The Miami Heat are in a tough position. All-Star forward Chris Bosh publicly said on Tuesday that he wants to return from his blood-clot problem (well, technically his wife did). And obviously he makes the Heat that much better, to the point where I believe Miami could challenge Cleveland for the East title. But the Heat have to protect themselves and the NBA because God forbid if we have a Hank Gathers situation with Bosh on the court. The Heat issued this statement on Bosh this week on his status: "There is no update. He is out still indefinitely." Apparently Heat doctors haven't cleared him so this is surely a pipe dream for Bosh. Odd that he would put pressure on the team, however, knowing that he could still be putting his health at risk. This all won't matter if Miami loses on Friday.
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Game 6: No. 3 Heat at No. 6 Hornets (-1.5, 191)
I'll flat-out admit that I've gotten little right in this series. The road team finally won a game on Wednesday as Charlotte took its third straight against the Heat, 90-88 in Miami. How did this Heat team average 119.0 points in the first two games and then not top 90 in the next three? Courtney Lee hit a 3-pointer Wednesday with 25.2 seconds remaining to put the Hornets ahead for good. It was the second straight game he came up big in the clutch, getting two key offensive rebounds in Game 4 (he actually got an offensive rebound that led to his 3-pointer as well in Game 5). The Hornets won despite just 14 points from Kemba Walker as he was 4-for-18 from the field. Charlotte was outscored by seven points when Walker was on the court. Marvin Williams led with 17 points and added eight rebounds and three steals. Nic Batum was very questionable to play for the first time since Game 2 due to a sprained ankle but did get 25 minutes off the bench and had eight points, three rebounds and three assists.
Charlotte won despite being outrebounded, outscored in the paint and shooting 39.3 percent from the field. Miami led by six entering the fourth quarter but shot 32 percent from the field in the fourth. All five Heat starters scored in double figures, led by Dwyane Wade's 25 points. He might have been fouled on a rebound with 2.6 seconds left but it wasn't called. The Heat got very little from their bench, only 13 points. I'm a bit surprised Amare Stoudemire didn't play at all. Things aren't looking good here as counting these playoffs, the Heat have lost seven of their past nine road games have won only two away games against current playoff teams since the All-Star break. LeBron James isn't walking through that door!
Key trends: The Heat are 1-8 against the spread in their past nine road games. The "over/under" has gone under in their past four on the road. The under is 7-2 in Charlotte's past nine at home.
Early lean: Hornets and under.
Game 6: No. 2 Raptors at No. 7 Pacers (-2, 194.5)
The Raptors have never won a best-of-7 playoff series and not advanced since 2001 (winning a best-of-5) but they can do so with a victory in Indianapolis on Friday. I don't have a dog in this fight but I hope Toronto does because it's been pretty cool to see how excited the fans are up there with all those TV shots of the thousands watching outside the arena. The Raptors had no right winning Game 5 at home, trailing by 17 at one point in the third and 13 entering the fourth quarter. But they did, 102-99. Coach Dwane Casey went to a small lineup of Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Terrence Ross, Norman Powell and Bismack Biyombo in the fourth. He hadn't used that combo all season. But they spurred a 21-2 run to open the quarter. DeMar DeRozan, who replaced Ross midway through the quarter, shook off his series-long struggles and finished with 34 points. It was the first time in franchise history that the Raptors won a playoff game when trailing by double digits. Still, I'm worried as a Raptors backer because Lowry is still in a funk as he was just 3-for-11 from the field in Game 5.
Indiana's Solomon Hill hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to apparently tie Game 5, but it was ruled the ball was still in his hands, by a nano-second, when the red light went off behind the backboard. Paul George was magnificent with 39 points and eight rebounds but he was shut down in the fourth, when Indiana scored nine points, the fewest in playoff franchise history in a fourth quarter. George had the ball in his hands for the potential tying 3-pointer but was then doubled and found an open Hill. The Pacers are 11-11 all-time in Game 6 of a seven-game series, including 5-6 at home. Indiana is 3-3 in Game 6 when facing elimination at home.
Key trends: The Raptors are 1-4 ATS in their past five after scoring at least 100 points in their previous game. Indiana is 9-3 ATS in its past 12 after a loss. The under is 5-0 in Toronto's past five on the road. It's 8-2 in Indiana's past 10 at home.
Early lean: Pacers and under.
Game 6: No. 4 Clippers at No. 5 Trail Blazers (-10, 198)
I believe this game is the end of the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin Era in Los Angeles. Playing without those injured two superstars at once for the first time since 2013, the Clippers hung in for three quarters in Game 5 at home against Portland, but the Blazers pulled away in the fourth for a 108-98 win and 3-2 series lead. Coach Doc Rivers added three new starters in Game 5: Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers and Paul Pierce, not only shifting a healthy Luc Mbah a Moute to the bench but not using him at all. Pierce was awful in Griffin's spot with no points and three fouls in 10 minutes. He needs to retire. Crawford was 6-for-23 from the field for 17 points and Rivers had 13 points but a team-worst rating of minus-23.
For Portland, Damian Lillard scored 16 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter -- he was 1-for-10 in the first three quarters -- and C.J. McCollum finished with 27 points. Mason Plumlee continued his huge series with 10 points, 15 rebounds and four assists. Moe Harkless had career playoff highs in points (19) and rebounds (10). It was Portland's first road playoff win since 2014, having lost the previous nine. The Blazers now need to finish this off here and get as much rest as possible ahead of a conference semifinals matchup with the Steph Curry-less Warriors.
Key trends: The Clippers are 1-6 ATS in their past seven after a loss. The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 5-1 in the past six.
Early lean: Blazers and under.
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