Momentum Swings Likely in Four Key NBA Playoff Games Today

Scola
Scola

Luis Scola has been one of few bright spots for Indiana and he needs more court time.

If you didn’t need to know already, the National Basketball Association likes to ‘stretch’ their seven game series’ out just a bit. The fact that these teams play 82 games in the regular season and many times on back to back nights is apparently lost on the NBA’s front office.

Let’s not be totally naive here because making a seven game series last three weeks is about two things; money and attention. Oh well, nothing is going to change is it? On to the games.

Indiana (-2) at Atlanta, Hawks Lead 2-1 - We’ve known for some time that the game of basketball at the collegiate and professional levels has changed drastically. The game has gone from one dominated by big, talented centers to one driven by guard and forward play. Indiana has tried to stay true to the old way with Roy Hibbert but it isn’t happening.

For a man who stands 7’1″ I’ve never seen a guy like this become the smallest player on the court. Hibbert has been totally ineffective on the offensive end and his defense isn’t any better. He had just two rebounds in the game three loss while the Hawks’ Paul Millsap collected 14 boards.

Frank Vogel is coaching for his job and if he truly realizes this then he’ll go with Luis Scola more often than he does Hibbert. If not for Scola, this would be a three game deficit for the Pacers. Hibbert is not the only problem by far for Indiana and I just don’t have any confidence in this team any longer. Take the Hawks getting the two points.

Parker

Tony Parker and the Spurs must do a better job of taking care of the ball in game three.

San Antonio (-3) at Dallas, Series Tied 1-1 - Surprisingly, we’ve seen this before. The Spurs, who look so dominant during the regular season, suddenly look more pedestrian in the playoffs. Despite sweeping the Mavericks in all four regular season games this season, the Spurs find themselves tied at one and heading into Big D.

The Mavericks forced 24 very uncharacteristic turnovers and held Tim Duncan to just 11 points after he scored 27 in game one. I fully expect a more ‘Spurs-like’ performance in game three. Take the Spurs to cover today.

Miami (-5.5) at Charlotte, Heat Leads 2-0 - The Bobcats may be down 2-0, but they’ve got the Heat focused on things besides winning. LeBron James and the rest of the team are whining about Charlotte fouling too hard and being overly physical. It would appear that James doesn’t recall what Michael Jordan went through when he and the Bulls played the Detroit Pistons.

The physical play is only going to get worse because the Bobcats now know they are in the heads of the Miami Heat. This game sets up perfectly for a Charlotte win because Miami always seems to lay an egg during their earlier playoff series.

Take the Bobcats getting the points and don’t be surprised if they win.

Oklahoma City (-3.5) at Memphis, Grizzlies Lead 2-1 - Is there any team with more intestinal fortitude than the Memphis Grizzlies? They’ve had big leads in both games two and three only to see the Thunder come back. That’s when the Grizzlies persevered though and came away with the wins.

I expect the Thunder to play with some urgency tonight in the hopes of getting out to an early lead but this Memphis team has been one of the better teams in the NBA over the last couple of months. All of the pressure in this series is on the Thunder and already Russell Westbrook is chirping about the media.

That tells me there is some doubt. Take Memphis tonight getting the 3.5 points.

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Three Incredibly Pivotal Game Three Match-Ups on Tap …

George
George

Paul George had a monster game two and he'll need a similar performance in game three in Atlanta.

In a best of seven series, every game is pivotal. Game one is important because you want a good start. Game two is important for the team trying to even the series. Game four could be for a sweep or to simply stay alive. Games five, six and seven speak for themselves.

Tonight in the National Basketball Association there are three very important game three match-ups. In each, both teams have the opportunity to go up 2-1 in their respective series. While winning game three does not always guarantee success for the series, the winner does take the series more than 50% of the time.

With that in mind, here are your games for tonight in the NBA.

Indiana (-2) at Atlanta, Series Tied 1-1 – If the Indiana Pacers somehow get through this series, they may look back to game two.  As huge as Paul George’s performance was Tuesday night, the guy who really made the difference was Luis Scola.

Scola came off the bench to hit his first four shots on his way to a 20 point, seven rebound night. Had he not done this, we could be talking about a 2-0 deficit for the Pacers.

Many will ask how the switch was flipped for Indiana, but they did just that turning the tables on Atlanta in the third quarter. They outscored the Hawks 31-13 in the period. The Hawks split their games with Indiana in Atlanta this year and I believe need to win game three in order to win the series.

The question here is whether the Pacers we saw in the second half will return tonight. I have doubts… Take the Hawks getting the two points.

Durant

Kevin Durant leads the Thunder into Memphis for a big game three.

Oklahoma City (-1) at Memphis, Series Tied 1-1 – You have to wonder if the Memphis Grizzlies realize just how lucky they are to be tied in this series. Despite looking like the better team throughout game two, they nearly let it slip away behind a Kevin Durant four-point play before finally closing out the Thunder.

Thankfully, they have the split and now return home where they are 1-1 against the Thunder this season. Memphis limited OKC to just 16 fast break points and also outscored them by 20 in the paint. That formula is needed for success.

With that in mind, look for the Thunder to get back to running a bit more which means they’ll need to control the boards which isn’t going to be easy despite beating the Griz in this department by two in game two.

I like Memphis getting the point and winning tonight at home.

LA Clippers (-1.5) at Golden State, Series Tied 1-1 – What a turn-around performance from game one to game two for the Clippers who blew the doors off the Warriors to even the series. The biggest difference was clearly the play and presence of Blake Griffin.

If you recall, Griffin spent much of game one on the bench in foul trouble. In game two, he erupted 35 points and didn’t play a second of the fourth quarter. He hit a variety of shots which is what makes defending him so difficult.

The Warriors have to realize that life without Andrew Bogut is going to be tough and they found out the hard way as Griffin went through the lane without anyone in his way. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson must do better than their combined two of nine from three-point land in order to win.

I fully expect a much better performance all-around from the Warriors tonight but I expect the Clips to escape with a tough win so take them to cover.

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Four Great Games to Open the NBA Playoffs on Saturday

DeRozan
DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan laeads the Raptors against the Nets in the first series opener in Toronto.

The National Basketball League Playoffs are finally here and the opening match-ups start tomorrow with the first game being in Canada. I’ve yet to reveal my thoughts on round winners so what I’m doing is this; As I break down the opening game in each series I’ll give you my first round winner as well.

Brooklyn (+3.5) at Toronto – These two Atlantic Division foes each won two games against each other during the regular season. The Raptors two wins came by a combined 17 points while the Nets’ two wins were by a combined six points.

Toronto comes in winners of seven of their last ten while the Nets have won five of ten entering the playoffs. This is a relatively foreign territory for the Raptors and their fans so I like them to cover in Game one.

Series Prediction: Raptors in Seven

Atlanta (+7.5) at Indiana – By now you should be fully aware of the struggles of the Pacers down the stretch. They’ve basically played at the same level as the Hawks for most of the second half of the season.

The two teams split the season series wining two games apiece. Atlanta comes in having won seven of ten while the Pacers have won just four of ten. They have won their last two games though. I like Atlanta getting the 7.5 points but I’ll take the Pacers to win the game.

Series Prediction: Pacers in Seven

Conley

Look for Mike Conley to have a big series against the Thunder.

Memphis (+6.5) at Oklahoma City – It was clear from Wednesday’s night game versus Dallas that the Memphis Grizzlies wanted no part of the Spurs in Round One. By virtue of their victory, they earned the seventh seed and a more engaging match-up with Oklahoma City.

OKC won three of four during the regular season but few teams are playing as well as the Grizzlies are right now. Kevin Durant has proven he can carry this team at times but how far remains the question. The Thunder are 6-4 in their last ten contests while the Grizzlies are just a game better at 7-3. The issue here is that Memphis has won five straight games and don’t appear to be slowing down.

Despite the impressive record, I just have never felt that the Thunder have been consistently solid all year. Durant will get his but, but will he get enough help? I love Memphis getting the points in OKC and I love them to win game one as well.

Series Prediction: Grizzlies in Six

Golden State (+6.5) at LA Clippers – This could end up being the chippiest series of the opening round as these two teams really have no love for each other. They split the season series winning two games each. LA won the first and fourth while the Warriors won the middle two. If Golden State does have Andrew Bogut it’s doubtful he’ll be 100%.

That could be a big factor considering how the Clippers like to get to the basket. One of the bigger factors in this series could be three-point shooting. While the Warriors hold just a slim advantage in that category, if the Clippers struggle to defend it, this could ultimately be the difference.

Considering that only one of the four match-ups this season was what I’d call a ‘close game,’ we could expect blowouts throughout the series. That said, I believe you’ll see a close, tense game in the Staples Center. I like the Warriors getting the points but I’ll take the Clippers to take a game one lead in the series.

Series Preditction: Clippers in Six

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Playoff Teams Are Set But There is Still Time for …

Thibodeau
Thibodeau

The Bulls' Tom Thibodeau has done another masterful job of coaching without Derrick Rose.

All 16 teams are now locked into the 2014 National Basketball Association Playoffs but there is still a little bit left to determine.

In the Eastern Conference, Toronto and Chicago are currently in a battle for the third seed. The teams are tied with identical 48-33 records and the Raptors hold the tie-breaker. Should both teams win, Toronto would get the three seed and face Washington or Charlotte in the first round.

Speaking of the Bobcats and Wizards… Wins or losses by both teams would  give the Wizards the sixth seed and relegate the Bobcats to the seventh. Should Washington lose and Charlotte win, the Wizards would open in Miami while the Bobcats would get either Chicago or Toronto.

In the Western Conference it’s pretty simple; Dallas plays at Memphis this evening. They both have identical 49-32 records. The winner will take the seventh seed and the loser will get the eighth. Dallas holds the tie-breaker but it’s a moot point because they will both finish with different records after tonight’s game.

What it means is perhaps a lesser of two evils depending upon the point of view. Memphis is desperate to avoid the San Antonio Spurs whom they are 0-4 against this season. Dallas is also 0-4 against the top-seeded Spurs but has a 2-1 advantage over the Oklahoma City Thunder who will be the second seed.

The Grizzlies are 1-3 against OKC this season. Basically, both teams want to avoid the Spurs and that’s why I think you’ll see a pretty competitive game tonight in Memphis.

Note: The Clippers can catch the Thunder for the two seed in the West with a win tonight and a Thunder loss.

Chicago (+1) at Charlotte – The Bulls and Bobcats have each won eight of their last ten games. Charlotte has won two straight while the Bulls won their last outing. The Bobcats are 24-16 at home while the Bulls are just two games above .500 on the road.

Chicago is 3-0 this season against the Bobcats and I like them for the season sweep tonight.

DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan has been a huge reason why the Raptors are headed to the playoffs.

Toronto (NL) at New York – The Knicks have officially entered the Phil Jackson Era as their hopes of making the playoffs were dashed earlier this week. For Toronto, it’s about playoff positioning as I explained earlier.

The Raptors are a surprising four games above .500 on the road while the Knicks are four games under .500 at home. Toronto has won two in a row and eight of ten while the Knicks have also won two straight but are just 6-4 in their last ten.

New York is 1-2 against the Raptors this season but did defeat them last week in Toronto. Keep a close on any late moves from Toronto because your wagering may depend on whether starters are expected to play much and I expect that they will. Take the Raptors to win on the road.

Washington(NL) at Boston – The Wizards and Celtics will tip at 8pmET which means Washington will have a good idea in the second half of what Charlotte has done against the Bulls. That game tips at seven. You will need to really factor that in if wagering on this game.

Boston has pretty much cashed in the season going 2-8 in their last ten games. The Wizards have won three in a row and seven of their last ten.  They are 2-1 against the Celtics and won earlier this season in Boston. All things considered, take Washington.

Dallas (+4) at Memphis – As I layed out above, neither team wants to play the Spurs in round one. The Grizzlies appear to be getting hot at the right time having won four straight and six of ten. Dallas has been good too though winning seven of ten.

I like the hotter team playing at home. Take the Griz to cover.

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Good Match-Up Between Memphis and Toronto Plus Other NBA …

Duncan
Duncan

Tim Duncan and the red-hot Spurs host the Lakers tonight in San Antonio.

Over the course of an 82 game season, there are any number of storylines that surround the National Basketball Association. With less than 20 games remaining, the stop story now focuses on who can make the playoffs and who can solidify their playoff positions.

The four games I’ve selected tonight deal with both of those scenarios and offer spreads from even to as much as one team entering a game on the road as an 18-point favorite. Enough of my yaking, let’s get to it.

LA Lakers (+17.5) at San Antonio – The Spurs stayed hot on Wednesday night with a solid win over slumping Portland. It was their eighth straight victory and ninth in their last ten games. Depending upon the outcome of the Thunder’s game last night, they’ll have either a half game lead or game and a half lead over Oklahoma City for the Western Conference top spot.

Ironically, the Lakers were the opponent for the Thunder last night. Regardless of how they did, they’ll come to San Antonio with tired legs and little to play for. The Lakers have announced that Kobe Bryant will be shut down for the season and speculation is ramping up about the future of Mike D’Antoni as the head coach.

I love the Spurs here to cover.

James

LeBron has become kind of ordinary following his 61 point outburst two weeks ago.

Denver (+10) at Miami – Miami enters this one coming off a loss to the Brooklyn Nets on their home court. Miami is now 0-3 against the surging Nets this season.  Miami has won just six of their last ten and a small dip in performance couldn’t have come at a worse time.

One seed Indiana is struggling big time and the Heat could have been taking advantage by winning some games. Should the Pacers be able to hold off Miami for the top spot in the East, this is the stretch that will come back to haunt Miami.

The Nuggets come to South Beach off a win Wednesday night in Orlando. It was just their third win in their last ten games. Being ten games out of the final playoff spot in the West with 18 games to play doesn’t bode well for Denver.

I look for Miami to get back on track a bit tonight and I expect them to cover.

Memphis (EVEN) at Toronto – These two teams are currently playoff-bound as they hook up in Canada. The Grizzlies have played well for a good stretch now and because of that they are the current seventh seed in the West.

Both the Raptors and the Griz have won seven of their last ten games with Memphis having won their last four in a row. While the Raptors would have to really screw things up to miss the playoffs, their more important concern right now might be hanging on to the Atlantic Division lead.

With Brooklyn playing better and better, the Raptors have just a three game lead over the Nets. Memphis can relate because right now it’s them, Dallas and Phoenix essentially fighting for just two spots.

Indiana (-16) at Philadelphia – You thought I would give up on the Sixers? No way! Losers of 18 straight games now, Philadelphia hosts the Indiana Pacers who have stumbled of late and might be primed for an upset.

Well, that’s how you have to think if you’re the Sixers I guess. One of the bigger issues plaguing the Pacers during their recent 6-4 stretch is poor defense. This game should provide them the perfect opportunity to get that back on track. At the very least they can feel good about themselves I suppose.

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Big NBA Slate Offers Good Games Including Warriors at …

LeBron

 

LeBron

LeBron James and Erik Spoelstra are pursuing a three-peat in Miami and that continues with Brooklyn in town tonight.

The National Basketball Association has a bunch of games on tap for tonight and I’ve selected five of them for your wagering enjoyment. The big one features two hot clubs in Golden State and the LA Clippers.

Brooklyn (+8) at Miami – The Heat were able to end their little three-game losing streak with a win over Washington Monday night. The victory also closed them to within a game of Eastern Conference leader Indiana.

Brooklyn has won two straight games including an important one over division leader Toronto. The Nets have won seven of ten and can still catch the Raptors for the division lead.

Keep an eye on LeBron James who since his 61 point-outburst nine days ago is struggling to score. That has to change at some point but will it be tonight? I like Miami to win but give me the Nets and the points.

Kings

Things haven't gone real well in Sacremento this year but a win is possible in Philly tonight.

Sacramento (-8.5) at Philadelphia – If you’re wondering why I continue to feature the 76ers a lot lately its’ because I feel I have an obligation to follow them until they break this losing streak. Philly has lost 17-straight games and is now just two games ahead of Milwaukee for the worst record in the NBA.

So bad have the Sixers been that the ugly ‘tanking’ word has surfaced and why not? They are losing by well over ten points per game and seem to have little ambition.

The Kings aren’t substantially better in terms of conference position but they have been slightly more competitive than Philly. I have to believe the players in the Philadelphia locker room have to be beyond frustrated. Whether they win I can’t say, but I love them getting 8.5 at home.

Portland (+6) at San Antonio – The Spurs have now caught the Oklahoma City Thunder for the top seed in the Western Conference. They lead OKC by a half game. Winners of six straight and nine of their last ten, San Antonio appears to be peaking at the right time.

Since Portland’s hot start, they’ve come back to Earth a bit. They are just 4.5 games out of the top spot in the West but they would have to jump four teams to get there and I don’t see that happening. The Blazers have lost two straight and I think we’ll see that extended tonight in Texas. I like the Spurs to cover.

Memphis (-4) at New Orleans – The Grizzlies have been pushing to enter the playoff race for some time and it has paid off for the time being. They are now one half games ahead of Phoenix who has fallen into the ninth spot.

Despite winning three in a row, the Pelicans will not be joining the Grizzlies in the playoff push. They are 10.5 games behind the Griz and there are only about 17 games remaining.

Memphis comes to the Big Easy having won two in a row and has a solid road record. I like Memphis to cover this evening.

Golden State (+5.5) at LA Clippers – This is clearly the game of the night and maybe of the week in the NBA. The host Clippers have won eight straight games while the Warriors are on a four-game streak. Both teams have won eight of their last ten.

Both of these teams should be in the playoffs and they are extremely close to where they could be playing each other in round one. Scoring will not be an issue for either team as they are both well above 100 points per game. Defensively, Golden State has an advantage and were this game in Oakland I’d really like that.

It’s not however so give me the Clippers to cover.

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Hot Teams Highlight NBA Action Tonight

Irving
Irving

Kyrie Irving is playing very well even as his future in Cleveland is up for debate.

This is that point in the National Basketball Association season where seemingly anything can happen and when it does it often looks strange. Take into account the Cleveland Cavaliers who are suddenly in shouting distance of the playoff chase. Take the Dallas Mavericks who most left for dead this season. Marc Cuban has to be thrilled where his team is not to mention the retirement of David Stern.

Both of these teams and several more are on my slate for tonight’s picks in the NBA.

Utah (+3.5) at Cleveland – Break up the Cleveland Cavaliers!! Two nights after beating Oklahoma City by ten at their place, the Cavs return home for a very winnable game against the Utah Jazz. Don’t look now but Cleveland is only 4.5 games behind eighth seed Atlanta in the Eastern Conference.

Cleveland has won seven of ten but hosts a Jazz team that has won two in a row and has gone a respectable 5-5 over their last ten games. With rumors swirling about Kyrie Irving’s future in Cleveland, he went out poured in 30 against the Thunder. Utah is getting some points tonight but I like the hot Cavs to cover.

Kendrick Perkins

Kendrick Perkins is out six weeks. What impact will his absence have on the Thunder?

Memphis (+5.5) at Oklahoma City – The Grizzlies have climbed to within one half game of Western Conference eighth seed Phoenix and now they travel to Northwest Division leader Oklahoma City.

Memphis, who has won six of ten, might be catching the Thunder at the right time. OKC is just 5-5 in their last ten games and has lost three straight. In other words, they haven’t won since before the All-Star break.

At some point, the Thunder will break out especially with Russell Westbrook back in action but they have lost Kendrick Perkins to a groin injury. I like the Thunder tonight to win but I’m taking Memphis getting the 5.5.

Golden State (-5) at New York – The Warriors continue their tour of the East Coast with a trip to the world’s most famous arena Madison Square Garden. I expected the Warriors to play better than they did in a 20-point loss to Chicago Wednesday night and I think that will motivate them this evening.

It’s hard to really know where to begin with the New York Knicks considering the season they’ve had. They lost on a buzzer-beater to Dallas on Monday night and were in Miami last evening where they were blown out 108-82 by LeBron “Batman” James who scored 30.

Despite giving five points tonight I like Golden State to cover especially with the Knicks coming off a game last night in Florida.

Chicago (+4.5) at Dallas – The relentless Bulls have won eight of their last ten outings and have won two straight. They are trying to reel in the Toronto Raptors for the third seed in the Eastern Conference but Toronto has maintained their one game lead over the Bulls by winning three straight.

The Mavs have won four straight games and are solidifying their position in the Western Conference playoff race. They currently sit in sixth, but are three and a half games back of the fourth-seeded Clippers.

This game should be very entertaining considering how well these two teams are currently playing. The Bulls are two games below .500 on the road while the Mavericks have a very nice 19-9 record at home.

I like Chicago getting those 4.5 points tonight in Big D.

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