Akshay Manwani Freelance writer based in Mumbai

In an attempt to rid himself of the perils of performance appraisals, Akshay ventured into the world of freelance writing where he combined his twin interests of sports and cinema. He has since contributed to The Caravan, BCCI.tv, Business Standard and Man's World, among other publications. He has followed the fortunes of the NBA since the early ’90s, an experience that has given him extraordinary moments of joy in an otherwise mundane existence.

All season long, Akshay will cover the League from the point of view of a basketball expert living in India. Follow him every week on NBA.com/india!

Weekend at the Playoffs: May 19 - 21

As the semifinal round of the 2012 postseason gets underway, there has been cheer and disappointment in equal measure for the eight teams partaking in this round of the Playoffs. Where the Oklahoma City Thunder, having jumped to a 2-0 lead, will feel very much in control against the L.A. Lakers, the Miami Heat, hampered by the strained lower abdominal muscle injury to Chris Bosh in Game 1, will be wondering if they can repeat their Finals appearance from last year without Bosh. Elsewhere, Boston is locked in a tight contest with the Philadelphia 76ers, while the San Antonio Spurs continue to impress with their unbeaten run in the 2012 Playoffs. Here is a quick look ahead at the upcoming action on the weekend in the 2012 NBA Playoffs:

May 19, 2012

Boston Celtics (4) v Philadelphia 76ers (3) – Game 4:
Conference: Eastern
When: May 19, 2012 – 5:30 AM (IST)
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
Series Score: Boston lead 2-1

Preview: After struggling to find their flow in the first two games, Boston finally saw a much improved effort on the offensive end in Game 3, which helped it jump to a 2-1 lead and regain home-court advantage in this series. That remains the key for the Celtics. If they can find their offense through Kevin Garnett in the post, and Rajon Rondo leading the way with his crisp passing, they will always have their way against the 76ers.

The Stat: 4-for-13: Ray Allen continues to struggle from the 3-point line, shooting just 30.8 percent (4-for-13) from the distance for the Celtics in the series. That’s bad news given that Allen was shooting at a phenomenal 45.3 percent in the ’11-’12 regular season. However, the silver lining for Allen is that he went 5-for-18 (27.8 percent) in the first round against the Atlanta Hawks.

Oklahoma City Thunder (2) v Los Angeles Lakers (3) – Game 3:
Conference: Western
When: May 19, 2012 – 8:00 AM (IST) -- Watch it LIVE on SIX
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
Series Score: OKC lead 2-0

Preview: Although the OKC Thunder managed to edge the Lakers in Game 2 after a blowout win in Game 1, they cannot afford for the Lakers to dictate the pace of the game as in Game 2. A slow, half-court game suits the Lakers much more than the Thunder with athletic stars like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. For the Lakers, they need to find better offense. They are shooting just 40.9 percent from the field, only 29 percent from behind the 3-point arc, but, perhaps, most worryingly are just 12-for-29 (41 percent) in the paint despite having Bynum and Gasol around.

The Stat: 11.33: After turning the ball over a league-high 16.35 times per game during the regular season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been the third best team in the postseason in holding the ball. Only Denver (11.14 TOPG) and Philadelphia (10.78 TOPG) have done a better job than OKC in the postseason.

May 20, 2012

San Antonio Spurs (1) v Los Angeles Clippers (5) – Game 3:
Conference: Western
When: May 20, 2012 – 1:00 AM (IST) -- Watch it LIVE on Ten Sports
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
Series Score: San Antonio lead 1-0

Preview: An indication of the Spurs’ pedigree, experience and depth was on display in Game 1 when they outclassed the Clippers by 16 points in a 108-92 win. They played better defense than the Clippers, shot better than their opponents and outrebounded the other L.A. franchise, 47-34. The one weakness that the Spurs have is that they don’t have the kind of physical presence that the Lakers or the Thunder have in the paint, but the Clippers don’t exactly have the personnel to exploit that chink in San Antonio’s armour.

The Stat: 67.2 percent – The Clippers woes at the free-throw line continue, having gone 135-for-201 in eight games in the 2012 postseason. Only Chicago, at 64.9 percent, have fared worse than the Clips in the playoffs.

May 21, 2012

Miami Heat (2) v Indiana Pacers (3) – Game 4:
Conference: Eastern
When: May 21, 2012 – 1:00 AM (IST) -- Watch it LIVE on SIX
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Series Score: Series tied 1-1

Preview: With the injury to Chris Bosh, there is extra pressure on the Heat roster, besides LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, to stand up and deliver. That they couldn’t (going just 9-for-34 from the field in Game 2) shows how much of a challenge the Heat are up against. Indiana, on the other hand, would feel the advantage having shifted to them. Not only does Roy Hibbert now have a better size matchup against whoever the Heat can throw at him, but with the teams having split the opening two games of the series, the Pacers now also have home-court advantage.

The Stat: 1-for-22: That’s Miami’s performance from behind the 3-point line in this series. Having gone 40-for-109 (36.7 percent) against the Knicks in the first round, the Heat have struggled to get things going from the distance against Indiana. LeBron James, who is 0-for-7, is the biggest culprit for the Heat in this department.

All stats are after games played on May 17, 2012 (IST)