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NBA Playoffs Day 11: Three Game Fives in the West

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The Western Conference owns the stage tonight in the NBA playoffs.

NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Clippers at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Thunder at Rockets
7:00 pm CDT
TNT

The Rockets will look to close out the Thunder at home after getting their needed split in Oklahoma City behind 64 points from their bench led by an amazing 28 point (12-12) effort by Nene. After game one of this series, a Rockets blowout, all three games have been close—decided by four point or less—so it isn’t as if the Thunder haven’t competed.

Their problem is the Rockets are relentless and have too many guys who can hurt you. While the Thunder’s non-Westbrook players were better at home than they were in Houston, it just doesn’t appear to be enough. Now they go back to Texas where the Rox are very tough to beat. Russell Westbrook will rage, but the series probably ends tonight.

Grizzlies at Spurs
8:00 pm CDT
NBAtv

Argh to NBAtv. This has been a compelling series, with both teams winning their home games, including an epic game four that devolved into a battle between Mike Conley and Kawhi Leonard, who brought the Spurs back from the brink to take the lead late before Conley sent it to overtime. Marc Gasol won it at the end with a very tough, contested runner to send the series back to San Antonio knotted at two.

The Spurs have been the better team, but the Grizzlies simply won’t quit, which has been their signature for years. Conley and Gasol have traded big games, Zach Randolph has returned to the starting lineup and provided a lift, and they scrap for 48 minutes.

The Spurs need bigger performances from some of their secondary scorers like Danny Green and Pau Gasol, both of whom are barely registering, and especially Manu Ginobili, who amazingly has not scored a point in 58 minutes during the series.

Jazz at Clippers
9:30 pm CDT
TNT

A tale of two injuries.

Rudy Gobert got hurt just after tip-off of game one, and missed the first three games in which the Clippers took a two-one lead. Blake Griffin got hurt (and is out for the playoffs) in game three, and Gobert, returning for game four, made a difference as the Jazz evened the series.

Now they head back to L.A. for game five, and whether the Clips can win without Griffin will be the story. All of the games in this series have been fairly well contested, and one imagines that will continue. For the Clips, Chris Paul has been the best player in this series, but they have been unable to get J.J. Redick going as the Jazz have really focused on taking his open looks away. L.A. needs to figure out how to get him going some.

Getting Gobert back is huge for the Jazz—it helps their depth as Derrick Favors returns to the bench, and Gobert merely put up 15 and 13 in 23 minutes and didn’t miss a shot in game four. Meanwhile, Joe Johnson has used his scoring chops and veteran savvy to become the go-to scorer for the Jazz, and was a monster in game four with 28 on 12-17 from the field in the illness absence (nine minutes) of Gordon Hayward.

Enjoy the games. Chat here.