I am neither a Washington Wizards nor Atlanta Hawks fan. Don't hate them, they just don't much register with me. Blah. But I feel compelled to root for Washington on Friday night. Nope, I don't think I will bet on this one, but I certainly want a Game 7 in any series if possible. But more, I have friends in Washington who are huge fans of all the D.C. sports teams, and you rarely see a double gut-punch like what happened on Wednesday when the Wizards and Capitals games both ended with Washington losses at the buzzer off putbacks of offensive rebounds -- with the Capitals being eliminated in Game 7 by the Rangers and blowing yet another 3-1 series lead. My condolences! Here are Friday's two Game 6s.
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Hawks at Wizards (-3, 197)
I expected Atlanta to win Game 5 at home but took the nine points even though I didn't expect Washington star John Wall to make his return. He did, and really the Wizards should have won the game but lost 82-81 -- easily the lowest-scoring game of the series. Washington had a nine-point lead with about 5:30 left but then went cold. Atlanta scored the next 14 points to lead 78-73 before Paul Pierce made the first of two key 3-pointers to stop the run. Now fast forward to the final seconds. Atlanta's DeMarre Carroll gave the Hawks an 80-78 lead with 14 seconds left. You knew the Wizards were going to Pierce again, and he delivered yet another 3-pointer dagger with eight seconds left. In yet another awesome (but wrong) quote, Pierce yelled "series!" at the Hawks bench. But this wasn't a buzzer-beater like Game 3.
The Hawks got the ball into the hands of young point guard Dennis Schroder. He was in the game for All-Star Jeff Teague, at Teague's suggestion, because Schroder had helped lead the comeback. Schroder got into the lane, but his layup attempt was blocked off the backboard by Wall. However, the Wizards didn't box out well, and Hawks center Al Horford crashed in, yanked the rebound from the grasp of Washington's Nene and laid it in as time expired. About 10 minutes later, the Capitals lost in OT. Horford was the clear star of the game with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, the first Hawk ever with 20/10/5 in a playoff game. Wall played 37 minutes and didn't look too bothered by the left wrist, hitting 7-for-16 for 15 points with seven assists, four rebounds and four steals, although he did have six turnovers. With his return, former starter Ramon Sessions played only 17 minutes and was scoreless. The Washington bench had just nine points.
Key trends: Atlanta is 5-1 against the spread in its past six Friday games. The Wizards have covered only one of their past nine on Friday. The "over/under" has gone over in the past four meetings in Washington.
Early lean: The early action is pretty heavy on Washington, and I do think the Wizards cover to force a Game 7 -- obviously assuming Wall plays again and doesn't leave early. Go over.
Warriors at Grizzlies (+5, 193.5)
I expected a Golden State win in Game 5 but did take the 10 points. That was before I found out there was a chance that Memphis defensive stopper Tony Allen wouldn't play, and he didn't. It wouldn't have mattered in the overall result, but perhaps the Grizzlies could have played better. They were blown out 98-78 -- all three Warriors' wins in this series have been by at least 15 points. Allen can't shoot at all and played only 16 minutes in Game 4 because of that, but he's a total defensive pest. I don't think it's a coincidence that Golden State hit 14-for-30 from 3-point range with him on the bench due to a hamstring injury. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry combined for 39 points. Allen says he will play in Game 6.
Coach Dave Joerger started Jeff Green in Game 5 in Allen's place. Green is a better offensive player and had 10 points and four rebounds in 28 minutes, but he's not much on defense. The Grizzlies shot just 39.8 percent overall and 4-for-15 from long range. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph each had a double-double but were held to a combined 31 points for the second straight game after averaging nearly 40 per game in the first three. Memphis has yet to score 100 points in any game this series. Interestingly, the Warriors had lost eight straight Game 5s, while Memphis had won five consecutive Game 5s. The Warriors went on a 16-2 run at the end of the first quarter to erase a 13 point Grizzlies lead and really the game was over after that.
Key trends: The Warriors are 3-8 ATS in their past 11 after a win. Memphis is 5-1-1 ATS in its past seven after a loss. The under is 5-0 in the past five meetings in Memphis.
Early lean: The early action is about split at this number. The Warriors look right again to me. I'm hoping this drops a few points, but I'll give the five. Go under.
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