With a slew of Game 6's on tap for Friday, four teams will have the opportunity to shut down their opponent and close out the series to move on to the next round of the 2013 NBA playoffs, while the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls series will be determined by a Game 7 on Saturday.
The NBA postseason is where stars are born and legends are made. Each franchise has one player looking to put the team on his back and lead it to playoff victory.
Who am I referring to?
Scroll down to see the teams I believe win their first-round series and the players who will lead them on to the second round.
Kevin Garnett, C, Boston Celtics
Would I be surprised to see the New York Knicks win this series? Absolutely not.
But what you don't want to do is give Kevin Garnett and the rest of the Boston Celtics any more of a reason to play their hearts out during this series, and that's exactly what the Knicks did when they pulled the funeral stunt.
The 17-year veteran is averaging 12.2 points and 14.4 rebounds per game in this series and has recorded at least 17 rebounds in three straight games. Garnett's physical defensive presence and ability to hit big shots when Boston needs him should not be overlooked.
ESPN's Numbers Never Lie highlights Garnett's excellent Game 5 performance.
His And Hers @HisAndHers
Kevin Garnett had 16 Pts 18 Reb & 5 Ast last night. He's the 1st player to have 15-15-5 in playoff win vs. Knicks since Larry Bird #Celtics2013-5-2 15:49:10
With their backs against the wall and analysts questioning their aging roster, K.G. will lead the Celtics to victory.
Paul George, SF, Indiana Pacers
Owning the home-court advantage in the series, the Indiana Pacers will advance to the next round on the shoulders of the NBA's 2013 Most Improved Player, Paul George.
George is leading the Pacers in scoring during the postseason, averaging 21.6 points and 10 rebounds per game. The 6'8" forward's triple-double in the opening game of the series set the tone for Indiana as the Pacers won the first two games before Atlanta won the next two at home.
Owning a 3-2 lead and playing on the road on Friday night, I wouldn't be surprised to see the home-court trend continue with the Hawks pulling out the victory, but George and the Pacers know it's time to wrap this series up (h/t Pacers Twitter account).
Indiana Pacers @Pacers
"We just gotta have a sense of urgency...an emphasis that we have to finish this series." @Paul_George24 #PacersPlayoffs2013-5-3 16:19:45
Indiana can do it tonight, but when George gets on his home floor in a potential Game 7 on Sunday (if necessary), he'll wrap this thing up for the Pacers.
Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
Playing without his buddy Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant shouldered the load and led the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 3-2 lead over the Houston Rockets, averaging 33.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and six assists per game.
ESPN Stats & Info cites Durant's efforts for OKC during the playoffs.
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Kevin Durant is the only player with more win shares than Stephen Curry this postseason. Curry ranks 3rd in +/- behind Matt Bonner & LeBron.2013-5-3 00:31:07
Durant has struggled to get hot from downtown, shooting the three ball at a mere 27 percent in the series, but the best part about Durant's game is that he can score from anywhere on the floor.
Even if a scorching James Harden and the Rockets win at home on Friday night, I like Durant to dominate on his home floor in Game 7 and propel the Thunder to the second round.
After all, Durant is tired of finishing second, right?
Zach Randolph, PF, Memphis Grizzlies
With Blake Griffin's status for Game 6 still up in the air (h/t ESPN's Arash Markazi), you can fully expect Zach Randolph to take advantage of the lack of defense in the paint for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Randolph has already made it known he has no sympathy for Griffin, who's nursing a sprained ankle (via ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz).
Even with a healthy Griffin defending, Randolph has been absolutely dominant in this series for the Memphis Grizzlies, putting up 20.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game while shooting 55 percent from the floor.
After going down 0-2 in the series, Randolph and the Griz have rattled off three straight wins by an average of more than 14 points per game and undoubtedly possess the momentum as Friday's Game 6 approaches.
On his home court on Friday night, look for a double-double from Z-Bo and a series win for Memphis.
Deron Williams, PG, Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets' point guard Deron Williams has proven through the series with the Chicago Bulls that as he goes, the Nets go.
According to ESPN's SportsCenter, Williams will look to lead the Nets to a feat they've never accomplished before.
Nets HOLD ON to force Game 7. Deron Williams leads Brooklyn w/ 17 Pts, 11 Ast. Nets have NEVER won a series after trailing 3-2.2013-5-3 02:49:57
We know Brook Lopez is going to get his 20 points, but Brooklyn is at its best when Williams is penetrating and knocking down jumpers from the outside. With a smaller defender in Nate Robinson guarding him, Williams has taken advantage of the size mismatch, resulting in two straight wins for the Nets.
Williams has notched a double-double in two straight games and has averaged 3.5 turnovers per game. With no word on Kirk Hinrich's status for Game 7 as of yet, the advantage goes to Williams and the Nets.
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