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Toronto versus Orlando: Game 5
Home cookin': Teams with a chance to close out a series in Game 5 at home almost never lose. I'm sure there's some kind of statistic that would back me up on that, but I'm not even going to look it up. I know I'm right.
Chris Bosh: He stepped up to the challenge in Game 4, and I mean big time: 39 points and 15 rebounds. And 9 of those rebounds came from the offensive glass. The dude wants it. bad.
Dwight Howard: Speaking of dudes who want it bad, Howard had 19 points, 16 rebounds, and 8 [!!] blocked shots in Game 4. Forget all the Superman analogies, Dwight is a monster trapped in a man's skin. Like Godzilla, only bigger, scarier, and he's actually toilet trained.
Rashard Lewis: Okay, I've accused this guy of being soft in the past. After all, who can forget the 2005 Western Conference playoffs when Lewis — then a member of the Seattle SuperSonics — sprained his left big toe and missed the final three games of Seattle's second-round series with the San Antonio Spurs. That's right: Lewis missed three playoff games with a bum toe. That's marshmallow soft. That's Charmin toilet tissue soft. But Lewis was anything but soft in Game 4. He scored 27 points and, more importantly, grabbed 13 rebounds, 7 of which were offensive. That's pretty impressive for a dude who hates to rebound. I officially declare him "no longer soft." (Until the next time he's soft, anyway.)
T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon: These guys have formed a two-man point guard Voltron. Or maybe that's a bad analogy. What two things can be put together, sometimes sucking and sometimes awesomming? Crap, I don't know where to go with this anymore. Let me bottom-line this for you: They combined to shoot 7-for-23 in Game 4. That's not going to get it done.
Jameer Nelson: He collapsed with back spasms after Game 3, then came back to burn Toronto with 19 huge points in Game 4. Was he sandbagging to throw the dinos off his trail? Maybe. But I bet the Raptors work a little harder to close him out in Game 5.
Andrea Bargnani: He's so bad, he makes me laugh.
Boston versus Atlanta: Game 4
Anger: The Celtics don't like losing. It makes Kevin Garnett Crazy. Sorry, crazier. They got a little complacent in Game 3 and they know it. That's not going to happen again. Especially not after the way Al Horford got in Paul Pierce's face at the end of the last game. Speaking of which...
Al Horford: He's a rookie, right? Because he's sure not playing like one. The kid is averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds. Even more impressive is that he seems to be the one Hawk who isn't the least bit intimidated by the Celtics, whether he's playing at home or on the road. You have to admire that kind of youthful stupidity.
Rough play: This series has been highlighted by rough play. Some might say "marred," others might say "enhanced." But it's a butcher shop out there. Just ask Kendrick Perkins, who got his nose bloodied in Game 3. Expect more of the same in Game 4. That's how both teams want it.
Josh Smith: He soared through the air with the greatest of ease in Game 3, scoring a dunktastic 27 points. One things for sure: The dude's got hops. And the Hawks are going to need him to keep scoring.
Kevin Garnett: Forget the points and rebounds. Do you think he's going to let Smith get 27 again? Oh, hell no. He's going to go after Smith like Hannibal Lecter going after a juicy human face.
Rondo versus Bibby: The young gun versus the veteran. So far, the battle has been mostly Rondo, although Bibs had a kinda sorta breakthrough in Game 3 (12 points, 8 assists). But then again, Rondo wasn't as aggressive in that game, and he's admitted as much. I can't wait to see these guys go at it again in Game 4.
Joe Johnson: He hasn't had the breakout game I've been expecting. Game 4 is the best time for him to do that ... or the Hawks might be done in Atlanta for the season.
L.A. versus Denver: Game 4
Redemption: The Nuggets wimped out on defense in Games 1 and 2, and then they even wimped out on offense in Game 3. They're professionals. And now they're embarrassed professionals. There's no way they want to be swept out of the playoffs at home. I expect a Phoenix Suns-like pride game from the Nuggets in Game 4.
Carmelo Anthony: After that awful loss in Game 3, 'Melo called out his teamates, his coaches, himself...hell, he even called out a little old lady who was watching the game at home. He's going to come out fired up for Game 4. I figure Denver will still lose, but Carmelo might score 40 or 50 points.
Kobe Bryant: Don't think for one second the Mamba wouldn't like have another uber-game against this defenseless squad. A Bryant-Anthony duel is a very real possibility.
Allen Iverson: The Answer was left with nothing but questions after Game 3. Why? Why did he have to suck so badly in such a big game? This little dude is full of pride, though. Expect big things from him in Game 4. I'm thinking 30 points and 10 dimes. And several floor burns.
J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin: Don't be shakin' any trees, boys. You don't want any more leopards dropping out, do you?
Conspiracy theories: The Suns sure got a lot of leeway from the officials in their series-extending win against the Spurs on Sunday. And you know the league makes more money the longer a series lasts ... especially if that series has a cluster of stars in it. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.