WHAT the hell. Who would have thought once the playoffs began that we would be sitting here with both Boston and Houston just one win away from reaching the NBA Finals? Both feats are impressive with this skeleton Celtics team galvanising as the injury toll piles up, while Dub Nation has copped back-to-back L’s from a hungry, inspired Rockets team. The majority of the NBA expects both series’ to head to a Game 7 and the two series-leading teams face a Game 6 on the road to try and advance. Just how can they guarantee a win over the next two games to earn a memorable trip to the Finals?
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How Can Boston Advance?
THE Celtics winning blueprint quite clearly revolves around LeBron James. This is not news, with the King averaging a phenomenal 33.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists throughout 16 playoff games. Boston has seen him burn them throughout the series and while stopping him isn’t a realistic game plan, making life hell for him is well and truly achievable.
LEBRON is visibly tired after shouldering an insane workload while everyone else in wine and gold struggles. Game 6 is a perfect opportunity for the Celtics to throw a rugged, physical guy at him and force him to seriously work for his 40+ points. Yes Marcus Smart, I’m talking about you. This is what he was built for, time to deploy him.
Image from 247sports.com
ASIDE from containing LeBron, there isn’t anything extra Boston needs to do. They are already an awesome defensive unit, so doing more of the same should be sufficient to shut down the mediocre Cavs offense. Cleveland’s backcourt, in particular, is miserable. J.R. Smith is shooting just 23% against Boston and is 0-11 from behind the arc in the TD Garden. George Hill isn’t much better with a measly 8.2 points a night through five games.
AND James’ All-Star teammate Kevin Love? His 39.1% shooting from the floor isn’t getting it done as he continues to fail as LeBron’s sidekick. Sitting in the driver’s seat from here on out not many have faith in the Celtics winning Game 6 in Cleveland. If they can take care of the ball and stay locked in defensively then the Cavs will struggle to advance, regardless of how many points LBJ scores. I don’t like Boston’s chances of winning tonight in Ohio, but Game 7 in Boston? That’s a different story. We could be in for an all-time LeBron game on Sunday night so make sure you don’t miss a minute!
How Can Houston Advance?
SOMETIMES the basketball world works in cruel ways. After years of heartbreak and countless series, L’s Chris Paul finally broke through with a maiden Conference Finals appearance. However, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Rockets, who lead the series 3-2 with Paul ruled out of Game 6 thanks to a hamstring complaint.
WITH CP3 in street clothes for Saturday’s game and maybe even for Game 7 Houston desperately needs Eric Gordon to step up. His rollercoaster season peaked with 24 points last night against the Dubs, but he hasn’t been pouring it in averaging under 17 points this series. I don’t think that the Rockets will be able to magically heal their star point guard’s string, making the play of Gordon crucial if they are to advance.
THE Rockets have lived and died by the iso-ball all year and it’s too ingrained in their brains to try and do anything else on offense. They can slow the pace down and grind out another win in the next two tries and it wouldn’t surprise me if they took down the juggernaut Dubs from here on out. With Paul out though I think they’ll lose tomorrow night cueing up another ripper Game 7 that will be must-watch basketball. I think we’ll be booking in the fourth instalment of Cavs vs Warriors.