Sometimes it’s as much about who you dress as it is how you play. Two teams evened their respective series last night, the Hawks and Grizzlies, and the biggest story of each game was a pair of point guards; one sitting with an injury and the other gamely returning from a gruesome one. For the Wizards, the absence of John Wall was too much to overcome in Atlanta, and they were forced to settle with an otherwise-pleasing split in Atlanta. Meanwhile Mike Conley went from broken face to breaking the Warriors defense, scoring 22 points in 27 minutes and leading the Grizzlies to an impressive road win to even the series.
So can another pair of home teams even their respective series tonight? The Cavaliers and Rockets had better bring better efforts tonight or else they’ll find themselves in a hole few NBA teams have clawed out from; down 2-0 after losing both games at home.
I’ll admit, I got blindsided by the Conley heroics and the resilient Grizzlies effort last night. It’s only the second time I’ve been genuinely surprised by a result this postseason. However, our record is still sparkling in the postseason, so let’s get back to the winning ways tonight.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers -5.5
So, what to make of Monday’s Cavaliers’ stinkbomb? Evidence the Cavs are in deep trouble without Kevin Love (and J.R. Smith for one more game)? Proof the Bulls with a healthy Derrick Rose are who many thought they were before the season started; the Eastern Conference favorites? Or simply a bad night to have a bad night for LeBron and the inevitable bounce-back happens tonight?
I’m voting for the latter. Yes, the Cavaliers showed some holes and some difficulty spacing the floor as effectively as they had with Kevin Love on the court. And I dropped the first game of this series, picking the Cavs in a game with LeBron deferring far too often and having a ill-timed poor game. Yes, Jimmy Butler has held LeBron seven points under his typical per-36 scoring average in their last five meetings (enough of a trend to be more “trend” than “coincidence”), but I just can’t see another sub-twenty point performance tonight. Look for he and Kyrie to combine for at least 60 tonight.
Also, the Cavaliers are done trying to match down and are going to go with a more traditional starting lineup tonight, sliding Tristan Thompson in the starting five to add some size and physicality. That could help slow down Pau Gasol who played a near-perfect game in the series opener.
The Bulls had 26 uncontested shots in Game One. They made 22 of them. I expect both the number of opportunities and the percentage to regress to the mean tonight. Likewise, the Cavaliers had a ton of turnovers, including six by LeBron. Look for THAT to regress back to the mean as well. It all adds up to a 15-20 point swing – something not nearly as anomalous as casual basketball fans think in a seven game series.
I just don’t see the Cavaliers going down 2-0 at home as long as LeBron and Kyrie are healthy. It’s been a while since Derrick Rose has been able to consistently manufacture consistent dominant games. Plus, don’t be surprised to see LeBron slide over to provide Derrick some 2010 flashbacks at the first sign of trouble.
I’ll take the Cavaliers to win and cover tonight at home.