We picked up the win last night when we backed the New Orleans Pelicans on the road against the Portland Trailblazers in game one of their first-round series. We picked up the five and a half points and expected a close game. For most of this game, it wasn’t even all that competitive as the Pelicans dominated the first forty minutes of action.
New Orleans led throughout and with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter they led by fourteen points. But this is the playoffs, and home teams don’t just lay down, and the Blazers put together a furious run to cut the lead to just one point with sixty seconds left on the clock. The Pelicans were able to withstand the run and stay compassed and held off Portland for the 97-95 upset road victory.
So, we backed the dog getting points and didn’t end up needing any points as they won outright. New Orleans has now essentially stolen away the home court advantage for the rest of the series, and Portland has its back firmly against the wall. I mentioned in my pick yesterday that New Orleans x-factor was going to be Rajon Rondo as Rondo has a wealth of playoff experience and knows what it takes to win a ring.
Rondo did not disappoint and was dishing all night long and ended up with seventeen assists and eight rebounds. It was exactly the type of performance the Pelicans needed from the veteran point guard. Today I will stay in the Western Conference and break down game one of the four-five seed series between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Utah Jazz, the five seed in the Western Conference, are on the road in Oklahoma City tonight for game one of a seven-game first round series with the four seed Thunder. The Jazz were one of the best teams in the league in the second half of the year and enter the playoffs playing well right now.
For Oklahoma City, they have been an up and down squad all year long as they had to adjust to a drastically changed rotation this season. The Thunder are -4.5-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 205 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:30 PM PST from Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
Not many expected much from the Utah Jazz this season. They lost the face of their franchise, Gordan Hayward, in the offseason and most expected them to miss the playoffs this year. Through the season’s first couple of months, those haters were right as the Jazz struggled to win games.
Then something started to click for Utah, and they finished the season on an incredible run. They went 29-6 in their last thirty-five games and went from a team that was out of playoff contention to one that finished just one game away from being in the three seed in the Western Conference.
The Jazz lost out on a tiebreaker to this Oklahoma City team as both teams finished with identical 48-34 records. So, even though the teams finished with the same record, the Jazz are forced to play this best of seven series without home court advantage. There isn’t much that separates these two teams in this series, and I expect to see it go the full seven games.
The Oklahoma City Thunder made the biggest splash of any team in the offseason when they brought in not one, but two, superstar players. OKC brought in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to play alongside their MVP Russell Westbrook and the term super team immediately started to get thrown around. But then the reality of having three heavy ball handling and high scoring players on the same team started to take effect and this team struggled.
The Thunder got their act together by the end of the year, mostly by relying heavily on Westbrook and having Carmelo take a back seat. OKC struggled down the stretch as they lost four out of five games to end March and were at risk of missing the playoffs altogether. They did manage to start April strong though by winning for out of their last five and ended up winning the tiebreaker lottery between themselves, the Jazz, and the Pelicans and secured the four seed.
This team has as much talent as any team in the league not named the Golden State Warriors, but only time will tell if that will translate into playoff success. If they don’t manage to at least win one playoff series this is likely the last rodeo for the big three in OKC as Carmelo is looking old and Paul George is giving the Lakers a hard look.
It is hard to deny what the Jazz have done in the season’s second half. They have been elite since they ironed out their new rotation after going through so much change in the offseason. They were just a tiebreaker away from being the home team in this series and being the favorites. Winning on the road in the NBA playoffs is very hard to do, but I think Utah has a very good chance to knock off the Thunder tonight.
The NBA playoffs are all about which team is playing better right now and who stayed healthy towards the end of the regular season. And outside of the Houston Rockets, there is no hotter team in the NBA than the Utah Jazz. And they managed to keep their entire squad healthy. For OKC, they have sputtered around multiple times and are just not consistent enough to back in the playoffs. If it wasn’t for a strong last week to the season, OKC could have missed out on the playoffs altogether.
I don’t know who wins this game outright, but I do expect this game to come down to the wire, so I will snatch up the points and take the road team tonight. Give me the Utah Jazz +4.5-points and the Thunder are going to be on upset alert!