Tonight’s pair of games is precisely why betting the NBA Playoffs can be challenging, yet offer up some good opportunities as well – at least for those of us who like playing a little Sigmund Freud with our picks. Because numbers can tell us only so much in a best-of-seven series. If it were ALL numbers, then it would logically stand to reason that the same team would have the exact same advantages in every game. We all know that is far from the case….
Just this postseason already we have variances between highest winning/losing margins of well over 30 points per game in four of the eight series. I am not sure if this stat is recorded anywhere, but it is something I have tracked for several years – simply it is how many points the same team both WON and LOST by in the same series. For example, the Pacers won by 21, and also lost by 17. That is a variance of 38 points between the exact same teams within the span of a week.
My point is, numbers are nice, but momentum, emotion, matchups and flat-out “shots falling” have a lot to do with results as well. Tonight’s games have elements of all those mental elements involved, which make them fascinating to watch, but also potentially lucrative to handicap.
Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat -12.5
Suffice it to say no one had the Bulls winning a game in Miami, and certainly not leading this series at any point. In fact, the Vegas folks have to be at least a little uneasy with so many Bulls +2500 wagers to win the series. Is Miami in any real trouble?? Probably not. But has this series gotten a helluva lot more interesting? You better believe it.
SO which Heat team shows up tonight? The Heat team bent on vengeance; one that comes out and plays elite level defense and lets Lebron simply overwhelm the injured Bulls? Or can Chicago continue to muster up the amazing emotion and effort that have carried them well past the point their talent level dictates?
I still think the Heat are winning the NBA title, and I still think they win this series in five game (maybe six…). That means, I believe in their ability to bounce back and lay one on the Bulls tonight.
Do the numbers support it?? Not really. The Bulls have now beaten the Heat twice this season, once at home without Joakim Noah to snap the Heat’s near-record winning streak and now once on the road without Heinrich, Deng, Rose, and…. You get the point. The Bulls have simply found a way to beat the Heat.
Not tonight. Give me Miami to come out intense and blow the doors off a team that has NO BUSINESS being in this series competitively.
Free Pick: Miami Heat -12.5
Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs -7.5
I know many of you like stats, so perhaps you have already heard this one. 394 times in NBA Playoff history a team has led by 16 or more points with 4:00 or less remaining. All 394 teams that team has won the game. UNTIL Monday night in San Antonio and the Spurs legendary comeback that resulted in an eventual Manu Ginobili game-winning three-pointer in double overtime. That is an absolutely soul-crushing loss for the Warriors, and it seems the residual effect of having blown that game would be devastating. To be SO close to notching their first win in San Antonio is over 16 YEARS only to have an epic collapse… it’s gotta be tough to get back up off the mat following that game…
Or does it?
This scenario is fairly akin to the opening round against Denver. Granted, they didn’t implode in nearly as spectacular a fashion, but they did cough up a game they SHOULD have won to open the series against a favored team in an arena that team nearly NEVER loses in. And we all know how the Denver series turned out…
So, can the Warriors get up off the mat and do it one more time? I’m leaning towards no in terms of winning the series. They lost their chance to steal the series when they let game one get literally STOLEN out from under them. But I don’t think Mark Jackson’s young team is going to sulk. In fact, I think they are encouraged. They know they were THIS close to winning in San Antonio, and get one more chance tonight. IF they can be just one basket better, they go back home, a place where they have ALL the confidence in the WORLD, with a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Do I think all that will happen? No. But I do think that is the narrative playing in Mark Jackson’s locker room right now. I look for Golden State to come out and play well and give them another good game, but in the end, come up just short to the veteran and poised Spurs.
Free Pick: Golden State Warriors +7.5