We notched a second straight NBA Playoff winner last night with the Golden State Warriors getting a surprise twenty minutes from Kevin Durant, who was listed as “doubtful”, in a casual 128-103 romp to close out the Portland Trailablazers. Just as I expected, the Blazers were out of gas and upon seeing that the light at the end of the tunnel was in fact the Warriors Express, promptly laid down to get run over.
Golden State now gets a valuable week of rest to prepare for the sure-to-be-tired winner of the Utah/Clippers series, where they will face either a too-young-to-win Jazz squad or a Clippers team that will once again be without Blake Griffin. Add in the visible struggles of the Spurs and it is hard to envision anything other than multiple catastrophic injuries preventing the Warriors from a chance to avenge their 2016 Finals loss.
Elsewhere, Toronto put together their best performance of the postseason in blowing to Milwaukee to grab a 3-2 lead and the Hawks held on to even up their series with Washington. Neither road team has made any inroad in that series, which seemed destined to deliver at least one Game Seven.
Wiill we get any other Game Sevens? The Rockets can close out the Thunder tonight while San Antonio and the Clippers are each at home looking to get pivotal Game Five wins. Are there any more upsets in store out West or is tonight the night things get back to the status quo??
Today’s NBA Pick:
Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers -3
The Clippers are surely a worse team without Blake Griffin. I mean you can’t lose an All-NBA performer off a veteran team with some depth issues and not go completely in the tank, right? Right??
Well, not so fast. If any of you read my column on GamblingSites.org, you’ll see some pretty interesting data that suggests the Clippers might not only be “fine” – they might even THRIVE. As long as Chris Paul is on the floor, the Clippers are pretty darn good. And since he is on the floor tonight; at home in a game they absolutely MUST win, I am feeling pretty good about their chances.
The Clippers over the past five years are a remarkable +16.0 per 100 possessions with Chris Paul on the floor. They were just +3.4 per 100 with both HE and Blake on the floor together and no DeAndre Jordan. In layman’s parlance, what that number suggests is that the Clippers, despite a perception otherwise, are actually NOT that bad off without Blake – and not NEARLY as bad off as if they had lost DeAndre. And of course, no Paul, no chance.
As Milwaukee and Toronto reminded us last night, no matter how the first four games have looked at times, it is a different animal when you are trying to drive the final few stakes through a veteran team, especially in their gym. Don’t be surprised to see the amplified level in intensity tonight overwhelm the Jazz at times and for Chris Paul to absolutely control the basketball game.
Also, don’t be surprised if the Clippers go small with Speights and Paul splitting a lot of time at the four-position and alternate possessions of going “four wide” and simply clearing things out for a high Chris Paul/DeAndre Jordan pick and roll. It will simple, but I think very effective.
I’m not afraid of the Griffin injury tonight and still think this is the Clippers game to win.
Today’s NBA Pick: LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS -3