Does it get any better than this? Five Game 7s to decide who advances in arguably the most exciting first round of the playoffs ever. Our 5-on-5 writers weigh in on this weekend's big games.
1. Pacers or Hawks: Who will win Game 7?
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Pacers. Every time they've imploded, they've managed to emerge from the rubble. David West's voice is the most important on that team, and he showed in Game 6 that he can still be heard from.
Amin Elhassan, ESPN Insider: Pacers. The basketball gods have delivered their end of the bargain, sparing Paul George from suspension; the rest is on Frank Vogel, who seems to have figured out that playing Roy Hibbert in this series is bad. Hibbert clocked three minutes in the second half of Indiana's Game 5 comeback that fell short, then five minutes in the second half of a Game 6 victory. Expect Big Roy to do his best M.L. Carr impersonation in a Game 7 victory.
Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Insider: Pacers. I think Frank Vogel has finally realized he can't play Roy Hibbert in this series. And that'll help. Whatever is wrong with him -- mental, physical or emotional -- it's obvious that Hibbert's unplayable against this 3-point-slinging Hawks squad, as his series 0.7 PER indicates. Seems crazy to say, but the Pacers' best chance at winning is benching their All-Star center.
Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Los Angeles: The Pacers should win. They're at home, they've rallied, David West is holding them together. Yet I just feel like Atlanta is going to win. There is absolutely no pressure on the Hawks in this one. They're playing with house money at this point, which means they'll be loose and aggressive. The Pacers have been cracking under pressure for months. At some point, that catches up with you.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, TrueHoop: The Pacers because they're still the better team (in theory, at least). It's frightening to trust the Pacers, but slightly more comforting than trusting a team that relies on Lou Williams down the stretch.
2. Thunder or Grizzlies: Who will win Game 7?
Adande: Thunder. It's not as simple as Zach Randolph's suspension. He's shooting only 40 percent in the series and was on the bench for much of the fourth quarter of Game 4, when the Grizzlies outscored the Thunder 28-16. The key is Kevin Durant getting just enough of a break from his shooting slump. They made it to Game 7 with him shooting 25 percent on 3s. He's due for a hot night.
Elhassan: Thunder. Zach Randolph is suspended. Mike Conley is gimpy. Kevin Durant is reliable.
Haberstroh: Thunder. That Zach Randolph suspension is like a Grizzly taking a tranquilizer to the chest. And then you consider that the Thunder will be on their home court, playing in front of a fan base that probably will look to compensate for a certain headline, and I think Kevin Durant & Co., will win this one soundly.
Shelburne: Thunder. Memphis has been wonderful this year at playing through all sorts of misfortune, but I just don't think it can survive losing Zach Randolph to suspension now that point guard Mike Conley is also dealing with a hamstring issue. Kevin Durant found himself again in Game 6. I say the Thunder roll in this one.
Strauss: The Thunder for boring, frustrating reasons. With Mike Conley hindered by injury and Zach Randolph suspended for sneaky pugilism, it's tough to pick the Grizzlies. Although Memphis is good enough to win, regardless, you just can't pick it to do so on the road against Mr. Reliable.
3. Clippers or Warriors: Who will win Game 7?
Adande: The Clippers. When they played with urgency and energy, they were the better team. And if they can't play with urgency and energy in a home Game 7, they have no business being in the playoffs. Officiating has played such a big role in two losses; expect them to get the calls Saturday. That's why you fight to get home court.
Elhassan: Clippers, but this one is going to be close. Chris Paul is battling a bad hamstring, and the shooting of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson always keeps the Warriors in games. Also, Jermaine O'Neal's injury means Mark Jackson is more likely to rely on small lineups, inadvertently giving the Warriors a better chance of winning. Still, the Clippers' top-to-bottom talent advantage, coupled with home-court advantage (4-1 vs. GSW this season, with the only loss being Blake Griffin's foul-ridden Game 1) should see them to the next round.
Haberstroh: Warriors. Chris Paul is laboring and the Splash Brothers have shot well below their 3-point averages in this series. I don't expect that last bit to continue. Blake Griffin will have to play the game of his life to keep the Clippers afloat, but I think the Warriors will live by the 3, not die by it in this one.
Shelburne: If Chris Paul is healthy, the Clippers win. That's a huge if, though. Paul's thumb and hamstring weren't right in Game 6, and neither is the sort of injury that gets better in 48 hours. Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford picked up the slack for Paul nicely when he missed six weeks with a shoulder injury earlier this year, so the Clippers know how to play without their leader. They'd rather not test that in a Game 7, though.
Strauss: The Clippers, although I'm starting to waver. I was confident that Los Angeles was the better team, given Golden State's injury to Andrew Bogut. Now it looks as if Chris Paul is far from full strength. I'm still leaning Clippers, thanks to DeAndre Jordan's dominance in most of these games, but it's a timid lean.
4. Raptors or Nets: Who will win Game 7?
Adande: Nets. Speaking of energy and urgency, the Raptors didn't bring any to their closeout game Friday night. It didn't dawn on them that they were really in the early stages of Game 7. Now it might be too late for them. The Nets have new life, and their veterans seem poised to strike.
Elhassan: Nets. $180 million might not buy you a championship, or even anything past a second-round knockout, but it might be enough to get you a Game 7 first-round victory. The collective experience of Brooklyn, along with the relative inexperience of Toronto, will be the margin of victory in another very, very close matchup.
Haberstroh: Raptors. This one is a coin flip on a neutral floor, but the Air Canada Centre is going to be roofless by the end of this one. If Kyle Lowry leads the Raptors to victory once again, can we just retroactively give him an All-Star spot? Adam Silver, make it happen.
Shelburne: Nets. I always opt for experience in a Game 7, and the Nets -- or the dinosaurs, as they're called in Toronto -- have that in spades. Kevin Garnett could retire after this season. It's no sure thing Paul Pierce will return, either. No, this is not how they go out just yet.
Strauss: Nets. I'm counting on Brooklyn's veterans to handle a road Game 7 better than the young Raptors handle a home Game 7. Perhaps this is outdated thinking, just like the notion that the Toronto Raptors can't possibly make a deep playoff run in our lifetimes.
5. Spurs or Mavs: Who will win Game 7?
Adande: Spurs. As good a job as Rick Carlisle has done to get Dallas to this point, there are still so many random things that have to go the Mavs' way for them to win. A Vince Carter tip-toe jumper or DeJuan Blair taking over in crunch time. It's more reassuring for Gregg Popovich to know he can count on Tony Parker, or to get just enough solid minutes from at least one bench player.
Elhassan: Spurs. Maybe it's just the scars of playoffs past that has me paranoid, but I don't see the Spurs losing in Game 7 at their building. Then again, they've played in only two Game 7s at home in the Tim Duncan era, going 1-1. The win? Game 7 of the 2005 NBA Finals vs. Detroit. The loss? Game 7 of the 2006 Western Conference semifinals vs. ... Dallas.
Haberstroh: Spurs. Monta Ellis has been less magical on the road so far in this playoffs, and I don't expect him to make just about every back-breaking shot the way he did in Game 6. The Spurs are too smart, too well-coached, too deep and too talented to let this Game 7 slip out of their hands after losing their last Game 7.
Shelburne: Spurs. These teams, especially their superstar leaders -- Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan -- know each other inside and out by now. Which means this comes down to talent, not execution or game planning. And the Spurs just have a bit more of it than the Mavs. Barring another Monta game, I think San Antonio gets it done at home.
Strauss: The Spurs, because they are the Spurs. Is that too simplistic? OK, the other reason is that they seem to have figured out where the smoke and mirrors are in the Dallas defense. The Mavs had some early defensive success in this series, but, as it goes on, they're getting revealed for the bad defensive team they've been all season.
ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
J.A. Adande covers the NBA for ESPN.com. Amin Elhassan and Tom Haberstroh write for ESPN Insider. Ramona Shelburne writes for ESPN Los Angeles. Ethan Sherwood Strauss is part of the TrueHoop Network.
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