and the Warriors
staved off elimination at home in Game 6. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SI.com’s NBA writers debate the biggest playoff question of the day. Today, we examine …
Which road team (Hawks, Grizzlies or Warriors) has the best chance of winning a Game 7 on Saturday?
Lee Jenkins: Grizzlies. There's really no reason to pick Memphis anymore, with Zach Randolph suspended and Mike Conley slowed by a bad hamstring. However, Randolph has been inconsistent this series and the Grizzlies have played well with a small lineup. If Russell Westbrook senses that Conley is diminished, he may try to take over the game, a notion that can work for or against Oklahoma City. Maybe it's just because I don't trust the Hawks or the Warriors on the road in Game 7, but I'll take the Grizz. They won twice at Oklahoma City in last year's playoffs and they've won twice there in this post-season as well. They have responded to demoralizing events many times over the past two years. This would be the capper.
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Phil Taylor: Warriors. I picked the Thunder over the Grizzlies in 7 and I see no reason to waiver from that, especially now that Kevin Durant has gotten his groove back. The Pacers still look ready to be toppled with a light shove, but the way the Hawks tightened up down the stretch in Game 6, it's hard to see them being able to win a Game 7 on the road. That leaves Golden State, which has a couple of factors in its favor: Chris Paul isn't his usual explosive self on offense because of a hamstring problem, and the Clippers still seem to be fighting emotional fatigue from the Donald Sterling mess. They haven't played a really solid game since the 40-point blowout win in Game 2. If the Warriors contain Blake Griffin with Draymond Green's tenacity along with well-timed double teams as well as they did in Game 6 -- a big "if" -- they have a good chance to steal the series.
Ben Golliver: Warriors. Before the playoffs began, I picked all three favorites -- Oklahoma City, L.A. and Indiana -- to win their respective series. No waffling here: I like all three to pull off the wins on Saturday. I don't see Memphis being able to overcome the Zach Randolph suspension and Mike Conley's gimpy hammy; I also think Atlanta blew its best chance to win the series -- or David West blew up their best chance -- in Game 6 at Philips Arena. That leaves the Warriors, who have handled the chaos and off-court distractions throughout their series quite well. The Splash Brothers are the definition of "Can go off at any given moment," and Golden State proved it could emerge from a war of attrition in Game 6. That said, I still like the Clippers to win at home, riding another strong crowd in the wake of the Donald Sterling fiasco. I just think they'll have to work for it, especially if Chris Paul is playing at less than 100 percent with his hand injury.
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Rob Mahoney: Hawks. I'm not giving up on Atlanta just yet. Indiana looks to be in a good place after Frank Vogel finally committed to playing smaller lineups in Game 6, and his team can now stave off elimination with a win on their home floor. I just don't have any faith in the Pacers to follow through. This is still a team fiddling with drastic stylistic and schematic changes in the middle of a playoff series -- seismic shifts that are sure to leave fissures. Plus, thus far Indiana hasn't had any kind of positive carryover from one game to the next -- their every win has been followed by a loss. I suspect that pattern might continue given just how fragile the Pacers' performance has been in this first-round series on the whole and how much trouble this matchup clearly presents.
If Atlanta hits its three-pointers, Indiana is likely done. There's a simplicity in that I can get behind, probabilistically, considering that Atlanta has hit 42 percent of its long-range shots at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse this postseason. While that might not be any guarantee of Game 7 success -- where the pressure is an all-too-real consideration -- I still like the Hawks' baseline odds.
Matt Dollinger: Hawks. If there's a team remaining in the playoffs we shouldn't trust, it's the top-seeded, bottom-hitting Pacers. Indiana showed the grit its been missing in the final minutes of a critical Game 6 win, but we've been fooled into believing the struggling Pacers have been "back" before. There was the home win in the regular season's penultimate game against the Thunder. And there were wins in Games 2 and 4 that also tried to change the narrative (and maybe Indiana's locker room) into convincing the contenders were back. But both of those games were followed by letdown losses and Indy's Game 6 win could suffer the same fate. If Roy Hibbert continues to be the world's biggest cheerleader and the Hawks' hot hand returns, the Pacers' season could end in Indy -- and not with a parade.
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Chris Johnson: Warriors. Mark Jackson had to shoot down a reporter's ill-advised question earlier this week, simply explaining "Steph Curry is not Michael Jordan." He's right. No matter how locked-in Curry is, he will never be mistaken for His Airness in his prime. What Curry can do, however, is propel the Warriors to a win Saturday by ripping off one of those one of those ridiculous, earth-scorching, Twitter-animating shooting streaks that he’s become famous. We saw Curry do this less than a week ago, in Game 4, when he knocked down five threes in the first quarter and finished with 33 points in the Warriors' 21-point win. Curry scored a modest 24 points – by his standards, mind you – on Thursday and needed 24 shots to do so. The pendulum will shift back in Curry’s favor for Game 7. Expect the Warriors’ star to fire away from the tip, with great success. The fact that Chris Paul, one of Curry’s primary defenders this series, is battling injuries should only increase the probability that flames are emanating from Curry’s fingertips by the end of the game.
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