NBA Playoffs: Game 6 previews and picks

NBA Playoffs: Game 6 previews and picks
May 3, 2013, 10:45 am
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There are not one, not two, not three, but four Game 6's on Friday night's NBA slate. Sounds like it's prediction time...

Knicks at Celtics, 7 p.m., TD Garden

New York leads 3-2

What's happened: The Knicks won the first three games, but then J.R. Smith landed an elbow to the nose of Jason Terry which landed Smith a suspension and the Celtics inspiration. Never lacking in pride, now Boston is not lacking in wins after taking games 4 and 5, meaning the Celtics are two more victories away from becoming the first team in NBA history to win a seven-game series after trailing 3-0. 

Hot: Over the last three games, Celtics C Kevin Garnett has grabbed a staggering 52 rebounds including 18 in Wednesday's 92-86 win

Not: Carmelo Anthony averaged 28.5 points over the last two games, but the Knicks star had been anything but efficient, shooting 30.5 percent (18 for 59).

Prediction: Smith didn't play in Game 4 and then proved less helpful in Game 5 by missing his first 10 shots. Seeing as he and Anthony cannot shoot any worse and the veteran Celtics are wearing out late in games by essentially using a six-player rotation... Knicks 92-88. Worth noting New York's 3-point specialist Steve Novak (back spasms) is a game-time decision.

Pacers at Hawks, 7 p.m., Phillips Arena

Indiana leads 3-2

What's happened: It's all about the home court advantage in this series where no game has been decided by fewer than 11 points. That's about what one expects from the always suspect Hawks, but rather disappointing for a Pacers team many consider the second best in the Eastern Conference. 

Hot: Pacers SF Paul George is averaging 21. 6 in the series, four more points than during the regular series. In Game 5, the All-Star scored 21 points on 7 of 8 shots with 10 rebounds.

Not: Over the last three games including two in Atlanta, Hawks point Jeff Teague is shooting 25.6 percent (10 of 39) from the floor.

Prediction: Maybe this is wishful thinking as this matchup is the NBA playoff equivalent of "if games are played in the woods but nobody watches did it really happen" series, but George slices and dices the Hawks defense for a 92-89 win. Cool? Cool. 

Thunder at Rockets, 9:30 p.m., Toyota Center

Oklahoma City leads 3-2

What's happened: Kevin Durant remains the best player in the series,  but the Thunder have perhaps the next five best players, at least offensively. When Durant isn't scoring which he didn't during the fourth quarter of the Thunder's 107-100 Game 5 loss, OKC's margin of error erodes, hence two straight losses. Meanwhile James Harden turned in about the most efficient stat line possible: 31 points on 16 field goal attempts, sinking 7 of 9 from beyond the 3-point arc, 4 of 5 free throw attempts. 

Hot: In their game 4 and 5 wins, the Rockets scored 38 and 37 respectively in the third quarter. Like the Celtics, Houston is pushing to become the first team in NBA history to advance after trailing 3-0.

Not: Kevin Martin, the primary asset of an immediate nature acquired by the Thunder in the Harden deal, went 1 of 10 in Game 5. Over his last three games, the noted scorer is 9 for 32 from the floor. That's not exactly making people forget about Westbrook's injury.

Prediction: The reality is that the Rockets have been the better "team" over the last two games and now Jeremy Lin is expected back after missing the last two games with a bruised chest. That better team perception can quickly change if Durant avoids doing a spot-on Carmelo Anthony chucking impression, if Martin finds his touch and Ibaka causes havoc inside. Even though Game 7 would take place at OKC, the Thunder need to end this now. They do, 102-100.

Grizzlies at Clippers, 9:30 p.m., Staples Center

Memphis leads 3-2

What's happened: The series turned when the Grizzlies power duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol realized they are much, much stronger - physically and mentally - than the Clippers interior pair of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. No reason to think that dynamic will change especially as Griffin deal with a high ankle sprain.

Hot: During the three-game winning streak, Randolph is averaging 25.3 points, 10.3 rebounds while shooting 55.3 percent (31 of 56) from the field. If there was a numerical stat for wearing down an opponent, Randolph's would be rather impressive.

Not: The Clippers averaged 101.2 points during the regular season, but just 87.7 points over the last four games. Gasol, the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, might have something to do with that.

Prediction: Let's not over think this. The Grizz are the tougher team in every way that doesn't directly involve Paul. Seeing as Memphis has lost two Game 7's in its recent playoff history, Randolph and crew make sure there is no chance of an unwanted repeat with a 94-90 win.