Atlanta Hawks VS. Orlando Magic – NBA Playoff Pick & Preview: I don’t think they’re ever going to get it. The Atlanta Hawks are a match-up nightmare for Dwight Howard and company. Josh Smith and Al Horford both do well against whatever the Magic throw at them. Unless the Hawks get in a ton of foul trouble early, this game will continue to be a close, down-to-the-wire game where 8 points is just way too much to give up. I’m all about the dogs in this one!
The thing is, I’ve been this way since before the series started, putting everybody on watch for the Hawks to pull the upset… LOOK HERE! Now I didn’t flat out pick the Hawks to win the series, I actually thought the Magic might get it in 6, but I did label them “the best payout for an actual chance to win that you’ll get with an underdog.” If you were there to gamble, you’re looking pretty good right about now, with just under 5x your investment if the Hawks win any of the next 3 games. I like your (our) chances!
Right now, I’m looking for the Hawks to end this one on the road – and even if they don’t, a close game is most likely to take place. The Magic just don’t have that pull-away personality, and the Hawks play the right kind of ball to keep it close.
Stick with the points here, and the team that is currently 6-1 against the Magic over their last 7 games this season.
Atlanta Hawks (+7.5) @ Orlando Magic
New Orleans Hornets VS. LA Lakers Free NBA Playoff Prediction: Alright, now I’ve previewed a few of the opening playoff series’ in the NBA pretty accurately, if you don’t believe me, you can check it out HERE.
If you are happy about taking my word for it, then here are the match-ups I feel pretty good about…
I picked the Celtics to win easily, despite many pundits claiming the Knicks’ chances to be grand – and while Boston did get some injury help, they did sweep the Knicks right out of the playoffs. I flat out warned Spurs backers, “If Mike Conley can hit shots, and if Marc Gasol can cause some problems with his size, look for an 8-seed beating a 1-seed!” I said the Portland/Dallas series would be wild, and it’s at least going 6, maybe 7 if Portland can hold serve at home in Game 6. I thought Denver and Oklahoma would be tough, and while it certainly has been close every single game, the Nuggets just got their first win last night as the Thunder are up 3-1. I thought the Heat might drop a game, but easily handle the 76ers. I don’t know if it’s been easy, but if it goes 6, I’ll be surprised.
And then there’s the other two series. I was pretty sure that Chicago would role through the Pacers, I listed them “the biggest long shot underdog of the NBA playoffs”. Now, I said they could certainly grab a game, and I might end up being right about that, the Bulls could easily walk away winning the series 4-1, but this series has been way closer than I expected. The young Pacers are staying right with the Bulls in just about every game – the difference has been the Bulls have Derrick Rose in the final seconds, and the Pacers don’t.
And then there’s my last “gimmie” pick – the Lakers to dominate the Hornets. I actually wrote this as my write up, “Fat chance? No chance. Chris Paul is good, but he’s had better seasons, and I don’t think he’s at the top of his game. Outside of him, the Lakers are better at every single position, and it’s not close very often. If the Lakers don’t sweep this one, I will be stunned.”
Color me stunned. Now to my credit, I got this preview completely wrong from top to bottom, so I have nothing to grab onto and point out to show where I went wrong. But I’m going to say that Chris Paul is good, and while he may have had better seasons, he is at the top of his game. He’s a 6′ guard dominating a game against a team full of length. It’s awesome.
I don’t see how I can go away from the Hornets now, now that they’ve made me look so wrong. CP3 for president! Plus, I think 10.5 is WAY TOO MANY points to give a Hornets team that has been playing great. I’ll take the points with both my Tuesday picks!
New Orleans Hornets (+10.5) @ LA Lakers
The Trail Blazers lost by 8 in Game 1, but the contest was tighter than the final score insists. The only guy in Portland that played well was LaMarcus Aldridge, and he will continue to do work on the Mavericks’ bigs. I do, however, expect bigger and better things from the likes of Wesley Matthews (1 for 3 in Game 1), Gerald Wallace (4-13 in Game 1), and Brandon Roy (1-7 in Game 1). One of those guys will have a big game in Dallas on Tuesday Night, and that will make all the difference.
The Blazers’ length gave big Dirk some trouble for much of the game, as he went just 7-20 from the floor. A handful of tough foul calls really helped the Mavericks out as Dallas went 25-29 from the free throw line compared to Portland’s 9 for 13. Dallas also went all in on the three, shooting 19 and hitting 10. That’s a pretty impressive number that almost surely won’t be matched in Game 2. By the end of the season, Dallas wasn’t a good team, hardly ever beating a solid opponent, getting their wins playing the bottom of the barrel.
The Trail Blazers are very good and as healthy as they’ve been all season long. They will get more from a couple key players, and the Mavericks won’t be as hot from beyond the arc. It’s not every day that Jason Kidd drops 6 bombs on you. I’ll take the road dog in this one.
Portland Trail Blazers (+3.5) @ Dallas Mavericks
Chicago Bulls @ Miami Heat NBA Pick: The Heat have been on watch lately, and not “elite basketball by Miami’s new Big 3” – more on par with watching a train wreck because you can’t keep your eyes off of it. That may be a little drastic, but after losing three straight games, and 4 out of 5, the Heat have tumbled off that high pedestal they climbed on just before the All-Star Break.
Even worse than losing has been the way the Heat have lost. Against Chicago, New York, and Orlando (all three losses recently) they were up late in every game. This Heat team just can’t finish. They really went cold against New York after being ahead all night. They were up by 20+ against Orlando before allowing them to get back in the game. And as if it couldn’t get any worse – the San Antonio Spurs came out and jumped up 20 from the get-go, stomping on the Heat and never letting them back in the game to even sniff a chance. Something the Heat have been unable to do all season long. Their only win during that 5 game stretch was against Washington – and the Wizards were down just 4 points headed into the final quarter. The Heat aren’t what we thought they were, and something tells me we won’t be letting them off the hook.
As far as Chicago, I think they’re the best team in the Eastern Conference, maybe in the NBA, and I expect them to give the Heat all kinds of trouble. The Heat may have better players, but the Bulls have better pieces that make a team full. Rose is the best ball handler on the floor, Noah the best post defender, Boozer the best post scorer, and Deng might be the only wing that doesn’t need the ball to be successful. Sounds like good pieces to me. The Heat have 2 guys that do basically the same thing, create and distribute, but score first – and while they might be 2 of the best players in the NBA, I’m not sure they fit perfectly on the team. Bosh doesn’t defend like Noah and can’t score on the block like Boozer – he’s more of a jump shooting big man.
I Like the Bulls in this one.
Chicago Bulls (+5) @ Miami Heat (abc) (3/5)
New Orleans Hornets @ New York Knicks NBA Point Spread Pick: New York is going to be up and down as they figure each other out, but losing Chauncey Billups to an injury (unsure of the severity, but it’s worth checking into) will hurt their chances of beating anybody – even a New Orleans Hornets team that has lost 8 of their last 11, including a 96-90 loss at Toronto last night. Everybody is going to get up to play the Knicks for a few reasons – they just got Carmelo in the biggest trade of the season, and New York doesn’t play defense so everybody coming in is trying to score a 120 points on one of the worst defenses in the league.
This game will be interesting for a couple reasons, though – one is both these teams are looking for playoff bids in their respective conferences, and another is because Chris Paul is the third piece of the threesome that “wanted to go play together in New York to form their own Big 3” – I’m sure many remember the talk about Chris Paul’s speech at Anthony’s wedding this summer, and so far two parts of that speech have come true. Could a 3rd happen?
I like the road team in this one. The Knicks lost a tough battle with Orlando last night, and while their loss wasn’t nearly as bad as the Hornets loss to Toronto, the loss of Chauncey is a huge one. I expect David West to score a lot of points from the high and low post, Chris Paul to run around and distribute freely, and Trevor Ariza to do as good a job as anybody can do on Carmelo Anthony.
Chauncey’s loss is the biggest reason, but I expect the Hornets to turn it around in their marquee match-up with the new Knicks.
New Orleans Hornets (+3.5) @ New York Knicks (3/2)
New York Knicks VS San Antonio Spurs: Free NBA Pick: After going crazy for a while there, the Knicks have lost 6 of their last 10 games, including a current 3-game losing streak. It makes since that things are averaging out with their average points for being less than a point more than their average points against. But they have big-time firepower. And Staudemire always beats up on Tim Duncan. The Spurs have surprised a lot of people this season, as they currently hold the best record in the business at 35-6. Only the Celtics are close to that mark, with their own 31-9 record. Manu Ginobli has moved to the starting line-up and he’s playing lights out this season. Tony Parker has also been impressive, but the Spurs continue to get big help off the bench, and they hold the best +/- in the NBA at +8 per game.
New York lost again on Wednesday, this time in a mildly embarrassing fashion to the under .500 Houston Rockets. It was in Houston, a tough place for NY to travel, but they ended up on the wrong end of a 15-point game as the Rockets slightly out-rebounded, out-shot, and turned the ball over less than the Knicks.
San Antonio won again on Wednesday, beating the Raptors by 9. That victory was their 7th in a row, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down. Against a team lacking front court beef, like Toronto (and like the Knicks I guess), Dejuan Blair had his best game of the season, grabbing 15 rebounds and scoring 22 points. The Spurs has 7 guys with 8 points or more, 5 of those guys in double figures. They continue to find success from many different players.
The Knicks won this match-up earlier in the season, and Amare’ Staudemire has always been a tough match-up for Tim Duncan and the Spurs, mostly from Amare’s days with the Suns. I think Amare and the Knicks will do what they usually do and step up to play the elite-level Spurs. 9 points is a lot in many ways – so I’ll take the underdogs in this one.
New York Knicks (+9) @ San Antonio Spurs (ESPN) (1/21)
Here it is, one game for all the glory. It’s really a nice thing to see, a do or die situation in the NBA Finals – for both teams. How rare are these things? Really rare, so rare in fact that I don’t even care to look up any numbers about the rarity of the situation because I know it’s very rare and that’s good enough for me. This is what makes many playoff situations great, that last game with everything on the line, both teams playing at their best, do or die.
So far, the Lakers and Celtics have been pretty even. The road team has won a game in their opponents’ house, and each has taken two at their own place. This game is being played in L.A. where the Lakers bench seems to do better work than the Celtics’ reserves. Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics best post defender, has been ruled out for this contest after spraining all the CL’s in his knee area – and that guy has huge knees. So yes, this game looks to be favoring the Lakers.
But the bench for L.A. played so well a couple nights ago – can they really do up the Celtics twice in a row? Can Ron Artest hit pull up threes in his defender’s face? Can he hit fadeaway jumpers that rattle home? Will Pau Gasol flirt with a triple double? Will Rajon Rondo shy away from the paint after getting dome shotted by Artest in Game 6? Will Paul Pierce struggle to find his touch? And what about Ray Allen? Record setting Ray-Ray and his beautiful J… Where has that been this series? Did he use up all his good ju-ju in Game 2?
I want to take the Celtics, I really do. 7 points is an awful lot to give in a Game 7 situation, but I guess I give a lot of credit to Kendrick Perkins. If the big man was in a green and white uniform tonight, I’d be taking Boston to cover in a close game. But without Perkins defending Pau Gasol and/or Andrew Bynum, that post up game advantage gets just that much better for LA.
If I was picking the Celtics, it would be an “against all odds” pick. They have an injury problem, playing on the road, struggling offensively, on their last legs – nothing is looking good. But I know they’re fighters, and they certainly have their back against the wall. But L.A. should win this game. They have better, younger players. I’ll take them to cover the touchdown spread.
Boston Celtics @ L.A. Lakers (-7)
There’s a lot to like about the Lakers here – they are the better team with better players playing closer to their prime. They’ve mangled their way through to wins in 2 of the first 3 games, and they don’t have any big mismatches that should kill them in any game of this series – but this is sports, and in sports, sometimes the team with a stronger will and more to play for ends up with the W. That’s what I expect to happen tonight.
The Celtics have been one heck of a resilient bunch all post-season long. They are tough as nails, and if they focus on staying out of foul trouble and blocking out, they are as close to even as anybody in basketball gets to the Lakers.
There are lots of reasons to use in defense of both teams. One could say, the only reason the Celtics won Game 2 was that Ray Allen had one of the best deep-shooting nights in NBA Finals history. Then again, Celtics fans could easily say, the only reason you won Game 3 was that one of the best shooters in the history of the game went 0-13. Same goes for foul trouble for Kobe in Game 2, and foul trouble for Ray Allen and Paul Pierce in Game’s 1 and 3. Always full of excuses.
What I see as the bottom line is Boston’s need to win. The Lakers might pretend that they need this game, but when it comes right down to it, they don’t. They are good closers, no doubt, but they haven’t been killers during the post-season – they’ve played a gaggle of close games against each opponent they’ve faced, and while the Celtics don’t score as easily as the Lakers do, they can hit big shots, as they have proven.
I like Boston to will one out and even up the series at 2 games a piece tonight in Boston.
Pau Gasol for LA and Paul Pierce for Boston: If Pau has 25 and 12 (or more) the Lakers most likely walk away with a win in Game 4. If Paul Pierce scores 25 or more on close to 50 percent shooting, the Celtics even it up. I’m betting on the guy with a complete first name.
LA Lakers @ Boston Celtics (-3)
Since the Boston Celtics smoked the Lakers in the final game of the 2008 NBA Finals, the Lakers have gotten the better of Boston three times in four chances. The last three games have been decided by three total points, and what else would you expect from a rivalry that brings out the best in both teams?
In these playoffs, nobody has been better than these two teams – from beginning to end. The Lakers had to deal with a tough-nosed, upset-minded Oklahoma Thunder team in Round 1 – but that might have been their toughest foe. They’ve had close games throughout the 2nd and 3rd round, and they’ve had three buzzer beaters go their way to pull out victory – but they’ve been the best team out West, and that’s why they’re here.
Boston had a tough path to the Finals. They drew LeBron James and the Cavs in Round 2, but they only needed 6 to oust the King and his minions, possibly sending LeBron out of Cleveland with fat loss. After that they matched up with Orlando and beat up on them pretty good as well. Nobody gave Boston a chance heading into the playoffs, and almost everyone who knows anything about basketball would have bet on either the Cavs or Magic taking the Eastern Conference’s ticket to the finals – but here they are. And they deserve to be here, they were the best team in the East throughout the post season – they didn’t catch fire against Orlando, or stumble by the Magic – nope, they owned those two teams.
So now we have Lakers VS Celtics: Boston and L.A.: Green against Gold: Hollywood up against History: Offensive genius and Defensive power. This should be a great series, right? I sure hope so – but I don’t think so.
I want Boston to shove it down LA’s throat. If they swept the Lake-show, that’s would be wonderful. If they could out-tough them, out-hustle them, and just flat out-play them – that would be fantastic – but I don’t see it that way. I always make predictions, sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong – but I own it. To start this series, I think the Lakers win. I think they take the series in 6 games, maybe 5. For the record, I’ll take the Lakers in 6. For my hopes and wishes, go Boston go!!!
I like the LA Lakers to come out and take Game 1 from Boston. I like LA to cover that 5.5 point spread, even though the last 3 match-ups between these two have been decided by a point a piece.
Boston Celtics @ LA Lakers (-5.5)
Despite the money coming in on Phoenix to cover as dogs, the spread has actually gone the way of the Suns – or at least the way Suns’ bettors would appreciate. I want to see it, I want to see a Suns upset, and good game on the road against a Lakers team that has been outplayed in two straight contests. But it’s tough for me to see.
I think it’s ridiculous and I can’t find a reason why, but the truth of the matter is benches play much better at home than they do on the road. I’ve never quite understood it, but it’s almost infallible. The problem for Phoenix is how much they depend on their bench. They have great players in their starting line-up, but they need big games from at least 2 bench players to beat the Lakers. Will that come from Channing Frye, Barbosa, Goran Dragic, or Dudley? They need those points, and they need them bad. The problem is, those guys don’t show up in L.A. If they want me to be wrong, if they are going to win, they will need to do something they haven’t done on the road much during these playoffs.
Kobe Bryant has been too good, and the Lakers bench also plays much better at home. If they can just keep pace with the Suns reserves, not even outplay them but keep pace, they will win and cover in Game 5. I expect them to do so, so I’m taking LA. I’ll be rooting for Phoenix.
Phoenix Suns @ LA Lakers (-7) (5-27: 9:00 PM ET – TNT)