Let’s put this out there: at their very best, the Los Angeles Clippers are the finest team left in the NBA Playoffs. In their fourth quarter version from Thursday, they looked more like a side waiting for the Lottery to bring some help.
They better hope for their better selves on Sunday when they hut the road for Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal series with the Houston Rockets. Otherwise, it’s home for the summer.
It’s hard to imagine the Clips, now out to 10.00 for the title, will suffer the same kind of offensive meltdown as Game 6 but it will surely prey on their minds that they blew a 19-point lead. But little blame can be pinned on Blake Griffin who didn’t see enough of the ball when LA needed his impact most. That is certain to change.
Houston, good value at 2.00 to advance, got lots of help from their role players on a (relative) off-night for James Harden. By contrast, the Clippers bench was MIA. But there’s a lot riding on the decider for both teams. At full throttle and injury-free, failure would suggest offseason roster tinkering is required.
None of the six clashes so far have gone under a combined 223 points and the final one should be no different. But with memories of their resilience in the First Round Game 7 against San Antonio in mind, expect another LA Story.
The Golden State Warriors – now the 2.00 title favourites - get the chance to clinch their first tilt at the Conference titles for 40 years on Friday – if they can see off the Memphis Grizzlies on their own court in Game 6.
The Warriors, priced at 1.48 to win out, have rediscovered their defensive rhythm over consecutive wins in which they’ve held Memphis to an average of 81 points, making the line of under 188.5 total points at 2.48 seem a steal. And the good news for them is that none of the six teams that could potentially stand in their path ahead are anything like as pesky an opponent as Memphis.
Friday’s other Game 6 is in DC where the Washington Wizards face elimination against the Atlanta Hawks. You can’t help admire the Wizards’ resilience, particularly with John Wall playing through injury.
They’re 6.00 to make it through 4-3 and 1.68 to force a Game 7. But back the Hawks to step up and take advantage of Washington’s inconsistencies on a -2.5 handicap at 2.55.
Best bet: Take the Clippers at -5.5 on the handicap over the Rockets