How did I celebrate my Kentucky Derby victory yesterday? With a loud celebration at my Derby party, and by dancing like Marco Belinelli after hitting a late three pointer last night against Brooklyn. If you didn’t see the game, think “Sam Cassell” and pantomiming enormous boulders below the man-region…
While my Derby win was exhilarating and made for a fun afternoon, Belinelli and the Bulls were dancing for good reason last night. I fanned on that game, and given the lineup they trotted onto the court last night, they had NO business winning that basketball game. But apparently Joakim Noah didn’t get that message. The big man turned in one of the finest Game Seven performances in recent memory, tallying 26 points, 14 boards and 6 blocks and bringing an insane amount of passion and energy to the wounded Bulls.
And as much as it seemed like the First Round was here to stay, poof! It vanished, and in true NBA scheduling fashion, the Second Round is immediately upon us today.
We are 8-2 ATS over our last ten NBA picks, so let’s kick off the second round in the same winning fashion with this afternoon’s picks. (Note: Today’s games tip-off at 1pm and 3:30pm EST)
Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder -3.5 (Total: 186.5)
This game, and this entire series, will be a battle of styles and a battle of wills. The Thunder are going to need to get up and down the court and score points if they want to be able to beat the healthier and far more physical Memphis Grizzlies. Looking at this series on paper, four of the five best players in this series are wearing Grizzly uniforms. That would normally be an advantage…
However, the one X-factor is the BEST player in this series and his potential (and opportunity) to dominate this series and carry the Thunder, Kevin Durant. His transition from amazing teammate to forced gunner was a bit awkward at times in the first round. You could TELL Durant didn’t feel comfortable shooting 35 times a game. But in truth, unless Kevin Martin can truly become a second scoring option on the perimeter on a consistent basis, it is going to be Durant gunning or the Thunder exiting.
I like Memphis in this series, and my 40:1 pick of the Grizzlies before the Playoffs started in our preview column is looking likea better and beter hedge opportunity every day. They have a real chance to win the West. Gasol and Randolph are going to give the Thunder absolute fits. Conley is the best point guard in the series and it isn’t even CLOSE now that Westbrook is out and Memphis is the better defensive team to begin with.
I like Memphis to jump on the Thunder today and send the immediate message; “this series is going to be ROUGH.” Look for them to throw tons of bodies at Durant, including Tony Allen and Tayshaum Prince – two excellent defenders with very different styles. Durant will still get his points, but their job is to make things as difficult and inefficient as possible for him.
Give me Memphis with a message-sending opening game surprise.
Free Pick: Memphis Grizzlies +3.5
Indiana Pacers at New York Knicks -5.5 (Total: 183)
Bonus Pick: I like the Knicks to play well today and defend their home court. They are one of the most mercurial teams in the NBA (you’ll notice I don’t bet their games often). They have the highest variance in win/loss differential from game to game in the NBA. What that means is, when they are HOT they win big, then they are off, they lay a Game Five stink bomb like they did against Boston.
I am going to roll the dice and say they shoot well at home to open the series, though over the course of the next two weeks I think they are going to have a TON of difficulty with the Pacers.
Free Pick: New York Knicks -5.5