Here are my picks for Saturday’s NBA Playoff Games. Lots of these series are getting very interesting. Charlotte gets their first home game against Orlando, as do the Bucks. Portland and Oklahoma try to even up their respective series after winning one out of the first 3 games.
Orlando Magic @ Charlotte Bobcats (+2) (4-24: 2:00 PM ET – TNT): It almost seems wrong to take the Bobcats, but I’m not letting the first two outcomes sway me. I still think Charlotte matches up fairly well with the Magic, and playing their first ever playoff game at home should get them pumped to play, and maybe start out the game not getting behind big early. That has been the difference, so I’ll take the Bobcats to start better and upset the Magic.
Phoenix Suns (+1.5) @ Portland Trail Blazers (4-24: 4:30 PM ET – TNT): I think Phoenix has the Blazers figured out a bit, and playing away from home isn’t going to hurt them. They won easily two nights ago, and the Blazers aren’t getting Brandon Roy or either of their two centers back anytime soon, so they’ll continue to struggle. If Jason Richardson continues his stellar play, the Suns will win by double digits again. More on NBA playoffs odds for Suns V Trail Blazers.
Atlanta Hawks (+1) @ Milwaukee Bucks (4-24: 7:00 PM ET – ESPN): Playing in Milwaukee doesn’t mean Bogut will heal miraculously – so just like the last couple games, this is Atlanta’s to lose. I see the Hawks sweeping the Bucks.
LA Lakers (+2) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (4-24: 9:30 PM ET – ESPN): The Lakers lost last time out despite Durant struggling from the floor, again. He made some really big shots down the stretch. but his teammates really helped him out. Russell Westbrook had about the sickest playoff dunk I’ve seen this year as he dunked all over every Laker in the history of the franchise. But again, if the Lakers just go to their bigs, they should win fairly easily. I’m hoping I’m wrong, and I’m hoping I’ll be wrong every time I ever pick L.A. but I have a feeling the Lake-show goes up 3-1 in this one.
I managed a split on Tuesday, dropping the Lakers and Blazers spreads (though I warned you all about the Blazers) and winning pretty easily with the Hawks and Celtics – and I’m feeling really good about that Celtics game. Here are my picks for both of Wednesday’s game 2′s. Enjoy!
Charlotte Bobcats (+9) @ Orlando Magic (4-21: 7:00 PM ET – TNT): I wouldn’t be stunned if Charlotte pulled off the upset in Orlando in game 2. They played absolutely terrible in Game 1, and they still came back to make it interesting. They have the bigs to match up with Dwight Howard down low, the have a solid back court and a great coach. Nine points is a lot, even against a Magic team with all those ways to beat you. I think there is a good chance at an upset, but I’ll take the 9 points just to be safe.
San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks (-3.5) (4-21: 9:30 PM ET – TNT): When I stare in the crystal ball I just see a much better team that happens to be on the better side of the match-up game as well. Sometimes you can get a better team in a tough match-up situation, but the Mavericks have the bigs to give Tim Duncan some trouble, they have an unguardable guy in Nowitzki, they have a surplus of scorers in Dirk, Butler, and Terry, and they have a point guard that runs a team as well as anyone in the league. They are playing at home after thieving a win last time out – I say they start 2-0 against the Spurs, and cover the small spread at home.
The Playoffs got underway yesterday, and every single home team won while half of the games weren’t even close. The Chicago Bulls were down big for a long time before getting it down to 7 with a few minutes to go, but nobody thought Cleveland was in trouble. Denver and Utah were keeping it close before the Nuggets went all in during the 4th quarter and won the pot, 126-113. Miami also drew a blank in the 4th quarter and lost to the Celtics. And Atlanta made it 4 favorites in 4 games as they handled the Milwaukee Bucks in blowout fashion. Hopefully we have better games today…
Oklahoma Thunder (+7.5) @ L.A. Lakers: The Lakers are a good team, probably not the best in the league anymore, maybe not even in the Western Conference, but they are good. They should beat the Thunder – however, Oklahoma plays tough, and I certainly expect them to take a couple from L.A. before eventually bowing out. I think these games will be close, and if the lines continue to be in the 7-10 range then I’m going to be taking the dog a lot.
Charlotte Bobcats (+11) @ Orlando Magic: Charlotte has played good teams tough all season long. They have the length and toughness up front to make things tough on Dwight Howard. They have good depth and are coached very well. Orlando might be the deepest team in the playoffs, but this series will be tight, and double digits is too many to give.
San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks (-4.5): Dallas has smacked San Antonio around lately – to the tune of 6 wins in 7 games (8 of the last 10) – now a few of those were playoff games, and the Mavs won 3 of 4 during this most recent regular season. They won all 3 against the spread, and with the addition of Brendon Haywood I think they just got tougher for the Spurs to handle. I think Duncan and Parker and Ginobli are getting close to their last run together, and I think that will make this series more interesting – they definitely have the will. However, I like Dallas to come out and grab game one convincingly.
Portland Trail Blazers (+9.5) @ Phoenix Suns: The Blazers’ slow it down style should keep a lot of these games close. They have beaten Phoenix in 4 of the last 5 match-ups. Now, Brandon Roy is out, which takes a big punch away from their repetoire, but this is a fairly deep team, and don’t think for a minute that they are just going to come out and give up. They’ve fought all year despite loads of injuries, and they have some fill-in guards that can really score the basketball. But the key is their slower style, and a 9.5 point spread seems a lot in a big emotional game 1. I’ll take the dogs.
Looking for some playoff positioning? Looking for a team that needs a win to guarantee they’re in? Wednesday is the last regular season night in the NBA, and there’s plenty of action to pay attention to. Here are my favorite games heading in. Some of the games don’t have lines out yet – so I’ve listed the difference I expect – that should help with lines.
San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks (OFF) (4-14: 8:00 PM ET): The Spurs could move into the 6 spot if they win and Portland loses – that would be an advantage because it would mean they don’t have to play either the Lakers or the Mavs in the 1st Round. Both teams have played good basketball down the stretch, and the Spurs are 8-2, as good as anyone in the West over their last 10 games. But I think Dallas wins, and I think they win by 6. The Mavericks are the better team, and I think the Spurs will rest some of their old men in hopes of rejuvenation heading into the playoffs. Without Timmy and Manu, no way the Spurs win.
Memphis Grizzlies @ Oklahoma Thunder (OFF) (4-14: 8:00 PM ET – ESPN): The Thunder have nothing to play for, but I’m not sure that gives them a disadvantage. The Grizzlies are playing for a .500 record in a year everyone thought they’d be a bottom feeder, and I know they would like to be a .500 team. But Kevin Durrant will be in fine form, locking up his scoring title – and the Thunder will be trying to put a tough finish to the season behind them and gain some momentum headed into the playoffs this weekend. I’ll give them the nod – I think the Thunder win by 7.
Chicago Bulls @ Charlotte Bobcats (+2) (4-14: 8:00 PM ET) I know the Bulls are hot coming into the final game, and they certainly have some momentum. What else? The Bobcats don’t have much to play for – they are almost surely in as the 7-seed. That being said, I think Charlotte comes out to beat the Bulls, and I think they do. Chicago has played well, and they need this to get in, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they freeze up a little – and a Larry Brown coached team isn’t going to give you anything for free.
Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz (OFF) (4-14: 10:30 PM ET – ESPN): After beating the snot out of the Nuggets on Tuesday Night, the Suns have assured themselves home court advantage in Round 1 of the playoffs. The Jazz would fall from 3rd to 5th if the Suns won in Utah while the Suns would then move up to the 3 spot, and Denver would be gifted home court as the 4-seed. The bottom line is that Utah plays too well at home and Phoenix just had to beat the Nuggets last night. The 2nd game of a back to back should make the difference here, as the Jazz win by 7 or 8.
LA Lakers @ Charlotte Bobcats (+3.5) (3-5: 7:00 PM ET): The Lakers went ahead and lost in an overtime game last night, and now they have to go up against a Bobcats team that is usually pretty good at home. I say usually because the Cats have been in a little slump and have seemingly slipped from that sure thing playoff picture they were a part of. Now they still have plenty of opportunities to get to the post-season, they’ll just have to turn that ship back around to get it done.
The Lakers aren’t only coming off the 2nd of a back to back, but and overtime loss to boot – in a game where Kobe went for 39 and shot the ball very well. If the Bobcats are going to get a huge win, a statement win against a good team that could get them moving forward again, this is the time. I like them to win at home, making the Bobcats at +3.5 a pretty solid bet in my eyes.
Golden State Warriors @ Atlanta Hawks (-13) (3-5: 7:30 PM ET): The Warriors have been blasted by good Eastern Conference teams, and I don’t see a reason why that won’t happen in Atlanta on Friday Night. Atlanta can really run with the best of them, and they are very solid defensively as well. They are just efficient, something Golden State is not.
Now, the Warriors can come out hot as can be and stick with Atlanta, or anybody in the league for that matter – I mean, when they are hitting it, this team has no conscience. But chances of that happening are low, especially because the Hawks out-athlete the Warriors at almost every position and they are better basketball players to boot. 13 is a lot, but I have to run with the Hawks at home.
Friday Night’s Basketball action might not have a Celtics/Cavs or Lakers/Nuggets feel, but there’s a couple good games that can grab my attention. The first of my two games of the night sees two of the “next best” teams in their respective conferences. The Lakers rule the West’s popularity contest and the Cavs (or Celtics, or even Magic) often sit atop the East’s, but there’s reason to believe the Mavericks and Hawks have what it takes to reach the NBA Finals. The Charlotte Bobcats and Memphis Grizzlies are both looking for a birth into the group of 16, and while both have had great times this year, they have seen plenty of struggles as well. Both need this win on Friday Night.
Dallas Mavericks (+3.5) @ Atlanta Hawks (2-26: 7:00 PM ET – ESPN): I know the Mavericks have gotten a lot better, but the Hawks are tough. Still, I think Brenden Heywood and Dirk Nowitzki end up giving the smaller front line in Atlanta a tough time. Two legit 7 footers will give a lot of teams trouble, but now that Dirk doesn’t have to defend the paint as much, things are going to get easier for the Mavs. I like Atlanta, and they certainly have a punchers chance, as they are probably the better team right now – but the Mavs have a lot to play with, and I think they are a tough match-up for the Hawks.
Charlotte Bobcats @ Memphis Grizzlies (-3.5) (2-26: 8:00 PM ET): The deciding factor for me in this game is the fact that it’s being played outside of Charlotte – and away from home, you never know what Stephen Jackson is going to do – that cat is a gong show. He’s also the best player in Charlotte. Tough combo, I guess – as the former Warrior, and Pacer, and Spur, breathed some playoff hopes into a franchise without any history outside of the regular season. But he’s been up and down, and he’s tough to rely on, and his troubles away from home certainly go with the Bobcats struggles. The Bobcats haven’t been playing great lately, and I think Zach Randolph ends up doing bad things to Charlotte’s front line. That’s enough for me to go Grizzlies at home.
Cleveland Cavaliers (-3.5) @ Charlotte Bobcats (2-19: 7:00 PM ET): I like Cleveland to get it together and beat Charlotte on the road, despite the Bobcats very solid play at home, and the fact that Cleveland is playing in the second game of a back to back. Cleveland lost to Denver by 2 points last night despite LeBron James going for 43 points 13 assists and 15 rebounds. I have a feeling Antawn Jamison will be playing for the Cavs and I just think Cleveland is the type of team to step up after a tough loss. Tired, maybe? But this is a team that should be a little rejuvenated after the All-Star Break, and getting more minutes from Mo Williams and having Jamison should be just enough.
Dallas Mavericks @ Orlando Magic (-6) (2-19: 9:00 PM ET – ESPN): I think it’s games like this that made Mark Cuban and the rest of the Dallas Mavericks’ brass go after a guy like Heywood. Getting Caron Butler in the trade from Washington is what many people saw as the biggest reason for that trade, and that very well may be – but Brenden is one of the best post defenders in the league, and dealing with big posts was never a strength of the Mavericks. If Heywood can neutralize Howard a little bit, the Mavs might be able to find a win in Orlando. However, my gut tells me to stick with the home team in this one. The Magic have the talent to beat up on anyone, and the hype Dallas is getting after the trade definitely won’t allow the Magic to sleep on them. I like Orlando to cover at home.