What’s the most exciting Game 6 matchup, and what will happen in Round 2?
Our NBA Insiders answer the big questions and make bold predictions before three pivotal games tip off on Friday night.
Bobby Marks, ESPN Insider: Oklahoma City at Utah, the game that has the most storylines of the first round so far. Does the momentum from Game 5 carry over for Oklahoma City? What about the future of Paul George if the Thunder lose? If the Thunder can get off to a good start and take the crowd out of the game from the start, will Utah revert to the same team we saw in the fourth quarter on Wednesday night? If it does, this series could be over even before the Jazz get back to Oklahoma City for a Game 7.
Marc J. Spears, The Undefeated: While all three have outstanding storylines, OKC at Utah is the most exciting to watch. You have Westbrook and George trying to keep the Thunder alive. You have the Jazz trying to move on from a disaster of a possible series-ending Game 5, when they blew a 25-point third-quarter lead. How will rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell respond? What Westbrook will show up? Man, let’s tip this one up now.
“The NBA doesn’t have time to babysit nobody, especially a 20- or 19-year-old coming into the league,” Brown said. “Especially coming in on a playoff team.
“I didn’t want to give nobody no room to say, ‘OK, he’s not ready’ or ‘OK, he has to mature’ or anything. So I think it was just my mindset from the get-go. Everything is a growth experience for me. They might not see it now, but they’ll see it soon.”
At the same time Brown was gritting through Sunday’s news conference, Al Horford stood in Boston’s locker room looking like he’d had a bit of a revelation. Yes, losing hurt, but Horford saw something in the way Tatum and Brown played at the end of that game that had him excited for the future.
And we’re not talking about for next year. We’re talking for Game 5.
“We have high expectations, but, at the end of the day, we have a lot of young players. We’re all learning as we go,” Horford said. “And that was really encouraging [how the young guys played at the end of Game 4].”