Let’s hope we get a more competitive Game One out west than we did in the East. Miami hung with Chicago for two and a half quarters before the Bulls used their length and energy, not to mention some red-hot shooting, to race out to an wide and insurmountable lead.
The most interesting take way from Sunday’s game for me, was the shooting percentages. Miami outshot Chicago 47% to 44%, yet still lost by 20. That’s hard to do, but what it tells me? Miami got outworked and out-hustled by the young Bulls.
Second chance points, steals and turnovers played a huge part in Chicago’s Game One win – even though their third quarter shooting got most of the press.
Let’s get on to today’s free picks.
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Today’s Free NBA Picks:
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Dallas Mavericks -5.5 (Total: 198.5)
Both of these teams can score points in bunches; OKC had the fourth most potent offense in the league at 108.6 points per game, while the Mavericks weren’t far behind in eighth place. Despite the gaudy point totals, both teams defend much better than their numbers indicate as well.
Both have improved their interior defense this season. The Thunder have another year experience under Serge Ibaka’s belt, and acquired defense stopper and shot blocker Kendrick Perkins just before the trade deadline. For Dallas, it is impossible to ignore the difference that Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler have made on the defensive end of the floor. Not only have the added some quickness and length, but more importantly, especially Chandler, have brought a new mentality to Big D. They may run and gun – but they are going to defend you for 48 minutes as well.
Oddly, the road team won in each meeting this regular season. I’d wager that is more of a statistical anomaly than a trend to play moving forward in this series. Playoff basketball, even more than the regular season, tends to ebb and flow with home court advantage. The figure that might be of bigger importance is that the mavericks were 2-1 against OKC, with their lone loss being a 99-95 game in which Dirk Nowitski played only 12 minutes immediately following his return from a knee injury. Had that injury not occurred, the Mavs would likely have been the top seed in the West and entered the postseason with the best record in the NBA.
For the opener, I like the Mavericks to come out strong, feed off a frenzied crowd, and rely on their experience to handle the pressure of the moment. A nine-day layoff would normally be a concern, but I think it was exactly what Dirk and Kidd and an aging cast of superstars needed to gear up for one last push for a title.