9:00 PM EST
Rockets -7 over Warriors (3u)
James Harden O34.5 (1u)
All of the talk in the media about how the Warriors will be fine without Durant and how he was a luxury not a necessity is absolute nonsense. Yes, this is the same core group with Curry, Thompson, Green and Iguodala who won 73 games in 2016 but that was three years ago and even though the core is the same (albeit 3 years older) the team as a whole is far worse. I have been saying it all series long but there is no debate that the Warriors bench is not of NBA quality. Now take away the best player in the world in Durant and the series takes on a totally different dynamic. There is a reason why the Warriors are the biggest underdogs tonight they have ever been in the Steve Kerr era. The Rockets were in this same situation last year when they lost their super star in Chris Paul the last few games which shifted the series in favor of the Warriors, now this year it is reversed. The Rockets weren’t able to take advantage of Kevin Durant’s injury in Game 5 but that changes tonight. Without KD on the floor the Warriors won’t be able to use their “Death Lineup” and will have to start a washed up Livingston or Looney. Capella who has been next to useless this series thus far should dominate these next two games as the pick and roll lob will be open all day and the Rockets will be able to switch everything without having to worry about the Warriors best defender in KD. Houston has been a mediocre road team but has been an absolute force at home, 10-1 ATS in their last 11 home games. The role players have struggled in Oracle but have been excellent at home and I look for more of the same tonight. Typically I make it a rule never fade a team in the NBA in their next game after losing their star player as the rest of the team steps up even more in his absence which is the only reason this isn’t an even bigger play. But in a Game 6 elimination game with their backs against the wall, the Rockets will be giving maximum effort themselves as well so it negates that edge for the Warriors tonight. It’s now or never for the Rockets, Harden and Paul have been known as perennial chokers their entire career and tonight is their chance to finally exorcise that stigma. I’m expecting a huge performance from the Rockets, and James Harden in particular. If the Rockets can get hot from 3 this game is probably going to get out of hand at some point and Kerr should call off the dogs and preserve their energy for an epic Game 7 on Sunday. Take Houston.
8:00 PM EST
Sixers 1Q PK (1u)
Sixers +2 (3u)
Joel Embiid O21.5 (1u)
The 76ers were just destroyed in Toronto in humiliating fashion last game but they are a completely different team at home. Yes, they did lose Game 4 here but that took a herculean effort by Leonard and prior to that their three home playoff wins were by 22, 22, and 21 points. Philadelphia is 34-12 at home this season and as the home team have won seven of the last ten against the Raptors. Philadelphia is coming off back-to-back horrific shooting games, going just 66-for-161 in the two games. At home the role players always play much better than on the road and I think they will shoot the ball much better in their own gym with their home fans behind them. It’s no secret that Toronto has been a huge choke team in the playoffs over the past several years and as good as Kawhi and company have looked the past two games I just don’t think they are going to close this one out on the road tonight. It’s not as if Philadelphia is some overmatched underdog that is just hoping and praying for one more game. I actually think the Sixers are the more talented team in this series. They are going to play with the purpose and desperation of a team that knows that it is on the brink of ending its season. Losing an elimination game on their home court would be devastating to their players and the fans. This is a very talented team, but they’ve struggled partly because of the opponent but also because their best player, Joel Embiid, has struggled with a respiratory issue. By all accounts he is at 90% health or better so I love for him at home to get some extra adrenaline from the crowd and have a huge game. Home teams facing elimination at 6-1 against the 1Q line as well this playoffs so like that as a 1u play as well. Look for the Sixers to fend off elimination tonight and force a game 7. Take Philadelphia.
10:35 PM EST
Blazers -3 -120 over Nuggets (3u)
Damian Lillard O28 (1u)
CJ McCollum O21.5 (1u)
After a loss in 4 overtimes this young Denver team could have packed it in but instead they have comeback and looked like a polished veteran team. They humiliated Portland in Game 5 however the Blazers like the Sixers have a huge home court edge and the Nuggets aren’t the same team on the road as they are at home in the altitude. I look for that home court edge to be on full display tonight and I fully expect this series to go seven games. These two are very evenly matched. But Portland is playing in full desperation mode with their backs against the wall and I expect Lillard and McCollum to have monster games tonight. The Blazers have not shot the ball well the last few games making just 10 of 37 3-pointers and 16 of 30 free throws while also getting killed on the glass. The home team has won seven of the last 10 meetings between these two and I expect this building to be rocking tonight. In a close out game it is going to be tough for the Nuggets to win this on the road. The Blazers have been 16-4 ATS this year after a double digit loss, they should win this game by a spread covering margin setting up for a great Game 7 on Sunday. Take Portland.
Series ATS Record: 6-0-1 (+24u)
Series ATS Record: 3-0-1 (+15u)
9:35 PM EST
Rockets ML +100 over Warriors (5u)
For the first time ever, Steve Kerr has been playing the “Death Lineup” or the Hampton’s Five early on in series this year which is leading to every Warriors starter is playing an additional 10+ minutes per game compared to the regular season. These extra minutes are starting to add up and take their toll. Did the Warriors quit the other night with 20 seconds left on the clock or are the starters exhausted? The Warriors bench is awful so it’s not like they have much of a choice, the starters are going to need to play extended minutes the rest of the playoffs. The longer this series goes the more it helps the Rockets. We saw Curry miss a layup and a dunk late in the game. Curry is also dealing with a finger injury, but it seems like fatigue has crept in. The Warriors starters could be up any given amount and will lose that lead once the bench steps in. The Warriors made 42.4 percent of their threes and outscored Houston from the foul line in Game 3, but still lost. They are just getting nothing from their bench. It will take a monumental effort from the Warriors to win the title this year with the bench they have. This series has seven games written all over it. Houston is a great home team and will tie this series tonight in their own building. Take Houston.