NBA Picks and Predictions for April 18th

The top two seeds in the same conference lost their series opener for the first time in nearly 30 years, when both San Antonio and Los Angeles suffered surprising first game losses in their home arenas.

If you are a frequent reader of TheSportsGeek.com, then Memphis besting San Antonio shouldn’t be too surprising (I hope you took Memphis to win the series at +350 while you still could!) Even if you are still confident in Coach Pop and the Spurs (I’m not) you can get them at a much, much lower series price this morning and hedge off the Memphis 3+:1 wager.

For the Lakers, I can say I am genuinely surprised they fell at home today to Chris Paul and the Hornets. I knew Chris Paul would give Derrick Fischer and the Lakers fits, but without David West, I thought they lacked the post presence to score effectively against the Lakers tremendous size and length.

The opening loss makes the Lakers a nice value bet in the series, as the price has now tumbled from +2000 to a much more affordable price.

Both the Hornets and Grizz still have their work cut out for them, as Phil Jackson and Greg Popovitch coached teams don’t generally bow out of the post-season easily, but the message has been sent loudly; this season’s Playoffs are going to be wildly contested.

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Today’s Free NBA Picks:

Indiana Pacers @ Chicago Bulls -12

The Pacers best chance at stealing a win and making this into a real series likely slipped through their fingers Saturday when the Bulls closed with a 16-1 run to earn the 104-99 win. Now, these young Bulls have had a taste of Playoff intensity, and seem unlikely to be daunted again – at least in this first round.

The Pacers got a career game from Tyler Hansbrough, and Danny Granger threw in 24, but neither could get a quality look at the hoop in the final three minutes. Actually, no one on the Pacer team could get a quality look at the basket in the final three minutes.

I think the Bulls got the wake-up call they needed and will start the game with the same defensive intensity they had to summon late in their dramatic Game 1 win. Indy has no answer for Derrick Rose – Collison is too small, and none of their wings have even close to the lateral foot speed to even slow him down.

Rose saw in the final minutes that he can truly can do whatever he wants whenever he wants. Picking favorites was definitely a death trap for the opening weekend of the playoffs (favorites went 1-7 A.T.S.), but I am still willing to lay the 12 points, and assume sanity resumes tonight in the Windy City.

PICK: Chicago Bulls -12

Philadelphia 76’ers @ Miami Heat -9.5

While many of the favorites had to storm back late to secure Game 1 wins, the Heat did exactly the opposite; sleeping through the final few minutes only to look up and see they had let the Sixers back to within one possession. The Heat held on to win, but like most first outings by the favorites this weekend; it wasn’t pretty.

However, Miami does now own nine straight wins over the Sixers, and Saturday’s was the closest the two have played in three years. The numbers suggest the Heat should be able to extend their dominance over Philly and cruise through the rest of this series.

Game ones are historically close, while the favorite tends to storm back and handle their business a bit more normally in Game two, once both teams make their adjustments, better talent and coaching tends to will out. I’m not sure Spolestra is an ‘advantage’ over Doug Collins – but Spolestra’s talent definetly is.

Expect Miami to display their talents in South Beach and have an easier time in Game 2 than they did in Game 1. Take the Heat and lay the points.

PICK: Miami Heat -9.5

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Chris Scheeren / Author

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