LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers are one game away frommaking the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the first reign of the King in 2009. On the other side, the Chicago Bulls are on the brink of elimination after leading the series 2-1 and perhaps being one shot away from taking a commanding 3-1 lead. If they fail to deliver, they will face uncertainty this off-season: coach Tom Thibodeau will most likely part ways with the franchise while restricted free agent Jimmy Butler will attract much attention from the other 29 NBA teams.
So who has the upper hand in Game 6? Bulls or Cavs? Before predicting the outcome though, here are three things any bettor ought to know about this particular matchup.
1.To have a chance at winning, Chicago needs Pau Gasol. It’s that simple.
Without Gasol, the Bulls are 0-2 this post-season experiencing many offensive droughts in the process. The big man is an important part of his team’s offense and Game 1 proved it: he made Cleveland pay with his mid-range shot scoring by adding 21 points (10-16 FG).
In Game 3, the Spaniard suffered a mild hamstring injury and hasn’t comeback since. But according to the man himself, things are about to change. “Right now it’s win or go home. There’s nothing left besides tomorrow’s game. What percentage I’ll be able to play, I don’t know. But whatever percentage I’ll be, I will give,”he said yesterday.
Even if he’s just a decoy like Irving was, he can help the Bullsstay in the game and have a shot at extending the series.
2. Kyrie Irving is back… So is LeBron.
Bad news Chicago: Irving seems to be feeling much better; he scored 25 points on Tuesday after two off games. He has tendonitis in his left knee along with a right foot strain,and yet he looked much like his old self in Game 5. And that’s not all: James is efficient again after going 18-of-55 from the field and 15 turnovers in the Chicago games. Two days ago, he went 14-of-24 for 38 points and surprise, surprise, he had ZERO turnovers. If the Bulls want Game 6, they need to limit Irving’s on-the-floor production and force the King to turn the ball over. With both playing efficiently, Cleveland should advance to the Conference Finals after tonight’s game.
3. The Board Game.Here’s an interesting fact: whoever won the boards, won the game.
Chicago outrebounded Cleveland in Game 1 and 3 by a margin of 3 and 15 respectively. In the other three encounters, the Cavs had the advantage. The away team will need Tristan Thompson to do what he does best – crush the boards; if he grabs five or more offensive rebounds, then the tickets to the Eastern Finals should be up for grabs. Chicago needs to rebound every missed shot to get away with a win.
This is a tricky one at first sight. But the stats tell us a different story: in NBA history, with the series even at 2-2, the winner of Game 5 is also the winner of the series 82% of the time. LeBron has failed to advance only once in five attempts when his team had a 3-2 advantage, and that was back in his rookie playoff season, in 2006. He won Game 6 on the road three years ago, in Indiana with Miami going all the way and winning the NBA Championship. Can he do it in Chicago?