NBA Picks and Predictions for April 19th

The Bulls sure don’t look or sound like a team with a 2-0 lead in their opening round playoff series. The young, athletic Indiana Pacers pushed the team with the league’s best record to the brink for the second straight game last night, before once again the Pacers’ lack of a “closer” to get big buckets reared it’s head and the Bulls stifling defense prevailed.

You’d think the atmosphere in the winning locker room would be one of cautious optimism or even relief after narrowly winning their first two playoff games. However, by all accounts, the mood was as somber as if they had lost. Derrick Rose and company might be a young team, but they are mature enough to know that they are going to have to raise their level of play pretty significantly if they have any hopes of achieving their ultimate goal – winning an NBA Championship.

Today’s Free NBA Picks:

New York Knicks @ Boston Celtics -7.5

The Celtics escaped with a daring Game One win on the strength of Ray Allen’s go-ahead three with ten seconds to go, and Carmelo’s curious choice to heave up a long-range three from around 28 feet, rather than put the ball on the deck and get a better look at a game-tying shot. Tonight, the Knicks try to push that disappointment aside and get back to the original goal; try to steal one game in Boston.

I am not sure they’ll reach that goal tonight, but they will likely keep it close. After watching the first game, I’m not sure the Celtics are eight points better than the Knicks on a consistent basis. The line feels a little too fat to me.

Amar’e showed he can have his way inside, and the Celtics got an above-average game from Jermaine O’Neal. Expect Stoudamire to have his way with the Kendrick Perkins-less C’s inside again tonight.

Carmelo played pretty poorly as well in his NYC playoff debut. Don’t expect two stale offensive games from him in a row. If these Playoffs have shown us nothing so far, it is that things are going to be a little more interesting than expected most nights. I think tonight falls into that category as well. Take the Knicks and the points tonight at the new Boston Garden.

PICK: New York Knicks +7.5

Portland Trailblazers @ Dallas Mavericks -3.5

While the lower seeds were running amuck in the Western Conference opening round, the one higher seed everyone was in love with, Portland, was soundly beaten in Dallas. Yep, it looks like it s going to be one of those years.

That said, I still like Portland to win this series, and I like them in tonight’s game to even things up at a game apiece. The Mavs are still going to struggle to find enough offense outside of Dirk, who will have his hands full all series with LaMarcus Alderidge.

Portland fared well against the Mavs in the regular season leading up to this series, and won’t be fazed by the Playoff stage tonight.

I like Portland with the points, but if you can get them straight up in the +130-+140 neighborhood, I like that even more.

PICK: Portland Trailblazers +3.5

Chris Scheeren / Author

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