The NBA Playoffs continue Wednesday (IST) with a trio of Game 5s.
The slate begins as the Brooklyn Nets host the Boston Celtics with an opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the first time since 2014. From there, it continues with two pivotal games, as the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers return to the Mile High City with the series tied at two games apiece. Later, the Phoenix Suns look to regain control of their series with the Los Angeles Lakers as they return to The Valley of the Sun with the series tied 2-2.
Here's what to watch for in each game.
Game 5: Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets
An encore for Tatum?
If keeping up with Brooklyn's potent offence wasn't hard enough, Boston was forced to do so without both Kemba Walker and Robert Willams III in Game 4.
Add in Jaylen Brown, who's out for the entirety of the postseason, and the Celtics were down three starters.
In their absence, Jayson Tatum again put forth an impressive offensive showing, scoring 40 points by shooting 10-for-22 from the field and a perfect 17-for-17 from the line. If you're keeping track, Tatum has now scored 90 points over Boston's last two games.
He's doing things that no Celtic has done before and he's only 23.
Boston is facing elimination against a title favourite, meaning any chance to extend the series will hinge upon yet another big performance from Tatum.
Is James Harden more threatening as a scorer or playmaker? The fact that the answer is unclear is scary in itself.
Throughout Game 4, Harden continuously set the table for Brooklyn, setting a new postseason career-high with 18 assists to go along with an efficient 23 points (on 8-for-12 shooting). Of his 18 assists, nine went to either Kyrie Irving (five) or Kevin Durant (four), the duo that combined to score 81 points.
Harden is the type of player that could follow an 18-assist performance with a big scoring night of his own, but as evidenced of Brooklyn's unstoppable offence in Game 4, the team is at its best when Harden can shine as a playmaker.
With an opportunity to close out, the former assists champ should have no problem picking up where he left off.
Game 5: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets
In Portland's Game 4 rout of Denver, Norman Powell exploded for an efficient 29 points on 11-for-15 shooting in just over 34 minutes of action.
It was clear why the Blazers brought him in at the deadline.
Powell is coming on strong in the series, increasing his offensive output in each game to bring his averages up to 18.0 points on 55.1 percent shooting from the field and 41.2 percent shooting from deep through four games.
As the series shifts back to Denver, Powell will be looked upon to add an offensive boost yet again, as Portland hopes to steal another one on the road. As a one-time champion that's won a few big playoff games in his time, Powell can tap into what he's done in past years.
A bounce-back game from Michael Porter Jr.
When Jamal Murray went down with a torn ACL, it was Porter that stepped up to ease the sting of his absence, making him a key player to watch in this series.
In Game 4, Porter scored just three points (on 1-for-3 shooting) in 23 minutes of action, far from what Denver needs to get it done. It was his lowest scoring output since he was held scoreless in a loss to the Celtics in mid-February.
Opposite of Powell, Porter's scoring output has decreased each game after he went for 25 points in the series opener. Given how crucial his scoring is, the Nuggets will need to get the 21-year-old involved offensively in a pivotal Game 5.
Perhaps Game 4 was an anomaly but the Nuggets cannot afford for Porter to fall shy of double-figure scoring in Game 5. His offence, along with the playmaking of MVP favourite Nikola Jokic, could very well be the biggest keys to a Denver victory.
Game 5: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns
Chris Paul's follow-up
After not quite looking like himself for the majority of the first three games, CP3 finished with 18 points, nine assists and three steals. He clearly had his swagger back.
Gritty game 4 from @CP3. 😤- NBA (@NBA) May 31, 2021
Tied 2-2, the series shifts to Phoenix for Game 5 on Tuesday at 10pm/et on TNT. #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/zpAT2AyD6h
Paul will try and replicate his Game 4 performance as the Suns look to regain control of the series by taking a 3-2 lead. No surprise, but we quickly learned how crucial a healthy Paul is to this team's prospects once he went down in Game 1.
At this point, the 36-year-old is no stranger to the big stage and the only thing that would keep him from a big performance would be his shoulder.
What AD's status means
After suffering a groin injury in the first half of Game 4, Anthony Davis was limited to just 19 minutes as he missed the entirety of the second half.
Los Angeles just didn't look right without its All-Star big man.
After more tests, the 28-year-old was ruled as day-to-day, which could be problematic given there will be just one day of rest and recovery in between Game 4 and 5. If he's unable to go, Los Angeles will have to make adjustments to make up for the absence of his interior presence.
More than anything, LeBron James will need to step up in a major way, something we've seen him do before when his teams find their backs against the wall. James finished Game 4 with 25 points, 12 rebounds and six assists while shooting 10-for-21 from the field. It was his highest scoring output in the series, but it still feels like the four-time Finals MVP could give his team more.
Will LeBron add to his legend with a huge night? Will Montrezl Harrell get back into the rotation? Whether or not AD is able to go will dictate a number of big points.
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