|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|12-12-18||Hawks +9 v. Mavs||Top||107-114||Win||100||12 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: Clearly the Mavs are the better team, but I think the home side gets caught looking past its lowly non-conference opponent tonight. The Hawks come in with plenty of momentum as well, as they broke a four-game slide with a 106-98 win over the Nuggets on Saturday. John Collins had 30 points and 12 boards in the win.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but Atlanta is already 5-2 ATS this year after playing two straight at home and 4-1 ATS after scoring 105 points or more in three straight games, while Dallas is just 1-3 ATS this year in trying to revenge an in-season loss to an opponent. No outright, but closer than expected. Grab the points.
|12-10-18||Kings v. Bulls +2.5||Top||108-89||Loss||-105||23 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: Sacramento was a bad team last year and clearly it’s made big strides this season though. The Kings are 13-12, while the once mighty Bulls are just 6-21. Chicago has dealt with injury issues before the season even started though, so expectations going in were low. The Bulls have been getting healthier and they’ve looked better of late and I think they’ll catch this young Kings’ team flat-footed as they finish off their lengthy Eastern swing. From a situational stand point, this one sets up great for the hungry home side.
The pick: Take it for what you as well, but Sacramento is already just 2-4 ATS this season after covering three of its last four against the spread, while Chicago is already 8-5 ATS this season as a home underdog. Grab the points.
|12-09-18||Pelicans -1.5 v. Pistons||Top||116-108||Win||100||9 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: The Pelicans have dominated this series of late and I think that’ll again be the case here (won three straight in the series, including a 118-103 road win in Detroit last Feb.) While the Pelicans are just 5-8 ATS on the road, they’re a solid 7-6 SU overall. The Pelicans average 118.1 PPG and they allow 115.9. Detroit’s lost three straight and it’s just 6-8 ATS at home this year. The Pistons average 109.4 PPG and they allow 109.8.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but New Orleans is 40-31 ATS in its last 71 after having lost two of its last three games SU, while Detroit is just 1-3 ATS in its last four after allowing 110 points or more in three straight games. Lay the points.
|12-08-18||Kings v. Pacers -3||Top||97-107||Win||100||13 h 46 m||Show|
The set-up: No need to overthink this one. The Kings come in off a very satisfying 129-110 win over the Cavs just last night and I think they’ll stumble in the second game of the back to back on the road. The Pacers also played and won last night (112-90 in Orlando), but clearly home court advantage in the second game of the back-to-back scenario favors Indiana greatly this evening. Note as well that Indiana plays with revenge after falling 111-110 in the first match-up of the season just last week.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but Sacramento is still only 10-17 ATS in its last 27 after covering five or six of the last seven ATS, while Indiana is 4-1 ATS in its last five after falling to cover four or five of the last six ATS. Lay the points.
|12-07-18||Thunder v. Bulls +9||Top||112-114||Win||100||13 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: The Thunder are 16-7 overall, while the Bulls are just 5-20. I think the hungry home side though will catch the Thunder complacent and flat footed Thunder team which comes in off an epic come from behind 114-112 win over Brooklyn in their latest action, a game which saw Paul George explode for 47 points and a game winning three-pointer. Can anyone say letdown spot?! The Bulls are terrible, but they’ll be eager to break a seven-game slide, most recently falling 96-90 to Indiana. Lauri Markkanen played will in his second game with 21 points and ten boards.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but OKC is still only 4-5 ATS in its last nine asa road favorite in the 6.5 to 12 points range, while Chicago is 13-5 ATS in its last 18 as a home dog in the same points range. I think OKC finally has a letdown here and while I’m stopping short in calling for the outright upset, this one has competitive battle written all over it. Grab the points.
|12-05-18||Clippers v. Grizzlies -1.5||Top||86-96||Win||100||12 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: I don’t think that the home court advantage can be overlooked as a very real deciding factor in this match-up. The Clippers posted a 129-126 win over New Orleans on Monday, while the Grizzlies will be the “hungrier” team here after falling 103-95 in Philadelphia in their latest action. Note that this is a revenge game as well after the Clippers posted the 112-107 OT him win earlier in the year. LA is primed for a letdown here at the end of its tough four game road trip. Memphis on the other hand comes in focused and desperate after losing four of its last five.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but LA is just 3-5 ATS already this season as a road dog of six points or less, while Memphis is 6-1 ATS as a home favorite. Play on the Grizzlies.
|12-04-18||Kings v. Suns +6.5||Top||122-105||Loss||-103||12 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: The Kings are 11-11 and the Suns are 4-19. The Kings enter off a satisfying 111-110 home win over Indiana and I think they’re primed for a letdown here. The Suns won’t be lacking any motivation obviously after the terrible start to the year, most recently a 120-96 setback at the Lakers on Sunday. Phoenix took three of four in this series last year and I think it’ll keep it competitive here as well. The Kings average 114.3 PPG and they allow 117.1. The Suns average 103 PPG and they allow 113.7.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but Sacramento is just 2-6 ATS in its last eight off a close home win by three points or less, while Phoenix is 14-7 ATS in its last 21 after falling to cover in six or seven of its last eight ATS. Grab the points.
|12-03-18||Clippers v. Pelicans -1.5||Top||129-126||Loss||-110||8 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: Both teams played last night, meaning that the home court advantage can’t be overlooked as a very real deciding factor in this particular matchup. The Clippers come in off a loss to Dallas and they look ripe for the picking. The Pelicans enter off a 119-110 win in Charlotte and there’s no reason not to think that they won’t be able to carry that momentum over here as well.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but the Clippers are already just 2-5 ATS this year as a road dog of six points or less, while New Orleans is 6-4 ATS as a home favorite and interestingly 3-1 ATS vs. the Pacific division. Lay the points.
|12-01-18||Warriors -4.5 v. Pistons||Top||102-111||Loss||-103||11 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: The Warriors come in off a 131-128 road loss in Toronto, a setback which saw star Kevin Durant score 51 points. Golden State has been struggling without Stephen Curry in the line-up, but the proficient point guard makes his triumphant return to the Association this evening and I believe he’ll make all the difference. The Pistons present the perfect opponent to get back on track against and test themselves as Detroit comes in having won four straight. Level of competition though has to be taken into account during the Pistons recent mini-run, most recently a victory over the lowly Bulls. Golden State averages 116.5 PPG and it allows 111.5. Detroit averages 111.8 PPG and it allows 110.7. Clearly the margin for error is pretty slim for the Pistons most nights.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but Golden State is 5-1 ATS in its last six games after allowing more than 125 points in its previous outing, while Detroit is 2-5 ATS in its last seven non-conference home games as an underdog in the +3.5 to +7.5 points range. “The Chef” returns and the defending champs return to form. Lay the points.
|11-30-18||Jazz +2 v. Hornets||Top||119-111||Win||100||12 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: Utah enters off a 101-91 road win over Brooklyn on Wednesday and I think it’ll carry that momentum over here. Charlotte took down Atlanta 108-94 at home on Wednesday. These teams split a pair of games last year. The Jazz average 105.3 PPG and they allow 108.1. Big man Rudy Gobert averages 15.3 points, 12.5 boards and 1.95 blocks per game.) The Hornets are averaging 114.9 PPG and they’re allowing 110. Kemba Walker leads the way with 27.4 pints and 6.3 assists per game.
The pick: It’s interesting to note though that Utah is 9-4 ATS in its last 13 vs. the Southeast Division, while Charlotte is just 2-7 ATS in its last nine home games vs. a team with a winning road record. With Donovan Mitchell back in the line-up, the Jazz are an entirely different team. Grab the points.
|11-29-18||Pacers v. Lakers -4.5||Top||96-104||Win||100||16 h 42 m||Show|
The set-up: The Pacers come in off back-to-back road wins and they’ll be playing without Victor Oladipo, their main offensive weapon. The Lakers have lost two straight after a five-game win skein, including a humbling defeat in Denver last time out. I think the Pacers go through the motions today and I believe “The King” will lay the hammer down from start to finish in this favorable matchup. This spread could easily be a lot larger in my opinion.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but LA is 7-2 ATS in its last nine non conference home games on the heels of a two games or more SU/ATS losing streak. Lay the points.
|11-28-18||Suns +12 v. Clippers||99-115||Loss||-105||15 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: Phoenix is 4-15 and the Clippers are 13-6. LA is at the top of the division, while the Suns are wallowing in the basement. Phoenix has talent and while it’s struggled from range this season, I think it offers great value as an underdog here. LA has won back-to-back games over the Blazers and Grizz and comes in complacent. The Suns have lost back-to-back games after beating the Bucks at home and they enter hungry.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but Phoenix is 6-3 ATS in its last nine vs. teams with winning records, while LA is just 1-2 ATS in its last three when playing on two day rest. Grab the points.
|11-27-18||Lakers +4.5 v. Nuggets||Top||85-117||Loss||-110||14 h 42 m||Show|
The set-up: The Lakers are a team led by the best basketball talent on Earth, but which is still trying to find its identity on most nights. That’s understandable, as chemistry takes time to develop. Regardless, LA will be out to atone for a 108-104 home loss to Orlando on Sunday. The Nuggets on the other hand return home off a successful road trip and a 105-98 win at OKC on Saturday. Can anyone say “letdown spot?!” LA averages 114.2 PPG and it allows 112.7. Denver averages 109.9 points and it allows 103.2.
The pick: Take it for what you will though, but LA is already 4-1 ATS this year vs. teams with winning records, while Denver is just 4-5 ATS this season vs. teams with winning records and a poor 7-13 ATS in its last 20 after three or more SU wins. Grab the points, expect a “nail biter!”
|11-26-18||Rockets -3.5 v. Wizards||Top||131-135||Loss||-110||26 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: Houston will be eager to return to form here after a 117-108 road loss in Cleveland on Saturday. Washington on the other hand looks poised for a letdown in my opinion after a 124-114 win over New Orleans on Saturday. But the Rockets have in fact lost two in a row on the road. Overall the Rockets are averaging 106.9 PPG and they’re allowing 107.9. The Wizards are averaging 112.2 PPG and allowing 117.2.
The pick: Previous to their upset win over the Hornets, the struggling Wizards had lost three straight. Note that they’re just 3-10 ATS in their last 13 following a SU victory. Lay the points.
|11-24-18||Rockets v. Cavs +10.5||Top||108-117||Win||100||14 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: Both teams played yesterday. The Cavs enter off a confidence building 121-112 win over Philadelphia, while Houston lost 116-111 in Detroit. This the end of a tough Eastern swing for Houston and I think it’s primed for another letdown here as well. Houston is only averaging 106.6 PPG, while the defense is allowing 105.7. The Cavs are averaging 103.4 PPG and they’re allowing 111.9.
The pick: Take it for what you will though, but Cleveland is 7-2 ATS in its last nine in the second game of a back to back after winning the first by seven or more points. No outright, but expect a competitive battle. Grab the points.
|11-21-18||Grizzlies v. Spurs -2.5||Top||104-103||Loss||-107||11 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: The Grizzlies are 11-5 and the Spurs are 8-8. The Spurs enter motivated after a loss to the Pelicans, while the Grizz look poised for a letdown after four straight victories. San Antonio has now lost five in a row on the road, but a little “home cooking” is just what the doctor ordered for SA to get back on track in my opinion.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but the Grizzlies are still a horrible 10-27 ATS in their last 37 following a divisional contest and just 7-9 ATS in their last 16 after three or more consecutive victories, while San Antonio is already 4-1 ATS this year after allowing 115 points or more in its previous outing. Look for the Spurs to bound back and for the Grizzlies to finally have a letdown in this difficult arena. Lay the points.
|11-20-18||Nets v. Heat -3||104-92||Loss||-110||26 h 20 m||Show|
The set-up: Brooklyn comes in off a 127-119 home loss to the Clippers on Saturday and I think the undermanned Nets will struggle against a Heat team out to atone for a 113-97 loss to LBJ and the Lakers. Brooklyn is averaging 109.9 PPG, but it’s allowing 111.3. Miami is averaging 109.3 PPG and it’s allowing 110.6.
The pick: Take it for what you will though, but the Nets are already just 4-5 ATS this year after allowing 115 points or more, while the Heat are 18-10 ATS in their last 28 following a loss by ten points or more. Lay the points and expect a rout.
|11-16-18||Blazers -1.5 v. Wolves||96-112||Loss||-105||25 h 11 m||Show|
The set-up: The Blazers come in off a 126-117 road loss to the Lakers. Portland’s dropped two in a row and it’ll be eager to duplicate it’s 111-81 win over the Wolves back on November 4th. Minnesota looks primed for a letdown here as well after its 107-100 home win over New Orleans in my opinion as well. Portland comes in averaging 115.9 PPG and allowing 107.6. Minnesota averages 110.9 PPG and it allows 116.2.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but Minnesota is just 1-4 ATS in its last five vs. a team with a winning SU record, while Portland is 4-0 ATS in its last four following an ATS loss. Lay the points and expect a rout.
|11-14-18||Jazz -4 v. Mavs||68-118||Loss||-115||13 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: Utah got out to a slow start, but it’s back on track and I think it carries that momentum over here as well. The Jazz come in off three straight wins over Dallas, Boston and Memphis, while the Mavericks are 3-1 in their last four after besting the lowly Bulls on Monday. Dallas got 11 points from Luka Donic against the Bulls: “Sometimes, he’s gonna have bad games,” veteran point guard J.J. Barea admitted. “He’s still young, and he can’t be great every game. So we’ve got to help him out.” Utah’s already beaten the Mavs twice this season. This is simply a horrible matchup for the Mavericks and now they face a Utah team that’s firing on all cylinders.
The pick: Note that the Jazz have averaged 115 points over the first two meetings. Note as well that the Mavs are just 2-5 ATS in their last seven at home vs. teams with winning road records. Lay the points and expect a rout.
|11-11-18||Hawks +11.5 v. Lakers||Top||106-107||Win||100||27 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: Clearly the Lakers are the better team, but they have a tough game in Sacramento on Saturday night and I think its the opportunity that the desperate Hawks will need to at least keep this one competitive. The Hawks are just 3-9 overall and 1-5 on the road, but with upcoming games at Golden State, Denver and Indiana on the horizon, tonight’s contest against a tired Lakers team clearly takes on added importance.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but ATL is 7-2 ATS in its last nine road games following a three games or more unbeaten streak. Grab the points.
|11-10-18||Rockets -2 v. Spurs||89-96||Loss||-109||26 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: This is a great “situational” play in my opinion. San Antonio comes in off back-to-back losses and it looks primed for a letdown with a tough Western trip starting on Monday in my opinion. Houston will look to take advantage and to get back on track after a listless effort in OKC last time out, snapping a three-game slide. But with a tough game tomorrow night at home against the Pacers, James Harden and company aren’t going to want to leave anything to chance here.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but Houston is 7-2 ATS in its last nine following a SU/ATS road loss and playing another road game right after. Play on the Rockets.
|11-08-18||Clippers v. Blazers -5||Top||105-116||Win||100||15 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: LA enters off a satisfying 120-109 home win over the wolves on Monday and I think it’ll now predictably stumble in this difficult road venue. The Blazers continue to roll at home most recently getting the better of the Bucks 118-103 on Tuesday. The Clippers are averaging 116.2 PPG and they’re allowing 109.8. Portland is averaging 117.3 PPG an fit’s allowing only 107.4.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but LA is 0-4 ATS in its last four road games against a team with a home winning percentage above .600. Lay the points and expect a rout!
|11-07-18||Nuggets v. Grizzlies +4||87-89||Win||100||14 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: Denver enters off a 115-107 home win over Boston on Monday, having to play from behind most of the game and then pulling away down the stretch for the another win and cover. The Nuggets have been the biggest surprise in the early going, but I think they’re going to run out of gas here against a Grizzlies team which may only be 5-4 overall, but which is a perfect 3-0 at home.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but Denver is still just 7-12 ATS in its last 19 after three or more consecutive victories, while Memphis is 12-9 ATS in its last 21 after plaint three consecutive road games. Grab the points.
|11-03-18||Pistons v. 76ers -7.5||Top||99-109||Win||100||18 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: Detroit comes in off a disheartening 120-119 road loss in Brooklyn, while Philadelphia posted a 122-113 home victory over LA in its most recent action. Note that this is a big time revenge game for Philly after it fell 133-132 in OT in Detroit earlier in the year.
The teams: This is the finale of a three game trip for the Pistons. Overall Detroit has already lost two of three on the road. The Pistons are averaging 109.9 PPG and allowing 110.5.
Philadelphia is averaging 113.8 PPG and allowing 113.4. Joel Embiid had 41 points with 16 boards in the win over the Clippers. Note that the 76ers are now 5-0 on their home floor this season.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but Detroit is just 11-15 ATS in its last 26 after scoring 115 points or more in its previous contest, while Philadelphia is 63-44 ATS the last two season in trying to revenge a loss against an opponent. The 76ers’ revenge the earlier loss and continue their home dominance with another convincing victory.
|11-02-18||Wolves v. Warriors -11||Top||99-116||Win||100||16 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: The Wolves come in off an epic 128-125 win over the Jazz, a game in which Derrick Rose scored 50 points. Can anyone say letdown spot? Rose isn’t going to score 50 again for the rest of his career and I think the Warriors will look to take advantage of this tired visiting side. The Warriors are firing on all cylinders right now as well, as guard Stephen Curry is averaging a career-high 33 points, 5.9 assists and 5.0 boards per game.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but Golden State is 6-2 ATS in its last eight after playing on one days rest and 5-1 ATS in its last six following an ATS victory, while Minnesota is just 8-20 in its last 28 on the road and interestingly only 3-7 ATS in its last ten after scoring 100 points or more. Lay the points and expect a blowout.
|11-01-18||Kings v. Hawks +2||Top||146-115||Loss||-105||28 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: This one sets up great from a situational stand point. Sacramento has exceeded expectations to this point, sitting at 5-3 overall and 3-2 on the road. But after four straight wins and back-to-back on the road and with two whole nights off before a game at East leading Milwaukee, there’s no question in my mind that this finally sets up as a letdown spot for the visitors. Clearly the Hawks don’t have the same luxury, as they’re 2-5 and they’ve lost three in a row.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but ATL is 7-2 ATS in its last nine after a three games or more unbeaten streak. Play on the Hawks.
|10-31-18||Pacers -5.5 v. Knicks||Top||107-101||Win||100||24 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: This is a great “situational” play in my opinion. After two straight losses, including a setback to the Blazers on Monday night, I think the Pacers come in focused on the task at hand here. New York on the other hand comes in content off a 115-96 victory over the Nets to move to 2-5. With three nights off before a two-game road trip, it’s also not too hard to imagine the home side getting caught “looking ahead” here.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but Indiana is 7-2 ATS in its last nine after a loss in which it scored 95 points or less. Play on the Pacers.
|10-30-18||Hawks v. Cavs -4.5||Top||114-136||Win||100||12 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: Here’s a fantastic “situational” play. The Hawks are in action on Monday night against the 76ers. Cleveland will look to take advantage and get off the schneid as it enters 0-6 overall, including 0-3 at home. One of those losses includes a 133-111 setback to these very Hawks just last week.
The pick: The King isn’t around anymore, but I still think it’s worth noting that the Cavs are 11-5 ATS in their last 16 following a three games or more SU losing streak. The situation and the numbers favor the home side. Lay the points.
|10-30-18||Heat v. Hornets -4||Top||113-125||Win||100||12 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: This is a great “situational” play. Miami has been solid in the early going, but with a game at home against the Kings on Monday, look for the visitors to rest some of their starters in the second game of the back to back. Charlotte already beat the Heat 113-112 early in the year, but after losing three of its last four, I’m expecting the home side to come in focused on the task at hand.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but Miami is just 2-7 ATS in its last nine in the second game of a back-to-back when playing that second contest on the road. This one has “blowout” written all over it, lay the points.
|10-29-18||Kings v. Heat -8||Top||123-113||Loss||-107||12 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: This is a great “situational” play in my opinion, as I expect the Kings to have a predictable letdown here after back-to-back home victories. After beating Washington 116-112 they Kings have had two nights off and with a game tomorrow night in Orlando, this contest also sets up as a “look ahead” spot for the visitors. The Heat look to take advantage, they’ve won two in a row and with a tough road trip starting tomorrow night in Charlotte, I’m expecting the home side to leave everything it has on the floor tonight.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but the Kings have gone just 3-7 ATS in their last ten after two or more SU/ATS victories. Lay the points and expect a rout.
|10-28-18||Wizards +3.5 v. Clippers||Top||104-136||Loss||-105||14 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: I think the Wizards will find a way to get the job done here. Washington is 1-4 SU/ATS and desperate for a victory after back-to-back road losses to the Warriors and Kings. LA on the other hand looks poised for a classic letdown here though in my opinion after its big 133-113 road win at Houston. And with a three-game road trip starting in OKC on Tuesday, it’s not too hard to imagine the home side getting caught “looking past” its lowly non-conference opponent tonight.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but Washington is 7-2 ATS in its last nine after back-to-back road SU losses. Play on the Wizards.
|10-27-18||Magic +9.5 v. Bucks||Top||91-113||Loss||-105||12 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: This one sets up great from a “situational” stand point for the Magic in my opinion. The Bucks have been on an absolute tear, but with a tough game in Minnesota on Friday, I think Milwaukee comes into this one “gassed.” And with East leading Toronto coming to town on Monday, it’s definitely not too difficult to imagine the home side also getting caught “looking ahead” as well. The Magic on the other hand come in off a 128-114 home loss to Portland, but they’re still 2-0 ATS on the road to open the year. The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but Orlando is 7-2 ATS in its last nine after allowing 125 points or more in a loss in its previous contest. Grab the points, play on the Magic.
|10-26-18||Mavs +11.5 v. Raptors||Top||107-116||Win||100||11 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: I think this is a great “situational” play. Toronto has been on fire this year, opening up at 4-0 and getting fantastic play from the newly acquired Kawhi Leonard, who had 35 points in the most recent victory over the Wolves. But with a couple of nights off before a tough road game at conference rival and equally as hot Milwaukee up next, I think Toronto finally suffers a bit of a mental lapse on Friday night. After two straight home wins the Mavs came out flat in the second half of their game in Atlanta on Wednesday, but with a night off before a home game against Utah, I think the Mavs come in focused on the task at hand and catch the Raptors complacent.
The pick: And take it for what you will as well, but Toronto is just 3-8 ATS in its last 11 home games following a four games or more SU unbeaten streak. Play on Dallas.
|10-25-18||Celtics v. Thunder -1.5||Top||101-95||Loss||-105||28 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: I think this one sets up well for the Thunder. Boston comes into this one at 2-2, as it’s so far traded good games with bad ones this year. It most recently fell 93-90 in Orlando. With a home and home set starting against Detroit on Saturday though, I think the visitors are going to get caught “looking ahead” to those more high-profile conference contests. The Thunder do not have that same luxury at all though as they come in having gone 0-3 SU and just 1-2 ATS to open the year. OKC has had three whole nights off though and they have two nights off after this contest before another one game against the lowly Suns. It’s now or never for the Thunder to start turning their season around.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but OKC is 7-2 ATS in its last nine after three or more consecutive SU losses. Play on the Thunder.
|10-24-18||Wolves +8 v. Raptors||Top||105-112||Win||100||11 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: Toronto has started off the year by going 3-0 SU/ATS. Minnesota is 2-2, but 0-2 on the road. The Wolves though offer fantastic value in an upset role in my opinion and while I’m going to stop short in calling for the outright upset, I do think the Raptors are finally poised for a bit of a mental letdown here.
The pick: And that’s because note that TO is just 2-7 ATS in its last nine home games in which it enters on a three games or more ATS/SU unbeaten streak. Look for Minnesota’s deep and talented line-up to keep this one competitive until the final moments and grab the points.
|10-24-18||Mavs v. Hawks +1.5||Top||104-111||Win||100||10 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: I think the “under the radar” Hawks offer great value in an upset role at home here. ATL is just 1-2, but it comes in off a convincing 133-111 road win over the Cavaliers. Dallas is 2-1, but off back-to-back victories and with a game at Toronto on Friday night, I do indeed expect Dallas to get caught “looking past” its lowly opponent tonight.
The pick: It’s a great situational play overall, but take it for what you will as well but the Hawks are 7-2 ATS in their last nine after scoring 130 points or more and earning a victory in their previous contest. Play on Atlanta.
|10-24-18||Nets v. Cavs -3||Top||102-86||Loss||-102||10 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: Cleveland coms in as the more desperate as it’s so far 0-3 to start the year, including a humbling 133-111 home loss to Atlanta in the most recent. With a road game in Detroit tomorrow night, the Cavs will clearly be leaving everything they have on the floor tonight to try and get off the schneid. The Nets are 1-2, but with upcoming games at surging New Orleans followed by a home game against the defending champs, I absolutely believe that the visitors get caught “looking ahead” to those more “important” match-ups.
The pick: And take it for what you will, but the Cavs are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 home games following a three games or more SU losing streak. Play on Cleveland.
|10-23-18||Kings +11 v. Nuggets||Top||112-126||Loss||-105||14 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: This is a great “situational” play in my opinion. After their big win at home over the Warriors, the Nuggets are now 3-0 SU/ATS to start the year. But with a date against LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday night, there’s no doubt that this sets up as a classic “trap” for red hot Denver. And that’s good news for Sacramento, which is just 1-2 overall, but it’s been competitive in each game and it does enter off the convincing 131-120 road victory over Thunder, who had Russell Westbrook in the line-up.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but Sacramento is 7-2 ATS in its last nine after scoring 130 points or more in its previous outing. I’m grabbing the points.
|10-22-18||Wizards +5 v. Blazers||Top||125-124||Win||100||14 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: This sets up great from a situational stand point for Washington in my opinion. The Wizards are coming off back-to-back home losses off Miami and Toronto. Clearly Washington can’t be happy and it’ll be risking life and limb tonight to get off the schneid (especially with a game in Golden State up next!) Portland comes in on the other end of the spectrum, slightly satisfied after back-to-back home victories to open the season, including a 128-119 Opening night victory over LeBron James and the Lakers and then an equally as impressive 121-108 win over the Spurs on Saturday. But with two nights off before an extended Eastern Conference road swing, I do indeed feel that this sets up as a classic letdown/look-ahead spot for the home side.
The pick: And take it for what you will as well, but Portland is just 2-7 ATS in its last nine following back-to-back SU/ATS home victories. Grab the points in a much tighter than expected affair!
|10-21-18||Hawks v. Cavs -7||Top||133-111||Loss||-118||11 h 39 m||Show|
The set-up: This is a battle of “bottom feeders,” as each team comes in with identical 0-2 records. However, I think this one sets up well for Kevin Love and the home side to finally punch one into the win column (both SU and ATS of course!) The Cavs come in forces here, they have two whole nights off after this before another home game against the Nets. The young Hawks though are feeling the pressure after back-to-back road blowouts, most recently a 131-117 setback to the Grizzlies. But with three nights off before its first home game against Dallas, it’s definitely not too hard to imagine Atlanta getting caught “looking ahead” here as well.
The pick: And take it for what you will, but the Cavs are 7-2 ATS in their last nine as home favorite in the -3 to -9 points range. Lay the points, play on Cleveland.
|10-20-18||Raptors v. Wizards +1||Top||117-113||Loss||-103||12 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: This is a great “situational” play in my opinion, as Toronto has an extremely tough game at home on Friday night against Boston. Washington on the other hand lost at home to the Heat in its Opener 113-112 as a 5.5 points favorite. The Wizards will be extra motivated here after that letdown and they catch a Toronto team tired on the second-game of a back-to-back. As mentioned above, I think this is a great “situational” play.
The pick: And take it for what you will as well, but Washington has gone 7-3 ATS in its last ten following a 1-point loss at home. Play on the Wizards.
|10-19-18||Knicks v. Nets -3||Top||105-107||Loss||-113||11 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: The Knicks enters off a convincing 126-107 smash job of the hapless Hawks on Opening Night, but, I’m not convinced at all that the Knicks have suddenly “turned a corner” or anything. New York is still without star Kristaps Porzingis and several other key players and its achilles heel has been its play on the road the last few seasons. With a game at home tomorrow night against the Celtics as well, it’s definitely not too hard to imagine the Knicks getting caught looking past their opponent tonight. The Nets fell 103-100 in Detroit on Opening night, easily covering with the spread and I think they’re going to build off that performance in their first game in front of the home town crowd.
The pick: Both teams improved in the off-season, but note I don’t think that the home floor advantage can be overlooked as a very real deciding factor in this one. I’m on the Nets.
|10-18-18||Heat v. Wizards -4.5||Top||113-112||Loss||-115||12 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: Here’s a great situational play. The Heat are in Orlando on Wednesday night and I think they’ll stumble in the second game of the back-to-back. Miami is an older team, which already is dealing with a few injury issues. Washington on the other hand will be opening up its season at home after a disappointing campaign last year. This is a big game for Washington to say the least.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but the Heat are just 2-7 ATS in their last nine on the second game of a back to back in which they are an underdog in the -2.5 to -9.5 points range. Lay the points.
|10-17-18||Nuggets -1 v. Clippers||Top||107-98||Win||100||15 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: Denver improved dramatically in the off-season in my opinion, while LA definitely took a step backward. The Nuggets were led by big man Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap. The addition of Isaiah Thomas will compliment Garry Harris and Jamal Murray well. The Clippers six-year playoff streak came to an end last year. Lou Williams now leads the charge for the Clippers after DeAndre Jordan departed.
The pick: Note that Denver has won three of its last four season openers. Note that Denver is also 5-2 ATS in its last seven on the road, while LA is just 1-4 ATS in its last five at home. Grab the points.
|10-17-18||Grizzlies +6.5 v. Pacers||Top||83-111||Loss||-105||12 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The Grizzlies have something to prove after a disastrous year last season. Memphis is led by Marc Gasol (17.2 points, 8.1 boards and 4.2 assists) and Tyreke Evans (19.4 points, 5.1 boards and 5.1 assists). The Pacers pushed the Cavs to seven games in the first round and they’re led by Victor Oladipo (22.7 points, 8.3 boards, 6.0 assists.)
The pick: The good news for Grizzlies fans is that Mike Conley is back at full strength and I think he’s going to be a big difference maker here. Conley signed a $120 million dollar contract just before getting injured and he and the rest of the Grizz will be out to send an early message. Indiana lost Lance Stephenson and I think the Pacers are going to miss his tough all around play. Look for Memphis to step up and take advantage.
|10-17-18||Heat v. Magic +2.5||Top||101-104||Win||100||12 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: Miami is coming off 44 wins and it made it into the playoffs, only to get bounced by Philadelphia in the first round. The Heat didn’t get any younger, re-signing Dwayne Wade for his “Swan Song” season, along with disgruntled big man Hassasn Whiteside. The Heat have an All Star in Goran Dragic, but the guard has been hampered by injury the last few years. Orlando has a new coach in Steve Clifford and he’ll be leaning heavily on Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic this season.
The pick: Vucevic was injured for most of the 2018/19 season, but he’s now at 100% health and ready to go. The Heat can’t say the same with all of their veterans. On Opening Night, I look for the home side to find a way to get the job done here.
|10-17-18||Nets v. Pistons -5||Top||100-103||Loss||-110||12 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: Brooklyn managed only 28 victories last year. D’Angelo Russell led the way with 15.5 points and 5.2 assists per game, but he only played 48 games. Allen Crabbe was a consistent bright spot as well for the struggling Nets with 13.2 PPG. Detroit was led by Blake Griffin with 19.8 points, 6.6 boards and 6.2 assists per game, while Tobias Harris averaged 18.1 points and 5.1 boards per night.
The pick: Unfortunately for the Nets, both Crabbe and DeMarre Carroll are out with inury for the opener. Detroit though comes in at full strength. Lay the points.
|10-16-18||Thunder v. Warriors -11.5||Top||100-108||Loss||-105||38 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: OKC was knocked out of the first round of the playoffs in the first round last year and many will point to Carmelo Anthony “not fitting in” properly which was the issue. Russell Westbrook and Paul George, along with Dennis Schroder and Nerlens Noel once again make the Thunder a team which most clubs would rather avoid on any given night. But the Warriors come in more stacked than ever this year and I’m fully expecting a healthy and focused two-time Champs to put on a show tonight.
The pick: Take it for what you will as well, but the home team is 16-6-1 ATS in the last 23 in this series, while OKC is only 2-9 ATS in its last 11 in this match-up overall. This one has “blowout” written all over it. Play on Golden State.
|06-08-18||Warriors v. Cavs +5||Top||108-85||Loss||-107||13 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: I had a play on the Warriors on the “money line” in Game 3, laying the larger price for what turned out to be a relatively easy victory in the end. In Game 4 though I’m predicting that the hungry Cavaliers will keep the final score much more competitive and while I wouldn’t in fact be completely shocked by an outright upset, I will in the end recommend grabbing as many points as you can.
The teams: Golden State comes in averaging 47.9 percent from the floor in the playoffs, but only 35.6 percent from 3-point land. Kevin Durant led the way in the Game 3 win with 43 points, 13 boards and seven assists, while Stephen Curry though had just 11 points. Andre Igoudala would return for his first action of the series and score just eight points in 22 minutes off the bench.
Cleveland is hitting 45.7 percent from the floor in the playoffs and only 33.5 percent from 3-point land. LeBron James predictably led the way in Game 3 with 33 points, ten boards and 11 assists, while Kevin Love did his best with 20 points and 13 boards.
The pick: It’s do or die for the Cavaliers. Golden State now has a virtually insurmountable lead in this series and a loss here would change nothing to its odds in accomplishing that. Winning the NBA Championship at home in Game 5 in front of the home town crowd would be pretty sweet. Right? The Cavs though have been embarrassed in this series and I think they are clearly the “hungrier” team tonight. I expect Cleveland’s overall desperation to be the difference in this one. Grab the points.
|05-27-18||Cavs +3 v. Celtics||Top||87-79||Win||100||14 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The NBA has to be thrilled that both conference finals are headed to a Game 7. The first of those two will be the Cleveland Cavs are the Boston Celtics on Sunday night. This series will need a seventh game to decide but the individual games have hardly been tightly contested. Boston's matgin of victory have been by 25, 13 and 13 points, while the Cavs have won their home contests by 30, nine and 10 points. The Celtics have yet to lose at home in the playoffs (going a perfect 10-0) but a Game 7 against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers is different from every other test the young team has faced in the postseason. James comes in seeking his eighth straight trip to the Finals (four straight with the Heat and a current three-year run with the Cavs).
Cleveland: LBJ stepped up with his team facing elimination in Game 6 on Friday, collecting 46 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in 46 minutes to push Cleveland to a 109-99 win and put himself one win away from an eighth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. He comes in to this contest averaging 34.9 in Game 7s, including his 45 to help eliminate the Indiana Pacers in this year's first round. King James" has averaged 34 per game in going 13-9 in elimination games over his career. He will likely need help but that help won't come from teh team's second-leading scorer, as Kevin Love (13.9 & 10.0 this postseason) has been ruled out of this contest with a concussion. Jeff Green (14 points) and Larry Nance Jr. (10 points on 5-of-5 shooting) stepped up in Love's absence but can they be counted on again in Game 7?
Boston: The Celtics have won the first three home games in the series by an average of 17 points and already own a Game 7 home win under their belts in this postseason, after knocking off the Milwaukee Bucks 112-96 in the first round. "Best player in the game," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said after Friday's game. "Special night tonight and special night in Game 4 ... I can't say enough good things about him." Added Terry Rozier, who has often found himself outmanned in a switching situation that left him on James: "We know LeBron is different than a lot of other guys, but we've got to get the job done." Rozier scored a series-high 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting in Game 6 after slumping to eight points on 3-of-15 in Game 5. SG Jaylen Brown had 27 points in Game 6 and is averaging 20.8 points in the series and a team-high 18.3 in the postseason. Rookie SF Tatum is right behind him at 18.2 PPG and was the one who collided with Love. However, Tatum was checked out by doctors Saturday and Stevens said there was "nothing there to be concerned about" with his star rookie.
The pick: As noted before throughout this year's playoffs, the Celtics have never lost a series they've led 2-0. If fact, they've made it 36 and 37 straight with this year's first two rounds.
|05-25-18||Celtics v. Cavs -7||Top||99-109||Win||100||21 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics lost prized off-season free agent Gordon Hayward in their regular season opener at Cleveland. Then, Boston lost prized off-season trade acquisition, Kyrie Irving (note: Irving's 24.4 PPG average was 10 points higher than the team's second-best scorer!), in mid-March for the remainder of the year. However, the Celtics are just one win away from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010 when they visit the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight. The Celtics own a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals but while they are a perfect 10-0 at home, they are only1-6 on the road this postseason (including losses in Games 3 & 4 at Cleveland). As for the Cavs, LeBron James could be playing in his final game in Cleveland before his expected dive into free agency. However, it should come as nor surprise that "The King" is clearly focused on earning one more trip to Boston. "We're looking forward to having an opportunity to force a Game 7," James told reporters after his squad's 96-83 loss in Wednesday's Game 5. "It's up to us to see if we can come back here for one more." Also on the line is LBJ's consecutive Finals streak, as he has gone to the last seven, including the past three with the Cavs.
Boston: Rookie SF Jayson Tatum scored 24 points in Game 5 for his ninth 20-point outing of the postseason. The 20-year-old is putting together one of the best scoring playoff runs by a rookie in NBA history with 312 points and he trails only Elgin Baylor (331), Alvan Adams (341) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (352). Tatum led Boston in Game 5 but four others scored in double-digits, which tells the story of the Celtics' success this postseason. Tatum has averaged 18.4 & 4.3 this postseason, followed by Brown (17.8 & 4.9), Rozier (16.5-5.5-5.8), Horford (12.5 & 8.5), Morris (12.5 & 5.2) and Smart (10.2-3.8-5.0). Boston's defense was smothering in the Game 5 win. The Cavs were forced into 15 turnovers, as the Celtics changed their starting lineup and went big, inserting Aron Baynes for Marcus Morris but often playing both of them with Al Horford. The Celtics ended the regular season allowing 100.4 PPG (3rd) on 44.0% shooting (2nd), including 33.9% on threes (1st).
Cleveland: James had 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while going 11-of-22 shooting in Game 5 but he downplayed interrogating questions about his level of fatigue (note: LBJ scored only two points in the 4th quarter). "I had my moments, but I think everybody at this point is tired, worn down whatever the case may be," James told reporters. "I was still trying to make plays, put our team in position to win." James topped 40 points twice in this series and six times in the postseason and has at times single-handedly kept his team afloat. That said, the Cavs will need their complementing players to step up. Kevin Love was the only other Cavaliers player who scored in double figures in Game 5, while the team's other three starters (Hill, Smith and Thompson) combined for just 10 points on 2 of 14 shooting!
The pick: So where do we (I) stand? LBJ will need help but in the end, it is really all about him. This marks LBJ's 22nd game in which his team will be facing elimination. In the previous 21 games in which his team has faced elimination in the playoffs, James is averaging an NBA-record 33.5 points. He has played in seven of these with the Cavs dating to the 2015 playoffs, and not only is he averaging 36.9 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 9.1 assists in those games, he has scored 40 or more five times and Cleveland has won those four games. The last time the Cavs faced an elimination scenario -- which means the last time they had to deal with the whole "LeBron's last game" narrative -- was Game 7 of the first round against the Pacers. James scored 45 that day and the Cavs survived, although did not cover. However, the Pacers only earned that ATS win by making a meaningless three-pointer in the final seconds. Boston's been unbeatable at home but on the road....NOT SO MUCH! Make Cleveland a 10* play.
|05-22-18||Rockets +9 v. Warriors||Top||95-92||Win||100||14 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: The Warriors were impressive in winning Game 1 of this series but the team's lackluster performance in Game 2 raised some questions. In particular, many speculated that star PG Stephen Curry, who averaged just 17 points and went a combined 2-of-13 from three-point range, wasn't completely healthy. However, the Warriors emphatically answered all of their doubters with a dominating 126-85 victory in Game 3. Curry found his shot during a third-quarter outburst on Sunday and finished with a game high 35 points on 13-of-23 shooting (on threes). Curry went only 3-of-11 from the floor in the first half on Sunday but then went 7-of-7 in the third quarter while scoring 18 points, sparking a run that put the game out of reach. The 41-point victory was the largest in franchise history during the postseason, topping a 39-point win -- 85-46 -- by the Philadelphia Warriors against the St. Louis Bombers on April 6, 1948 (that's a LONG tiome ago!). As Game 4 approaches, it's top-seeded Houston Rockets, who are now facing similar questions. They will attempt to bounce back from an embarrassing performance and even the Western Conference finals at two wins apiece. The Rockets scored 127 points on 51.1 percent shooting while winning Game 2 but suffered the worst playoff loss in franchise history in Game 3, shooting 39.5% (including 11 of 34 on threes) plus attempted only a modest 13 FTs.
Houston: Head coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters he was unhappy with the way his team played in Game 3. "Played soft, actually. I mean, you can't do that with these guys. These guys are good."Houston not only shot poorly (see above) but the Rockets committed 20 turnovers that led to 28 points. "We weren't as aggressive as we needed to be," Rockets star James Harden, who agreed with his coach's assessment of the team, told reporters. "We started off the game pretty solid, and then we let them gain some confidence to end the first quarter. But just defensively, they didn't feel us, and it showed tonight." After scoring 27 points in the Game 2 win, backup guard Eric Gordon scored just 11 points on Sunday, shooting 4 of 13 (2-8 on threes). Starting forwards Tucker and Ariza combined fior 41 points in the Game 2 win but each scored just six points in the Game 3 blowout. Harden had 41 points in Game 1 but after scoring 27 points in Game 2, had just 20 points in Game 3. PG Chris Paul, playing in his first-ever conference final, is a woeful 5-of-20 from three-point range in the series.
Golden State: Curry, who had missed 17 of his 20 three-point attempts through the first 10 quarters of the series, sent the Warriors' home crowd into a frenzy by making 4 of 5 in the second half Sunday. en route to 35 points. Durant had a modest 25 points but is averaging 33.3 points on 52.9 percent shooting in the series. Draymond Green continues to play the role of the "Great Disruptor," finishing with a modest 10 points but also 17 rebounds and six assists, while serving as the key to the team's much-improved defensive effort.
The pick: The Warriors' 41-point Game 3 win gives them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series but it also gave them an NBA-record 16 straight playoff wins at home. A key factor figures to be what I touched on earlier. Important members of the James Harden/Chris Paul supporting cast, Gordon, Tucker and Ariza, combined for 23-of-33 shooting and contributed 68 points in Houston's 127-105 series-evening home win in Game 2. However, they went a combined 8 of 24 and 23 points in the blowout Game 3. The loss was the Rockets' fourth of the postseason but they have rebounded with wins after each of the first three, romping by an average of 20.7 PPG. Of course, this time, they'll be up against a Warriors team that has been to three straight NBA Finals (winning twice). Take the points and make Houston a 10* play.
|05-21-18||Celtics +7 v. Cavs||Top||102-111||Loss||-110||13 h 5 m||Show|
|05-20-18||Rockets +7.5 v. Warriors||Top||85-126||Loss||-105||13 h 57 m||Show|
The set-up: The Golden State Warriors took away the homecourt advantage from the Houston Rockets in their best-of-seven Western Conference finals with a solid 119-106 win in Game 1. However, while many seemed to think "that was all she wrote" for the Rockets in this series, Houston made a strong statement with a 22-point victory in Game 2. However, the series now shifts to Oracle Arena for the next two games, where the Warriors own a 15-game home winning streak in the playoffs (the streak has equaled the Chicago Bulls in 1990-91 as the longest streak in NBA playoff history). In a showdown of the league's two highest scoring offenses, the team that shot the best prevailed in each of the first two meetings. Led by Kevin Durant going 14 of 27 from the floor in a 37-point effort (plus Thompson's 28 points), the Warriors outshot the Rockets 52.5 percent to 45.9 in the Game 1 win. The Rockets then countered in Game 2 with a more balanced approach, with Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker and Trevor Ariza combining to go 23 of 33 (69.7%), accounting for 68 of Houston's 127 points in the win. Houston shot 51.1 percent, while Golden State shot 45.9%.
Houston: The Rockets didn't win 65 games (seven more than Golden State) in the regular season by accident. Houston sees an opportunity to take back control of the series and insists it is unfazed as it enters two straight games in Oakland. "The challenge is you're playing Golden State," Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters. "That's why they've won 15 in a row, not because of the building, but because they're good. I mean, everybody, all these players are used to playing in hostile environments or loud or whatever. I mean, it helps a little bit. Sometimes you feed off the energy also from the other crowd. So you try to take them out as soon as you can and take out the crowd, but they're a good basketball team." PG Chris Paul had 16 points, six assists and three steals in the Game 2 win while fighting through a calf issue that he says will not hold him back for Sunday's tilt. Paul has outscored Curry 39-34 in the series and been more efficient, but also has struggled from long range, shooting just 3 of 12 on three-pointers. After a 41-point effort in the Game 1 loss, Harden had a more modest 27 in Game 2 plus was only 3 of 15 on threes. Eric Gordon led the way in Game 2 by scoring 27 points while making 6-of-9 from three-point range in Game 2 after averaging just 9.7 points and hitting 5-of-18 from beyond the arc over his previous three contests. Tucker scored 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting in Game 2, after going 35 minutes without a field goal in Game 1 plus Ariza was 7-of-9 from the floor (19 points).
Golden State: KD has been an unstoppable force so far (he's averaged 37.5 points on 55.1 percent shooting in the series) but Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson struggled to shoot a combined 10-for-30 from the floor. "I've gone 0-for-11 before shooting 3s and 1-for-8, whatever the case is," Curry told reporters Friday. "I always shoot that next shot with the optimism and confidence that it's going in. So, you can work on stuff between practices and games to get your rhythm, just seeing the ball going in and working on your mechanics, but [I'll] never lose confidence in myself. That'll never change." Curry is 2-of-13 in the series on threes and Thompson, after an excellent Game 1, shot 3-of-11 overall, scoring just eight points in the Game 2 loss.
The pick: The Warriors lost just once in four playoff series en route to the championship last year (16-1), suffered their third loss of the 2018 postseason in Game 2. They have rebounded to win by a total of 34 points in the game after each of their first two losses. However, the Rockets had the best road record in the NBA during the regular season (31-10), and have won three of four on the road in their first two playoff series. "I'm feeling great," Curry said in the aftermath of the Game 2 loss. How do we really know, though. Curry missed Golden State's 4-1 victory over San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs and then the opener against New Orleans in the second round with a sprained left MCL. He has started the last five games but has been well below his usual high standard in the first two against the Rockets, averaging 17.0 points while missing 11 of 13 three-point shots. The Rockets have attacked Curry on defense, prompting many to question the former two-time Most Valuable Player's health. The Warriors will be hosting a Game 3 for the first time since 2014 and they lost that game 98-96 to the Los Angeles Clippers, with Paul contributing 15 points and 10 assists to the winning effort. Take the points and make Houston a 10* play.
|05-19-18||Celtics v. Cavs -6||Top||86-116||Win||100||16 h 12 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers have little margin for error after losing the first two games of this series at Boston. It's not so much that the Celtics won both Game 1 and Game 2, Boston is 9-0 this postseason at TD Garden, but how they won them. Cleveland dropped the first two games by an average of 19.0 PPG and even a monster Game 2 effort by LeBron James (42 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists) on Tuesday couldn't prevent a 13-point loss. "We've got to be tougher, mentally and physically," Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue told reporters. "We've got to come out swinging. We've got to be aggressive. I think we've got to be physical, and we've got to have a physical mindset, you know, that they're coming in, playing tough. They're aggressive, and we've got to match that." That sounds good but the fact is, of the 300 teams to take 2-0 leads in best-of-seven series, 281 won the series. Boston surely doesn't want to provide a glimmer of hope,as the Celtics are well aware that LBJ has led his team to seven straight NBA Finals appearances (the last three years with the Cavs). The Celtics are looking to move one step closer to the franchise's first NBA Finals berth since 2010. "We're going to have to be really focused, really locked in, really consistent," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters. "It's even harder to communicate on the road. You've got to be great communicating." Boston: Shooting guard Jaylen Brown is back healthy and has been the team's highest scorer in this series with solid back-to-back 23-point outings (17.8 PPG in the playoffs, overall), while rookie SF Jayson Tatum leads the team this postseason at 18.1 PPG. PG Terry Rozier (17.4-5.6-5.6) has filled in for the injured Kyrie Irving admirably and veteran C/PF Al Horford is averaging 17.1-8.4-3.6 this postseason. PF Morris checks in at 12.9 & 5.4 plus reserve guard Marcus Smart (10.5-4.0-5.0) continues to be a presence on both ends of the court. However, he is just 7-of-21 shooting (33.3%) this series, as part of a struggling Boston bench. Also note that Tatum is averaging 13.5 points through two games of this series, after a franchise rookie record stretch of seven straight 20-point outings. Cleveland: It's always mostly about LBJ with this team but with Boston's starting backcourt of Brown and Terry Rozier outscoring the Cavs' starting guards 72-12, Tyronn Lue knows that can't continue. In particular, shooting guard JR Smith is averaging two points on 2-of-16 shooting, including 0-of-7 from three-point range. Then there is PG George Hill, who is averaging four points and 0.5 assists in the series. James was bothered by a strained neck after Game 2 but the extra days of rest figure to leave him near full strength. The Cavs are a veteran team but the bottom line is, only four players remain from the 2016 championship team (James, Kevin Love, JR Smith, and Tristan Thompson) plus Kyle Korver represents the only other current Cavs player on the 2017 Finals team that lost in five games to Golden State. This veteran group lost its composure in the second half of Game 2, blowing an eight-point halftime lead and missing all eight threes in the fourth quarter! The pick: OK, so where are we? Boston may be 9-0 at home in the playoffs but the Celtcis are just 1-4 on the road, with statistical drops in just about every major category when playing away from TD Garden. The Celtics are also a young team missing its two best players, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Meanwhile, the Cavs are 5-1 at home this postseason, although they are a 'money-burning' 1-5 ATS. While the Cavs aren't what they once were (remember, Irving used to play for them), but organizationally they are the three-time defending conference champs. Remember that stat which said " of the 300 teams to take 2-0 leads in best-of-seven series, 281 won the series?" Note that of the 19 teams who've made the comeback, two were led by LeBron James. LBJ has topped 40 points five times this postseason and is averaging 33.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 9.2 assists. "With a little help from his friends," LBJ's Cavs get back in this series with a convincing win. Make Cleveland a 10* play.
|05-15-18||Cavs +1 v. Celtics||Top||94-107||Loss||-105||16 h 51 m||Show|
|05-13-18||Cavs -1.5 v. Celtics||Top||83-108||Loss||-105||36 h 38 m||Show|
|05-09-18||76ers -1 v. Celtics||Top||112-114||Loss||-102||28 h 20 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics have never lost a playoff series after taking a 2-0 lead (36-0 all-time) and in this series against the 76ers, won Game 3, as well. Yes, Philly won Game 4 at home to stave off elimination but both the 76ers and Celtics are well aware that all 130 teams which have fallen behind 0-3 in a best-of-seven series (including Toronto just losing to Cleveland in the 2018 postseason) have failed in their attempt to make a 'miracle' comeback. The Celtics were outplayed by the 76ers in Monday's 103-92 loss but the post-game mood wasn't overly somber. "It's 3-1, we get a chance to go back to Boston," forward Marcus Morris told reporters. "Nobody's head is down. We're all motivated. We're happy. It would've been better to end it (Monday), but so be it. We go back to Boston and play." As for the 76ers, they are still maintaining hope that they can become the first team to rally from a 0-3 deficit and win a playoff series. "This thing can be done," Philadelphia forward Robert Covington told reporters. "We've done it before as far as finishing the season strong so why can't we do this? We're playing against history, but we've played against history before so why can't we do something great?" Philadelphia: T.J. McConnell will draw his second straight start after posting 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 39 minutes in Game 4. McConnell started just one game during the regular season but he provided a tone for Monday's win by making 9-of-12 from the floor and not committing any turnovers, as part of Philly's three-guard lineup (joining Simmons and Redick). "He changed everything," 76ers center Joel Embiid told reporters. "He was pressing full court the whole time doing his job, running the offense, getting guys involved, making shots, layups." SF Covington came of the bench, while PF Saric had his best game of the postseason in Game 4, scoring 25 points and adding eight rebounds (he had averaged 12.3 points over the first three games of the series). Simmons bounced back from his one-point effort in Game 3 with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Embiid added 15 & 13 (he's averaging 20.6 & 12.7 in seven playoff games). Boston: The injury-ravaged Celtics suffered another one in Game 4, as Shane Larkin injuring his left shoulder running into the wall known as Embiid. Head coach Stevens said Tuesday he won't know until Wednesday's shoot-around whether he'll have his backup guard. The Celtics were sloppy as their four-game playoff winning streak came to an end. "I mean, obviously, what did we end up with? Fifteen turnovers," Stevens said after the game. "The offensive rebounds were enormous for them, just the extra possessions. Neither team shot it great, but they were really good tonight." Guard Terry Rozier has emerged as a postseason hero with Kyrie Irving out for the year, but he will need to bounce back from his first sub-par game of the series. He had just two assists and scored only 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting in Game 4. Rozier averaged 22.3 points over the first three games of the series and has scored 20 or more points on five occasions during the postseason (18.3-5.5-6.1 in 11 playoff games). SF Jayson Tatum is averaging 23.3 points in the series and has extended his rookie franchise postseason record of consecutive 20-point games to six.
The pick: Boston having never lost a series in which it has gone up 2-0 in plus the fact that teams falling behind 0-3 in a series are 0-130 all-time, make Philly's chances at coming all the way back to win this series seem futile. Throw in that Boston is also 6-0 SU at home this postseason and it's more than fair to say Philly's postseason hopes are 'on life-support.' However, the 76ers can win here and still lose the series, so let's stick to this Game 5 analysis. Philly did not play well in Game 1 but had chances to win in each of the next three games, finally breaking through in Game 4. Note that Game 4 was not exactly Philly at its best. We haven't seen that yet. My bet is we will see that tonight, as Philly starts to make Boston 'sweat' with a win that sens this series back to Philly for a Game 6. Make Philly a 10* play.
|05-08-18||Jazz +12.5 v. Rockets||Top||102-112||Win||100||13 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: Houston Rockets drilled the Jazz in Game 1 of this series but then lost Game 2. However, the league's best regular season team (65-17) rebounded with back-to-back double-digit victories at Salt Lake City to take a commanding 3-1 series lead." Houston is that good. Give them credit. They know how to control a game," Jazz head coach Snyder told reporters after a 100-87 loss on Sunday in Game 4. Chris Paul ate up Utah's defense with a string of short jumpers en route to a 27-point, 12-rebound, six-assist effort for Houston, his best game of the 2018 postseason. James Harden added 24 points, while center Clint Capela had 12 & 15, his fifth double-double in his last six games. The Jazz shot 38.6% as a team, including an awful 7 of 29 (24.1%) on threes. The Rockets are aiming for their eighth trip to a conference finals and their first since 2015, when they lost to Golden State,
Utah: Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell is doing his best to be the leader on the offensive end (24.4 PPG in the playoffs) but PG Ricky Rubio has still not played in the series due to a hamstring issue. That's allowed the Rockets to key in on the 21-year-old, who was 8-of-24 from the floor Sunday as the Jazz shot a playoff-low 38.6 percent. Joe Ingles had 27 points in the Game 2 win at Houston but averaged just 10.5 on 34.8 percent shooting in the two contests at home. Mitchell and Ingles shot 30 percent and 34.8 percent at Vivint Smart Home Arena, respectively, with both missing 10 of 14 three-pointers. PF Derrick Favors was limited to 16 minutes in Game 4 due to a sprained ankle, as injuries have taken their toll on Utah.
Houston: Harden and Paul get the bulk of the headlines but center Clint Capela's ability to raise his game has made Houston particularly dangerous this spring. He had 12 points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots in Game 4 and is averaging 15.4 points, 13.0 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in the playoffs, all increases from the regular season. The Rockets are undoubtedly the better team and for the most part, have been the more aggressive team. Heading into Game 5, Houston has made 75 FTs to Utah's 55. Harden has made 36 free throws in the series, while Mitchell leads Utah with just 12.
The pick: The Rockets would love to put Utah away here and move on to an all but guaranteed showdown with teh Warriors. However, a win doesn't figure to come easily. Utah's Snyder said after Game 4, "We missed 22 shots at the rim. We had our chances and didn't convert. Some of them were contested. Some of them were open. You're not going to get any better shot." I expect Mitchell and Ingles to shoot much better than they did in the last two games plus how can Jae Crowder shoot any worse? He was 2-of-17 from the floor over the last two games. after going 13-of-23 over the first two. As for the Rockets, despite a 13-point win in Game 4, Harden and Paul combined to make just 2 of 13 three-point attempts. For the series, Harden is converting on a modest 36.0% of his threes, while Paul is making only 29.4% of his three-point attempts. What's also to be noted is that Houston is just 20-25-1 ATS this year at home (including playoffs), as well as 10-18-1 ATS when laying 10-plus points. Make Utah a 10* play.
|05-07-18||Raptors +6 v. Cavs||Top||93-128||Loss||-110||33 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cavaliers have knocked the Raptors out of the playoffs in each the last two postseasons, as the Cavaliers won the conference final in six games over the Raptors in 2016 and swept a semifinals meeting last season en route to their third consecutive conference crown. However, the Raptors were finally the favored team here in 2018, after winning a franchise-best 59 game during the regular season. In looking ahead to another matchup with Cleveland, Toronto's DeMar DeRozan said, "Sometimes you have to keep it together, because there's nobody better than the guys you've failed with. You might not have accomplished the goal, you do understand how to regroup." Well, it's been the same old, same old so far, as once again LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have the Toronto Raptors on the ropes after taking Games 1, 2 and 3. The Cavs now look to deliver yet another damaging blow in this one-sided rivalry by completing a four-game sweep Monday night at home.
Toronto: LeBron James knocked down a running buzzer-beater to give his team a 105-103 victory in Game 3 on Saturday. "Our goal in the timeout was to trap him and make someone else beat us," Toronto head ach Dwane Casey told reporters of a play that will haunt him. "He split the trap and went 100 miles an hour down the floor and lost them. We just didn't execute. It was probably my fault that I didn't make it clear that we wanted to trap him and get the ball out of his hands. We had it started in the backcourt, and for whatever reason, we let him out of the trap." The Raptors couldn't contain LBJ (see more below) plus their task of winning Game 3 was made all the more difficult when leading scorer DeMar DeRozan struggled the way he did, producing just eight points (more than 15 below his average this postseason) on 3-of-12 shooting. That led to a benching of DeRozan during a critical portion of the fourth quarter. "It's extremely hard, extremely hard," DeRozan told reporters of sitting on the sidelines while his teammates made a late push. "I just want to be out there helping my team, way more than anything. It definitely sucks to be watching ... we've got to give credit to those guys. We fought hard and gave ourselves a chance to win." The Raptors made Game 3 close behind the efforts of Kyle Lowry, who scored 15 of his 27 during the comeback. Lowry is averaging 22 points on 62.9 percent shooting in the series.
Cleveland: LeBron James is putting on a display this postseason that will be talked about for ages. The game-winner on Saturday capped a 38-point effort for the superstar, who is averaging 34.8 points on 54.7 percent shooting to go along with 9.5 rebounds and 8.8 assists during the playoffs. "I've been doing that since I was like six, seven, eight years old," James told reporters of his latest clutch moment. "Maybe even before that. There's a picture floating around of me beside a Little Tikes hoop with a saggy Pamper on and I was doing it back then and all the way up until now, at 33." However, maybe even more important for Cleveland's long-term outlook this spring, was the second straight solid game for big man Kevin Love, who had 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 16 rebounds (he had 31 & 11 in Game 2).
The pick: Teams that fall behind 0-3 in the playoffs are 0-129 in NBA history, giving Toronto virtually insurmountable odds to come out on top against a team it cannot seem to solve. However, we are talking ONLY about Game 4 here and the Raptors can lose and still "get the cash! I noted before Game 3 in taking the Raptors that Cleveland did win both regular-season meetings at home with the Raptors but those wins came by a total of just nine points. Also, the Cavs were 0-4 ATS at home this postseason and a 'money-burning' 13-31-1 ATS at home on the year. After Toronto's Game 4 cover, the updated numbers for Cleveland are 0-5 ATS at home this postseason and a 'money-burning' 13-32-1 ATS at home on the year. Take the points and make Toronto a 10* play.
|05-07-18||Celtics v. 76ers -6.5||Top||92-103||Win||100||31 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics needed seven games to dispatch the Bucks in the opening round, as the home team won all seven games. Meanwhile, "The Process" was coming to fruition with the 76ers taking care of the Heat in five games. Making things look even worse for Boston was the fact that not only were the Celtics without Kyrie Irving (not to mention Hayward) but they had to open this best-of-seven series with Jaylen Brown injured. He had been Boston's top scorer against the Bucks, until getting sidelined during the team's Game 7 win over Milwaukee. Brown sat out Game 1 of this series but Boston was able to win that game with ease, 117-101. Then, with Brown coming off the bench in Games 2 and 3, the Celtics were able to rally from a 22-point deficit to beat the 76ers 108-103 in Game 2 plus earn an OT at Phiily in Game 3. The Celtics will now take a commanding 3-0 lead into Game 4, as the 76ers look to avoid a four-game sweep.
Boston: The Celtics received 24 points from rookie Jayson Tatum while Al Horford scored the final five points of the game as they earned a stunning 101-98 overtime victory Saturday. Philly's Marco Belinelli’s jumper with less than a second left in the fourth quarter caused confetti to fill the air at the Wells Fargo Center, but his foot was inside the 3-point line and it only tied the game, then Boston rallied in overtime to win. The veteran Horford scored seven of his 13 points in overtime and had a key steal in the final seconds that snuffed out a chance for Philadelphia to win the contest. Tatum is averaging 24.3 points in the series and guard Terry Rozier continues to shine while leading the team in scoring during the playoffs at 19.0 PPG.
Philadelphia: Joel Embiid scored 22 points and grabbed 19 rebounds (he's now registered five straight double-doubles in the playoffs) but the 76ers shot just 39.2 percent from the floor on Saturday, while turning the ball over in key situations. Rookie PG Ben Simmons did rebound from his 'ugly' Game 2 performance (one point, five turnovers) to score 16 while recording eight rebounds and eight assists in Saturday’s setback. “I have a lot of growing to do,” Simmons told ESPN.com. Shooting guard J.J. Redick is averaging 20.3 points in the series but PF Dario Saric is 5-of-23 from three-point range in the last five games, after draining 11-of-23 in the first three playoff contests. SF Robert Covington had just one point in Saturday’s loss, going 0-fo-8 from the floor.
The pick: Philly is well aware that a series win is highly unlikely. It's been well documented that all 129 teams have failed to win a series after falling behind 0-3. However, this Philadelphia team has had a terrific season and I see them "winning one for the Gipper" here in Game 4. Yes, the 76ers are just 2-2 SU & ATS this postseason at home but they finished the regular season on a 21-1 SU run at home, going 17-5 ATS. Lay the points and make Philly an 8* play.
|05-06-18||Rockets v. Jazz +6||Top||100-87||Loss||-105||34 h 8 m||Show|
The set-up: The Houston Rockets put their Game 2 loss at home to the Jazz behind themselves with an impressive display of basketball in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series at Salt Lake City . The Jazz upset the Rockets 116-108 in Game 2 as an 11-point underdog to temporarily wrest home-court advantage from the top-seeded Rockets. However, Houston answered in convincing fashion when the series shifted to Utah, opening a 30-point halftime lead and cruising from there to a 113-92 victory. James Harden scored 25 points and handed out 12 assists, while Eric Gordon added 25 points off the bench (he had totaled only 22 points in Games 1 and 2, combined). Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell has taken a leadership roll for Utah this postseason but scored just 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting. Houston now looks to take a 3-1 series lead when the teams meet Sunday at the Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Houston: Shooting guard Eric Gordon was a big factor in Houston's turnaround, as he made 8-of-13 from the floor in Game 3, after shooting under 50 percent in each of his first seven games this postseason. Also, the All Star duo of Harden and Chris Paul combined for 18 assists against one turnover in Friday's game (Paul added 15 points). Harden is now averaging 30.4 points in the postseason, identical to his league-leading average during the regular season. Houston is also benefiting from having made 59 free throws in the first three games of the series, compared to only 39 for the Jazz.
Utah: "I didn't really do much as a whole, like I wasn't there," Mitchell told the media after Game 3. "That can't happen. That will probably be what I take away the most. It's like I would have been better off just not showing up, because that's what I did. I didn't show up at all for my teammates, and I'll fix it." PG Ricky Rubio (hamstring) has been doing some agility drills and light work on the court as he approaches a potential return but Utah also has another injury concern in the form of Derrick Favors, who left Game 3 with a sprained ankle. Favors, who averaged 12.3 points on 61.7 percent shooting in the first round against Oklahoma City, told reporters he hopes to play in Game 4. The Jazz also need to get a bounce-back effort from Joe Ingles, after he followed up a 27-point effort in Game 2 with a six-point showing in Friday's loss.
The pick: Houston has now won all three meetings in Utah this season by double digits. That hardly bodes well for the Jazz but don't forget how well Utah played down the stretch, going 29-6 over their last 35 regular season games. This is pretty much a "must-win" for Utah, as a comeback from 3-1 against Houston would be h highly unlikely. Take the home dog Jazz and make Utah a 10* play.
|05-05-18||Raptors +5 v. Cavs||Top||103-105||Win||100||13 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cavaliers have knocked the Raptors out of the playoffs in each the last two postseasons, as the Cavaliers won the conference final in six games over the Raptors in 2016 and swept a semifinals meeting last season en route to their third consecutive conference crown. However, the Raptors were finally the favored team here in 2018, after winning a franchise-best 59 game during the regular season. In looking ahead to another matchup with Cleveland, Toronto's DeMar DeRozan said, "Sometimes you have to keep it together, because there's nobody better than the guys you've failed with. You might not have accomplished the goal, you do understand how to regroup." Well, it's been the same old, same old so far, as once again LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have the Toronto Raptors on the ropes after taking Games 1 and 2 in Toronto. The Cavs now look to deliver another damaging blow in the one-sided rivalry when the teams meet for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Saturday.
Toronto: As noted, the Raptors won a franchise-record 59 games during the regular season to earn the top seed in the East for the first time but the Raptors are down 0-2 and Toronto is searching for answers as it heads to Cleveland. DeRozan had 24 points and Kyle Lowry 21, as the Raptors shot 54.3 percent as a team but they offered little resistance at the other end (the Cavs shot 59.5%) while forcing just three turnovers, giving the Cavaliers a 24-8 advantage in that category this series. Toronto has been outscored 34-8 in points off turnovers (Cleveland set a franchise record with just three turnovers in a 128-110 win in Game 2), and by 12 points in the fourth quarter. DeRozan is 0-for-13 from three-point range over his last three games, plus after putting up a double-double in Toronto's first playoff game of 2018 (23 & 12), PF Ibaka has averaged 5.9 & 5.4 over his last seven games.
Cleveland: James had 43 points, eight rebounds and 14 assists in Game 2 and hasn't needed much help during the playoffs. However, he was given a boost in Game 2 with a breakout effort from big man Kevin Love. After averaging 10.9 points on 31.9 percent shooting through the first eight playoff games, the veteran had 31 points on 11-of-21 shooting in Thursday's win, plus added 11 rebounds. James has scored at least 44 points in each of his last three playoff home games, so it will be up to the Raptors to change the narrative in Game 3.
The pick: Is that possible? Sure. Note that Cleveland did win both regular-season meetings at home with the Raptors but those wins came by a total of just nine points. The Cavs are 0-4 ATS at home this postseason and are now a 'money-burning' 13-31-1 ATS at home on the year. Make Toronto a 10* play.
|05-03-18||Cavs +6.5 v. Raptors||Top||128-110||Win||100||11 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cavaliers have knocked the Raptors out of the playoffs in each the last two postseasons, as the Cavaliers won the conference final in six games over the Raptors in 2016 and swept a semifinals meeting last season en route to their third consecutive conference crown. However, the Raptors were finally the favored team in 2018, as the teams met for Game 1 of this year's Eastern Conference semifinal series. If Game 1 is an indication, nothing much has changed. LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers once again got the better of the Toronto Raptors, winning 113-112. The Cavaliers will now attempt to maintain their postseason dominance over the Raptors with a chance tonight to take a commanding 2-0 series lead, before heading back home for Games 3 and 4.
Cleveland: LBJ recorded his 21st career playoff triple-double (26-11-13) as Cleveland erased a 13-point deficit in the second half and survived multiple chances for the Raptors to win late in regulation and again in the closing seconds of overtime. JR Smith (20) and Kyle Korver (19) came up big for the Cavs, who never once led in regulation. The Cavs take the court tonight having won nine of 11 playoff meetings with the Raptors over the last three postseasons. One reason being, that Cleveland has hit at least 13 three-pointers in all five playoff games against Toronto over the last two seasons.
Toronto: "A lot of things, we did to ourselves," head coach Dwane Casey told the media after the game. "I think we're a better team. We just didn't make the shots down the stretch. I know it sounds simplistic, but we had our open looks, had our opportunities, that we didn't cash in on, and some other things we could clean up defensively." Toronto has certainly heard all the talk of being owned by Cleveland and it seemed to lose its mental edge when the Cavaliers made things tight down the stretch on Tuesday. That said, center Jonas Valanciunas had 21 points and 21 rebounds to become the first player in franchise history with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a postseason game. However, the Raptors also committed 14 turnovers that led to 21 points for Cleveland, while forcing just six TOs.
The pick: The Raptors changed their approach in Game 1, trying for a more balanced attack and creating an athletic and effective bench. Why not, after being eliminated two years in a row by the Cleveland Cavaliers? However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For as much as the Raptors controlled Game 1 at the Air Canada Centre, they could not close it out (note: the Raptors missed their final 11 field goal attempts in regulation!) and the Cavaliers eked out a 113-112 overtime victory. The Raptors shot 32.1 percent from beyond the arc (9-for-28) and while they shot 42.9 percent (39-for-91) from the floor overall, they shot only 20.8 percent (9-for-24) in the fourth quarter. I had Cleveland in Game 1 and will take the points again here, in Game 2. Make Cleveland a 10* play.
|05-02-18||Jazz +11.5 v. Rockets||Top||116-108||Win||100||13 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: As great as LBJ is, most believe that James Harden will win this year's MVP award. No one will get any arguments from the Utah Jazz. Harden scored 41 points in Houston's series-opening 110-96 victory to continue his season-long assault of the Jazz. He averaged 34.3 points in four meetings with the Utah in the regular season, including a 56-point outing, and the defensive-minded Jazz once again had no answers on slowing down the MVP candidate. Defensively, the Jazz were overrun by the Rockets' exceptional three-point shooting (17 for 32) and victimized early by some leaky transition defense. The Jazz lacked energy in the first half following a short turnaround from the completion of their first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder less than 48 hours prior to tip-off. However, Utah isn't fretting over the Game 1 loss as it also lost the opener of its first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder before recovering to win in six games.
Utah: The Jazz were inundated with a number of causes behind their Game 1 loss but it all starts with the team missing starting PG Ricky Rubio (hamstring). Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell and veteran swingman Joe Ingles produced five assists each plus Utah received steady play from guards Dante Exum an Alec Burks off the bench. However, the Jazz missed Rubio's ball-handling skill and passing acumen. Mitchell picked up a large portion of the ball-handling and he committed four turnovers to go with 9-of-22 shooting while scoring 21 points in the opener. Mitchell's point total was his lowest in seven games this postseason (27.4 PPG this postseason) and he was also hampered by a sore ankle, although he insists won't be a problem in Game 2. The Jazz also missed the defensive presence of center Rudy Gobert, despite the fact that Gobert logged 35 minutes in the Game 1 loss. A Defensive Player of the Year candidate and league leader by a healthy margin in defensive real plus-minus, Gobert was a non-factor on that end, failing to record a block for the first time this postseason and just the eighth time overall. Gobert averaged 2.3 blocks and ranked second in the NBA in block percentage (6.0), yet the Rockets had success attacking the rim with Gobert stationed there to defend it, shooting 8 of 9 with Gobert within three feet of the rim. Gobert finished with 11 points and nine rebounds
Houston: Harden received complementary help in Game 1 from PG Chris Paul (17 points), center Clint Capela (16 points, 12 rebounds) and forward PJ Tucker (15 points) in the opener. However, reserve SG Eric Gordon, who averaged 18.0 PPG during the regular season, missed all six of his shots in Game 1 and is shooting just 31.4 percent from the floor in the postseason while averaging a modest 12.5 PPG.
The pick: The Rockets have been the NBA's best team so far this regular and postseason but head into this game just 20-24-1ATS on their homecourt. It remains unclear whether Rubio will return later in the series but I will back Utah (with some big points) in this Game 2, as the Jazz are 33-9 SU over their last 42 games. Take the points and make Utah a 10* play.
|05-01-18||Cavs +6.5 v. Raptors||Top||113-112||Win||100||12 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: LBJ led the Cavs to a first-round victory over the Indiana Pacers but if took seven games. James had 45 points in the Game 7 clincher (105-101) and he's now a perfect 13-0 in opening round playoff series in his career. However, the Cavs hardly looked dominating, as the Pacers covered SIX of the seven games. LeBron averaged 34.4 PPG in the series, with only Kevin Love (11.4) joining in in double digits in scoring for the seven-game set. The Toronto Raptors are the East's top seed (won a franchise record 59 games this regular season) but also didn't have an easy time of it in the first round. Toronto took a 2-0 lead over the Wizards but WWashingtonm won Games 3 and 4 at home, before the Raptors closed them out in six games. The Cavaliers have knocked the Raptors out of the playoffs in each the last two postseaons, as the Cavaliers won the conference final in six games over the Raptors in 2016 and swept a semifinals meeting last season en route to their third consecutive conference crown. However, the Raptors are finally the favored team and hope to play like it when the teams begin their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup Tuesday night with Game 1 in Toronto. DeMar DeRozan, who averaged 26.7 PPG vs. Washington, feels that his team is finally ready to topple Cleveland, even if the roster is roughly the same. "Sometimes you have to keep it together, because there's nobody better than the guys you've failed with," DeRozan told reporters. "You might not have accomplished the goal, you do understand how to regroup."
Cleveland: LBJ played 41.2 minutes per game in the series with Indiana, after playing all 82 games during the regular season. James, who admitted after Sunday's win that he was "burnt right now," produced 29.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 8.0 eight assists in three matchups with the Raptors during the regular season plus averaged 36 points in last year's sweep of the Raptors.
Toronto: DeRozan (26.7 & 4.8 APG) and Lowry (17.2 & 8.3 APG) need to play great plus Toronto would love to see reserves Wright (10.7) and Miles (9.3) continue their solid play off the bench. Center Valanciunas (13.5 & 9.3) posted good numbers but played little during the fourth quarter for most of the series. PG Ibaka was the Game 1 star (23 & 12) but averaged a "missing in action" 6.0 PPG over the series' last five games. Toronto can't afford that.
The pick: Toronto figures to have a big advantage when the teams go to their benches and the Raptors' reserves were given a big boost with the return of guard Fred VanVleet for Game 6 against Washington (he missed four games in the series due to a shoulder injury. Cleveland knows all about VanVleet's ability to provide a spark, as the second-year pro averaged 15.7 points and five assists in 25.3 minutes off the bench against the Cavaliers this season. However, this series is still about "King James," and remarkably he is showing no ill effects of his heavy workload. He's like the "Energizer Bunny." James became the NBA's career playoff leader in steals and minutes played during the first round, after he became the points leader in 2017. James ranks first in points (6,404), first in minutes played (9,415), first in steals (399), third in assists (with 1,543), sixth in games played (224), seventh in rebounds (1,993) and 19th in blocks (216) in the all-time playoff ranks. Make LBJ (I mean Cleveland) a 10* play.
|04-30-18||76ers v. Celtics +3.5||Top||101-117||Win||100||13 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics open their seven-game series tonight at TD Garden and missing will be Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Kevin McHale, Hal Greer, John Havlicek and Billy Cunningham. The point being, it's a new day and new time in this rivalry. The Process" is no longer a punch line, as the 76ers won their final 16 regular season games and then eliminated the Heat handily in teh first round of teh 2018 playoffs, 4-1. As for the Celtics, the era of Pierce, Garnett and Allen had come to an end when Brad Stevens took over in 2013-14, with the Celtics going 25-57.However, that season was no more than a speed bump, as "Butler Brad" has Boston back among the Eastern Conference elite, despite battling key injuries. The Celtics needed everything they had to survive a seven-game, first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks and their reward is an Eastern Conference semifinals matchup with one of the hottest teams in the league in the rested Philadelphia 76ers.
Philadelphia: The Sixers eliminated the Heat back on April 24 and the extra rest cannot be a bad thing for star center Joel Embiid, who returned from an orbital fracture to play the final three games of the series with the Heat. He averaged 18.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in those three games and shot 8-of-14 from the floor in Game 5. JJ Redick was Philadelphia's top scorer versus the Heat with 20.0 PPG but rookie PG Ben Simmons was nothing short of "special" in his first-ever postseason series, averaging 18.2-10.6-9.0 and 2.4 steals. The Sixers have waited through years of tanking to get back to respectability and now get their latest shot at their long-time rivals.
Boston: The Celtics rose to the challenge of a Game 7 (nothing new there) against the Bucks this past Saturday, shooting 53.6% in a 112-96 win. However, the big question heading into Game 1 of this series will be the status of shooting guard Jaylen Brown, who left the clincher against Milwaukee due to a hamstring injury. Brown had been Boston's top scorer through six games and hopes to not miss any time. "I was told that if we got in a pinch that he could play," head coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the win. "We decided that that was not going to happen. With hamstrings, let's see how he feels tomorrow." Brown averaged 17.9 points against the Bucks (also 4.7 RPG), just a shade behind Horford's 18.1 PPG (and team-high 8.7 RPG). Three others also average in double digits in Rozier (17.6-4.3-6.7), Tatum (15.4 & 5.3) and Morris (13.3 & 4.9).
The pick: This is the NBA's top rivalry in terms of series played. The teams meet for the 20th time in what has always been the Celtics but also been the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia Warriors/Sixers. The rivals last met in the playoffs in 2012, when Boston won a conference semifinals matchup in seven games.However, as noted above, that was then and this is now! The Celtics won three of four meetings during the regular season, including a matchup in London on Jan. 11. No many could have imagined at the start of the 2018 playoffs that Boston would have been a home dog against the 76ers in a Game 1 matchup at Boston. Make Boston a 10* play.
|04-29-18||Pacers v. Cavs -5.5||Top||101-105||Loss||-105||16 h 46 m||Show|
The set-up: LeBron James returned to Cleveland after a four-year 'mission' in Miami and has led the Cavs to three consecutive NBA Finals (won one and lost two). However, his three-time defending Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers will host the Indiana Pacers on Sunday afternoon, trying to avoid a first-round exit. Cleveland went into Indiana on Friday with a chance to close out the series but got rocked 121-87. James was the only starter to score in double figures with 22 points, as the remaining four starters combined for a total of 22 points. The Cavs shot only 31.6% from three-point range (12 of 38) and adding insult to injury, made just 9 of 16 FTs (56.2%). Meanwhile, the Pacers played their most complete game of the series in Game 6, shooting 56.3 percent from the floor and forcing 15 turnovers. Oladipo led seven Pacers players in double figures, as Indiana shot 15-of-30 from three-point range.
Indiana: Oladipo had lost his shooting touch in Games 3, 4 and 5, going a combined 12-of-50 (24.0%) from the floor but recorded a triple-double with 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 6. He became the third Pacer to post a playoff triple double. Domantas Sabonis, the other key acquisition in the Paul George trade, had 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting and is averaging 20 points on 26-of-35 shooting (74.3%) over the last three games.
Cleveland: Jeff Green (13) and Rodney Hood (12) came off the bench in Game 6 to join LBJ in double figures but overall, it was brutal game by the Cavs. Kevin Love managed just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting and is now averaging 11 points on 32.4 percent shooting in the series, after posting 17.6 points on 45.8 percent during the regular season. "He's a huge part of our success or our non-success," James told reporters of Love. "Obviously, we try to go to him, we want to go to him. Obviously, we can't make the shots for him. He has to step up and knock those down. Those things you can't control." Making matters worse is that no other Cavs player is averaging double figures for the series.
The pick: The Cavs have been 'living on the edge' all season and now face this do-or-die game. James is 4-2 all time in Game 7s and more importantly, has never lost an opening round series (12-0). Meanwhile, the Pacers are 3-5 in Game 7s, including 2-5 on the road. Indiana is also trying to avoid being eliminated by a James team (Cavs, Heat) for the fifth time in the last seven seasons. "The pressure is on both teams," Indiana head coach Nate McMillan said. "The loser goes home. So, for us, we take it one game at a time and we prepare ourselves for that next game. The next game is on the road. We understand the conditions we're playing in, but to say they feel more pressure than us? No. The losers go home. So there's pressure on both teams." I think he's 'whistling past the graveyard.' We saw Milwaukee fail miserably on Saturday in Game 7 at Boston (just not ready for primetime) and I believe the same fate awaits the Pacers. Make Cleveland a 10* play.
|04-27-18||Raptors v. Wizards -1.5||Top||102-92||Loss||-108||11 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: The Bucks won Game 6 at home last night to send the Boston/Milwaukee series to a Game 7, as the home team has each of the first six games (5-1 ATS) in that matchup. The Wizards will look to "repeat that script" tonight when the host the Toronto Raptors at the Verizon Center. Toronto's 108-98 win over the Wizards in Game 5 gave the home team a perfect 5-0 SU & ATS mark in this series . DeMar DeRozan scored 32 points and handed out five assists to lead the top-seeded Raptors in that critical Game 5 win, while Delon Wright chipped in 18 points in 26 minutes off the bench. The Wizards had a chance in Game 5 but were outscored 29-20 in the 4th quarter, as they shot 8 of 24 in the final 12 minutes. John Wall was 2 of 6 in the fourth, while backcourt mate Bradley Beal missed five of six shots in the final stanza.
Toronto: Head coach Dwane Casey discovered something down the stretch in Game 5 with an odd grouping of DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, C.J. Miles, center Jonas Valanciunas (who had yet to play in the fourth quarter this series) and Wright. DeRozan scored 30 points before the fourth quarter while Wright scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth, Valanciunas totaled six points and seven rebounds, helping the Raptors control the glass by a 15-12 margin in a game where they were outrebounded 50-35. Besides the relatively new lineup, the Raptors also reverted to its style of emphasizing three-point shooting. Toronto made 11 of 25 three-pointers, after attempting just 18 (made seven) in Game 4.
Washington: The Wizards won Games 3 and 4 at home to even this series, before the Raptors seized a 3-2 series advantage with Wednesday's win in Toronto. However, are confident they can force a do-or-die Game 7 with the Raptors. "We love our chances," PG John Wall told reporters of the eighth-seeded Wizards' quest to stave off elimination at home. "We're very confident." Wall is averaging 26.6-5.8-12.2 in teh series and his fellow All Star backcourt partner, Bradley Beal, is averaging 21.4 PPG. Five others are contributing between 9.4 and 1.4 PPG in the series but Washington could sure one of that group to "step up" here in Game 6. Kelly Oubre, who is 3-of-16 from three-point range in the series, might gain a larger role if fellow forward Otto Porter Jr. is unable to go. Porter has been wrestling with a bone bruise in his left leg and will be reassessed Friday. Head coach Scott Brooks knows he needs more from Porter, who averaged 14.7 points this season but has been held to single digits three times in the series. "We need Otto to be more than a 9-10 point scorer for us to win this series," Brooks told reporters.
The pick: Here's the bottom line. As noted, the home team is 5-0 SU & ATS in the series so far, but that's only part of the storyline. The Wizards come into this game having won their last eight playoff games in the nation's capital and have yet to lose to Toronto at home in a postseason game! Enough said. Make Washington a 10* play.
|04-26-18||Celtics v. Bucks -4.5||Top||86-97||Win||100||12 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: The Celtics will be in Milwaukee for Game 6 of this first round series against the Bucks, a series in which the home team has won each of the first five games (4-1 ATS). The second-seeded Celtics took a 3-2 series lead with a 92-87 win at home Tuesday night, meaning the host Bucks face a do-or-die Game 6 tonight. Al Horford switched from power forward to center and led Boston with 22 points and 14 rebounds as the Celtics survived an old-fashioned defensive contest. "We needed to make an adjustment and do something," Horford told reporters of the lineup changes, which included the return from injury of guard Marcus Smart and a rare start for rookie forward Semi Ojeleye. "Coach (Brad Stevens) saw that and he went with his gut and that, and a combination of Marcus Smart, I think paid off for us tonight." The Bucks shot well over 50 percent from the floor in the previous three games before being held to 36.8 percent in Game 5, with Giannis Antetokounmpo being limited to just 10 shot attempts.
Boston: Smart had been out since March 11 with a thumb injury but added an instant dose of defense and toughness that Boston lacked while allowing an average of 110 points in losing games 3 and 4. Smart only scored nine points in 25 minutes of work but was a force on the defensive end. Ojeleye had just five points in his 31 minutes was one of the main reason the "Greek Freak" was quieted. Boston was outplayed in Games 3 and 4 in Milwaukee but during the regular season was an impressive 27-13 SU on the road.
Milwaukee: "It's on me. I had open shots, but they wasn't my shots," Antetokounmpo told the media. "I think my teammates did a great job finding me, but coming the next game, Game 6, I've got to be more aggressive and make more plays." Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 23 points but was just 9-of-21 from the floor after shooting 40-for-65 through the first four games of the series. Antetokounmpo is averaging in the series and Middleton. Interim Bucks coach Joe Prunty said his team needs a better all-around effort if it wants to keep its season alive for another day. "It's not just one guy, it's everyone we call on," Prunty said. "We need them to come in and play solid defense, we need guys to come in and knock down shots."
The pick: A loss tonight by Milwaukee would not only end the Bucks' season but also mark the final game played at the Bradley Center, their home since 1988. The team is moving into a new facility located right next door next season. The Bucks are looking for their first series victory since 2001 and it's also heard to ignore that they never won a series after trailing 0-2, going 0-17 in such situations. Meanwhile, the Celtics have never lost a series they led 2-0, winning all 35 times going into their current situation. League history tells us that teams are 19-276 all-time when trailing a series 0-2, including this postseason. Will the Bucks make that 19-277? Maybe in Game 7, but not tonight! Lay the points and make Milwaukee a 10* play.
|04-24-18||Bucks +3.5 v. Celtics||Top||87-92||Loss||-116||19 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: The Celtics 'held serve' at Boston in Games 1 and 2, with the Bucks' returning the favor in Games 3 and 4 at Milwaukee. The two teams will both battle history Tuesday night at TD Garden in Game 5. The Bucks are looking for their first series victory since 2001 but have never won a series after trailing 0-2, going 0-17 in such situations. Meanwhile, the Celtics have never lost a series they led 2-0, winning all 35 times going into their current situation. League history tells us that teams are 19-274 all-time when trailing a series 0-2, including the Portland Trail Blazers going out in four straight against the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2018 playoffs (the Spurs, T-wolves and Bucks can add to that sorry history by failing to win their respective series this postseason).
Milwaukee: Giannis Antetokounmpo is enjoying his time in the spotlight and his reputation for being a clutch player, which was evidenced when he tipped in the winning basket with 5.1 seconds left in Game 4 to give the Bucks a series-tying 104-102 victory. Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists through four games and small forward Khris Middleton has been the second half of Milwaukee's "dynamic duo," averaging 25.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists. Jabari Parker, the 2014 draft's overall No. 2 pick, came up big in the back-to-back victories by averaging 16.5 points, six rebounds, two blocked shots and 1.5 steals, after averaging one point and three rebounds with no blocks or steals in the first two games. The Bucks set a franchise record with 14 blocks in Game 4, with 21-year-old backup C Thon Maker swatting away five shots for the second straight game.
Boston: Shooting guard Jaylen Brown continues to excel while picking up the scoring slack in Kyrie Irving's absence. He had 34 points, eight rebounds and three steals in Game 4, his second 30-point effort of the series (he's averaging a team-high 23.8 points in the series). Point guard Terry Rozier scored 23 points in each of Boston's two home wins came back to earth by averaging 9.5 points on 5-of-19 shooting in the two losses in Milwaukee. Marcus Smart (thumb) is eyeing a return for Game 6 if he gets cleared for contact. Boston returns home after shooting 41.4% and 40.0% in the two losses in Milwaukee.
The pick: Is it really as simple as coming home for Boston to regain its mojo? Can the Bucks reverse their awful postseason history while in the process, end Boston's perfect record of going 35-0 in series in which the Celtics have gone up 2-0? The winner of this game can't take the series tonight but the winner will put itself in prime to position to win. Antetokounmpo is the series' best player plus I believe Milwaukee is the better team with Irving sidelined for Boston. Make the Bucks an 8* play.
|04-23-18||Rockets v. Wolves +6||Top||119-100||Loss||-110||33 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Houston Rockets owned the NBA's best record at 65-17 during teh regular season and guard James Harden is likely to take home his first MVP trophy this season. He is the best player on the team with the best record in the league but he is not the whole team. The Rockets proved that in Game 2 of their series with Minnesota, as despite Harden going 2-of-18 from the floor in Game 2, Houston still managed to post a 102-82 win. Meanwhile, Minnesota clinched its first playoff berth in 14 years with a win against Denver in the regular-season finale but the T-wolves failed to get their offense going in tteh first two games of this series. In particular, All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns needed to get more involved, as he had totaled just 13 points on 5-of-18 shooting in the first two games, after averaging 21.3 PPG during the regular season. Minnesota's first home playoff game since 2004 gave the Timberwolves all the juice they needed to win Game 3 and get back into their first-round Western Conference series against the top-seeded Rockets. Minnesota shot 50 percent from the floor, 55.6 percent from three-point range (15 of 27) and handed out 29 assists against seven turnovers in Game 3 while rolling to a 121-105 win. Karl-Anthony Towns enjoyed his best game of the series with 18 points and 16 rebounds plus the team's best player, Jimmy Butler, scored 28 points after averaging 12.0 in the first two games. Harden scored 29 points in Game 3 to bounce back from that 2-of-18 shooting effort in Game 2 but the Rockets head to Game 4 shooting just 31.5% from three-point range.
Houston: Yes, Harden bounced back in Game 3 but Eric Gordon continued to struggle. Gordon averaged 18.0 PPG during the regular season, is averaging just 10.3 PPG in the postseason on 28.2 percent shooting and is 6-of-26 from 3-point range (26.1%). The Rockets have noted that they now need to make an adjustment. Houston wants to get back to its defensive approach and limit Minnesota as it did in the first two games of the series. The Timberwolves averaged 91.5 points per game in the first two games and shot just 38.8 percent from the floor in Game 2. "We knew that was going to be a lot more comfortable coming home," Paul said. "They make a lot more 3s tonight, 15 for 27, and we got to be better defensively. We were just opening up the lane and letting Teague drive and all the other guys, so we know we got to be better."
Minnesota: Butler and Towns finally came through but again, the team shot 50 percent, including 15 of 27 on threes. Starting PG Teague also had his best effort of the series in Game 3, scoring 23 points and handing out eight assists. Teague is averaging 15.3 PPG in the series and his backup, Derrick Rose, is averaging 14.0 PPG on 48.7% shooting after averaging a modest 5.8 PPG in nine games with Minnesota in nine games at the end of the regular season.
The pick: Only the Warriors scored more points during the regular season than the Rockets' 112.4 PPG. However, Houston has scored 104, 102 and 105 points in the first three games of this series (that's just 103.7 PPG, almost 10 point less than the team's regular season average). Towns not only got more involved on the offensive end (his lack of shots had been a topic all series), as he engaged defenders down low. At the other end of the court, the Timberwolves' defensive effort became contagious team-wide with power forward Taj Gibson defending James Harden one-on-one, resulting in a poor shot attempt. Minnesota has been able to harass Houston into poor shooting from behind the arc and if that continues, this series will be tied at two apiece. That's my bet. Make Minnesota a 10* play.
|04-22-18||Warriors v. Spurs +7||Top||90-103||Win||100||17 h 3 m||Show|
The set-up: The Golden State Warriors struggled down the stretch of the regular season due to injuries, losing 10 of their final 17 games. However, Golden State got a break in drawing the Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs in the first round. The Warriors have won and covered each of the first three games of this best-of-seven series and on Sunday, can sweep the San Antonio Spurs out of the postseason for the second straight year. The Warriors knocked the Spurs out in the Western Conference finals last spring and are trying to do the same two rounds earlier this time around Sunday afternoon at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. The teams could not have had a more contrasting series over the first three games, as for everything the Spurs have done wrong, Golden State has done right. It's been a totally dominating performance so far for the defending NBA champions.
Golden State: The Warriors are without Stephen Curry (he is out rehabbing a knee injury) plus they did see Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston exit late in Game 3 after rolling ankles, although neither injury is considered serious. "We want to not come back, limit our road travel and expand our time to rest so we can get our best guys healthy, like Steph (Curry), KD and Shaun," shooting guard Klay Thompson told reporters. "That’s our motivation." The Warriors have limited San Antonio to an average of 96.7 points in the series and the defensive effort of All-Star forward Draymond Green is the key. "He's been fantastic, defensively," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters of Green. "He’s been all over the place. This is a team that you have to disrupt. They're excellent with their execution ... and Draymond is as good as anybody I’ve ever seen in terms of recognizing a play and blowing it up." Meanwhile, KD (27.3 PPG) and Thompson (25.7 PPG on 63.3% shooting, including 65% from beyond the arc), are handling the offensive end of the court.
San Antonio: LaMarcus Aldridge is being asked to carry the team in the continued absence of Kawhi Leonard, who is away from the team while rehabbing a quad injury (does anyone really know what's up?). Aldridge turned in his second straight double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds in Game 3. Veteran PG Tony Parker came off the bench and enjoyed his best game of the series with 16 points in 17 minutes on Thursday, while fellow PG Patty Mills is stepping up as well, averaging 17.5 points in the last two games after scoring just five points in Game 1.
The pick: "Our guys focused in and we came in and we played," said Aldridge after Game 3. "It's been the same thing. We just aren't making shots that are there" He's right about that, as the Spurs are shooting a woeful 24.1% on threes through the first three games. However, this is a prideful bunch and I expect a great effort from the Spurs in this one. Upset alert? Just maybe but let's take the points and make San Antonio an 8* play.
|04-21-18||Rockets v. Wolves +6||Top||105-121||Win||100||12 h 3 m||Show|
The set-up: The Houston Rockets owned the NBA's best record at 65-17 and guard James Harden is likely to take home his first MVP trophy this season. He is the best player on the team with the best record in the league but he is not the whole team. The Rockets proved that in Game 2 of their series with Minnesota, as despite Harden going 2-of-18 from the floor in Game 2, Houston still managed to post a 102-82 win. Minnesota clinched its first playoff berth in 14 years with a win against Denver in the regular-season finale but the T-wolves have failed to get their offense going in this series. In particular, All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns needs to get more involved, as he's totaled 13 points on 5-of-18 shooting in the first two games, after averaging 21.3 PPG during the regular season.
Houston: The Rockets' supporting cast stepped up to help Harden on Wednesday, with Gerald Green coming off the bench for 21 points and Trevor Ariza adding 15. Fellow All Star Chris Paul added 27 points and eight assists in Game 2, after a so-so Game 1 in which he shot just 5 of 14 with 14 points. All-in-all, the Rockets only shot 36.5 percent from the floor in Game 2 and James Harden was limited to 12 points, yet Houston won by 20 after squeaking by with a three-point win in Game 1. "We haven't played very well so far," Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni told the Houston Chronicle. "It'll be crazy up there. They haven't been in the playoffs for a long time. It will be a very loud crowd. We have to do our part, play defense and take the crowd out of it. We have to be ready for all they got. Whatever they have left, we're going to get it full throttle right when we get on the floor to start the game."
Minnesota: The T-wolves know all about "not playing well!" Not only has Towns been a "no-show" but the team's best all-around player, Jimmy Butler, has averaged 12.0 PPG on 41.2% shooting (averaged 22.2 PPG on 47.4% shooting in the regular season). Minnesota was actually the aggressor early in Game 2, leading after the first quarter. However, the T-wolves shot 38.8 percent from the floor for teh game. Swingman Andrew Wiggins scored 13 poinst and was one of just three players on the team to score in double figures (Butler had 11 and Nemanja Bjelica scored a team-high 16 points, after going scoreless in Game 1).
The pick: Minnesota remains confident despite being in an 0-2 hole and is excited to play the franchise's first home playoff game since Game 5 of the Western Conference finals in 2004. "It feels good," Timberwolves swingman Andrew Wiggins told reporters after Friday's practice. "Houston took care of business up there and now we’ve got to do the same up here. I know the fans will be excited, the atmosphere will be crazy and the whole team, we're confident. We're ready." Minnesota was one of the league's best teams at home with a 30-11 record this year and a loss here, all but ends the series. Minnesota can draw confidence from the fact that the Rockets are shooting only 29.2 percent from three-point range in the series. The home dog 'barks' in this one. Make Minnesota a 10* play.
|04-20-18||Raptors +2 v. Wizards||Top||103-122||Loss||-108||12 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: The Raptors beat the Wizards in Game 1 by eight points, as the dynamic backcourt duo of DeRozan and Lowry totaled a modest 28 points. PF Ibaka (23 & 12) was the star, while Wight (18) and Miles (12) played big roles off the bench. However, in Game 2's 130-119 win, DeRzoan (team's leading scorer at 23.0 PPG) exploded for 37 points on 14-of-23 shooting.Center Valanciunas accounted for a double-double (19 & 14), while Miles (18) and Wright (11) again played well off the bench. The Raptors will try to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven first-round Eastern Conference series when they visit the Washington Wizards on Friday. The Wizards fell behind early in Game 1 and were down 44-27 at the end of the first quarter in Game 2. "We need a better start," Washington head coach Scott Brooks told reporters. "All five guys need to lock in defensively. They've gotten free for a lot of jump shots, and give them credit, they made them. ... But we've got to be a little better. We've got to have a better start. It's not the only thing, but we've got to start there and then go from there."
Toronto: DeRozan was the star in Game 2 plus Valanciunas outplayed his counterparts on Washington up front but PG Lowry also added a double-double with 13 points and 12 assists. Toronto was the East's highest scoring team during the regular season (111.7 PPG) and appears comfortable being the hunted after winning the East with a franchise-high 59 wins (only the Rockets won more games this season).
Washington: PG John Wall averaged 26.0 & 12.0 APG in the first two games but fellow guard Bradley Beal (also an All Star) is off to a slow start offensively in the series. He was held to nine points on 3-of-11 shooting in Game 2 and returns home averaging 14.0 PPG while shooting 11 of 28 (39.3%) in two games. A bright spot for the Wizards was reserve Mike Scott, who had 20 points off the bench and was on the floor when Washington rallied in Game 2. Head coach Scott Brooks may opt to go with the 6-foot-8 Scott in place of 6-11 Marcin Gortat, who has struggled at both ends thus far. With the Wizards down 0-2, he has little to lose.
The pick: Clearly, the Wizards face a "must win" in this contest but one wonders if Washington can match Toronto's overall firepower or the team's depth (see the contributions of Miles and Wright, above). However, as noted above, the Raptors seem comfortable playing the role of the "Big Dog!" Back in 2015, the No. 5 Wizards -- led by veteran Paul Pierce -- pulled off a what was a mild upset of the No. 4 Raptors, closing out the series with a 31-point rout. Not yet ready to predict a Toronto sweep but I will make the Raptors a 10* play here in Game 3.
|04-20-18||Cavs +1 v. Pacers||Top||90-92||Loss||-109||11 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers scored just 80 points in a Game 1 loss to the Pacers and needed LeBron James to come out aggressive in Game 2. LBJ did just that, scoring the team's first 16 points on his way to a 46-point effort. However, the Cavs barely hung on in a 100-97 Game 2 win. The series is now tied at one apiece (although the Pacers are 2-0 ATS), as the venue switches to Indiana. The Pacers dominated the first quarter en route to a Game 1 victory and remain confident heading home despite the tight loss in Game 2. "We really wanted to go home 2-0 but we got one on the road," Indiana center Myles Turner told reporters. "We did our jobs. I can't wait to be back in front of the Indy fans. I hope these guys are ready, I know they are."
Cleveland: The Cavs were embarrassed in Game 1 and head coach Tyronn Lue decided to make a lineup change for Game 2. He inserted veterans Kyle Korver and JR Smith into the starting lineup in place of Jeff Green and Rodney Hood. Korver went 4-of-8 from three-point range to help space the floor. Smith did little offensively (just five points) but after shooting 38.5% as team (including 8 of 34 on threes), the Cavs connected on 50.7% of their shots, making 11 of 28 three pointers. Lue said he plans to stick with his Game 2 lineup in Game 3 and praising the job Smith did on Victor Oladipo, the Pacers leading scorer, and the fact Korver took two charges from Oladipo.
Indiana: Victor Oladipo scored a game-high 32 points in Game 1 but was limited to 22 in Game 2, although he did make 9-of-18 shots.Oladipo is averaging 27.0-4.5-5.0 in the first two games with Turner adding 17.0 & 6.5. The Pacers have shown excellent depth with eight players getting 17-minutes plus, although all five starters are averaging 32-plus minutes. The Pacers shot 52.6 percent from the floor in Game 2 but struggled to a 6-of-22 (27.3%) effort from three-point range, while committing 17 turnovers.
The pick; I realize the Cavs have been an awful defensive team for most of the season but that hasn't been the team's problem in this series. After all, the Pacers have scored 98 and 97 points in the first two games. The Cavs finished fifth during the regular season in both scoring (110.9 PPG) and FG percentage (47.6%) and in this pivotal Game 3, I expect the Cavs to bring their "A game." After all, LBJ has never played on a team that has lost a first round series. Why start now, when he's coming off arguably, his best regular season ever? Make the Cavs an 8* play.
|04-19-18||Blazers +3.5 v. Pelicans||Top||102-119||Loss||-105||13 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The New Orleans Pelicans are in the playoffs for just the second time in Anthony Davis' six-year career. His first visit came back in 2015 when the Warriors swept them in an opening round series, despite Davis averaging 31.5 & 11.0. Davis' second time around in the postseason has so far, gone much better. The Pelicans have won the first two games of the first round series with the Trail Blazers in Portland. Davis has averaged 28.5 & 13.5 in the first two games while combo guard Jrue Holiday and veteran PG Rajan Rondo have risen to the challenge, as well. Portland entered the series having won 21 of their last 24 home games but now find themselves in an 0-2 'hole.' Star PG Damian Lillard (26.9 PPG in the regular season) has been unable to get untracked in the first two games, averaging 17.5 PPG while shooting just 31.7 percent. Head coach Terry Stotts said his Portland squad has to return serve by accumulating road wins. "We've got to win two games in New Orleans, and hopefully it's the next two," Stotts told reporters. "It's easy math - we've got to go and win two in New Orleans, and I feel we're very capable of winning both games."
Portland: "Coming into the playoffs, you know teams are going to lock in, and they're going to try and make the game hard for you," Lillard told reporters afterr the Game 2 loss. "And I give a lot of credit to them for executing their game plan but the opportunities I do get, I've just got to be better. It's as simple as that." McCollum (20.5) has been the team's leading scorer but starting center Jusuf Nurkic (in the regular season) was limited to 15 minutes on Tuesday due to suffering a leg bruise in the third quarter. Nurkic needs to be healthy, as he's the only consistent scorer outside of Lillard and McCollum.
New Orleans: Jrue Holiday scored a career playoff-best 33 points in Tuesday's 111-102 victory and is averaging 27.0-5.0-5.5 in the team's two wins. As for PG Rondo, he is reminding all why he's earned the tag "Playoff Rondo." He has once again elevated his play, averaging 11.0-9.0-13.0. Head coach Alvin Gentry appreciates the calmness he provides to younger less-experienced players. Also, let's not forget the contributions of 6-10 forward Mirotic, who has averaged 16.5 & 9.5 to give A.D. some 'cover' up front.
The pick: The Blazers are known for being a strong home team but Portland did go 21-20 SU on the road during the regular season. If there is ever a "must win" for a team in a series other than when one is facing elimination with a loss, it's Game 3 of a series in which a team is down 0-2. I'm a big fan of Lillard and I believe he keeps his team 'alive' in this series by leading them to a Game 3 win. Make Portland a 10* play.
|04-18-18||Wolves +10.5 v. Rockets||Top||82-102||Loss||-108||14 h 8 m||Show|
The set-up: More than a few teams made significant off-season moves last summer in the hope of competing with the Warriors but clearly, Houston turned out to be the one team which accomplished it. "We've enjoyed the year. It's been a great year," Houston head coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters. "Now it's time for the second phase of it. I think everybody's anxious to get started." The Rockets finished an NBA-best 65-17 in the regular season but while they won Game 1 of the opening round series with the Minnesota T-wolves 104-101, it was no "walk in the park." James Harden, the odds-on favorite to win his first MVP award (30.4-5.4-8.8 assists) "came to the rescue," scoring 44 points on 15-of-26 shooting, including seven straight points during a decisive run in the fourth quarter (he also added eight assists).
Minnesota: The good news was that Minnesota was able to harass Houston into 10-for-37 shooting from behind the arc but they were not able to contain Harden. Jimmy Butler drew the primary assignment on Harden and said, "I've got to do my job more effectively. What do you want: a free throw, a three-pointer, a layup? He got whatever he wanted in that game and I've got to be better at taking it away." Minnesota must also better utilize the talents of Karl-Anthony Towns on offense. Towns was second on the team in scoring during the regular season, averaging 21.3 points while attempting 14.3 shots per game. In the series opener, he scored only eight points on nine shots and was unable to take advantage of the situation when he occasionally worked against smaller defenders in the Rockets' switch-oriented defense.
Houston: Harden did some offensive help in Game 1 from center Clint Capela, who collected 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting and 12 rebounds. However, Paul made just 5 of 14 shots (1 of 6 on threes) and added a modest four assists. Once again, the Rockets were able to shake off their poor shooting and were able to thrive in the paint. Houston outpaced the bigger Timberwolves 54-44 on paint points with Harden feasting both on driving layups and pinpoint passes to center Clint Capela.
The pick: Houston took all four meetings in the regular season against Minnesota with the Rockets also going 4-0 ATS. However, I took the T-wolves in Game 1 and easily covered. That ATS win came despite poor games by both Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler, the team's top-two players.I'm going right back to the well again here in Game 2. Make Minnesota a 10* pick.
|04-15-18||Wolves +11.5 v. Rockets||Top||101-104||Win||100||14 h 10 m||Show|
The set: The Minnesota Timberwolves needed to win an OT contest at home vs. the Nuggets in the team's 82nd game of the regular season to end the NBA's longest playoff drought. Minnesota outlasted the Nuggets 112-106 on Wednesday, with that victory allowing the T-wolves to enter the postseason for the first time since 2004.However, there is no rest for the weary, as Minnesota draws the Houston Rockets, who completed the regular season with NBA-best record of 65-17, seven games better than the defending champion Warriors. Houston took all four meetings in the regular season against Minnesota with the Rockets also going 4-0 ATS.
Minnesota: The T-wolves have been in "playoff mode" for some time and needed to win their last three regular-season games to stay alive and finally clinch a spot in the postseason. All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler returned for the three wins and lead the way on Wednesday, scoring 31 points. Minnesota hovered around the third or fourth spot in the West for much of the season before falling off when Butler went down with a knee injury. Butler's return sparked the team down the stretch. Butler is the team's best defender, while leading the team ins scoring at 22:2 PPG (he adds 5.3 RPG & 4.9 APG). Minnesota's starting-five is impressive, with Butler being joined by center Towns (21.3 & 12.3), SF Wiggins (17.7 & 4.4), PG Teague (14.2 & 7.0 APG) and PF Gibson (12.2 & 7.1).
Houston: more than a few teams made significant off-season mobves in teh hopes of competing with teh Warriors but clearly, Houston turned out to be the one team which accomplished it. "We've enjoyed the year. It's been a great year," Houston head coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters. "Now it's time for the second phase of it. I think everybody's anxious to get started." Houston is led by James Harden, who is the odds-on favorite to win his first MVP award this season after leading the league in scoring at an average of 30.4 points, while grabbing 5.4 rebounds and adding 8.8 assists. The difference for the team this time around in the playoffs is that Harden has another future Hall of Famer in the backcourt with the addition of PG Chris Paul (18.6-5.4-7.9)., who is in awe of his teammate. Center Clint Capela also produced a "career season, " averaging 13.9 & 10.8., while leading the league in field goal percentage (65.2%). The Rockets finished the regular season second in the NBA by averaging 112.4 PPG (guess which team was 1st?).
The pick: The Rockets blitzed the T-wolves four times during the regular season, claiming the first three meetings by 18 points each and led by 25 in a 129-120 road victory March 18. Houston, the most prolific three-point shooting team in the league by volume, hit 69 of 159 threes in those four games for a robust 43.4 percent. Considering that the Timberwolves finished 23rd in defensive efficiency during the regular season, any expectation that they might lock down the Rockets this series is foolhardy. Relying on Towns (he led the NBA with 68 double-doubles), who paced the team in points (1,743), rebounds (1,012), blocks (115) and three-pointers (120), plus Butler in the post, Minnesota might unlock a pace that could prevent Houston from its usually lethal combo of layups and open threes. Matching the Rockets offensively might be as sound a strategy as anything for the Timberwolves . If it's posible, Game 1 would be the perfect opportunity. I'm in! Make Minnesota a 10* play.
|04-15-18||Pacers v. Cavs -6.5||Top||98-80||Loss||-106||9 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers finished the regular season a disappointing 50-32. They enter the playoffs as the East's No. 4 seed but will be in search of earning their fourth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals (LBJ is looking for an 8th consecutive visit!). The Cavaliers will have homecourt advantage in the first round but after that, the Cavs would need some upsets to have homecourt advantage in any future series. In contrast to Cleveland, Indiana was a surprising contender for homecourt in the East behind All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, who led the team in averaging 21.3 PPG. "We've just got to go out there and play at a high level," Oladipo told reporters. "It's not going to be easy, but it ain't been easy all year for us. We've got to go out there with that mentality and try to win it. That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to go make it close and have fun, we're trying to win." Indiana did win three of the four meetings this season but all four came before Cleveland remade its roster at the trade deadline.
Indiana: Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis were the key players the Pacers received from the Thunder in the Paul George deal. Oladipo has been terrific and in about 24 1/2 minutes per game, Sabonis has averaged 11.6 & 7.7. Indiana was swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Cavaliers last spring (with George!) but the Pacers are a different (better?) team this time around thanks to the presence of Oladipo and Sabonis, plus four other Pacers who average in double digits with Stephenson (9.2 & 5.2) and Joseph (7.9) also being regular contributors. Oladipo is now Indiana's best player plus Sabonis has teamed with fellow center Turner (12.7 & 6.4) to give the Pacers an excellent center combo. Collison is Indiana's new PG and he averaged 12.4 points and 5.4 assists, while leading the NBA with a 46.8 three-point field-goal percentage.
Cleveland: The Cavs traded Kyrie Irving last summer for Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, Jae Crowder, and two draft picks. The Cavs also signed Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade. Then, on Feb. 8, Thomas, Crowder, Rose, and Wade (and Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert) were all traded away for George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. With a revamped roster, the Cavs battled through some inconsistency with the new rotations and injured players until putting everything together and finishing the regular season with wins in 11 of the last 14 games. Can the team's new dynamic work in the playoffs? Cleveland's advantage over every other team in the East is the presence of LBJ, who played in all 82 regular-season games for the first time in his career. James averaged career highs in rebounds (8.6) and assists (9.1) while adding 27.5 points on 54.2 percent shooting.
The pick: I agree the Cavs look vulnerable and I also agree that the Pacers are better this season, than last. However, look at what LBJ-led teams have done in the first round of the NBA playoffs. They have won 21 games in a row in the opening round (an NBA record) and have never lost a first-round series (12-0), nor even a Game 1 of any first round. The last time his team lost any game in the first round was back May 6, 2012, when the Miami Heat lost by two to the New York Knicks in Game 4. Make the Cavs an 8* play.
|04-14-18||Pelicans v. Blazers -5.5||Top||97-95||Loss||-102||15 h 48 m||Show|
|04-10-18||Warriors +7.5 v. Jazz||Top||79-119||Loss||-110||13 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: It's been a trying season for the Golden State Warriors but at 58-23, the Warriors have long ago clinched the West's No. 2 seed. Meanwhile, the Utah Jazz punched their ticket to the postseason with a win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday but are still waiting for the seedings to shake themselves out. The Jazz will try to lock up homecourt advantage in the first round when they host the Warriors on Tuesday. Utah finishes up at No. 3 seed Portland on Wednesday and is coming into the postseason as hot as any team in the NBA after going 28-5 over its last 33 games to surge from nine games under .500 to the top half of the West playoff bracket. As noted, the Warriors are locked into the No. 2 spot and priority No. 1 has to be getting themselves healthy and back in rhythm before heading to the postseason. Golden State snapped a two-game slide with a 117-100 win at Phoenix on Sunday but come on, it was the Suns!
Utah: The Jazz have began their surge shortly after center Rudy Gobert returned from a knee injury. He is averaging 14.5 points and 11.5 rebounds over the last 33 games. Gobert is getting plenty of help from rookie guard Donovan Mitchell, who led the way in the clinching win with 28 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. The Louisville product is averaging 20.5-3.7-3.7 on the season.
The pick: The Warriors have suffered two straight lopsided losses to Utah and they fell 129-99 to the Jazz in their other visit to Salt Lake City back on Jan. 27. However, don't be too sure the Warriors will 'mail it in,' here. If Golden State wins, it would finish the season at 59-23 and if the Raptors were to lose Wednesday night in Miami, those teams would finish with the exact same record. However, because the Warriors won both regular season meetings, Golden State would earn the homecourt edge in a possible Finals' showdown. Anyone think that Golden State doesn't believe it is more than capable of getting past the Rockets in the West? Maybe I'm 'all wet' here but I'm taking the points and making Golden St a 10* play.
|04-10-18||76ers v. Hawks +10||Top||121-113||Win||100||11 h 20 m||Show|
The set-up: The NBA's regular season ends Wednesday and its hottest team, the 50-30 Philadelphia 76ers ,will play tonight in Atlanta and then wrap up their season with a home game against the Bucks. The 76ers will go for their franchise-record 15th consecutive win when they visit the 24-57 Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday in their final road game of the regular season. Philadelphia, which won just 10 games only two seasons ago, clinched homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 109-97 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. The Sixers can also clinch the No. 3 spot with wins in their last two games. In stark contrast, The Hawks are fighting to finish above the Orlando Magic (also 24-57) and out of the East basement. The Magic's final game is a home contest Wednesday night against the Washington Wizards.
Philadelphia: It's been more than just a little surprising that the 76ers have continued to thrive despite being without All-Star center Joel Embiid (22.9 & 11.0). He was sidelined with an orbital fracture back on March 28 but Philly has won all six games that he's sat out and he is not expected to play in the final two games of the regular season. Embiid's absence is allowing rookie PG Ben Simmons to step into the starring rol, and he is averaging 14.7 points on 61.1 percent shooting, 10.9 assists and 10.1 rebounds during the winning streak. Simmons is trying to hold off Utah's Donovan Mitchell for the NBA's Rookie of the Year Award. Simmons is third on the team in scoring at 16.0 PPG, while adding 8.1 RPG and APG. SG Redick checks in with 17.0 PPG, PF Saric at 14.7 & 6.8 and SF Covington at 12.8 & 5.4. Additions like Belinelli (13.3 PPG in 26 games) and Ilysova (10.5 & 6.8 in 21 games) have been huge plus last year's overall No. 1 pick (Fultz) has averaged 7.4 & 4.1 APG in his eight games back on the court.
Atlanta: The Hawks have been checking out current players with an eye towards the future. Small forward Taurean Prince has made strides all season long and is off a 33-point effort while adding eight rebounds and five assists in Sunday's 112-106 win at Boston. Prince has scored 20 or more points in each of the last three games and 10 of the last 15 games (he's averaging 14.8 & 4.8 on the season). Atlanta bested Boston, despite being without injured starters Dennis Schroder (19.4 & 6.2 APG) and Kent Bazemore (12.9).
The pick: The bottom line is, the Hawks have continued to play hard for head coach Mike Budenholzer. The Hawks have won two straight for only the second time this season and three of their last five. The 76ers have won two previous meetings with the Hawks (each one by exactly 10 points) but note Phily is 21-19 SU on the road, averaging 107.7 PPG and allowing 107.0. Meanwhile, the Hawks have been outscored by a modest four points per game at home this season. Take the home dog and make Atlanta an 8* play.
|04-09-18||Blazers v. Nuggets -4||Top||82-88||Win||100||13 h 44 m||Show|
The-set-up: The 45-35 Denver Nuggets are tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference but currently, would lose a tiebreaker and miss out on the postseason with the way things stand now. However, the Nuggets can make it easy on themselves by winning their final two regular season games, starting with the visiting Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.
Portland: The Blazers are 0-3 on their current four-game road trip, losing losing in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. "One gives us home court for sure, and if you win these last two -- 50 wins and the three seed. It is getting tight because we have things we can still get done, but for us it’s more about how we’re playing," said star guard Damian Lillard. He has his match right and scored 33 points in the latest setback in San Antonio, after sitting out at Houston on Thursday to rest an ankle injury. Lillard (26.8-4.5-6.6) and McCollum (21.5) have carried the Blazers all season, although center Jusuf Nurkic (14.3 & 8.8) continues to be a key component, recording a double-double in each of the last three games.
Denver: SG Gary Harris (17.7) has missed the last 11 games with a knee injury but is coming close to a return. However, Tthe Nuggets are playing well without him, behind center Jokic (18.3 & 10.6), PF Millsap (15.0 & 6.4), guard Murray (16.7) and swingman Barton (15.5-5.0-4.1). Barton led the way with 31 points on 11-of-15 shooting in Saturday's win and is stepping up down the stretch. He is averaging 20 points on 51.4 percent shooting, seven rebounds and 4.6 assists during the five-game winning streak.
The pick: The game has big meaning for both teams, as the Blazers are trying to hold off the Utah Jazz to stay in the third spot, but their postseason seed will likely be determined when they host the Jazz on Wednesday night. The Nuggets are on a roll and with two more wins, will be in the postseason. I won't step in front of Denver's current streak with a Portland team wrapping up its fourth road game in seven nights. Make Denver a 10* play.
|04-08-18||Mavs +13.5 v. 76ers||Top||97-109||Win||100||3 h 3 m||Show|
The set-up: The Philadelphia 76ers held off the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday 132-130, moving one step closer to clinching the East's No. 3 seed (76ers are 49-30, a half-game up on the Cavs). Philadelphia nearly squandered a 30-point lead but held on Friday night to run their winning streak to 13 straight, the longest for the franchise since the 1984-85 team also won 13 in a row. The 76ers need one more win to clinch their first 50-win season since the 2000-01 squad led by Allen Iverson won 56 games and reached the NBA Finals. As for Dallas, after reaching the playoffs 15 times in a 16-year run (from 2001-16), the Mavs went just 33-49 last season and now get set to play their final road game of the current season with an even worse record, sitting at 24-56. Dallas has dropped he first two of the team's three-game trip at Orlando and Detroit, falling to 9-31 on the road this season.
Dallas: The Mavs have been competitive on this trip, with a five-point loss to the Magic and an overtime setback at the Pistons. The team's young players are seeing extra "PT" and are making the most of their expanded minutes. Rookie PF Johnathan Motley is getting an opportunity to start with future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki (ankle) done for the season and followed up 14 points in 41 minutes on Wednesday with his first career double-double with season highs of 26 points and 12 rebounds on Friday. J.J. Barea (11.6 & 6.3 APG) has also been shut down for the season and even small forward Dorian Finney-Smith has seen some action as of late. He was undrafted last year but signed with the Mavs and played in 81 games last season (4.3 & 3.4). He has been hurt for most of this year but he had 14 & 6 against the Magic and 15 & 10 against the Pistons. Harrison Barnes leads the team in scoring (18.8) and rebounding (6.1) plus rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. (15.1 & 5.1 APG) has been one of the NBA's top 'freshman' all season.
Philaderlphia: Many felt the the 76ers would fall off after Embiid (22.9 & 11.0) ) was sidelined with an orbital fracture but they have continued to win, going 5-0 in the games he's missed so far. Embiid won't return until sometime during the postseason. No player came up bigger than rookie PG Ben Simmons against the Cavs, as he scored 27 points on 12-of-17 shooting, added 15 rebounds, 13 assists and four steals in Friday's win. He's third on the etam in scoring at 16.0 PPG, while adding 8.2 RPG and APG. SG Redick checks in with 16.9 PPG, PF Saric at 14.8 & 6.8 and SF Covington at 12.8 & 5.4. Additions like Belinelli (13.3 PPG in 25 games) and Ilysova (10.4 & 6.5 in 20 games) have been huge plus last year's overall No. 1 pick (Fultz) has averaged 7.3 & 4.3 APG in his seven games back on the court.
The pick: Philly had not yet gotten its act together when these two met back on Nov. 28, a game in which the Sixers held on for a 112-110 win after blowing most of their double-digit 4th-quarter lead. The team Dallas faces now is a well-oiled 'machine,' even without Embiid. However, this is a YUGE number and while the Mavs are averaging just 102.4 PPG (28th) on the season, they have averaged 107.0 PPG over their last three, despite missing Dirk and Barea. Dallas may be just 9-31 on the road but the Mavs are 20-19-1 ATS away from home. Also, Philly may just have a bit of a letdown after the team's dramatic 132-130 win over the Cavs. Take the points and make Dallas a 10* play.
|04-06-18||Cavs +3.5 v. 76ers||Top||130-132||Win||100||11 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: The Philadelphia 76ers have matched their longest winning streak in 28 years (12 in a row). The 48-30 Sixers now sit just a half-game back of the 49-30 Cleveland Cavaliers for teh East's No. 3, team which comes to Philly tonight. Philadelphia ended an 11-game losing streak against the Cavaliers when they last met on March 1 and the squad feels it is now in a sustained groove entering the rematch.
Cleveland: LBJ (27.5-8.7-9.12 had 33 points, nine rebounds and 14 assists against Washington, just his latest stellar performance. Love (17.4 & 9.3) is back in the lineup but it was recently announced that Jeff Green will start from here out, meaning Love will be asked to play center, a position he's not comfortable with. The Cavaliers will likely be short at point guard on Friday with George Hill (ankle) expected to miss his fourth straight game and Jose Calderon (hamstring) likely to sit out his second.
Philadelphia: 76ers have continued to win despite losing All-Star center Joel Embiid (22.9 & 11.0) to an orbital fracture, as they've won all four games in which he's missed so far. Embiid won't return until sometime during the postseason but starting power forward Dario Saric (14.9 & 6.9)) is expected to play on Friday after a three-game absence due to an elbow issue. Veteran Ersan Ilyasova (10.1 & 6.3 in 19 games with Philly) started in Saric's place and recorded back-to-back double-doubles, as the team's season-long trend of players responding to opportunities continued. "They play for each other," Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown told reporters. "They really co-exist well. It's stuff with our culture you've been building over the years, and the people we have included into this program have played for each other. I really think they get along well." Rookie PG Simmons may never be the eqaua of James (will anyone?) but he's a remarkably versatile player, averaging 15.8-8.1-8.1.
The pick: The Sixers are red-hot but the Cavs aren't far behind. In this showdown game (very important to each team), I have to favor the Cavs and LBJ, with Embiid sidelined. Make the Cavs an 8* play.
|04-05-18||Clippers +7 v. Jazz||Top||95-117||Loss||-110||13 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: The Western Conference playoff chase has been a logjam behind the Rockets and Warriors all season, as eight teams have been fighting for the final six spots. With the NBA season entering its final seven days (April 11), Portland has clinched a playoff (will likely earn the No. 3 seed) but the next five teams are all withing one game of each other. The 45-33 Utah Jazz have won 26 of their past 31 games but haven't yet clinched a playoff spot (currently own the No. 4 seed), as they get set to welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to Salt Lake City. As for the 42-36 Clippers, they have no margin for error with four games remaining in the regular season when it comes to landing a Western Conference playoff spot. Los Angeles resides in 10th place in the West, one game back of No. 9 Denver and two games back of the T-wolves and Pelicans, who are both 44-34 and own the final two Western Conference playoff spots.
LA Clippers: The Clippers recovered from a 19-point deficit to defeat the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, keeping their postseason hopes alive. Head coach Doc Rivers was thrilled about his team's comeback against the Spurs, as a defeat would have been close to a death knell per the postseason chances. Veteran Lou Williams was struggling through a poor outing before he tallied 15 fourth-quarter points to finish with 22 while recording his third straight 20-point outing. Williams is averaging career highs in points (22.2) and assists (5.3) this season. Tobias Harris, acquired from Detroit in the Griffin trade, scored 31 points against the Spurs and is averaging 19.9 & 6.1 in his 28 games with LA (is Blake really missed?).
Utah: The Jazz have won three straight and are a half-game up on San Antonio for fourth place in the Western Conference after the Spurs dropped an overtime decision last night to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Jazz had just beaten the Lakers 117-110 the night before, at home. PG Ricky Rubio (13.2-4.6-5.4) was superb against the Lakers, scoring 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting and also recording eight assists and six rebounds.Center Rudy Gobert (13.7 & 10.9) collected 16 rebounds against the Lakers and is averaging 13 per over the last five contests. Rookie guard Mitchell (20.4-3.6-3.6) is the favorite for ROY honors. He has scored at least 20 points in a season-high 10 straight games and has 44 games with 20 points this season. That’s the most by any rookie since Blake Griffin had 55 such games during the 2010-11 season.
The pick: The Jazz are 2-1 versus the Clippers this season but that's after losing 18 of the previous 20 regular-season meetings between the two clubs. Sure, the Jazz are fighting for playoff positioning but the Clippers are fighting for their playoff lives. LA is a money-making 24-15-1 ATS on the road this season and I'm taking the points. Make the Clippers an 8* play.
|04-03-18||Hornets -4.5 v. Bulls||Top||114-120||Loss||-105||13 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up-up: The Charlotte Hornets were mathematically eliminated from the postseason race over the weekend on the heels of three straight losses. The 33-44 Hornets dropped a 119-102 decision at home to the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday and are embracing the player-development portion of the schedule through the end of the season, as they get set to visit the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday. The 26-51 Bulls know all about being out of the postseason race but they come into this contest having won two straight games for the first time since mid-January.. However, Chicago threw a wrench into the East standings by knocking off the playoff-bound Washington Wizards 113-94 on Sunday, as 12 different players logged at least 15 minutes for the Bulls, who shot 52.4 percent from the floor.
Charlotte: All-Star guard Kemba Walker (22.6 & 5.6 APG) was limited to 26 minutes on Sunday, as Charlotte expanded the minutes down the roster, allowing Julyan Stone and Malik Monk to get more "PT." While Stone made his presence felt on the defensive end, Monk contributed on the offensive end of the floor by scoring 16 points in 24 minutes. Center Willy Hernangomez picked up some extra minutes at the expense of veteran Dwight Howard (16.7 & 12.3) and responded with 15 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes. However, Howard did record his 49th double-double of the season (10 & 10), tying him with Larry Johnson for the franchise record. A lot of good Howard's presence has done, as Charlotte's win percentage is .436, compared to .439 last season, without him
Chicago: Zach LaVine (left knee) and Kris Dunn (toe) have each missed the last nine games and Chicago has announced both will be shut down for the rest of the season. Veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday combined to go 8-of-11 from the floor and each played 17 minutes but it was the younger players doing the bulk of the damage in Sunday's triumph. Rookie forward Lauri Markkanen (15.0 & 7.5) scored a team-high 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while hauling in six rebounds in 25 minutes. Bobby Portis (13.2 & 6.8), 23, played just 16 minutes in the win but made his presence felt with 18 points to mark the 11th time in the last 12 games that he reached double figures.
The pick: Chicago has taken two of the first three meetings this season between these "going nowhere" teams and as noted, both are somewhat in "player-development mode." However, no LaVine (16.7) and Dunn (13.4-4.2-6.0) doesn't bode well for Chicago here, as Walker and Howard, along with a number of other veterans, are still playing for contracts next season. I'm making Charlotte a 10* play.
|04-03-18||Warriors v. Thunder -4.5||Top||111-107||Loss||-107||13 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: The NBA's regular season ends April 11th and the 45-33 OKC Thunder are just a half-game back of the Spurs for the West's No. 4 seed (the last one which comes with a homecourt advantage) but they are also just one game up on the T-wolves (the current No. 7 seed) and 1 1/2 games clear of the 8th-seeded Pelicans. The Thunder had dropped three straight games by a total of just eight points before figuring things out down the stretch on Sunday by snapping their slide with a 109-104 win at New Orleans. OKC and Golden State have no love between them and while the Warriors are
Golden State: Durant (26.3-6.8-5.4) was ejected in his first game back vs/ the bucks but has led the way in back-to-back wins while averaging 28 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists against Sacramento and Phoenix. Thompson (19.9) is playing with his thumb wrapped but it doesn't seem to be hampering his shooting stroke, as he is 20-of-38 from the floor over the last two games. Heading into this game, Curry (26.4-5.1-6.1 will miss his sixth consecutive game with a sprain of his left medial collateral ligament, guard Patrick McCaw is also out after a scary Saturday night injury that left him with a lumbar spine contusion, as is forward Omri Casspi with a right ankle sprain. Super-sub Andre Iguodala (knee soreness) and Kevon Looney (flu) are listed as doubtful, while Durant (rib soreness) and Thompson (fractured right thumb) are both listed as probable. That's more than a few "ifs."
Oklahoma City: "This is a huge win," Paul George told reporters after the Thunder beat the Pelicans on Sunday. "This is a great win, playing against an opponent who is in the same position for us. A must win for both teams. It was a step in the right direction for us to pick up a game like this on an opponent’s floor." However, George (21.6 & 5.7) is shooting just 33.3 percent from the floor over the last five games and was just 9-of-24 on Sunday. Westbrook (25.4-9.8-10.2) recorded a triple-double with 26 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists on Sunday, breaking out of his own shooting slump by going 9-of-17 from the floor. Carmelo Anthony (16.3 & 5.8) completes OKC's "trio of stars," a group which has so far, underachieved (the playoffs will have the last say).
The pick: The Thunder won the first two meetings thi season but the Warriors took the most recent meeting, 112-80 at home back on Feb. 24. OKC has looked shaky as of late (again!) but while the Warriors are off their first back-to-back SU wins in almost a month, their 'victims' were the 25-53 Kings and the NBA-worst Suns (19-59). Impossible to ignore Golden State's 4-12 ATS run since. ate Feb. Make OKC an 8* play.
|04-01-18||Bucks +4 v. Nuggets||Top||125-128||Win||100||12 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: The 41-35 Milwaukee Bucks are well clear of ninth-place Detroit after a 124-122 overtime victory against the Lakers in Los Angeles on Friday. However, the Bucks are jockeying for position with Washington and Miami for the final three playoff spots in the East. Milwaukee currently owns the No. 7 seed, one game back of Washington and only a half-game ahead of the Heat. The Nuggets may have a similar 41-35 record to that of the Bucks, but as they begin a three-game homestand Sunday against Milwaukee, Denver sits two games behind Utah and New Orleans, who are tied for seventh and own the final two postseason spots in the Western Conference. The the Nuggets have a favorable schedule down the stretch but so do the Jazz and Pelicans.
Milwaukee: Giannis Antetokounmpo (27.3-10.0-4.8) recorded 27 points and 16 rebounds Friday, giving him five 25-point, 15-rebound games this season, second-most in the Eastern Conference to Philadelphia's Joel Embiid (six). Eric Bledsoe (17.7-3.9-4.9) added 39 points and is averaging 24 over his last four games. Swingman Middleton (20.3 & 5.2) had 28 points, as Milwaukee's version of a "Big 3" combined for 94 points against LA. Jabari is averaging a modest 11.0 & 4.1 in his 25 games back but is showing progress. Meanwhile, John Henson (8.8 & 6.9) remains day-to-day after missing his second straight game Friday with a finger injury plus Malcolm Brogdon (13.3 points) has missed the last 26 games with a quad injury but is working his way toward a return before the regular season ends.
Denver: The Nuggets continue to play without their second-leading scoer Gary Harris (17.7), who has missed the last seven games with a knee injury. "Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to see him for a while,'' Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told the Denver Post. "Just being completely honest. Obviously, I am not a doctor, but in talking to our training staff, Gary has been working hard to get back, but I think he is still a ways away.'' Denver features six double digit scorers even without Harris, led by center Jokic (17.8 & 10.6). He's followed by guard Murray (16.5), swingman Barton (15.2-4.9-4.1) and now healthy PF Millsap (14.8 & 6.3)).
The pick: Jokic is an under-the-radar star, who has 14 triple-doubles since the start of the 2016-17 season, fourth-most in the NBA behind Russell Westbrook (65), LeBron James (29) and James Harden (25).
|04-01-18||Thunder -1 v. Pelicans||Top||109-104||Win||100||10 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: The final day of the NBA's regular season is April 11th and seven teams are vying for five playoff spots in the Western Conference, separated by just three games from the 4th through 10th spots. The 44-33 OKC Thunder and the 43-33 New Orleans Pelicans square off Sunday, with both teams suffering through ill-timed three-game losing streaks.OKC currently owns the No. 6 seed but is just a half-game up on the Pelicans, who own the eighth and final playtoff spot. New Orleans holds a two-game edge on the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets, who are both currently on the outside looking in.
Oklahoma City: The Thunder saw their stars struggle in a 126-125 overtime loss to Denver at home on Friday, as Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George combined to shoot 25-of-65. OKC wasted their franchise-record 20 three-pointers, as the Thunder blew a six-point lead with 2:22 left in regulation and hurt themselves with missed foul shots and layups. "We just have to finish them," Westbrook told reporters after Friday's loss. "We did a good job of locking in when we needed to get stops. We just need to put the ball in the hole." OKC's three straight losses have come by a combined eight points and all were against West playoff hopefuls, making for a frustrating slide.
New Orleans: Anthony Davis struggled in scoring only16 points on 6-of-19 shooting in the 107-102 loss at Cleveland on Friday. However, Jrue Holiday continued his stellar play and kept New Orleans close while Davis struggled. He scored 25 points on 12-of-18 shooting after recording a triple-double against Portland on Tuesday. Rajon Rondo (wrist) returned from a two-game absence to hand out eight assists and Nikola Mirotic added 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting after producing a total of seven points on 2-of-13 over his previous two games.
The pick: After losing six of eight to Oklahoma City, the Pelicans have won both matchups against the Thunder this season. New Orleans defeated OKC 114-107 at home on Nov. 20 and 114-100 on the road on Feb. 2. However, the Pelicans ranked as high as the fourth seed in the Western Conference standings just 10 days ago but are now holding on precariously to the eighth and final playoff spot entering Sunday's contest against the Thunder. Oklahoma City is in a little better shape but the Thunder badly need a victory to solidify their playoff positioning. After this game with the Pelicans, OKC hosts Golden State and then visits Houston. OKC really needs this one and the optimism of the 4-2 record New Orleans put together during a marathon eight-day stretch is starting to 'melt away.' Make OKC a 10* play.
|03-28-18||Knicks +12.5 v. 76ers||Top||101-118||Loss||-105||11 h 20 m||Show|
The set-up: "The Process" is working, as the 43-30 Philadelphia 76ers have won seven straight games and are now just a half-game back of the Cavs for the East's No. 3 seed. After dominating the Denver Nuggets in a 123-104 home victory on Monday, the 76ers upped their home record to 25-10 (24-11 ATS). More good news comes their way in that they will play seven of their last nine games against teams with losing records, beginning with the 27-48 Knicks. New York is 21 games under .500 but is playing well on its road trip, stunning the Washington Wizards in a 101-97 win on Sunday and then falling 137-128 in overtime at Charlotte on Monday. The Knicks are
NY Knicks: New York is spending the rest of the season giving players a chance to earn a spot on next year's team. PG Trey Burke is making the most of his opportunity, scoring a team-high 19 points in the win at Washington, then exploding on Monday for a career-high 42 points on 19-of-31 shooting, while adding 12 assists. Burke is 25-years-old and the former Wolverine was a lottery pick for the Jazz but was plucked out of the G League by the Knicks in January. He is averaging 23 points on 57.4 percent shooting over the past four games. Center Enes Kanter has recorded a double-double in each of the last five games and has had a solid season, despite New York's woes, averaging 14.0 & 10.9
Philadedlphia; The 76ers have been led all season by Joel Embiid (23.2 & 11.1) plus rookie PG Ben Simmons (15.8-8.-8.0). That duo has been joined by SG Redick (16.5), PF Saric (14.9 & 6.8) and SF Covington (12.7 & 5.4), giving Philly a quality starting-five. Also, picking up Marco Belinelli has been huge, as he is averaging 15.8 points on 60.4 percent shooting over the last four games and 11.9 PPG in his 19 games with Philly. What's more, the 76ers got another promising youngster back in the lineup on Monday, when No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz (shoulder) returned from a five-month absence. Fultz collected 10 points and eight assists in 14 minutes off the bench and is trying to get up to speed in time to be a factor off the bench in the postseason. "The way he was embraced by his teammates just reinforces what I think of our group and how close they really are," 76ers head coach Brett Brown told reporters of his team's reaction to Fultz's return. "And then he came out and he played. He showed signs of why he was the first player chosen."
The pick: Philadelphia has taken each of the first three meetings this season. At first blush, this looks like a "lay the points kind of game." However, this is a huge pointspread for the young Sixers to lay (could close as the team's largest pointspread lay of the season!) and the Knicks are 6-1 ATS their last seven. Take the big points and make the Knicks an 8* play.
|03-28-18||Cavs v. Hornets +1||Top||118-105||Loss||-105||9 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers went down to Miami last night on a five-game winning streak (4-1 ATS), having averaged 122.2 PPG. However, that streak came to a crashing halt in Miami, as the Heat held them to just 36.5 percent shooting in a 98-79 loss. It marked Cleveland's lowest-scoring effort in exactly one year. The Cavs have no time to pick up the pieces, as they visit the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. The 44-30 Cavs will play five of their final seven games at home after finishing up in Charlotte, and currently sit just a half-game ahead of both the Sixers and Pacers in the race for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the 34-41 Hornets are on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention, although they have refused to go quietly. Charlotte has averaged 122.5 points during a four-game winning streak, just a single victory shy of matching its longest winning streak of the season.
Cleveland: Not much went right for the Cavs last night in Miami. Kevin Love managed one point in seven minutes before he was knocked from Tuesday's loss due to an elbow by Miami's Jordan Mickey. Love also exhibited some concussion-like symptoms and will be re-evaluated in the morning before it is determined whether he will continue the trip to Charlotte. LeBron James was limited to 18 points (on 7-for-18 shooting) his lowest total since Feb. 23. As a team, Cleveland finished with a season-low four makes from beyond the arc in 26 attempts.
Charlotte: Kemba Walker (23.1 & 5.7 APG) scored 11 of his 31 points in overtime, as Charlotte got past the New York Knicks 137-128 on Monday. Charlotte is 5 1/2 games out of a playoff spot with seven to play and the writing is on the wall, which frustrates someone like Walker, who is in his seventh season with the Hornets and has appeared in just 11 playoff games. However, the two-time All-Star is doing all he can to keep Charlotte's slim hopes alive and is averaging 31.3 points during the winning streak. I guess the same can be said about Dwight Howard, who on Mar. 21 (the first of Charlotte's four straight wins) scored 32 points while grabbing 30 rebounds. Howard was the first NBA player with a 30-point, 30-rebound game since Kevin Love did it for Minnesota on Nov. 12, 2010. He's averaging 16.7 & 12.4 on the season but once again, his addition to yet another team has not improved that team's lot in life! It's becoming a 'broken record.'
The pick: However, Charlotte has no pressure and I see them playing well here.Sure, Cleveland has won each of the last eight meetings, including three straight at Charlotte, but the Cavs could be without Love tonight plus LBJ played 38 minutes in the front end of a back-to-back last night in Miami. The Cavs are a money-burning 26-47-1 ATS on the season and that includes a horrific 16-42-1 mark when favored. Take the small home dog and make the Hornets a 10* play.
|03-27-18||Bulls +15 v. Rockets||Top||86-118||Loss||-105||10 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: With Golden State's starting-five looking like a M*A*S*H unit, the Houston Rockets are close to clinching the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs, as well as the No. 1 overall seed . The 60-14 Rockets have already set a franchise record for wins but that doesn't mean they plan on taking their foot off the gas. James Harden's triple-double (18-10-15) in Sunday's 118-99 rout of the Atlanta Hawks cliched the team's first 60-win campaign, upped Houston's lead over Golden State to 5 1/2 games and was the Rockets' 26th win in their last 27 games (the lone loss in that span came by three points at East-best Toronto on March 9). The Rockets will play five of their last eight games at home and after easily taking care of the Eastern Conference-worst Hawks (19-53), the Rockets welcome the almost as bad 24-49 Chicago Bulls to the Toyota Center. The Bulls are losers of five in a row and aren't even getting a chance to look at their three best young players, as Lauri Markkanen (back), Kris Dunn (toe) and Zach LaVine (knee) all sat out in Saturday's 117-95 loss at Detroit.
Chicago: Markkanen (14.8 & 7.6) and Dunn (13.4-4.3-6.0) are both questionable for Tuesday while LaVine (16.7 PPG in just 24 games) is expected to be out until early April. Other young players are trying to step up. Small forward Denzel Valentine (10.4 & 5.3) averaged 19 points while going 14-of-27 from the floor in the last two games, including 8-of-14 from beyond the arc. Cameron Payne (9.0 & 4.1 APG) is starting at point guard in place of Dunn and scored in double figures in each of the last three games, his longest run of the season.
Houston:The Rockets have relied on the isolation brilliance of James Harden and Chris Paul, plus their volume t-point shooting, to overwhelm opposing defenses. That the Rockets continue to score with breathtaking efficiency without mashing the throttle is a testament to their talent and execution, although they can hurry when the need arises. Harden (30.7-5.4-8.7) and Paul (18.8-5.6-7.9) are the stars, although Gordon (18.1) scoring makes for a terrific guard trio, while center Clint Capela (14.1 & 11.0) has turned into a double-double 'machine.' Houston ranks second in scoring (113.5) and leads the NBA in offensive rating at 113.1 points per 100 possessions
The pick: The Rockets are riding a nine-game winning streak and have gone 16-1 since the break. Meanwhile, the Bulls are 4-12 since the break. Chicago doesn't have much incentive to win games down the stretch given its position in the Eastern Conference standings and the possibility of landing an impact prospect high in the lottery of the upcoming draft. However, the Rockets are a more modest 5-4 ATS during the nine-game streak and the closing pointspread on this contest may well be the most amount of points that Houston had given up all season. Don't ignore the fact that the Rockets are 7-14 ATS at home when laying 10 points or more. Take those points and make Chicago a 10* play.
|03-26-18||Lakers +4.5 v. Pistons||Top||106-112||Loss||-105||18 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: The Lakers have shown signs that the team is on the rise, despite suffering a plethora of injuries. LA wraps up a four-game road trip tonight in Detroit, with a chance for a 2-2 split. The Lakers dropped the first two stops at Indiana and New Orleans before snapping a four-game slide with a 100-93 win at Memphis on Saturday. The 33-40 Detroit Pistons have played their way out of a realistic shot at an Eastern Conference playoff spot (trail the eighth seed by 5 1/2 games with nine games remaining) but are winners of three of their last four.
LA Lakers: The Lakers are trying to give their prized rookies as much playing time as possible, as the season winds down. PG Lonzo Ball (second overall pick) and forward Kyle Kuzma (27th overall pick) have played heavy minutes in March, with Kuzma continuing to make the stronger impression. During the month, Ball is averaging 9.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 2.3 steals in 37.4 minutes per game but is shooting just 31.9 percent from the floor. Meanwhile, Kuzma is averaging 17.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 37.5 minutes while shooting 46.4 percent. However, LA is expected to be without two of its top players on Monday, as Isaiah Thomas (15.6 & 5.0 APG in 17 games) has already been ruled out because of a sore right hip. Also, leading scorer, SF Brandon Ingram (16.2-5.4-3.9) has missed the last 11 games because of a groin injury and is doubtful. 6-9 PF Julius Randle, having a breakout season in averaging 16.1 & 7.8, suffered an injured ankle during his last outing, leaving his status unclear for Monday's game against the Pistons.
Detroit: The Pistons Detroit took advantage of the depleted Chicago Bulls on Saturday and set a franchise record with 13 three-pointers in the first half in a 117-95 rout. Anthony Tolliver scored a season-high 25 points and went 6-of-12 from 3-point range to lead the way, and the Pistons handed out 33 assists. It was Detroit's third win in four gam,es but after going 3-13 from Feb. 9 through Mar. 17, it's all but assuredly too little too late. Blake Griffin continues to be heralded as a "difference-maker" but the Pistons' record since he joined them paints a very different picture.Griffin is averaging 20.0-6.7-6.3 in 24 games with Detroit, with the Pistons going 10-14 SU & 9-15 ATS.
The pick: Blake Griffin is getting a lot of heat for Detroit’s shortcomings but in fairness, without PG Reggie Jackson for so long (he has returned the last three games and doesn't look 100 percent), Griffin is being asked to do WAY too much.The Lakers are fighting some key injuries but are 13-9 ATS since the start of Feb. Take the points and make LA a 10* play.
|03-25-18||Cavs v. Nets +7.5||Top||121-114||Win||100||6 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cavs have welcomed Kevin Lowe back and the team's second-best player has been missed. Love (18.0 & 9.3) has not missed a beat, averaging 20.3 & 8.3 in his three games back in the lineup and the Cvs will take a four-game winning steak into their road game at Barclays Center Sunday afternoon against the Brooklyn Nets. The 43-29 Cavs are 10 1/2 games back of the Eastern-leading Raptors plus are also six games back of the Celtics and with only 10 games left, are likely going have to settle for the East's No. 3 seed. However, the Cavaliers are starting to put the pieces together as they get set for another playoff run. Not so much for the 23-50 Nets, who sit near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Then again, the Nets have not 'mailed it in,' evidenced by them taking the East-leading Toronto Raptors down to the wire before falling 116-112 on Friday.
Cleveland: The Cavs open a three-game road trip on Sunday and will play five of their remaining 10 games against teams with losing records. Along with the recent return of Love, Cleveland welcomed back Rodney Hood (back), Tristan Thompson (ankle) and Larry Nance Jr. (hamstring) in Friday's win. They are now just waiting on Kyle Korver (personal) and Cedi Osman (hip) to get back. "Ten games is enough time when you have your whole team back for the first time all season, it gives you an opportunity to, No. 1, establish some type of rotation that you're going to be using," assistant coach Larry Drew, who is acting as the head coach while Tyronn Lue sits out due to illness, told reporters. Of course, a guy named James (27.4-8.6-9.1) is still "the straw that stirs the drink." LBJ raging 34 points on 59.1 percent shooting, 10.4 rebounds and 10.8 assists in the last five games to carry Cleveland.
Brooklyn: "We're not into moral victories, but I did like our compete," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters after Friday loss to the Raptors. However, the Nets were up nine at the start of the fourth quarter against the Raptors,before falling off. It mirrored Wednesday's game when Brooklyn squandered a 23-point lead in a 111-105 loss to Charlotte. In the end, Friday was just another close loss for the Nets, who are 16-30 in games where there is a five-point margin with less than five minutes to play. Brooklyn was outscored 36-18 in the fourth on Wednesday, then 32-21 on Friday, dropping to 5-21 in its last 26 games.
The pick:Sure, the Cavs are starting to gear up for another playoff run but the Nets have covered five straight in the series. Cleveland hasn't played much defense at all this season, ranking 28th in defensive efficiency, while allowing 110.2 PPG (27th). The Cavs are a terrible favorite (covering right around 30% of the time this season), while the Nets are 13-4 ATS in 2018 when getting seven-plus points. Make Brooklyn an 8* play.
|03-24-18||Pelicans +8 v. Rockets||Top||91-114||Loss||-102||13 h 43 m||Show|
The set-up: The New Orleans Pelicans just survived a stretch of three games in three nights (all at home), handing the Mavs a 10-point loss but then needed to eke out a four-point win over the Pacers and a three-point win over the Lakers. The Pelicans aren't making it look easy but with a four-game winning streak, have moved to 43-30, a half-game back of the 4th-seeded Thunder and one game back of the third-seeded Blazers. However, in the tightly contested West (behind the Rockets and Warriors), the Pelicans also find themselves just three games clear of the playoff 'cut line!' Speaking of the Rockets, if the Pelicans want to extend their current winning streak to five games, they'll have to beat the Rockets in Houston. The Rockets are coming off an unimpressive 100-96 home win over the Pistons on Thursday (in OT!) but are winners of seven straight, 24 of 25 and own the best record in the NBA at 58-14. Houston will play seven of its final 10 games at home, where it owns a 28-6 record.
New Orleans: The Pelicans have been toughing it out in a stretch that had the team playing five games in six days (Mar. 17-22). However, New Orleans had enough energy left on Thursday to outscore the Lakers 31-17 in the fourth quarter. Anthony Davis continues to make his case for league MVP and comes in averaging 28.2 PPG and 11.1 RPG on the season. Combo guard Holiday (19.1-4.4-5.8) has been terrific all season and with Cousins out, E'Twaun Moore (12.4) is the only other regular averaging in double digits. However, the 6-10 Nikola Mirotic has been a 'life-saver,' averaging 12.9 & 7.8 in hsi 22 games since being acquired from the Bulls.
Houston: VP frontrunner James Harden (31.0-5.3-8.7) struggled in making only 2-of-16 from the floor in regulation on Thursday before finding his stroke in overtime, scoring 10 of his 21 points. However, Harden went 0-of-8 from three-point range in the win, marking the first time this season that he failed to make at least one 3-point attempt. Joining Harden on teh perimeter are Chris Paul (18.8-5.6-7.9) and Eric Gordon (18.1), giving Houston an outstanding trio. Center Clint Capela (14.0 & 10.9) has developed into a double-double 'machine' and Houston's reserves have contributed on a regular basis all season. Houston ranks second to only Golden State in scoring (113.5 PG) plus has grealy improved at the defensive end this season, allowing 104.7 PPG (10th-best).
The pick: The Rockets are closing in on clinching the best record in the league and they’ve been tough to beat at home going 28-6, including winning 14 straight. However, Mike D’Antoni’s team is just 13-20-1 ATS at the Toyota Center this season, including coming in on a 5-11 ATS run its last 16 as a home favorite. Meanwhile, the Pelicans have covered three straight and 11 of the last 17 in the series, plus they come in on a 7-1 SU & ATS run on the road. Take the points and make New Orleans a 10* play.
|03-23-18||Nuggets +1.5 v. Wizards||Top||108-100||Win||100||10 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets are 1-2 on their current seven-game road trip as they get set to visit the Washington Wizards. The 39-33 Nuggets sit two games back of the final playoff spot in the West (T-wolves and Jazz are both 41-31) entering play on Thursday. Nuggets did take care of the lowly Chicago Bulls 135-102 on Wednesday but if they are going to make the postseason, they'll have to beat a winning team or two on the road down the stretch. The team's road trip gets considerably tougher from here on, with each of the next four games and six of the final 10 on the road against teams with winning records, starting with the Wizards. The 40-31 Washington Wizards fell into sixth place in the East with a loss at San Antonio on Wednesday but they are just one game behind the fourth-place Philadelphia 76ers and two back of the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers in the battle for homecourt advantage in the first round.
Denver: The Nuggets face an arduous trek that could very well determine whether they make the playoffs or not. Denver will be without leading scorer Gary Harris (17.7) on Friday night against the Washington Wizards, who will miss his fourth straight game with a right knee sprain/strain (he initially got hurt in the fourth quarter last Thursday in a win over Detroit, when he landed awkwardly as he was fouled on a dunk. Without Harris, the Nuggets are 1-2 on the trip. They dropped a seven-point decision at Memphis on Saturday followed by a 149-141 double-overtime loss at Miami on Monday, before beating the sad-sack Bulls. Jokic, a 6-10 center, is right behind Harris in averaging 17.5 PPG plus add a team-high 10.5 RPG. Five other Denver players are in double digits, including the versatile Barton (15.0-4.-4.9) and the now-healthy PF Millsap (14.2 & 6.3).
Washington: The Wizards lost 98-90 at San Antonio on Wednesday and are 4-6 since Feb. 27. Washington is a virtual lock to make the playoffs (is 8 1/2 games inside the playoff cut line) but which seed the team gets could determine how long Washington's playoff 'stay' will be. It's important to note that all six of Washington's recent setbacks (see above) have come against playoff-bound opponents. "It's frustrating because we were right there," All-Star guard Bradley Beal told reporters. "Every time we have a chance to move up (in the standings), we kind of take two steps back. All we can do is put it behind us and move on." Beal (23.2-4.4-4.6) is doing his part to move the Wizards up in the standings, averaging 24.7 points on 55.8 percent shooting over the last three games. Wizards SG Jodie Meeks (6.4) and PF Mike Scott (8.6 & 3.1) both missed Wednesday's game due to illness and are day-to-day, plus PG Wall (19.4 & 9.3) hasn't played since Jan. 25..
The pick: Both teams are fighting for playoff positioning (Denver for its playoff life!) but both are also mired mired in pointspread slumps.Washington is 2-6-1 ATS in March, while Denver is just 4-10 ATS since Feb. 23. However, I'm giving the edge to the road team here, as even without Harris, the Nuggets can score and Washington is really struggling on the defensive end of the court. The Wizards have allowed opponents to shoot 48.9 percent from the floor over their last 10 games, giving up 108.8 PPG. Make Denver a 10* play.
|03-22-18||Lakers +3 v. Pelicans||Top||125-128||Push||0||9 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: The Pelicans had a make-up contest last night with the Pacers, in a game postponed back on Feb 7 because of a leaky roof in the Smoothie King Center. It marked the middle contest of three games in as many nights for New Orleans, as part of a stretch during which the Pelicans will play five times in six nights. New Orleans' 96-92 victory over Indiana gives them a chance to sweep its three games in three nights ordeal and post the team's fourth consecutive overall win when the 42-30 Pelicans host the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. The 31-39 Lakers come in having dropped three straight games after enjoying a stretch in which they had won eight of 10 games. They suffered a 110-100 loss to the Pacers on Monday in the opener of a four-game road trip that includes stops in Memphis and Detroit.
LA Lakers: Rookie Kyle Kuzma had 27 points and eight rebounds in the loss to the Pacers andhe is putting together a season unlike any rookie in NBA history. Kuzma needs 78 rebounds and 15 three-pointers over the final 12 games to become the first rookie in league history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 150 3-pointers. The first-round pick out of Utah (2th overall) has exceeded all expectations by averaging 15.6 & 6.2, establishing himself as a key figure in the team's rebuilding project. That can also be said about second-year swingman Brandon Ingram (16.2-5.4-3.9) but he will miss his 10th straight game Thursday with a groin injury. PF Julius Randle (15.9 & 7.9) is also having his best-ever season plus no one can forget Lonzo Ball (10.1-6.8-7.1)
New Orleans: Anthony Davis (28.2 & 11.2) isn't looking fatigued, scoring 28 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking five blocked shots against the Pacers for his sixth double-double in the last seven games. The latest victory leaves the Pelicans three games clear of the ninth-place Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference playoff competition (also just a half-game back of the 4th-seeded Thunder) with just 10 games remaining. Combo guard Jrue Holiday (19.0-4.4-5.8) was back in the lineup versus the Pacers after battling the flu caused him to miss his first game this season. He had 10 points and five assists. Guard E'Twaun Moore (12.3) scored 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting and forward Nikola Mirotic, who missed his first seven 3-point attempts against the Pacers, hit from long range on back-to-back possessions in the final four minutes. Don't knock Mirotic, as he's averaging 13.3 & 7.9 in his 21 games with the Pelicans (team is 14-7).
The pick: The Pelicans have won four of the last five against the Lakers, including both games this year. However, this marks a third game in three nights for the Pelicans and the Lakers had been on a 20-8 ATS run before dropping their last three SU & ATS. Take the points and make LA an 8* play.
|03-21-18||Pacers -1.5 v. Pelicans||Top||92-96||Loss||-110||11 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The 41-30 Pacers and the 41-30 Pelicans New Orleans will play tonight in New Orleans, making up a contest that was postponed back on Feb 7 because of a leaky roof in the Smoothie King Center. The make-up game interrupts what was slated to be a three-game homestand for the Pacers and leaves them with seven road contests in a 10-game span. However, don't expect the Pelicans to feel sorry for Indiana, as New Orleans has it even worse. This marks the middle contest of a string of three games in as many days and part of a stretch during which the Pelicans will play five times in six nights. Both teams find themselves in tightly contested battles for playoff positioning. The Pacers are 4th in the East, just a half-game back of the Cavs but still only 3 1/2 games ahead of the eight-seeded Bucks. Things are even tighter for the fifth-seeded Pelican in the West, as they are just one game ahead of the conference's 8th-seed.
Indiana: "We're tired, of course," Indiana PG Darren Collison told reporters. "But everybody in the NBA is tired right now. So there's really no excuse. We've got to go out there and perform." Second-year center Myles Turner (13.7 & 6.9) returned from a one-game absence due to an ankle issue to post 21 points and seven rebounds in Monday's 110-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Turner is one of six Indiana players averaging in double digits. That group is led by Oladipo (23.3-5.2-4.2) and also includes back-up center Sabonis (11.7 & 7.9), who along with Oladipo, was acquired from OKC in the George trade. However, Sabonis has been out the last few games with an ankle issue and is not expected to play in this one. Stephenson (9.5 & 5.1) and Joseph (8.10 have been valuable contributers as well, mostly coming off the bench.
New Orleans: "It's not some impossible thing," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters regarding the Pelicans' busy upcoming stretch of games. "I don't want to make a big deal out of it, and we'll be able to manage it and play and do the best we can with it." Anthony Davis (28.2 & 11.1) scored 37 points on 15-of-21 shooting in Tuesday's 115-105 win over Dallas to help the Pelicans move three games clear of ninth-place Denver in the Western Conference playoff chase. Jrue Holiday missed his first game of the season on Tuesday (illness) and the hope is that the club's second-leading scorer (19.1 points) will be able to play against Indiana. Davis has been nothing short of spectacular since the loss of Boogie Cousins (25.2 & 12.9) but he can't do it alone. Mirotic has been a huge help (acquired from the Bulls), averaging 13.2 & 6.5 in 20 games for New Orleans.
The pick: New Orleans could use a bit of a cushion as it has a tough closing slate that includes games against Houston, Portland, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Golden State and the Spurs. A date with Indiana is clearly no 'walk in the park." Yes, the Pelicans posted a 117-112 victory on Nov. 7 behind 37 points from Davis but the Pacers have won 12 of the last 15 meetings between the two clubs. Make Indiana a 10* play.