Resident NBA Guru Ross Geiger has been swamped with writing requests and has accordingly handed me, Patrick McWeeny, the reins for tonight’s NBA playoff predictions, save one game. We have three potentially deciding games in the NBA playoffs tonight, so without further ado, here we go.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Milwaukee Bucks- 7ET
The Hawks hocked up Game 6 in Atlanta and now must pay the price: a trip to a rabid Bradley Center where Squad 6 (a recurring theme here), and “Fear the Deer” is in full swing. One of the things that really stood out about the Hawks choke job was one, their aggressiveness late in the game (none); and two, just straight up missing shots. It would be easy to say that Atlanta will hit those shots this time around, but they have really given us no reason to think so lately. The Hawks couldn’t hit anything in Milwaukee, and have been prone to just not quite showing up in clutch time for much of the season. They are obviously talented and talent does tend to show up, but the Hawks have not played well lately. The only question is if they will find their stroke in the Bradley Center. The answer is yes, but not enough. Do not expect the Hawks to get outscored 14-0 down the stretch and not take a free throw, but it might not be enough. The Bucks have shot lights-out at home lately and the Hawks body language last night in Atlanta screamed “We are done”. They were pointing fingers, looking generally discontent, their on-court leader, Joe Johnson was staring blankly on the bench, and Mike Woodson did not have an answer. Joe Johnson will not be on the bench, but the rest of that will carry over to Game 6. Expect 20+ from Joe Johnson and a much better night out of Josh Smith, but nowhere near the support from guys like Marvin Williams and Al Horford.
On the other hand, the Bucks are not at all the young team people make them out to be (Jerry Stackhouse, Kurt Thomas, John Salmons, and Luke Ridnour). Brandon Jennings steps up in big games, and the Bucks find a way to win for Ross Geiger. It is his 66th game in the Bradley center, Game 6, and Squad 6 will be going crazy. Why not, Bucks by 6.
Hawks 93, Bucks 99
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder- 9:30 ET
The Lakers made a statement in Game 5 in LA: We are ready. They looked anything but ready in Games 3 and 4, but upon returning home, the Lakers looked like the Champions they are destroyed the Thunder. Kobe had 13 points, controlled the game without putting it in the statbook, and the Lakers blew out the Thunder. They FINALLY threw the ball down low consistently (maybe they watched Games 1 and 2 of the Bucks-hawks series), and pummeled the undersized Thunder. Not even Kevin Durant’s virtuoso talent could stop the Lakers who just steamrolled the Thunder. Kobe forced Russell Westbrook into 400 turnovers and the Lakers just dominated in every sense of the word. Things will certainly be closer in Oklahoma City, but how much closer.
Role players play well at home. One of the wiser things Charles Barkley has ever said, to be sure, but it will hold true in this game to some extent. Serge Ibaka will have a solid game for the Thunder, but Jeff Green has struggled for much of the series, and James Harden has been pretty hit or miss. The Thunder desperately need Green and Harden to score so the Lakers cannot go big and pummel them down low, but I do not think it will happen. The Lakers are ready to win now and will not be stopped by the Thunder. Last year the Lakers were 2-2 with Denver, and the same thing happened. Lakers moving on in Game 6.
Lakers 101, Thunder 94
Denver Nuggets vs. Utah Jazz- 10 ET
The Nuggets had to have Game 5 in Denver, and they got it. Only 6 Jazz players even scored a point and despite huge numbers from Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, the Nuggets rolled behind solid bench production and a balanced attack. Do not expect the same in Salt Lake City tonight. The Jazz are an outstanding home team, and to use the quote of the previous section “role players play well at home”. Kyle Korver should help out both from beyond the arc and on the defensive end, Kyrylo Fesenko should do well without Nene down low and things just generally look good for the Jazz. The Nuggets have yet to have any real solution for Deron Williams and with EnergySolutions Arena rocking, things may be get rough for the Nuggs. I do not think anyone expects a blowout with these two teams, but a Nene-less Nuggets plus a real home court advantage for the Jazz does not bode well for George Karl’s boys. No big surprises here.
Denver 92, Utah 107