Wednesday night’s NBA action went as expected. The Hawks took back control of their series with the Nets by buckling down a win at home and the Grizzlies finally ousted a Blazers team that looked like it had no business being in post-season play. We saw both games coming from a mile away (2-0 on the night, 28-7 through the playoffs) and head into Thursday night looking for another two-game sweep.

That may be easier said than done, as two very interesting series hit the hardwood tonight. Los Angeles blew a huge chance to go up 3-2 over the Spurs the other night, and now they’ll try to send the series back to L.A. for a game seven. Doing that in San Antonio against a championship-type team that knows closing tonight is the best possible option, well, it’s unlikely to be easy.

The Bulls have a similar situation on their hands, as they’ve found it hard to rid themselves of the pesky Bucks, who have a chance to force a game seven of their own in Milwaukee tonight. Milwaukee’s bid for a full seven-game series is far less likely than the Clippers on the surface, but they’ve at least won two in a row and had they not lost a crazy overtime battle in game three, this series could have a totally different look and feel to it.

Needless to say, our NBA picks come with a heavy grain of salt tonight, as both of these series have been very hard to predict the entire way. We’ve actually done a solid job picking the Clippers/Spurs series, though, so if we can nail one of these games we’ll be borderline thrilled. Regardless, let’s dissect the matchups for Thursday’s games:

Chicago Bulls (3) @ Milwaukee Bucks (6)

Milwaukee has performed admirably throughout this series. They lost game one by 12 and since then they’ve lost by no more than nine, with one of those losses coming in double overtime. If luck was on their side a bit, they could be the ones up 3-2 heading into this elimination game. That’s not the case, though, and they’ll have to fight off a Bulls team that has found it difficult to put them down for good in two straight games.

While the Bulls have had a difficult time finishing off the Bucks, history and logic remains on their side. No team has ever overcome a 3-0 hole in the NBA playoffs, while Milwaukee stealing a third game in a row just doesn’t make much sense. Chicago’s main issue has been allowing the Bucks to keep them at their level and beating them at their own game. The Bucks have run a very basic offense and have relied on solid team defense. Michael Carter-Williams has played smart basketball in spurts, opting to take the ball to the hole, rather than settle on the perimeter with a shaky jumper.

The big question tonight is whether or not the Bulls have the resolve to turn the tide. Are they smart enough to stay off of MCW to force him to try to bury them with their jumper. Considering they’re led by a defensive-minded coach, that’s probably the case. Do they have the offensive firepower to score more than 90 points for the first time in their last three games? They averaged 100 points per game on the year, so that seems pretty doable. Can they stifle a Milwaukee offense that has been surgical when they needed to be? Milwaukee averaged under 98 points per game on the year, so that is pretty doable, too.

Chicago actually has to do this, though. All of it. Derrick Rose also needs to not go 0-7 from long range (or just start attacking more) and the Bulls need to tighten back up in the paint. The Bucks are a fun story and as a Wisconsin native, it’s really hard not to pull for them (I personally will be). But the Bulls are the better team, from top to bottom. Milwaukee could absolutely make history by forcing a game seven and then stealing that final game of the series. They’re a bad matchup for the Bulls and that has been made abundantly clear. Chicago has to rise up and prove they’re the better team by making sure it doesn’t come to that. They are the better team, but tonight I think they finally actually look like it, too.

Pick: Bulls 104, Bucks 94

Los Angeles Clippers (3) @ San Antonio Spurs (6)

My thought going into game five of this series was that whoever won, would take the series. That made sense given the fact that over 80% of teams that win game five in a tied series do tend to do exactly that. It was more about the situation for me, though, as a Clippers win would have given them a game to kill in game six and then they could come back home and put all of their energy in knocking off the Spurs on their home floor – where they easily play their best ball. They could let the Spurs scratch and claw their way into a game seven and then take them out in the bigger game. Instead, now they have to try to do that. They still have a game seven game to look forward to if they can get it done, but are we to believe the defending champs are going to let a series slip through their fingers on their home floor?

It’s highly doubtful the Spurs buckle here and blow this series. Losing tonight could qualify as such, as the Clippers are a potent offensive team at home and the Spurs tend to not be so mighty on the road. On the flip side, San Antonio lost just eight times at home during the regular season and barely lost the one home game to the Clippers in this series. They crushed the Clips in the other. The Spurs are also the only team of the two to win back to back games in this series. The Clippers would have to suddenly find a way to do that to claim the series.

History supports another collapse for the Clippers. Chris Paul and co. blew game two and could have easily been up 2-0. They did it again in game five, and again at home. What happens when everything is on the line and they can’t handle the pressure again on the road? I’m sure the Clips will come out ready to fight and they could easily win this, but I think the stronger odds are with the Clips coming up short, just like they’ve done time and time again. I’d love to be wrong about this to see an awesome game seven, but if you’re betting on this game, the smart money rests with the Spurs.

Pick: Spurs 108, Clippers 105

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