Our 5-on-5 team forecasts the NBA Finals entering Game 6 on Thursday (9 p.m., ABC).
1. What's the most important thing to watch for Cleveland in Game 6?
Amin Elhassan, ESPN Insider: Can Irving and James replicate their scoring outbursts from Games 3 and 5 while still keeping their teammates involved? Even though the duo dominated those two games, the amount of engagement and production from the supporting cast was negligible, and over time, that only plays into Golden State's hands, as the marginalization of everyone else makes it much easier to defend the Cavs.
Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Insider: Will the Cavs play Kevin Love at center to try to get him going? It will be fascinating to see if Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue tries to go small and play Love as the lone big to combat Draymond Green presumably starting at center for Golden State. Defense may be an issue, but you'd think the offense would be popping on their home floor.
Bradford Doolittle, ESPN Insider: Cleveland needs Kevin Love to be in droppin' dimes mode. The Cavs can't bank on the same mega-performances from both Irving and James. Love needs to pull his weight to compensate for that drop-off and the return of Draymond Green. Love must bring more than spacing to the table and must hit his open shots. And, just three rebounds in Game 5?
Jeremias Engelmann, ESPN Insider: The Cavs, and especially LeBron, need to again capitalize on Andrew Bogut's absence and attack the rim as they did in Game 5. Green being back will make it a little tougher, but Bogut has been by far the Warriors' best shot-blocker in the Finals, averaging a block per every six minutes of playing time.
Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider: The Cavs' shooting percentage on long 2-point jumpers. They made just 40.7 percent of these shots in the first four games of the series, but hit 52.6 percent (10-of-19) in Game 5. Those were mostly Kyrie Irving and LeBron James pullups off the dribble, and those shots helped power their big scoring efforts. If they stop falling, Cleveland will have to find other ways to score.
2. What's the most important thing to watch for Golden State in Game 6?
Elhassan: Can Draymond Green deliver a performance to make up for his Game 5 absence? Also, Green is walking on eggshells, as any incident might lead to a Game 7 suspension. With Bogut out for the rest of the series, Golden State cannot afford to go to a Game 7 without their best interior player.
Haberstroh: How does Stephen Curry's agility look? The Warriors will need as much shot-making and playmaking as they can get without Andrew Bogut, who facilitates much of their opening offense. Curry, who sprained his right knee earlier in the postseason, hasn't looked right since then, particularly in his lateral movement. Can he muster up enough for another closeout in Cleveland?
Doolittle: The Warriors must avoid the kind of slow start that sunk them in Game 3. Bogut's absence could complicate that, along with some hyperactivity from a too-ready Green. Who starts? To me, Kerr should consider throwing the Death Lineup out there to begin the game. If nothing else, it's a group that is accustomed to each other.
Engelmann: The Warriors need to keep the Cavs from getting to the rim so much. With Bogut out, it's going to have to be a team effort. Green needs to stay out of foul trouble, as the Warriors haven't exactly been great when he's been off the floor. Some production from the backup centers, Festus Ezeli and Anderson Varejao, would certainly help and allow Green to rest a little more.
Pelton: Their shooting percentage on open 3-pointers. The Warriors' quantified shot probability (qSP) was a series-high 55.2 percent in Game 5, meaning we'd expect Golden State to shoot an effective field-goal percentage (eFG) of 55.2 percent given the location of the team's shots, the shooters and the location of nearby defenders. Instead, the Warriors shot a series-worst 44.8 percent eFG. The open 3s Golden State missed in the second half were key to that number.
3. Which number is closest to your own estimate?
Elhassan: B. Think of all the things that needed to happen for Cleveland to win Game 5: Green being suspended, Kyrie and LeBron with a historic two-man performance, Golden State going cold from 3 in the second half, and Bogut being injured in the third quarter. The likelihood of a similar set of circumstances occurring again is very small.
Haberstroh: A. I'm not totally convinced that Kerr will rely on small ball in Game 6, because he knows it might tire his guys out and Bogut can't rescue them. But I'll just drop this stat: With Green at center, the score in this series is 207-157. It's pretty much a lethal formation, or dare I say, a Death Lineup.
Doolittle: A. The Cavs are in great position for Game 6, but the history of Game 7s is heavily tilted in favor of the home teams. Plus, the Warriors are pretty good at Oracle. I'd put the Warriors at around 65 percent to win the series at this point.
Engelmann: B. I think the Warriors have an 80 percent chance of winning a potential Game 7, by itself. If they have a 40 percent chance of winning Game 6, we arrive at an overall probability of 88 percent. To me, these Warriors, and especially Curry, have played rather lackadaisical basketball in no-pressure situations. On the other hand, they've been great when under pressure, as a Game 7 would provide.
Pelton: B. I'm shocked by how low those estimates are given that the home team wins Game 7s 80 percent of the time. I don't see a compelling reason to believe that Cleveland should be given a substantially better shot than that if the series gets to Game 7, which is no sure thing. I'd put the Warriors' chances of winning at close to 90 percent.
4. Who wins Game 6? Who wins the series?
Elhassan: Golden State, considering all the aforementioned circumstances (in answer 3) that would be required for the Warriors to lose.
Haberstroh: Warriors. I'm with Draymond: If he had played, this would've been over already. But that's on him. Bogut being out may be a blessing in disguise considering it forces Kerr to play Green full time at center. And so far this season, that's been almost impossible to beat.
Doolittle: Cavs in Game 6 at home. If they can get off to an early lead, keeping Curry and Klay Thompson from getting into the game flow, they might get another runaway. As for the series, well, there is just too much history on the side of Golden State. Cleveland will ultimately be doomed by its poor finish in Game 4.
Engelmann: Cleveland is favored by two points in Vegas. I agree that Game 6 will be close, but I very faintly favor the Warriors. I'd imagine that the entire Warriors team, and especially Green, will be fired up for this game. If Cleveland wins Game 6, I still think the Warriors ultimately will win the series in Game 7.
Pelton: I think the line favoring Cleveland is an overreaction to what happened in Game 5, when the line overvalued the Warriors without Draymond Green. I'd make Golden State a slight favorite under the assumption that Bogut's injury will mean heavy minutes for the Death Lineup, which has been generally good for the Warriors in this series.
5. Who's your current Finals MVP favorite?
Elhassan: Shaun Livingston won Game 1, Green won Game 2 and Curry won Game 4, while Green has been most consistent and Andre Iguodala has played LeBron as well as anyone for most of the series. The Finals MVP will be the Warrior who delivers in Game 6.
Haberstroh: Green. Did you see Game 5? His being out and the Warriors losing by double digits at home only bolster his case. He's averaging 15, nine and six with a plus-36 plus/minus, the best for any starter in this series. If Iguodala had done better on James in Game 5, he'd be the clubhouse leader. Instead, my pick goes to Green.
Doolittle: LeBron James. He has been far and away the best player in the series, though his on-off stats don't reflect that. That said, if the Warriors win, Curry will get the honor unless he flops in the next two games.
Engelmann: Still have to go with Curry here, as he has scored more points and has more rebounds and assists than Klay Thompson. The case for Iguodala took quite a hit in Game 5 (he was minus-12 in plus/minus).
LeBron has been by far the best player, but I'm expecting Golden State to win the series, and players from the losing team almost never get the Finals MVP trophy -- LeBron didn't win last year when he averaged 36, 13 and nine.
Pelton: Stephen Curry. Given recency bias, I think the award will go to whichever Warrior plays best in the clinching game (provided Golden State wins, of course). My money is still on Curry having the best chance of being that player.