Celtics, Raptors and Mavericks All Looking for Life

DN

 

DN

Could this be it for Dirk Nowtizki and the Mavericks?

Three teams could be headed for the offseason if they don’t turn things around today in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

Cleveland (-7.5) at Boston – I know it’s hard to swallow but if I’m a Boston Celtics’ fan and I’m down 0-3, there is actually something to be positive about. These Celtics under Brad Stevens have made tremendous strides this season and really have given the Cavaliers a lot more than most people thought they would.

If we stay in the present however, the Cavaliers are a win away from advancing to a huge showdown with Chicago and I guarantee if they get past the Bulls, they’ll be grateful they had the competition they did from Boston.

Trends: Cleveland is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games on the road… Boston is 6-3 straight up in their last nine games… The Cavaliers are 5-2 SU in their last seven games in Boston… The Celtics have won 17 of their last 23 games at home against the Cavs.

The Pick: Take the Celtics getting the points.

Rivers

Doc Rivers can only hope to be smiling after game four tonight.

LA Clippers (+6) at San Antonio – The Clippers were outrebounded by just nine and were dead-even in points in the paint with the Spurs at 40 apiece. At one point in game three however they trailed by 37 points. Hard to believe following the two excellent games the teams played in Los Angeles. When you’re held to 34% shooting and 26% in three-point shooting, it really doesn’t matter what else you may be even in with your opponent.

The Spurs turned up the defense and hit early shots to put the Clippers away before they even got their sneakers squeaky in game three. Obviously the Clips know they can’t go down 3-1 so I expect them to give every effort to make sure they are even going back to Cali. That said, if they should fall and go on to lose the series, questions will intensify about just how tough this Clippers team is.

We’ll see how they fare before we go there though.

Trends: The Clippers are 3-6 against the spread in their last nine games against the Spurs… San Antonio is 5-0 straight up in their last five games at home.

The Pick: I’ll take the Clips to bounce back.

Toronto (+5.5) at Washington – Done. Over. Get me the fork because the Toronto Raptors are fully cooked. Yes teams have come back from 0-3 deficits before but it’s not happening in this series and the biggest reason why happens to be 37 years old.

Paul Pierce isn’t ready to hit the rocking chair yet and he’s playing like it. I don’t see him letting this team fall.

Trends: Toronto is 0-5 against the spread in their last five games… Washington is 8-3 straight up in their last 11 games.

The Pick: Give me the Wizards to cover and close out the series.

Houston (-2.5) at Dallas – When you have one player who scores 42 points and another who grabs 26 rebounds I would say your chances of winning that game are pretty darn good. That was the case for Houston in game three as James Harden poured in 42 points and Dwight Howard recorded all those rebounds and they needed every one of both for the two-point win.

I give Dallas credit; I honestly thought between Chandler Parsons’ absence and Rajon Rondo’s ineffectiveness that the Mavs would just pack it in but they didn’t. That said, I don’t expect this series to return to Houston and that’s a shame. I thought this was going to be a classic.

Trends: Houston is 7-1 straight up in their last eight games against the Mavericks… Dallas is 6-2-1 against the spread in their last nine games against the Rockets.

The Pick: I’ll take the Rockets to cover.

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Favorites to Win NBA Eastern Conference Title

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The NBA postseason has arrived. After 82 regular season games, eight teams remain in each conference to battle for their conference title and represent their conference in the NBA Finals.

Reaching to the finals is no easy task. San Antonio the defending NBA Champions needed seven games to defeat the Dallas Mavericks in just the first round last season.

Two seasons ago, Miami went seven games with Indiana to reach the NBA finals, and then pulled off a miracle to win the finals over San Antonio.

Three seasons ago, San Antonio the top seed in the NBA was 2-0 in front of Oklahoma City. The Thunder then won 4 straight to eliminate the Spurs and went up 1-0 on Miami in the finals. Miami turned around and won 4 straight to win the title.

Here is a look at the top three Eastern Conference contenders as we head to the postseason.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers started their season slow with so many new pieces to put together. However, with the talent of LeBron James the team came together and has played better than any team in the East since the All-Star break. With their trio of superstars – James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – the Cavaliers might not be the No. 1 seed, but are the odds on favorite to win the conference title.

Atlanta Hawks

Just last season the Hawks were 38-44. The backcourt is the leader with Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague. Add to the mix Paul Milsap and Al Horford and you have four players averaging between 15 and 17 points per game.

The team has remained healthy up front during the season, which has helped, as Horford was out injured most of last season. The bench has also been outstanding. Prior to the All-Star break, they were 36-5 but have not played near that since.

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls are a tough team to figure out. If they could all get healthy at the same time, they would be a big force in the East. With newcomers Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls offense has improved this season. However, their defense remains their biggest strength and the team’s heart and soul.

With Derrick Rose back and Joakim Noah and the rest of the frontcourt playing physical, the Bulls could go deep in the postseason because defense is so important.

2015 Eastern Conference Odds

 

Cleveland Cavaliers 1 to 3

Atlanta Hawks 7 to 2

Chicago Bulls 8 to 1

Toronto Raptors 30 to 1

Washington Wizards 30 to 1

Indiana Pacers 50 to 1

Boston Celtics 75 to 1

Brooklyn Nets 100 to 1

Milwaukee Bucks 100 to 1

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Good Slate for a Monday Night in the Association

George
George

Paul George is close to returning but doesn't want to disrupt the Pacers' winning ways right now.

Usually it’s Sunday that gets all the attention in the National Basketball Association but tonight’s line-up is nothing to shake a stick at it. There are several match-ups I like so let’s get to it.

Toronto (+5) at Indiana – These two teams are both headed to the Eastern Conference Playoffs in all likelihood but they are heading in opposite directions at the moment. The Raptors have dropped eight of their last ten games while the Pacers have won eight of their last ten. Despite the Raptors being much more secure in the playoff position, this is game is arguably bigger for the Pacers. Indiana is the hottest team in the NBA since the All-Star Game but they could easily slip out of the playoffs if they aren’t careful.

Trends: The Raptors have won six of the last ten games against the Pacers… Indiana is 2-8 against the spread in their last ten games against the Raptors.

The Pick: Take Toronto getting the points.

WM

The loss of Wesley Matthews hasn't slowed the Blazers yet but it could in the long run.

Portland (+2.5) at Washington – The Wizards seem to have righted the ship after a tough stretch of losses. They’ve won three straight and five of their last ten games. Portland keeps plowing forward despite injuries. They’ve won seven of ten and have been victorious in their last two games. Portland suddenly has its’ sights set on the two seed as Memphis as slipped recently. The Blazers are within just two and a half games of the Grizzlies. Meanwhile, Washington looks pretty secure in either the fourth or fifth seed as the playoffs approach.

Trends: Portland and Washington have each won five in their last ten meetings… The Wizards are 6-4 against the spread in their last ten against the Blazers.

The Pick: I like the Wizards at home.

Cleveland (-6) at Miami – LeBron James returns to South Beach where he helped the Heat to two NBA Titles. His Cavs come in just 20-18 on the road this season and the return is no doubt emotional for “The King.” The Heat are one half game behind Charlotte for the eight seed in the East which is pretty remarkable considering they are without Chris Bosh for the remainder of the season and Dwayne Wade isn’t getting any younger.

Trends: The Heat have won nine of their last ten games against the Cavaliers… Cleveland is 6-4 against the spread in their last ten games versus the Heat.

The Pick: Take Cleveland to cover on the road behind a big night from LeBron.

Oklahoma City (+3) at Dallas – OKC is fighting desperately to hang onto the eight and final spot in the West and most of that is on the heels of Russell Westbrook  who has been hotter than a firecracker in recent works. The Mavericks are currently tied with the Clippers at 11 games back of Golden State and they’re a half game up on San Antonio. Dallas has gone just 5-5 in their last ten games and I don’t think they’ve really pulled things together since the flare-up between Rajon Rondo and Head Coach Rick Carlisle.

Trends: Oklahoma City has won seven of their last ten games against the Mavericks… Dallas is 5-5 against the spread in their last ten games against the Thunder.

The Pick: I love the Thunder here getting the points.

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Some Good, Some Bad in the NBA Tonight

Randolph
Randolph

Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies head to Washington after playing in Boston last night.

There’s three games I’m looking at tonight in the National Basketball Association and each has different meaning. The first has playoff implications for both. The second is a potential NBA Finals preview while the last one may cause you to avert your eyes.

That’s life in the NBA when the season gets down to the final 20 games or so.

Memphis (Pick’em) at Washington – The Wizards are 3-7 in their last ten games and have slipped into a fairly stable position in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards biggest problem is that they give up almost literally as many points as they score. Close games are nice, but a little more separation from the offense and defense would be nice.

The Grizzlies have slipped to five and a half games behind Western Conference leader Golden State but are still up on the Rockets by two and a half games for the second spot. They’ve been really good on the road at 21-11 and they’ll need to be tonight because the Wizards are 22-10 at home.

Trends: Memphis is 16-6-1 straight up in their last 23 games… Washington is 3-8 straight up in their last 11 games… The Grizzlies are 10-4-1 in their last 15 games on the road… The Wizards are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at home.

The Pick: Take the Grizzlies on the road tonight.

TD

The Spurs may have to deal with the Cavaliers without Tim Duncan who has an elbow injury.

Cleveland (Pick’em) at San Antonio – Earlier this season I might have considered this a possible NBA Finals preview but I’m not convinced the Spurs are prepared for another run. Tim Duncan has what’s being called “a minor injury” but at his age is anything “minor” anymore? That said, they’ve won six straight and are creeping up on teams in the fourth and fifth positions.

The Cavaliers enter having won two straight and seven of their last ten games. They are just one game over .500 however on the road and the Spurs are always good at home (24-7). After spanking Dallas two nights ago in Big D, the Cavs seem poised to carry that momentum into San Antonio tonight. No one has a better plus/minus in the league than do the Cavs starting five when they’re on the floor together.

Trends: San Antonio is 10-0 straight up in their last ten games versus Cleveland. The Spurs are 8-2 against the spread in their last ten games against the Cavs.

The Pick: I love the Cavaliers in this one.

New York (+7.5) at LA Lakers – The Lakers achieved one of the most dubious marks in their franchise history this week. Yesterday marked the earliest in the season since they moved to Los Angeles (1961) that they were eliminated from the playoffs. They are also coming off a game last night at home against Detroit so their legs won’t exactly be fresh let alone inspired.

About the only difference between the Lakers and the Knicks is that the Lakers aren’t in last place. They are in second to last place two and a half games ahead of Minnesota. New York has no such privilege as they are the bottom feeders in the Eastern Conference. At 12-51, they trail the 76ers by two games in an effort to stay out of the basement.

Trends: LA is 6-4 against the spread and straight up against the Knicks in their last ten games… The Lakers have won two straight against New York.

The Pick: I like the Knicks getting the points tonight over a tired LA team.

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Tonight’s Games in the NBA are Examples of How …

Davis
Davis

With Anthony Davis healthy, the Pelicans would not be an easy out should they get into the playoffs.

Brooklyn is still in it and so is New Orleans. The Spurs are headed back to the playoffs as are the Raptors and the Cavs and Mavs are hoping they meet again in the NBA Finals.All six teams have much to play for tonight in the National Basketball Association.

New Orleans (+2.5) at Brooklyn – The Pelicans enter the game one game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot out West. New Orleans has won seven of their last ten games and they’ve benefited greatly from the return of Anthony Davis.

Despite losing three straight, the Nets are still alive in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They are two and a half games back of Indiana and Miami who are tied for the eight spot as of this writing.

Both of these teams are going to e very interesting to watch in the final couple of weeks but with New Orleans perhaps more so because of the legitimate threat they pose in the Western Conference.

Trends: Both teams surrender 99 points per game but NO has a three-point advantage over Brooklyn in points per game.

The Pick: I like the Nets and the points tonight.

Lowry

Kyle Lowry leads the Raptors into San Antonio and they need a win desperately.

Toronto (+7.5) at San Antonio – The Raptors have picked a horrible time to go in the tank as they’ve lost eight of their last ten and three straight. They’ve gone from the all-important second seed in the East to the fourth. They dropped a tough road game at OKC and now head to the Lone Star State to play the defending champs.

The Spurs appear to be peaking at the right time. They’ve won five in a row and defeated Chicago the other night without Tim Duncan scoring a point. The last time that happened Duncan was a freshman at Wake Forest!

Trends: The Raptors score three points more per game than do the Spurs but San Antonio gives up four points less per game.

The Pick: I love the Raptors getting the 7.5 here.

Cleveland (-4) at Dallas – To no one’s surprise the Cavaliers have pulled into the second spot in the Eastern Conference but with 20 games left they aren’t going to catch the Atlanta Hawks. In some cases, the Cavs might just put it on cruise control but they can’t because both Chicago and Toronto are still hanging tough with them.

Cleveland enters tonight’s game in Dallas having won seven of their last ten while the Mavericks have gone 5-5 over the same stretch. Dallas is in pretty solid position in terms of the playoffs as they are currently tied with the Clippers for the fifth spot out West. One has to wonder whether things have gotten any better between Rajon Rondo and his coach Rick Carlisle. The up and down results of late speak of the problems that may exist.

Trends: The Mavericks have won eight of their last ten games straight up against the Cavs and they are 7-3 against the spread in those same games.

The Pick:

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Three NBA Games Featuring Eastern Conference Teams Facing …

SVG
SVG

Stan Van Gundy is running out of time to get the Pistons to the Playoffs.

Detroit (+7) at Houston –  The Pistons are in the midst of difficult stretch where most of their games are on the road. They dropped four in a row and worse yet; they’ve dropped to three and a half games behind eight seed Charlotte.

The Rockets have climbed into a tie with Portland for the third spot in the West despite losing two straight. James Harden returns after his suspension for kicking LeBron James in the… Well, you know where. The crazy thing about the Rockets is that they’ve been doing better than expected without Dwight Howard who should return for the playoffs.

Houston is 23-9 at home while the Pistons are eight games below .500 on the road.

Trends: Detroit is 1-7 straight up in their last eight games on the road… Houston is 5-1 SU in their last six games at home… The Pistons are 1-4 against the spread in their last five trips to Houston… The Rockets are 7-1 SU in their last eight games against the Pistons.

The Pick: I like the Rockets to cover as the Pistons slide continues.

Irving

Kyrie Irving will need a big night in order for the Cavs to win in Atlanta.

Cleveland (-1) at Atlanta – The Cavaliers aren’t going to catch the Hawks for the top seed in the East but securing the second seed would mean they could avoid Atlanta until the Conference Finals. Both teams have won seven of their last ten and each are on streaks. The Cavs have been victorious in two straight while the Hawks have won five in a row.

This has all the makings of one of the best games of the year. I feel that way not just because the teams are good but also because I believe the Hawks have something to prove. All the talk has been about the Cavs in recent weeks so look for a big night from Atlanta.

Trends: Cleveland is 204 straight up in their last 24 games… Atlanta is 15-1 SU in their last 16 games at home… The Cavs are 1-8 in their last nine games on the road in Atlanta… The Hawks are 2-4 against the spread in their last six games at home versus the Cavaliers.

The Pick: Take the Hawks to win.

Chicago (+5.5) vs Indiana – The Bulls are 10.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks but so are Toronto and Cleveland. With Washington in a free-fall, it appears these three teams will duke it out until the dust settles with them placed in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th seeds in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers are just a half game out of the eighth spot and many teams to contend with for that final playoff position.

Obviously the Bulls are dealing with injuries in the names of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Both could return in time for the playoffs but what could be expected from them is anyone’s guess. Despite the injuries, the Bulls have on seven of ten.

Trends: The Bulls are 8-3-1 straight up in their last 12 games… The Pacers are 6-1 SU in their last seven games at home… Chicago is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at the Pacers… Indiana is 4-1 ATS in their last five games at home versus the Bulls.

The Pick: The Pacers have won three in a row and eight of ten. I like them to cover at home.

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NBA Spotlight on Bulls, Cavs Heading into the All-Star Break

LeBron Rose
LeBron Rose

LeBron James and Derrick Rose hook up in Chicago tonight.

The National Basketball Association is a one-man show this evening as all of the focus is on the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. It also happens to be the last game of the “first half” of the season. Friday evening brings a number of events as does Saturday before it all culminates on Sunday in the annual All-Star Game between the Eastern and Western Conferences.

The first portion of the season has brought numerous storylines to the forefront of the league. From Atlanta’s rise in the East to the rise of Golden State and Memphis in the West.

Today I’m looking at the Bulls and Cavs as the two Central Division rivals hook up with momentum for the second half on the line.

Cleveland (-1) at Chicago (O/U 201.5) – The Cavaliers have been as streaky as any team in the National Basketball Association this season and they’re now in the midst of an upswing but that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues. As I wrote in the blog yesterday, LeBron James tweeting an anonymous, motivational message to teammate Kevin Love was not the way I or many others would have done things but if it works then OK.

Love

Kevin Love responded to LeBron's tweet but will he keep it going?

At 33-20, the Bulls have a solid record and lead the Cavaliers by just a game right now in the Eastern Conference. Chicago is tied with Washington for the third seed but holds the tie-breaker while Cleveland sits in fifth. The fact of the matter is, and this goes for both the Cavs and Bulls, is that they are light years behind conference leader Atlanta who has a lead of 11 and 10 games respectively.

Although the All-Star Game is this weekend, the season is well past the halfway point. What this means for the Cavs and Bulls is that any designs on getting the one seed in the East are futile barring an epic collapse by the Hawks and I don’t see it happening.

If you didn’t think the Bulls and Cavaliers were close enough in just about every way then consider this; they both average exactly 102.0 points per game and defensively Cleveland gives up 99.2 points per game while Chicago gives up 99.1. So far this season, the Cavaliers own a 2-0 record against the Bulls.

Cleveland won the first match-up with Chicago in the Windy City in overtime and then defeated the Bulls in Cleveland by 14.

The Pick: If Kevin Love continues to play inspired and LeBron keeps on being LeBron then the Cavs are going to be difficult on anyone they play. While the Bulls have the advantage of being at home this evening, they also played Miami last evening while Cleveland had an off night. Keep in ind too that the Bulls have better on the road than at home. Take the Cavs to cover and take the UNDER tonight as well.

Trends: Cleveland has won nine of their last ten games (written before conclusion of last night’s game)… Chicago has won three straight games and six of their last ten games… The Cavs are 12-12 on the road… The Bulls are 14-11 at home.

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