On Wednesday, I explained why the Milwaukee Bucks still had a strong chance to take their series against the Brooklyn Nets despite a heartbreaking Game 5 loss. The two other second-round favorites have much simpler cases: They are the better teams, and the better team usually wins in the playoffs.
Yes, the Philadelphia 76ers have blown 18- and 26-point leads in their last two games, but remember, you have to be pretty darn good to build leads like that in the first place, and while Philadelphia does have structural defects that makes protecting them difficult, there are tweaks to be made in the rotation and late-game offense that should help. The Utah Jazz doesn't even need tweaks. It just needs better luck. They're not missing 17 straight 3s again.
Neither team is at full strength. Joel Embiid is playing on one leg, and Donovan Mitchell might be as well. Danny Green is out. So is Mike Conley. But they aren't playing healthy opponents, either, as Kawhi Leonard and De'Andre Hunter are both out as well. These are the No. 1 seeds for a reason. In the war of attrition that was this season, they remained strong despite suffering the same injuries everybody else did.
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Comebacks are never certain. Winning two games is harder than winning one. But don't apologize for believing in the top seeds. We're going with both favorites in today's Game 6's.
All lines via William Hill Sportsbook
Call me crazy, but I doubt Lou Williams is going to be plus-31 again in Game 6. Philadelphia's bench has been so awful that it's hidden the fact that Atlanta's hasn't been great this season either. The Hawks had a negative net rating with Williams on the floor during the regular season, but Doc Rivers keeps putting his five-man bench mobs on the floor and hoping for better results. In a desperate Game 6, he'll hopefully see the light and experiment with better lineup choices, perhaps even Ben Simmons as a backup center. Remember, the bench doesn't have to dominate. The 76ers have won Joel Embiid's minutes by 54 points in this series. They just have to find a way to survive, and with the season on the line, they'll hopefully get experimental enough to do just that. The pick: 76ers -3
The Clippers have legitimate matchup advantages in this series. Their small-ball attack has given Rudy Gobert legitimate problems in space. Derrick Favors has looked unplayable. The Jazz don't have wing defenders to throw at Paul George. But this one is simple. All five Clippers starters shot 50 percent or better from the field in Game 5 while the Jazz missed 17 3s in a row. Anything can happen in a one-game setting, but what the Clippers did without Kawhi in Game 5 was not sustainable. If they come back to Earth or if the Jazz rediscover their typical offense, they're going to even this series on Friday. The pick: Jazz -1.5