The NHL gave us two Game 7s in the first round of that league's playoffs. Come on NBA, give us at least one. However, if the sportsbooks are to be believed, both series that resume on Thursday night are going to end in Game 6 in favor of Chicago and San Antonio. It would certainly benefit both to get things completed. Obviously no one wants a Game 7, but both the Bulls' and Spurs' (assuming they win) conference finals opponents already are through and enjoying the extra rest. If both end Thursday, we should see the start of the teams' next series this weekend. But you know what? Maybe two Games 7s would be better on Saturday, perhaps the greatest sports day of the year with the big fight, Kentucky Derby, NHL playoffs and NFL draft.
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Game 6: Bulls at Bucks (+3.5, 187.5)
ESPN.com had a really interesting statistical story early this week on how much better Derrick Rose has been this season in games where he had at least two days off compared to just one. The numbers were startling. The good news for the Bulls is they had two days off ahead of Game 6. Games 4 & 5 in this series were on one day of rest, and Rose was terrible. In the last-second Game 4 loss in Milwaukee, he was just 5-for-13 from the field and had eight turnovers -- plus he was burned for the game-winning layup. Rose wasn't much better in Monday's 94-88 home loss in Game 5, going 5-for-20 from the field (0-for-7 from 3-point) range with six turnovers. Jimmy Butler also was way off in that game, hitting only 5-for-21, but at least Chicago was plus-3 when he was on the court. The Bulls also got nothing from bench players Nikola Mirotic (3 points) or Tony Snell (0 points in 24 minutes).
The Bulls backcourt should be dominating this series, but the Bucks' starting duo of Michael Carter-Williams and Khris Middleton was vastly better in Game 5. MCW had perhaps his best game as a Buck, hitting 10-for-15 from the field (he's not normally a good shooter) for 22 points to go with nine assists, eight rebounds and three blocks. Middleton was 8-for-16 for 21 points. Monday's win was the first time in the series that the Bucks have had a better field goal percentage than the Bulls, 42.4 (Milwaukee's highest in the series) to 34.4. It was the lowest percentage by a Bucks opponent in the playoffs since 2003. The Bucks led the NBA in steals during the season and have had double-digit steals in all five postseason games, joining the 1993 SuperSonics as the only teams to have five consecutive such games in one postseason series since 1984-85.
Frankly, Jason Kidd is outcoaching Tom Thibodeau and the Bucks have been the better team in the past three games.
Key trends: The Bulls are 7-1 ATS in their past eight on two days of rest. The Bucks are 9-2 ATS in their past 11 Thursday games. The "over/under" has gone under in four of the past five meetings in Milwaukee.
Early lean: I'm going to take the Bulls with that extra day of rest and assume they show a little energy unlike Game 5. Go under.
Clippers at Spurs (-5.5, 205.5)
Just from a selfish perspective and not because my editor is a Clippers fan, I want L.A. to win this game because this series really needs to go seven games. It has been by far the most entertaining of the first round, and I'd rather it not end yet. Some bad news for Clips fans, however: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is 12-1 in a series when taking a 3-2 lead. I think we all remember that one loss: the 2013 NBA Finals to Miami when the Spurs should have won Game 6. The Spurs have won 11 of their 14 best-of-seven series when tied 2-2.
San Antonio took Game 5 in Los Angeles, 111-107 on Tuesday. The key play in that one was a basket interference call on Clippers center DeAndre Jordan with 4.3 seconds left. Had that not been called, the Clippers would have been up 109-108. But it did appear to be the right call and the officials confirmed it on video review. "It was a dumb play," said Jordan. If the Clippers lose this game, it could be Jordan's last with the team as he will be a free agent. He already has said he would be very interested in playing for the Mavericks. You could blame Jordan in more than one way for that loss as the Spurs did do the hack-a-DeAndre at times and it worked as Jordan was 7-for-16 from the line. In addition, the Clippers were a ghastly 1-for-14 from 3-point range, with Jamal Crawford missing all six of his. That weak L.A. bench had only 17 points.
Tim Duncan had another ageless performance for the Spurs with 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Kawhi Leonard added 18 points and nine rebounds. The other three Spurs starters didn't do much. Tony Parker was only 5-for-15 and has admitted he's not 100 percent healthy. Only one Spurs starter had a positive plus/minus rating, while every bench guy did. That unit combined for 48 points, led by Manu Ginobili's 14. But then we knew the Spurs bench was vastly superior.
Key trends: The Clippers are 1-5 ATS in their past six on one day of rest. The Spurs are 9-2 ATS in their past 11 at home. They are 0-5 ATS in their past five Thursday games. The under is 7-2 in the Clippers' past nine after a loss. The over is 9-4 in the Spurs' past 13 after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game.
Early lean: I'm taking the points. I think the Spurs may finish things off because if it goes back to L.A. then I believe the Clippers win the series. But this should be another close one. Go over.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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