If Game 7s are the most exciting things in sports, then Friday’s NBA playoff action will go a long way toward determining how much excitement basketball fans will be treated to in the coming days.
There is a trio of critical Game 6s on tap, as the Toronto Raptors, Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs try to close the door on their first-round series, while the Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks try to remain alive.
Here is a look at the schedule and broadcast information for the day’s games:
|Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets||3-2 (Toronto)||7 p.m.||ESPN 2|
|San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks||3-2 (San Antonio)||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers||3-2 (Portland)||10:30 p.m.||ESPN|
With so much at stake, it is easy to lose track of where each series stands. Here is an updated bracket to help out with that.
Now that we know what the schedule looks like, let’s take a glance at Friday’s game to watch.
Friday’s Game to Watch: Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers, Game 6
The Trail Blazers hold a narrow 3-2 lead in this series, but a large amount of the pressure will be on their shoulders as they try to close things out at home. Portland certainly doesn’t want to go back to Houston for a do-or-die Game 7.
The Rockets forced this Game 6 by rallying in the last two minutes of Game 5 for a 108-98 victory. It is worth noting in the aftermath of Houston’s win that only eight teams in the history of the NBA have come back from a 3-1 hole in a best-of-seven series, but one of those squads was the 1995 Rockets.
Dwight Howard seems to have the right mindset going forward, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com: "I don't want to go on vacation. I want to win. I want to give everything I've got. Every night, put my heart into it and sacrifice my body and do whatever I can to help this team win. It's not going to be easy."
Chandler Parsons echoed many of the same sentiments after the Game 5 victory:
We're not hanging our heads at all. We believe in each other and in that entire locker room nobody thinks this series is over. We have a chance to do something special here and we've got to continue to do that and take it one game at a time.
This series has featured three overtime contests already, so it would only be fitting if it went to a deciding Game 7.
However, Houston barely edged out Portland in Game 5 even though it held superstar LaMarcus Aldridge to eight points. He averaged 35.3 points a night in the first four games, so expecting a repeat performance from the Rockets defense may be a bit too much to ask for.
Another aberration fans saw in Game 5 was the production of Jeremy Lin. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian pointed that out during the action:
Jeremy Lin entered Game 5 avg 9 pts per game, shooting 36% from field (17% from deep) in series. He has 21 pts on 9-14 (2-5) shooting tonite— Joe Freeman (@BlazerFreeman) May 1, 2014
Don’t expect a repeat performance from Lin in Game 6 in front of a hostile crowd. Damian Lillard has destroyed him for much of the series and will do so again in Portland. Take a look at how productive Lillard has been thus far:
Damian Lillard is first player with 125+ points and 35+ assists in first 5 career playoff games since Tim Hardaway (April 25-May 5, 1991).— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) May 1, 2014
Houston does have desperation on its side, but the Trail Blazers nearly won on the road even with an uncharacteristically poor offensive performance from Aldridge and an incredible game from Lin on the other side.
Who wins Game 6?
Look for things to return to normal (by this series' standards) and Portland to rally behind its home crowd Friday to take an early lead. Lillard and Aldridge will combine forces to ensure that the lead doesn’t disappear over the course of the game.
Prediction: Portland 101, Houston 96
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