The pivotal Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference Final takes place Saturday when the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City meet at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Game time is 8:30 pm ET with live coverage on TNT.
NBA Picks have the Thunder as a 3.5-point favorite and the over/under total at 203.
The Thunder did more than get themselves back into the Western Conference Finals in Game 3, they also snapped San Antonio’s record 20-game regular season-playoff winning streak with a 102-82 win over the Spurs Thursday night. Oklahoma City covered as a 4-point home favorite and the score was under the total of 206.
Oklahoma City now trails the best-of-seven series 2-1.
Kevin Durant scored 22 points to lead the Thunder, and Thabo Sefolosha set career playoff personal bests with 19 points and six steals. Sefolosha had four steals in the first 3 minutes.
Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson led the Spurs with 16 points each, while Tim Duncan had 11 points.
NBA Handicappers stats show that San Antonio has the No. 2 offense in the NBA, averaging 103.7 points per game, leads the league in field goal percentage with 47.8, and is No. 2 in three points made with 8.4 per game.
Oklahoma City has the No. 3 offense in the NBA Playoffs, scoring an average of 103.1 points per game, is also No. 3 in field goal percentage at 47.1, and is No. 1 in free throw percentage with 80.6. Oklahoma City allows the third highest free throw percentage at 76.8 per cent per game.
The Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics meet in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final on Friday at the TD Garden, with tip-off at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN.
NBA Picks have the Celtics as a 2-point favorite and the over/under total at 180.5.
The Heat beat the Celtics 115-111 on Wednesday to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Playoffs series. Boston covered the spread as an 8-point road underdog and the score was over the total of 178.
Rajon Rondo had a career best 44 points to go along with 10 assists and eight rebounds to lead the Celtics. Even more amazing about Rondo’s career evening is that he Rondo scored all 12 of Boston’s points in overtime, and was on the court for every second of the game, including OT. Rondo finished 16-of-24 from the floor.
Paul Pierce scored 21 points to lead the Celtics, while Kevin Garnett added 18 and Ray Allen netted 13 for Boston.
LeBron James scored 34 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Heat, while Dwyane Wade scored eight of his 23 points in the overtime period. Mario Chalmers scored 22 for the Heat.
At one point, Miami was down 15 points and by coming all the way back pulled off the biggest comeback in franchise postseason history.
The Heat have now won five games in a row, going back to the Indiana Pacers series.
Game 4 of the East Finals will be on Sunday in Boston, at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN.
The San Antonio Spurs can take a stranglehold on the West Finals and move one game from a berth in the NBA Finals with a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3 of the conference championship Thursday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Tip-off is 9 pm ET on TNT.
NBA Picks have the Thunder as a 3.5-point home favorite, while the over/under total is at 206.
San Antonio took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and remained perfect in the playoffs with a 120-111 win over the Thunder in Game 2 on Tuesday. The Spurs cashed as a 4.5-point home favorite and the score went over the total of 202.
It was the Spurs’ 20th consecutive victory, a NBA Record when including regular season and playoffs.
Tony Parker had 34 points and eight assists, and went 16-for-21 from the field, to lead the Spurs, while Manu Ginobili added 20 points.
Kevin Durant had 31 points, Russell Westbrook had 27 points and eight assists, and James Harden scored 30 for the Thunder.
NBA Betting trends show San Antonio has the No. 2 offense in the NBA, averaging 103.7 points per game, leads the league in field goal percentage with 47.8, and is second in three points made with 8.4 per game.
Oklahoma City has the No. 3 offense with 103.1 points per game, is No. 3 in field goal percentage at 47.1, leads the league in free throw percentage with 80.6, and allows the third highest free throw percentage at 76.8 per cent per game.
The Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat clash in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday at the AmericanAirlines Arena, with tip-off at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN.
NBA Picks have Miami as a 7.5-point favorite and the over/under total at 177.
The Heat lead the best-of-seven series 1-0 after a 93-79 win in Game 1 on Monday, covering the spread as an 8-point home favorite.
Once again, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade led the way for the Heat, especially in the 2nd half.
James scored 32 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, while Wade scored 22 points, including 10 in the 4th quarter. Shane Battier, who was playing in the conference finals for the first time, also had a huge game for Miami off the bench, scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Kevin Garnett had 23 points and 10 rebounds for Boston, while Rajon Rondo scored 16 points, pulled down nine rebounds and dished out seven assists. Paul Pierce had 12 points.
NBA Handicapping trends show that Boston has the worst rebounds in the league at 38.8 per game, has the No. 2 defense, allowing 89.3 points per game, has the best field goal percentage against in the league allowing 41.9 per cent, and is No. 2 in three points made allowed in the league with 5.2 per game.
Miami gives up the lowest free throw percentage in the NBA, allowing 72.5 per cent per game, allows the second most three points made with 7.3 per game, and leads the league in rebounds allowed at 39.8.
The top two teams in the Eastern Conference meet for the second time this season when the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls square off Wednesday at the United Center.
This game can be seen live nationally on ESPN, and in the Chicago area on Comcast Sports Chicago, with tip-off at 9:30 pm ET.
Chicago is a 2.5-point favorite and the over/under total is at 192 in NBA Picks.
The matchup features one of the most explosive offenses in the NBA against one of the league’s strongest defenses. The Heat have the No. 2 offense with 102.6 points per game, while Chicago has the No. 2 defense, allowing just 88.9 points per game.
The Bulls will be out to avenge a 97-93 loss in the first meeting this season on Jan. 29, when the Heat failed to cash as a 4.5-point home favorite.
Miami is 31-9 straight up and 20-20 against the spread and beat the Indiana Pacers 93-91 on Saturday but failed to cover the spread as a 9.5-point home favorite. Chicago is 35-9 SU and 25-18-1 ATS and is coming off a 104-99 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday. The Bulls could not cash as an 8-point home favorite.
The injury report has Miami guard Mike Miller out indefinitely (ankle injury), while Chicago forward Luol Deng is day-to-day (wrist injury), as is guard C.J. Watson (ankle injury).
Miami is averaging 10.4 offensive rebounds and 32.3 defensive rebounds per game, while Chicago has an average of 13.6 boards on offense and 32.3 on defense.
2011 NBA Draft Rankings – TOP 25
As it’s well understood, the best college basketball players don’t always make the best NBA players. This is my Top 25 rankings of the current former NCAA players in the NBA Draft Class, based on how I believe they’ll perform in the NBA.
Since I don’t just read off some list, and haven’t really seen the foreign players play, I don’t feel good about including them in this list. I know I’ve read great things about all of them, but I have to rank the guys I’ve actually seen play. That being said, Enes Kanter looks like the real deal, and I’d have a tough time ignoring him at the top of the draft. A couple other big time foreign talents like Jan Vesely and Jonas Valanciunas look to make a splash in the lottery as well. But I’m sticking to what I know.
At the top of my list is star potential/starters all the way to the bottom where I think guys will stay on NBA rosters/get some tick. It’s my projectile big-board, so to say. I’m betting my bankroll that you’ll see some surprises on here, and hold me to them down the road.
Top 25 Draftees
1. Kyrie Irving – Irving was a blur when he played this season. He played so well that despite missing 3/4s of the season, he’s still considered the top pick in the draft. I don’t know how much better I think he is than Williams (or Kanter, for that matter) but I would take my chances with a great kid with a good basketball IQ, a solid jumper, and speed to burn. He’s impressive in just about every area, reliable, good size and safe; tough to beat that with a top talent.
2. Derrick Williams – I know Derrick Williams is supposed to be an undersized 4 or an oversized not quick enough 3, but all I see is a damn good basketball player that has a great shooting touch from anywhere on the floor and the athleticism to impress at the next level. I see him as an athletic and taller/longer version of Paul Milsap. Maybe he’s not as crafty, yet, but he’s still a starting power forward that can open up the game in a lot of different ways, running the floor, helpside defense, and spreading the floor with a nice touch from long range.
3. Klay Thompson – Thompson might be the biggest surprise on my list. Nobody has him as a Top 3 player in this draft. It could be because I’m on the West Coast and have seem Klay play many times, but that usually works against they hype for me. Not with Klay, however, who was easily the best player in the Pac-10. I don’t think he’s getting near enough credit. He might be the best shooter in the draft, has great size, and plays the game smart. He will fit in any offense because he doesn’t need to dominate the ball to be good and he can help any team with his ability to shoot and be natural cog in any offense.
4. Jimmer Fredette – Jimmer is an amazing player, and while I’m not quite on board with the NBA guys who’ve been saying that Fredette is going to be a star in the NBA, I’m certainly closer to that belief than the one going around claiming he’s too small and slow for the league. He’s fast and stout, and he’s not short by any means. He can score on anyone, and if he gets in a spot where he can have the ball in his hands, he’s going to be good. I can’t wait to watch him prove critics wrong at the next level.
5. Kemba Walker – Kemba Walker is a winner, he plays at NBA speed, and he understand angles and one of basketball’s most underrated talents, how to draw a foul. Walker is always thinking, always finding ways to catch the defense off guard and I think he can be a solid small defender (not useless like Nash or Ridnour or Carmelo Anthony). Kemba hits big shots all the time. If LeBron had his huevos, the King would have a couple rings by now. He’s very quick and his 1 on 1 game could impress at the next level if he gets the chance to handle the ball. If he gets stuck as a Ben Gordon type player that only gets to come in for minutes at a time and jack shots, well, he’ll be like Ben Gordon. Hopefully he gets option A.
6. Brandon Knight – Knight scares me a little bit, but just because Kentucky seemed like the perfect fit for him, and still sometimes he disappeared. He’s a smart player, though, and is as athletically gifted as any guard in this draft. He really can shots when he’s on, and plays at an NBA speed with nice size.
7. Chris Singleton – Singleton seems like a better version of Keith Bogans or any other shooting guard that excels as a defensive player that doesn’t kill you on offense. Singleton is a much better offensive player than Bogans, but his length and athleticism also project as a very good defensive presence on the defensive end of the floor. I wouldn’t be stunned if Singleton turns into a starter during his first year, or at least is a key contributor to a good team. Players that help you evenly on both sides and don’t need the ball in their hands are quite valuable.
8. JaJuan Johnson – Imagine if Marcus Camby didn’t get injured very often and he could shoot. Johnson has that kind of upside. Johnson is longer than his height insists, and at 6’10” he’s no shorty anyway. He can really shoot the ball, and he plays smart. If he’s 75% of what Camby is as a help defender, he’s easily a Top 10 player in any draft. I don’t think he’ll be drafted as such, but I don’t see why he’s being ignored in that capacity.
9. Kenneth Faried – Faried can come in and rebound well at the NBA level. He has a contagious motor, and will be a great option on a young team (because his effort will motivate others to get after it) or an old team (because his effort will be needed). He may be just 6’8” and doesn’t quite have that power game yet, but he has a decent jumper touch, and his timing and anticipation are assets.
10. Marshon Brooks – Brooks can really fill it up. People like to say that he won’t be able to score like that in the NBA, but I don’t know why he won’t. He has solid size for a shooting guard, his 7’1 wingspan is amazingly long for his 6’5” frame and he’s improved his field goal shooting each of his 4 years in college. This last year he finished at 48% from the field and 34% from long range. He’s a lanky scorer who will help any team that needs points off the bench. He might very well be a Top 5 talent from this draft, he has so many good aspects of his game. I just feel more comfortable with him at 10.
11. Kawhi Leonard – Leonard is a nice prospect with explosive jumping ability, a great motor, nice timing, and very long arms that make up for his 6’7” tweener 3 or 4 man size. I think the NBA has proven that there is plenty of time for tweeners to succeed. Kawhi could grow into a great player, but I watched him disappear in games, and while he was on a very strong team where he wasn’t relied upon to be the only guy, I just don’t know if he has that great player upside in him. I hope so, though, he’s fun to watch.
12. Alec Burks – There are a lot of guys I liked better as college players, but Burks seems like a perfect fit for the NBA game (that being said, I think just about every rule change the NBA has to make it different than college basketball, stinks – but that’s a different fight). Burks is a long and athletic slashing guard that has streaks where he scores effortlessly. He finishes very well, shoots free throws well, and really only struggles from deep – and I think that’s a fixable offense, but he’ll need to fix it.
13. Marcus Morris – Morris definitely has an old-man game as a big man. He’s a little undersized and isn’t going to out-jump anybody for rebounds. He can face up and hit jump shots for days, and has worked hard on his perimeter shooting. He can certainly spread the floor as a stretch 4, and while he might not be an ideal size, he’s still 6’9” with a solid motor and a good enough rebounder. I especially like his fade away from the block. I don’t know if he’ll be good enough to get that shot in the NBA, but he sure used it effectively in college.
14. Charles Jenkins – You may not have heard much about Jenkins, rocking the Hofstra blue during his college days, but the 6’3” combo guard can fill it up, that’s for certain. He averaged 19.7, 20.6, and 22.6 points per game respectively over his final three years in college. His three-point shooting percentage went up every one of his final three seasons, going from 31% to 41% to 42% his final year. He’s a very good free throw shooter as well, and while some aren’t certain that he’s more than an undersized 2-guard, I think Jenkins has starter possibility as a late 1st round pick. I understand that he’s scary because he was a one-man show at a small college, but I think he has the basketball IQ needed to know when to share.
15. Reggie Jackson – I’m loving this kid right about now. I’m not sure he’s ready to come in and lead a team, Hoops-IQ-wise, but if he’s in the right situation where someone is working with him, he’ll eventually get there – then that team will have a 6’3” point guard that is freakishly long and athletic (7’ wing span). He has a very good floor vision, something that is tough to teach. I’ve struggled with where to put Jackson, even thinking about moving him into the lottery – and I’m still unsure he’s not higher than this. Somebody might end up with a steal here.
16. Jordan Hamilton – Like many 20-per-game guys in college, Hamilton’s shot selection can be a bit poor, but that’s nothing a good coach can’t fix. He’s a solid scorer, flashing a very good jump shot with deep range. He can handle the ball well and run the floor effectively. He may take bad shots, but he’s a solid passer. What I like most about Hamilton is his aggressiveness – he certainly doesn’t seem afraid of the moment, and works hard on the floor.
17. Tobias Harris – Harris gets the tweener label, but like I’ve mentioned, tweeners have a spot in the NBA. He shoots the ball well, is an unselfish teammate that isn’t afraid of big moments. He handles the ball well with a good brain for the game, and doesn’t hurt you in any one area on the court. He might not be a lock down defender against any one position, but I think he could guard 3s alright, and man up against 4s in some cases. The elite players at both positions will get the best of him, no doubt, but I’m not ranking him in the Top 3. He’ll help a team.
18. Josh Selby – As a 6’3” shooting guard, I’m not sure Selby is a Top 15 player and I’m not sure that he isn’t. If he can prove to be useable as a point guard, he’ll be alright. He kind of reminds me of Tony Douglas, a little bit, and that’s interesting because a handful of mock drafts have Selby headed to New York. He’s not a pure point, but his long-range stroke and solid jump shot should transfer well. He should make up for his lack of size by being a strong and quick plus defender. His attacking/slashing style could make him a better NBA player than a college guy. Still a work in progress.
19. Kyle Singler – Singler’s offensive game might be too streaky for him to be a crunch time player night in and night out, and examples of his struggles against better athletes aren’t difficult to find, but Kyle does a lot of things right – he shoots the ball pretty well, and should stretch the floor for teams with heavy ball handling/driving point guards. He makes the right plays a lot. He’s a team guy that works his A off, and his basketball skills are good enough to make him a reserve in the league. Reminds me a little bit of Josh Howard coming out of college, but with a more polished offensive game, and maybe a little less athleticism – but pretty close!
20. Jon Leuer – Leuer is super athletic, easily more-so than either of the Morris brothers. He’s longer, and while he may not be stronger, he certainly has room to grow into that body. Leuer seems to have a game tailored for the NBA – he looks like a nice player in a pick and roll, shoots the ball well, can really run the floor, and can post up and score on the block. It doesn’t look like he’ll be picked in the 1st round, but it wouldn’t stun me if he got major minutes early in his career.
21. Tristan Thompson – Thompson could be a Top 5 pick, and I get it. He’s super long and athletic. He has a great motor, some versatility in his offensive game, and good timing as a helpside defender on the other end. He can also handle the ball alright, though I don’t expect him to be relied upon for that. As many have said, he has solid all around tools – I just don’t know how that transfers to the next level because I haven’t seen him be great at any one thing. He’s an NBA body with NBA athleticism, however, and he’ll have a spot in the 1st round.
22. Jamie Skeen – People knock Skeen for his age (he’s 23, so a year older than other seniors), lack of great quickness/explosion (he doesn’t play above the rim like many NBA-level players), and injury history (he’s had a knee surgery). But that all seems ridiculous because he’s very efficient at what he does do, and he played amazing basketball in the NCAA tournament. Skeen is a very good stretch 4, he’s a good shooter from long range, and proved to be a clutch player in big games.
23. Nolan Smith – I don’t know how Smith doesn’t get more love. He’s not an ideal size for a shooting guard, but he’s 6’4” and an underrated athlete. He shoots the ball well (and like all Dukies, can be very streaky from deep) – hitting 46% of his shots and over 34% from the 3 point line every single season of his 4 years at Duke. He gets to the rim well and sets up his teammates. He’s a very good defender, and I don’t see how he doesn’t find minutes at the next level.
24. Shelvin Mack – These last 3 guys were all guys that held it down in college, stepped up in huge moments, and became leaders of very good teams. Shelvin Mack might have been the biggest big time guard of the bunch – he hit some amazing shots and never once showed a shy side on the floor. There has to be a place for that guy somewhere, and I’d say the chance of 1 of the last 3 guys on this list end up sticking and contributing on an NBA roster is damn near 100%.
25. Isaiah Thomas – Thomas may be small, but he’s very explosive and showed he can run the point at a high level. The cool thing about playing at UW was that they really didn’t run anything, just ran around looking for Thomas to create and pass to super athletic players that finished near the rim. Sounds like his college days prepared him perfectly for the NBA. Thomas is streaky, but he can score. He makes up for his lack of size with great angles and ability to put up perfectly timed shots in the paint. He may go in the 2nd round, but he’s a Top 25 guy from the college ranks.
Miami Heat @ Dallas Mavericks Game 5 NBA Finals Pick: I would love to take the Mavericks here, and I could certainly find a couple reasons to do so. For instance, I’ve watched 4 NBA Finals games thus far (if you are into math, that’s all 4 games) and I haven’t seen the Mavs play a good game yet. It’s bound to happen one of these nights, and when they do, well, I’ll have wished I picked the Mavs. Also, the Mavs have the most clutch player in the series, Dirk Nowitzki. And since the Heat seem dead-set on making every single game a down-to-the-wire event, betting on the team with the coldest blooded super star has some value.
All that being said (and more) I have to take the Heat in Dallas on Thursday Night. I’m starting to believe that part of the reason Dallas hasn’t played well in this series yet is because Miami is just that much better than anyone else. When they play focused and up to their potential, they shouldn’t be touched.
Also, after the collapse of Game 4 (it really wasn’t that big of a collapse, not like Game 2 – but is still being recognized as a collapse because Lebron disappeared for the entire game) Miami should come out just that much more motivated. The question is, will we see the Miami team that couldn’t win big games earlier in the year? Remember, when they struggled to close games against good teams, seemingly terrified of what everyone was going to say. That could be the team we see tomorrow, and if we do, the Mavs are the answer here.
But I think we see the new Heat, the Heat team that responds well to a bad outing. Don’t forget that Lebron James is the best athlete ever, the best package of talent we’ve seen. That should count for something. There’s no “the Decision” this summer, and lord knows he doesn’t want to hear about his failure to win the big one for an entire year (or until he does). He plays well in this one, and that gets the Heat a 3-2 series lead heading home.
I hope I’m wrong.
Miami Heat (+1) @ Dallas Mavericks (6/9)
Dallas Mavericks @ Miami Heat NBA Finals Game 2 Free Pick: It seems crazy to expect Dallas to win Game 2 after the Heat beat them up defensively in Game 1, the Mavs’ best player tore a tendon in his finger, and Miami forced Dallas into a Heat-style defensive battle. Neither team shot 39% from the floor as bricks became the fashion in Game 1 – except from LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, of course – those guys had great games for Miami.
Dwayne had a huge three late, and ended up with 22 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks – just 3 turnovers, too. LeBron was 9 of 16, hit 4 of 5 from 3-point land, and tallied 9 rebounds and 5 assists along the way. Great game for the Big 2, while there wasn’t much to smile about in Game 1 for Dallas.
But I still think I’m right about this one. If Wade doesn’t hit a ridiculous step back 3 with a defender in his face, and LeBron just has a normal 3-point shooting night, the Mavericks might very well have walked away with a win in Game 1. It was certainly closer than the 8 point spread, as Miami closed it out down the stretch thanks to some poor shot selection by the Mavs.
Just look for Game 2 to be a little different. The Heat will have more turnovers than Dallas this time around. The Mavs will shoot a lot better, and if they watched film at all, Dallas will see their advantage in the post and spend more time beating the Heat up down low.
I expect the Mavs to even the series in Miami.
Dallas Mavericks (+4.5) @ Miami Heat (6/2)
Dallas Mavericks @ Miami Heat 2011 NBA Finals Game 1 Pick: The Heat are playing great basketball, but the Mavericks come in beating up on the best in the West, shutting down the Lakers in an epic sweep and ousting the young guns from Oklahoma in fine fashion. Like the Heat, the Mavericks performed admirably late in games, often coming into the final frame down big only to find a way to win anyway. This should be one heck of a series!
In the opener my money is on Dallas and the points. I expect close games throughout, as both teams have the offensive firepower to succeed in tight situations. Dallas has surrounded Dirk with perfect pieces, outside scoring, defensive post presence, and guards that can attack and penetrate. I expect Barea to have a solid series against a Heat team that struggles with dive and dish point guards.
Miami does a very good job of defending the perimeter, but I don’t know if they’ll be able to shut the Mavericks out from three-point land. Dallas can really shoot it, and with all the attention on Dirk, they’ll have their chances.
I’m not confident either way in this series, picking a winner I mean, but in game 1 the pressure has to be on the home team. If Dallas walks away down 1-0, it doesn’t mean much. If the Heat lose early, the media starts going crazy about the “Big 3” and how maybe they don’t fit perfectly together. Miami will need to hit a lot of jumpers against Dallas, and I’m not sure that’s their strong suit. We shall see, but I’ll take the road team in Game 1.
Dallas Mavericks (+5) @ Miami Heat
Miami Heat @ Chicago Bulls Game 2 NBA Free Pick: Here’s a crazy statistic for you stat-guys (and girls) out there – the Heat and Bulls have matched up 4 times this season and each game has ended with the Bulls getting a win and the Heat getting a loss. The regular season match-ups were all very close, 99-96, 93-89, and 87-86 – but Game 1 ended up with the Bulls on top of Miami by 21 big ones. Does this guarantee anything in Game 2? Nope, but in what is basically an even bet (favored by just a bucket), the Bulls have to be the percentage pick here.
I think falling behind two games to none will be terrible for the Heat, and I see them fighting like hell to even up the series in Game 2, but for the first time in while, the Heat aren’t the best defensive team on the floor, and it’s very possible that they don’t have the most important player on the floor either.
People play around with the idea of pressure, but there’s never a time where pressure is more evident than in this series. All the pressure in the world is on Miami, and Chicago’s been the better team all season long. If anything, LeBron James has shown that pressure can get to him a bit, and while I don’t expect him and Wade to struggle in Game 2 as much as Game 1, I do think that the Bulls’ defense will continue to keep them uncomfortable, and that could make the difference in this series.
I’ve said all year that Miami may have the most talent, the better players, but Chicago has the best team in the East. They ended up with the best record, and I think they’ll win this series. Winning this series starts by holding court in Game 2. I like Chicago to win against on Wednesday Night.
Miami Heat @ Chicago Bulls (-2) (5/18)