NBA Playoff Pick: Spurs vs. Rockets Game 6 Prediction
We have been highly successful with our NBA playoff picks lately, especially calling series winners and correctly predicting close-out games. That’s not necessarily impressive in a sport where the playoffs tend to be fairly predictable, but it’s a lot better than being wrong and our game-by-game predictions have been pretty spot on.
Game six of San Antonio and Houston’s second round playoff series could challenge that. To this point this series has been fairly easy to call. The Rockets have an explosive offense and a legit MVP candidate in James Harden, so predicting Houston would race into San Antonio and jump out to a 1-0 lead wasn’t that crazy.
Game two was where it got easy, as the Spurs set the foundation of their vulnerability in a bad game one loss, but there was just no way these veteran Spurs were caving and falling in a 2-0 hole. They didn’t, and San Antonio stole back momentum predictably from there, winning both game two and three to take a 2-1 lead.
That gave the Spurs back their home court edge, but James Harden got a second home game in game four and we knew he wouldn’t be denied. Ditto for Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs, who got all they could handle from the Rockets in a crazy overtime win in game five.
There the Spurs are, back in control. San Antonio has a 3-2 series lead and is one more win away from meeting up with the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. If that happens, it would have been easy to call and ultimately, this series and the 2017 NBA playoffs just keep on being predictable.
Perhaps that’s the path we’re headed for, but on the other side, we need to consider Harden back on his home floor with one last gasp to muster. If Harden can ball out and his Rockets brethren can follow suit, Houston can tie this thing up and force a decisive game seven back in San Antonio. That might just equate to another (predictable) Spurs win, but it’s obviously something we need to consider.
This series has delivered a classic back and forth feel, but is it going to keep going or will the Spurs ice the Rockets in what will inevitably be their last stand? Let’s find out as we break this matchup down going into game five:
It’s still anyone’s series, but the Spurs did what they needed to do in game five, even if some people thought they got a little lucky with some calls. Officiating mistakes aside, the Spurs showed up in crunch time and followed Kawhi Leonard’s strong performance to a huge win.
San Antonio has full control of this series, as they’ve already taken a game in Houston already and could end the series with a win tonight. It’s not crazy to think they could do it, as Patty Mills (20 points in game 5) has really stepped up and San Antonio even got a vintage effort from the aging Manu Ginobili in their last outing.
It might be a lot to ask to demand both of these guys to play borderline flawless basketball for the second game in a row, but the fact that they showed up when the Spurs needed them the most is pretty telling.
Despite the win, the Spurs still left the door cracked open for the Rockets, as James Harden continued to do produce (33 points) and Ryan Anderson (19 points) was huge off the bench.
The biggest key to Houston’s game five loss, though, is the fact that the Spurs didn’t give them anything easy. That tried and true San Antonio defense stood tall, forcing the Rockets to work for whatever they got on the outside (33% from deep) and directing Harden to 9 turnovers.
The Rockets still burned the Spurs to the tune of 16 three-pointers, but San Antonio’s effort to stay on their man and close out made the Rockets rely on volume instead of efficiency. When the Spurs are doing that and taking care of the basketball (just 7 turnovers as a team), they’re going to be tough to beat in this matchup.
That’s the crazy part, though. Even with the Spurs playing solid defense and forcing turnovers, the Rockets still blitzed them from outside and were a late James Harden miss from going to double OT. The fact that the Spurs needed overtime to begin with shows us how evenly matched these teams really are.
This back and forth series could end tonight, but Houston is back at home and almost stole game five despite not playing their best. They’ll need Clint Capela to return to form after disappearing in game five, but he’s largely excelled in this series and that wouldn’t be a shocking development.
Another huge wrinkle we can add to this game is the status of Kawhi Leonard, who already said he’d be able to play, but isn’t at 100% due to an ankle issue:
Kawhi said he will play in Game 6
— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung)
Leonard will suit up and will be asked to carry a heavy load at both ends of the court, but with his ailment still being pretty fresh, it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see him struggle a bit. The Spurs have been up and down in this series, so not having Leonard at full strength will understandably sap them even more on the road. San Antonio offers amazing value to close out this series, especially since head coach Gregg Popovich .
He’s still lost his fair share, however, and Houston still seems to have plenty of life. Look for the Rockets to strike early and hold on to force a game seven back in San Antonio.