After an odd quiet day of NBA Playoff action, the postseason resumes tonight with the same two teams that played Wednesday squaring off once again. So the Bulls, Cavs, Clippers and Rockets play less than 48-hours later, while the Wizards, Hawks, Warriors and Grizz will enjoy a third straight night off. Hey, I get that you have to move the TV needle, but this seems a little unfair and ill-conceived.
However, it turns out that a potentiall advantageous schedule for the Wizards has turned into a moot point after the revelation that John Wall has five broken bones in his left hand. The point guard had been sensational to this point in the playoffs, leading his team to a victory in five games he played, but with him on the sidelines it seems like the series may be gone as well. The Wizards are 10-41 lifetime in games without John Wall… But we will talk plenty about him and the Wiz tomorrow. For now, let’s focus in on tonight’s action and see if we can deliver a second straight winning pick.
Today’s Free Pick:
Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls -1.5 (Total: 195.5)
For all the “sky is falling” talk after Game One in Cleveland, the Cavaliers don’t seem in terrible shape right now. The weathered the early storm and emerged with a 1-1 split without J.R. Smith. They’ve also had two valuable games to find their rhythm without Kevin Love and looked pretty darn good in Game Two.
Oh, and they still have the best player on the planet (with apologies to MVP-Steph and Anthony Davis. LeBron James was dominant Wednesday night and from the moment he stepped on the court, there was no doubt the Cavaliers were winning that game. So can he replicate that effort tonight?
Any questions about LeBron being able to ramp it up two games in a row will be magnified for Derrick Rose. The oft-injured former MVP looked awesome in Game One, but was brought back to mere mortal in Game Two, going just 6 of 20 from the floor. He still finished with 14 and 10, but it wasn’t a particularly “good” game from Rose. More troubling to me is the fact he hasn’t shot a free throw in three straight games. Jump-shooting Derrick Rose is BAD for the Bulls, as he will have a decent game from time to time, but if he is going to settle from the perimeter, expect the Cavs to control the game once again.
Momentum swings wildly from game to game in series against evenly matched teams, so it is wise to not read too much into Game Two, just as it was wise not to panic too much after Game One. I expect the first quality game of the series tonight.
But in the end, I’m sticking with LeBron and Kyrie. LeBron came out possessed and ultra-aggressive, reportedly at Kyrie’s urging. That tells me this team, which struggled to find their identity and role for much of the season gets it; as ‘Bron goes, we go. He should get a little extra help, especially on the kick-outs, from J.R. Smith’s return tonight and I think the added depth helps get Cleveland back in control of the series. Tristan Thompson in the starting lineup allows them to go big on big right out of the shoot and seemed to help prevent Gasol from getting rolling like he did in Game One. I expect the same matchup tonight.