Game 6: What’s On The Line Tonight



HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For those who truly love the reality TV drama of the NBA playoffs, this is what we pay and hope for every year. Elimination time, 48 minutes with everything on the line plus seasons (and sometimes careers) hanging in the balance.

We get four of them tonight, four Game 6 matchups (two in the Western Conference and two more in the East) and potentially four teams going fishing.

The posturing is over. Wear black if you want to (New York Knicks), but if you’re not careful and don’t treat Game 6 with the urgency required, the funeral you’ll be attending might be your own (if the Boston Celtics are able to force a Game 7, that will put pressure on the Knicks that could shake the very walls of Madison Square Garden).

The Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers are all facing a win-or-go-home circumstance in their respective Games 6 battles tonight. Each one of them trails 3-2 and each one of them will have some serious thinking to do in the aftermath of defeats.

That said, the Knicks, Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies do not want to let this opportunity to end things slip away. A Game 7, be it at home or on the road, comes with an increased level of intensity that can make anyone crack.

So we’re going game-by-game and detailing exactly what is on the line tonight for the winner and loser of these games:

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KNICKS AT CELTICS, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

What’s on the line for the Knicks: Everything! An entire season comes down to whether or not they can survive their own foolishness. Suddenly the Knicks aren’t in a playful mood. Too bad they didn’t adopt that philosophy before Game 5, when they had a chance to end this series on their home floor. Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith have to redeem themselves for their words and actions before and during that Game 5 disaster. Carmelo Anthony, on the other hand, needs simply to return to the MVP form he showed down the stretch of the regular season and early on in this series. Just 21 assists in two games is not the sort of ball movement that led the Knicks to that 3-0 series lead. They either find a way to fix that or face the possibility of a Game 7 at home, which sounds like a good thing … until you remember that the Celtics would welcome another opportunity to silence Spike Lee and the rest of the Knicks faithful at the Garden.

What’s on the line for the Celtics: An era! The Big 3 era ended last season when Ray Allen bolted for Miami. But that was the ceremonial end. The official end comes when this team sees its season finished. No one knows what Danny Ainge has in store for this group when it’s all over. Celtics coach Doc Rivers is a master at preparing his team for big games, but the Knicks did much of the work for him this time by calling out the Celtics. That’s usually all the incentive Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett need to get their fires raging. They responded like the true (and aging) warriors that they are. And they’ll bring a Game 7 zeal to Game 6 and dare the Knicks to match their effort before a home crowd that should be in a full lather by lunch time. While the Knicks have focused their attention elsewhere, Jeff Green has gone about destroying them in the past two games. The Celtics’ supporting cast will be the difference if this series goes to a Game 7.

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PACERS AT HAWKS, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

What’s on the line for the Pacers: Legitimacy! The Pacers fancy themselves as championship contenders this season. And they are serious about it. Problem is, their performance on the road in this series suggests otherwise. If they can’t handle an inconsistent bunch like the Hawks on the road, what exactly can coach Frank Vogel‘s crew do against either the Knicks or Celtics in the conference semifinals? Paul George and David West have designs on leading the Pacers deep into the playoffs, but they better finish this series off first without having to host a Game 7 in the first round. A little help from Roy Hibbert would help. Vogel keeps talking about his team still being young and needing to learn some things along the way. Learning how to survive a mess of your own making with a Game 7 against an inferior foe can’t be what he had in mind.

What’s on the line for the Hawks: The (immediate) future! It’s no secret that the organization is pointing to this summer, and free agency, as their salvation. Any noise the Hawks made in this postseason was strictly for the men in uniform and on the sideline (most of them are playing out the final years of their respective deals). A sustained postseason run is just more advertising, sometimes good and sometimes not so good, for coach Larry Drew and stars Josh Smith, Jeff Teague, Devin Harris, Kyle Korver and others. The fitting way to end their six-year run of consecutive playoff appearances is to go out the same way they did in that first-round series against the Celtics in 2008, losing in a Game 7 in Boston. There is more respect earned going down like that than there is in going down on your home floor in Game 6.

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THUNDER AT ROCKETS, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

What’s on the line for the Thunder: Kevin Durant’s sanity! The Thunder star won’t have to worry about being second anymore, he’ll have to worry about being first — as in a first-round casualty without his oft-maligned running mate Russell Westbrook. We’ve all wondered what the Thunder would look like without Westbrook in the lineup and taking away shots from Durant. Well, now we know. And it’s not nearly as pretty as some expected it to be. Love him or hate him, Westbrook is a mercurial talent and the player who balances things for the Thunder. Save for the 10 turnovers in the past two games, Durant has been everything you’d want him to be under these circumstances. But the Thunder need more from the rest of the supporting cast. It’s time for Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Martin, Thabo Sefolosha, Reggie Jackson and the boys to do their part.

What’s on the line for the Rockets: Dwight Howard? Seriously! You know the big fella is watching and weighing his options. A Rockets team capable of knocking off the Thunder in the playoffs is going to be an appealing option for the hottest free agent on the market this summer.  The Rockets already have another superstar to help shoulder the burden of leading the franchise into the upper echelon of the Western Conference in James Harden. A Harden-Howard, or Howard-Harden (for ego’s sake) combination would be pretty formidable in the years to come, especially with the inevitable power shift that is looming (the Golden State Warriors want in on the insurgency, too). The Rockets’ pursuit of Howard gets a huge boost with the threat of an upset of the Thunder. Were they to actually pull it off … well, don’t get Rockets GM Daryl Morey excited.

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L.A. CLIPPERS AT GRIZZLIES, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

What’s on the line for the Clippers: Vinny Del Negro’s job and the Chris Paul era! My main man Clipper Darrell was predicting a full-blown takeover of Los Angeles and its basketball constituency this postseason. But a twist of Blake Griffin‘s ankle and some vicious blows from the rugged Grizzlies has placed Del Negro’s job security and the Clippers’ hold on Paul in serious jeopardy. Phil Jackson is just working as an adviser in the Detroit Pistons’ coaching search. So he’s still going to be available if the Clippers feel the need to pursue his services. And Paul will have plenty of free agent options this summer. If he can’t get out of the first round with the Clippers, he might be forced to look elsewhere for the championship opportunity that has eluded him to this point. This is a must-win game for the Clippers in many ways.

What’s on the line for the Grizzlies: Their championship window! Things couldn’t have lined up any better for the Grizzlies with Westbrook’s injury and the way they’ve played against the Clippers.  They’d go into the conference semifinals favored to knock off the top-seeded Thunder, provided they make it past the Rockets. They’d also have favorable matchups against whoever they faced in the conference finals, too, given the way Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are playing right now. You could make a solid case that the Grizzlies boast the most complete (and healthiest) team remaining in the Western Conference playoff field. The chance to supplant the Thunder as the flag bearer for small market teams would be a side benefit for the Grizzlies, who might not have a championship window like this to take advantage of again in the future.

39 Comments

  1. Thank you for a great season my Celts-I BLEED GREEN/I DIE GREEN! I never lost faith in them-I for one still expected them to go much deeper this playoff-none the less, great year anyway. I say keep Doc, Pierce, & KG. Rondo, Sully, Terry & the rest will all be back better & stronger next year in all out beast mode.
    CELTICS-HORAAH-UBUNTU!!!

  2. Celts 13 says:

    I’m proud of the Cs for not going down like punks and making a game out of the 4th quarter. NYK cannot survive against Indiana or Miami playing the inconsistent ball they brought during the last 3 games of the series.

  3. wilz says:

    Do not write off the Spurs.. My prediction is Spurs VS Heat in the Final and Miami will Win it again !!!!

  4. James says:

    What an officiating joke. So the head office is doing the politically correct thing for Boston tonight. Glad to know Oblamo is not the only one picking winners and losers.

  5. kadir says:

    I agreeAsik has been a beast for the bulls, and even a bigger beast now, he has no fear, one of the few centers left out, dwight howard is no center and he will never ever be a center, good actor though. ..

  6. Stephen says:

    What does it matter about any of these teams? Eventually, somebody has to deal with the Heat.

  7. manpreet says:

    heat r d champions

  8. rocketRed says:

    The rockets can sign Howard to a max contact without releasing one player. We have cap space. But the rockets should release lin.and sign Aldridge.

  9. Leon says:

    Without Blake Griffin, Z-BO and Gasol will be too much for the Clippers in game 6. GO GRIZZLIES!!!

    • jose says:

      You got it!That’s why G’s are winning the series . But they wont beat LBJ
      Miami Champs…no 1, no2…no 3….no4………

  10. MGASOL says:

    Friends,
    MEMPHIS VS MIAMI FINALS……..WHICH MEMPHIS WINS…..

  11. Jason says:

    Charlotte’s gonna win it all, no doubt.

  12. MEMPHISCHAMPS2013 says:

    The Grizz will close out the Clippers tonight in Memphis. May be Paul’s last came as a Clipper. As much as i want Boston to pull off the come back against the Knicks I feel like the knicks will close it out if not tonight then back at the Garden. The Pacers will also move past the Hawks I believe smith has ankle problems. As for the Thunder/Rockets series OKC will close it out either tonight or back in OKC on Game 7. As for the second round, OKC may have problems containing memphis because of the Westbrook injury. Im a proud Memphis fan. As Smith said, this is Memphis’ opportunity to go all the way to the finals whether they lose or not, still hell of an achivement.

  13. tru_chainz says:

    Golden State will beat the Spurs Miami will take the East and hopefully a Golden State vs Miami matchup in the Finals

  14. celtics all the way says:

    celtics will win the chamionship with god’s help

  15. Unkle Daddy says:

    First off why does everybody think Del Negro’s job is on the line every season? Secondly OKC should have bit the bullet paid the luxury tax and kept Harden, then got Jeff Green back ASAP, Ibaka for Harden that’s working out well… And where else would Chris Paul go (I swear some Laker fan is gonna say something stupid) the laker allure is dying they are old, and Kobe is hurt. The Clippers need to move Crawford to a starter and get a better SF and they’ll be fine.

  16. #DRose says:

    Chicago is gonna close out the Brooklyn Go Chicago!

  17. JamesW says:

    Rocket will eliminate Thunder 4:3 on Sunday!

  18. Kid says:

    Clippers will lose tonight, Celtics will force game 7 but lose the series, Atlanta will lose tonight, Rockets will lose the series tonight as well. I belive Huston is better off withour Howard. I really don’t see Howard as a dominating force of which he can take over games, Infact the Lakers are better off without Howard.

  19. RICKY.BOBBY says:

    CELTICS WILL FORCE A GAME 7 IN NEW YORK,, AND WILL WIN U CAN BAG ON DAT,, (;

  20. CHRIS RIOS says:

    The Thunder will pull off this game and take the short period of rest to work on what needs to be improved for round 2 !!! DEFENSE & CONFIDENCE are main factors and really all OKC needs without Russ !!!!!!

  21. Bob says:

    I agree with Flamengo. This is the Knicks dream team. A team that has not won any championships, is cracking under pressure against the old, injured celtics. Can’t close out even a 1st round playoff series. And look like fools dressing in funeral clothes to bury Boston (a very tasteless gesture). Yes, New York: This is your dream! This is your Dream Team!

    • LOL says:

      blahahahaha…… LOL

      this is a good one.

    • jose says:

      You are right. This is LBJ’s Epoch.
      He must be more than motivated and eager to take the front pages of every Sport Illustrated…
      We are to destroy anyone getting on the way
      Regarding Los Cloppers, well I like them , but somebody got to stop Zeebo…Paul needs help from somebody….

  22. eris says:

    OKC offered Ibaka a $40m contract which he accepted, then offered Harden a 50m contract which he declined.

  23. lOBCITY says:

    Although im a clipper fan, The miami heat are to good this year. Lebron is hungry. When the heat say the want to win theyll win. As for my clippers… I hope they can stop memphis.

  24. RocketsFan says:

    oh c’mon! Rockets don’t need Howard, let Asik grow, retain the young core and add atleast two veterans and watch them go crazy next season!

  25. As a fan this is very exciting basketball to watch thru out the NBA. Although I could do without the occasional drama.

    • dattebayo says:

      So JR gettin suspended, the Knicks choking at their funeral, Westbrook getting injured and Mark Jackson claiming that the Nuggets are intending to injure Curry is not enough drama already, huh? Are you a soap opera junkie XD

      The Nets-Bulls-Series is going 7 and there are 4 Game 6 tonight. There is more than enough drama to be had for the 1st Round…

  26. TTKIN says:

    I bet OKC is wishing they had given Harden the contract now…not Ibaka.

  27. ko0kie says:

    I hope Houston doesn’t pursues the drama queen Dwight Howard.. don’t get me wrong, he’s a fantastic defensive player but the drama etc. that he brings.. I kinda like Asik, and DH12 isn’t worth the max contract over the money the Rockets owe Asik.
    Preferably they get a good PF, someone like LaMarcus Aldrige or Al Horford with a inside and outside game.

    • dattebayo says:

      There was only drama this season, because Dwight didn’t sign an extension and the Lakers underperformed. Dwight will sign for the max with a team and when he comes back next season, he will be healthy and he will come out blazing, wanting to redeem his good name. The only drama left will be a furious Laker Nation, should he leave…

  28. Flamengo says:

    NEW YORK KNICKS CHAMPIONS NBA 2013 !
    KNICKS DREAM TEAM !