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Four Game 6s, who is most likely to force Game 7?

May 3, 2013, 11:59 AM EDT

Atlanta Hawks Smith reacts as the Indiana Pacers West walks across the court in their first-round Eastern Conference playoff NBA basketball game in Atlanta Reuters

This is going to be one wild night in the NBA — four first-round Game 6 showdowns.

Four games where a team’s season hangs in the balance, and another has the chance to close out and advance to the second round.

Who is most likely to force a Game 7?

Let’s break it on down, in order of most to least likely to be playing one more game.

1) Atlanta Hawks (over Indiana Pacers in Atlanta). I know you haven’t watched this series but as someone who has suffered through every minute of it, let me tell you the Hawks are going to win this game. Because these two teams are Jekyll and Hyde on the road/at home — every game in this series has been won by at least 11 points by the home team — and the Hawks are home for Game 6. Look for Josh Smith to have another big game, getting points in transition and attacking, and expect Jeff Teague to come out and play much better (Al Horford will be a rock as always). Indiana is the better team in this series, they made some adjustments that worked very well in Game 5 (forcing Smith to cover Paul George handling the ball in the pick-and-roll, for one) but I question if they can execute that on the road.

2) Houston Rockets (over Oklahoma City Thunder in Houston). The Thunder are the better team in this series, but they have not had time to adjust their game to life without Russell Westbrook. Boston has had its moments without Rajon Rondo where the offense flowed, but they had time to figure that out in the regular season, to experiment with lineups and what worked. Scott Brooks and the Thunder have had none of that; they have the Rockets wisely overloading the defense on Kevin Durant and daring anyone else to beat them. The Thunder can win — Kevin Martin is fully capable of lighting it up for a night — but the Rockets will be hard to close out at home where you can expect James Harden and Chandler Parsons to put up points.

3) Boston Celtics (over New York Knicks in Boston). This is all about Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks — they are the better team in this series, but they have gotten away from what makes them better. During their regular season win streak the Knicks were moving the ball strong-to-weak like the Heat and Spurs. But in this series they have gone back to isolation basketball — in the regular season the Knicks averaged 15 isolation sets a game (higher than the league average of 10), but against the Celtics that has jumped to 26 a game, according to ESPN’s stats and research people. The Celtics Thibodeau-inspired defense overloads the strong side and will shut down isolation plays. The Celtics will play hard, they will defend, and at home they could get a big game from Jeff Green from them. Could. But if Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith move the ball the Knicks can and should win. If not, they are playing on Sunday.

4) Los Angeles Clippers (over Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis). It’s hard to see this series reaching a Game 7 unless Blake Griffin’s sprained ankle has made a miraculous recovery. The Clippers need to find a way to slow down the force that is Zach Randolph and without a 100 percent Griffin I don’t see how they do that. Sure, the Clippers can try to open the game up by going small for extended stretches — Matt Barnes at the four — but the Grizzlies invite that kind of floor chaos. They pick you apart when you do it. The Clippers will need to play the best defense of this series and they will have to get a monster game out of DeAndre Jordan against Marc Gasol to win this. On the road. Chris Paul will do everything he can, but it’s probably not going to be enough.

  1. 1972wasalongtimeago - May 3, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    Whichever team loses between the Celtics and Knicks, can we just agree beforehand that it was the refs’ fault.

    • fanofevilempire - May 3, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      there will be a funeral in Boston tonight for those old geezers on the Celtics…….
      Knickerbockers are going to win………………..

      • andyhr17 - May 3, 2013 at 12:11 PM

        ….but if the Celtics win, it will be the refs fault, right? Or maybe Stern’s?

      • nycalldayz - May 3, 2013 at 12:38 PM

        @fanofevilempire Those front-runners in orange and blue will likely take a loss. No way the Golden-Girls of MSG win tonight.

    • Mr. Wright 212 - May 3, 2013 at 12:29 PM

      Bad calls/non-calls are what they are. Naturally you issue subs as a fan of a team that don’t have to play 5 vs. 8.

      • fanofevilempire - May 3, 2013 at 2:13 PM

        nycalldayz, your golden girls Celts will be buried tonight….

        the viewing will be held from 7-9:30 pm.

        bring ya hankies to dry your eye.

    • cantonbound13 - May 3, 2013 at 1:04 PM

      When did you ever hear the Knicks complain about the refs? Only LeBaby (after the Bulls played physically against them)& Dwhine Wade (after every drive to the basket) have cried publicly. What a hypocrite you are.

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - May 3, 2013 at 1:43 PM

        I’m making fun of you and Wright, and the Celtics fans. Simmons is already whining that Bennet Savadore is a ref tonight. Wright’s already saying its 5 on 8.

        They can’t be biased against BOTH teams can they?

      • Mr. Wright 212 - May 4, 2013 at 3:08 AM

        Salvatore and Malloy have had it in for the Knicks for quite some time. Those calls/non-calls during that “run” were downright abhorrent.

  2. senorpapino - May 3, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    I agree on Hawks-Pacers. The road team has been so bad in the series that I am shocked the line is only favoring the Hawks by 1 1/2.

  3. Mr. Wright 212 - May 3, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    Rockets and Hawks. Don’t see Boston nor Clippers winning.

    • andyhr17 - May 3, 2013 at 12:41 PM

      You also didn’t see Boston winning game 4 or game 5.

      • fanofevilempire - May 3, 2013 at 2:16 PM

        did you, who you got tonite?

      • andyhr17 - May 3, 2013 at 2:38 PM

        No. I’m a Celtics fan and I didn’t see them winning the last two. I also didn’t go on here and say they WERE going to win before every game. That’s the difference.

      • jcmeyer10 - May 3, 2013 at 3:48 PM

        Here here… I went to Game 4 thinking it was a swan song for Pierce and Garnett.

  4. erckle31 - May 3, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    If the Rockets lose, and KD goes off, Royce White will be solely to blame. They need to drop his a$$ ASAP. It makes me sick that he tagged #RedNation when he hasn’t played a SINGLE SECOND for this team.

  5. nycalldayz - May 3, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    Hawks win
    Celtics win
    Grizzles win
    Rockets win

  6. mungman69 - May 3, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    Don’t matter, Miami sweeps them all. They don’t even need Wade.

    • nycalldayz - May 3, 2013 at 1:46 PM

      @mungman69

      Now I’m confused. Are Heat fans simply Lebron or Wade fans or actual team fans?

  7. addictedzone - May 3, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    For Carmelo to maintain his Title as worst NBA player in the playoffs in the history of the game (50 or more games), he needs to lose both to the Celtics. With just 1.2 assists per game the last 5 games, he’s back to being a black hole on offense and has a shot at maintaining his hold on #1 loser of all time.

  8. jbeagles23 - May 3, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    In there were any bad calls in game 5 it was against bos not for them

  9. lakerluver - May 3, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    So long “lob city”. I know Clip fans are gonna use Blake’s injury as an excuse but they weren’t going to beat the more physical Memphis team anyway….I actually like the Clippers players, it’s their numbskulls fans I detest.
    #longwayfrom16.

  10. kb2408 - May 3, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    Where are all the Clipper “fans” now?

  11. 1972wasalongtimeago - May 3, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    Seriously though, there’s no way the Knicks lose to this Celtics team two more times (4 times in a row). I’m right, right? No. no way. Maybe? Naaaah

    • jcmeyer10 - May 3, 2013 at 3:49 PM

      All that matters is that the Celts have to win one game at home and one on the road. Not such a monumental task when you think about it like that.

  12. davidly - May 3, 2013 at 3:27 PM

    Kurt you’re a troll. Pacers close it out tonight.

  13. lemfaxx - May 3, 2013 at 8:32 PM

    History comes on sunday!

  14. xli2006 - May 3, 2013 at 10:50 PM

    You owe the Pacers an apology. They dominated that game. Even the 8 pt difference didn’t do that justice. If the Pacers play D like that every night they can cause headaches for ANY team.

    Time to renew the Pacers/Knicks rivalry. This series could get “chippy” fast.

  15. fearthehoody - May 3, 2013 at 11:29 PM

    As a life long Clipps fan, I cant wait for them to lose tonight! It will lead to the end of VDN reign of terror.

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