Well, maybe not Houston fans.
1. What happens in Nuggets-Blazers game 7?
Dom Flaim: Denver’s been tough at home all season, and Portland already got one there. I’ve really respected both teams but think Denver takes that one at home with some help from the bench (they got none last game).
Kevin Nesgoda: This is a toss up really. I think it’ll come down to the legs of each team. Stotts has been gambling a lot by going with five bench players to start the second and fourth quarters. This worked against OKC because OKC didn’t have depth. Denver has depth and can match the Blazers player for player. I think Stotts needs to run his starters a bit longer, maybe even start Hood and Collins over Harkless and Aminu. Hood and Collins have both earned the right to play about 30 minutes tonight. Then it comes to how Denver runs their offense. In Game 6 they didn’t move the ball and they barely took Lillard off screens in the second half. In the first quarter, they ran Dame into the ground and CJ had to carry the scoring load until Hood started to pick it up.
As for what happens? I think the Nuggets pull this one out by around 10 points.
J.A. Sherman: Talk about a crazy-fun series, where both teams are game-by-game exerting their advantages while having to wrestle with their deficiencies. It’s too bad a number of these games were played on west coast time, because they’ve been a treat to experience (though putting some pain into my early mornings).
It’s been a little bitter-sweet to watch Damian Lillard to regress to the mean after knifing through the Thunder for five games, but such is life. I think he’ll play a strong game, but it’s hard to not pick the Nuggets, playing at home, and with a theoretically deeper bench (though they haven’t always shown up). Things might get a little tight in the end, but I think Denver pulls it out to face Golden State.
Nile McNair: I think the duo for Portland pulls out a huge game seven victory for them. It could really go either way but I’ll take the upset and take the road team Portland in game seven.
2. What happens in Raptors-76ers game 7?
Dom: I was ready to say the same thing here but instead I’m going with my heart over my mind. Toronto’s role players need to step up and a solid showing from Lowry as well. Philly’s got the star power and can ride the starters for about as long as needed. Butler vs Kawhi is a back and forth battle, but if Embiid is healthy for a game (I haven’t heard otherwise) I’ll say Philly.
Kevin: This has been a weird series. Based on trends the Sixers are due to score under a hundred points in this game and lose. It seems to be an every other game type of situation for them. I think it all comes down to how well Embiid plays, if the moment is too big for Ben Simmons, and if Jimmy Butler can slow down Kawhi Leonard. The X-factor here is also JJ Redick. When he gets hot early it seems to light a fire under Philadelphia. His three point shot becomes contagious or something. I don’t know exactly what it is, but the Sixers play a lot looser, the ball moves around a lot more, and they get more open shots. If he doesn’t then Butler and Harris tend to run more ISO plays with Embiid not seeing the ball.
Sherman: In regards to Philly, I’m not sure if ever there was a team who could either beat you by 20 or lose by 20 from game to game...well, except for OKC. After we questioned Ben Simmons’ value, he came out and was a driving force in their big game 6 win. Can he make it two in a row? I’m doubtful, given Toronto’s defensive acumen.
And that’s what I think it will come down to, even if the Raptors’ offense remains largely in the hands of Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam. If they can continue to take away the things that make Philly’s offense really move, it becomes a game-by-game possession, and Kawhi has proven he’s right now perhaps the best player capable of that.
Nile: 2. All series long I’ve said Raptors in seven because of their defense and they have the best player in the series. Tomorrow both will be on full display. Kawhi will score 30+ points, and either Embiid or Simmons will struggle once again causing the 76ers to lose.
3. What’s the nicest thing you can say about Houston?
Dom: There was an attempt.
Kevin: Oh boy. The basketball gods handed Houston this series and they could not capitalize in the slightest. They came out flat and let the Warriors hang around and build confidence throughout the game. Their bench was terrible, it was so bad that John Starks can now point to Gerald Green as one of the worst performances ever in an elimination game. I bet you Starks is dancing around somewhere with a huge smile on his face. He’s finally off the hook. Harden turns 30 this year so the Rockets window might be or already closed.
Sherman: The system worked. And by that I mean, the concept of Morey-ball, which is loosely based on Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball.” It revolves around the idea that, over the course of a large sample size, if you accentuate and favor small statistical advantages, over time, the odds will tip in your favor, kind of like Blackjack.
And just like the Oakland A’s of the early 2000’s, the Rockets pursued threes, layups, and free throws at the expense of every other historical strategy the NBA has emphasized over the past 30 years. Over a large statistical sample size — the past two seasons, specifically — the Rockets were consistently one of the league’s best, earning the #1 seed a year ago, and the best 2nd half of the season this year. The model and the statistics, over those 160 games, tilted in their favor.
The problem with Moneyball, and this idea of statistical pursuits is that, once you get into a seven game series, those numbers go out the window because you no longer have sufficient amount of time and games for them to tip in your favor. Either you’re on an upward market correction, or you’re not. For those A’s teams, they played great in the regular season but fizzled in the playoffs, when their statistical advantages disappeared in a small sample size.
And for last year’s playoffs, when Houston surrendered a 3-2 lead, and this year, where tied at 2-2 they faced a team without their best player (Kevin Durant) and their starting All-Star center (DeMarcus Cousins), their statistical ecosystem corrected itself. In favor of Golden State.
The model worked as designed. Though someone might want to give it an audit.
Nile: As a huge Chris Paul fan that game truly hurt. Houston just couldn’t manage to get stops down the stretch. I knew they were doomed when Steph had zero at halftime and the game was tied. Cannot let the warriors hang around like that all game and expect to win. Salute to the greatness of Steph Curry, the Warriors look like they’ll easily get to the finals once again this year.
Bobby “Last Chance” Chancellor: