NBA weekend betting preview: Can Hawks, Clippers close out series as 'dogs?

Jesse D. Garrabrant / National Basketball Association / Getty

Two series could come to a close Friday with another ending Saturday, and both teams facing a 3-2 deficit are favored to emerge in must-win spots in Game 6. Here are our best bets heading into the weekend.

76ers (-3, 221) @ Hawks
June 18, 7:30 p.m. ET

How do you come back from two of the biggest collapses in postseason history? That's the challenge ahead for the 76ers, who blew a 26-point lead in Wednesday's Game 5 just two days after squandering an 18-point advantage in Game 4.

The last team to blow consecutive 15-point leads in a playoff series was the 2020 Clippers, who lost by 15 points to the Nuggets in the following contest. It's fair to expect a similar letdown here, too. The Hawks have clearly found ways to exploit Philadelphia's defense when it matters most, and the Sixers' inconsistent shooting is catching up to them when the game slows down.

The 76ers needed big performances from Joel Embiid to win Games 2 and 3, but they wasted a 37-point outburst from him in Game 5. It's hard to expect a similar outing from the big man given how his injured right knee has seemingly sapped him late in contests. If he can't lead Philly in Game 6, the Hawks are well-positioned to close out this series at home.

Pick: Hawks +3

Jazz (-2, 220) @ Clippers
June 18, 10 p.m.

Just when it looked like the Jazz had this series locked down, the Clippers engineered a stunning Game 5 upset with Kawhi Leonard sidelined. Can they do it again on their home court with Leonard still shelved?

Los Angeles rallied around Paul George, who scored 37 points against an uncharacteristically lackadaisical Utah defense that ranked third in defensive rating (107.5) in the regular season. Yet it's fair to question whether George, a notorious playoff liability, can replicate his play in Game 6. He's scored 35-plus points just eight times in his postseason career, and he's averaged 20 points on 34.6% shooting immediately after the previous seven times.

Without another masterpiece from George, the Clippers will struggle to generate enough offense against a Jazz defense that will surely adjust from its Game 5 approach. With this line priced so short, lay the points on the better team to even this series.

Pick: Jazz -2

Bucks @ Nets (-1, 214.5)
June 19, 8:30 p.m.

Arguably the best series of the second round will fittingly end Saturday with a Game 7, in which the Nets are favored despite being thoroughly outplayed by the Bucks for the better part of the last three games.

Brooklyn will likely have Kevin Durant and James Harden in the lineup. However, with Kyrie Irving's status still unknown, it's hard to have confidence that we'll see a markedly different version of the team that lost by 15 points Thursday and scored fewer than 100 points in three of its last four games. The Nets' injuries are partly to blame, but the Bucks also deserve credit for molding the NBA's most efficient defense in this postseason.

Conversely, Milwaukee shot 21% from three in Game 6 and still got basically whatever it wanted against a Brooklyn defense that's been an Achilles heel all season. Expect that to be the team's undoing in a decisive Game 7.

Pick: Bucks +1

C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at cjackson.cowart@thescore.com.

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NBA weekend betting preview: Can Hawks, Clippers close out series as 'dogs?
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