the Pacers to press their advantage in the paint.
The Western Conference Finals begin on Sunday with the 5th seeded Grizzlies, having already won two road series against the Clippers and Thunder visiting San Antonio, the team they beat in the first round of the 2011 playoffs to signify their arrival as a Western Conference power. The Grizzlies have won eight of their last nine games after losing the first two games of their opening round matchup with the Clippers. They have done it with their punishing inside game led by Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, and the emergence of Mike Conley as one of the top point guards in the league. They have a slogan: Grit-n-Grind. They have a theme song: We Don't Bluff.
The Spurs continue to cruise along, but they struggled to dispatch the upstart Golden State Warriors in six games. Ultimately, their smarts and skills won out, but at times they actually looked a little old. They will have to find a way to counter the Grizzlies strength and size, presumably by executing their efficient offense and getting those corner threes. The battle of the boards will be key in this series, as Memphis was one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league this season while San Antonio was near the top in controlling the defensive glass. San Antonio can succeed if they don't let Memphis get second chances.
Should be a great series.
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