Will we be guaranteed at least one Game 7 in the second round of the 2015 NBA playoffs? We could have an answer on Thursday night as the Bulls and Rockets look to avoid elimination. Here are my total picks for the two Game 6 matchups.
Cavaliers at Bulls (192.5 points)
Three of the five games in this series have gone 'over' at sportsbooks and this total is two points higher than it was in Cleveland's 106-101 home win in Game 5 on Tuesday. That was easily the highest-scoring game of the series. In three of the games, neither team reached triple digits. Chicago's offense can only improve with the return of All-Star big man Pau Gasol, who has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury. He says he will try to play but no doubt with limited minutes. Over the past two games, the Chicago offense has had several in-game slumps because the Cavaliers aren't scared of the pick-and-roll when it's Joakim Noah and either Jimmy Butler or Derrick Rose. Noah can't shoot at all. Gasol killed the Cavs on pick-and-rolls in Game 1. I also don't expect Rose to miss his final 11 shots again as he did in Game 5. He is dealing with a minor wrist injury but will start. Good news for Bulls fans would be that if Chicago wins here, Game 7 is Sunday. Rose has been a much better player with at least two days of rest in these playoffs.
I also believe that Tom Thibodeau, who may be coaching his final game for the Bulls, will force Cleveland's injured Kyrie Irving to do something on defense. He essentially has been hidden and Chicago hasn't taken advantage. The Cavs aren't letting him guard Rose. Also, it might help to try and stop LeBron James. Obviously easier said than done, but the Bulls were doing a pretty good job until his monster Game 5. James made 14-for-24 from the field in that one after shooting under 40 percent overall in the first four games combined. He must be kept on the perimeter; LeBron is just 3-for-24 from long range in this series. And, really, let Irving drive. Usually that would be a killer but he is unable to finish on his injured leg.
Free NBA Pick: 'Under' 192.5 at BetOnline with your NBA picks. It has hit in four of Cleveland's past five on the road. It's 4-0 in Chicago's past four after scoring 100 points or more in its previous game.
Rockets at Clippers (220 points)
Pretty clear trend here as all five games in the series have gone 'over' on the NBA odds. The total in the Rockets' 124-103 victory in Game 5 was set at 219. The winning team has scored at least 115 points in each game. In fact, Houston has scored a minimum of 111 points in its six playoff wins so far. The Clippers have hit at least 102 in each of their seven victories. I don't pretend to know what's in Rockets coach Kevin McHale's mind, but I'm fairly certain he will go with the same starting lineup as Game 5. Starting forward Terence Jones and reserve Josh Smith both had been struggling with their shots so McHale swapped their roles. The results: Smith 4-for-7 from the field for nine points with seven rebounds and four assists; and Jones 5-for-8 for 12 points and five rebounds. No reason to alter what worked. Thanks largely to Jones and Corey Brewer, the Houston bench was much better than the Clippers' and that needs to happen again for the Game 6 upset.
As for Los Angeles, it needs to get the ball out of James Harden's hands. He was much more aggressive in Game 5 -- that Eurostep came back -- and seemed to have the ball all night. Trap him, double him, whatever. Make Jason Terry or someone else be the primary guy if possible. Also send DeAndre Jordan at Dwight Howard right away to get Howard in foul trouble. He was better than Jordan in Game 5 with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Howard tends to sulk when he gets some early fouls and his play suffers. Just look at Game 4 when he had only seven points and six rebounds in 18 minutes before fouling out.
Free NBA Pick: No reason to switch off the 'over' now. It is 13-3 in Houston's past 16 overall.