NBA Picks and Predictions for April 20th

Apologies to Minnesota-native Prince, but last night, the only place to party like it was 1999 was Dallas, Texas. The Mavs jumped in the way-back machine to get offensive explosions from grizzled veterans Jason Kidd and Peja Stovakavic to beat Portland 101-89 and take a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.

Portland was the chic pick to pull the first round upset by many experts (including yours truly), and they still may – but they are going to have to defend the arc better if they have any hope of getting back into this series. Jason Kidd is far from the “Ason Kidd” days (get it – no “J”) – but it isn’t exactly Ray Allen spotting up from three. A simple hand in the face should dissuade the 28-year old point guard from raining in killer 3’s all night long – and could be enough to get back in the series.

Today’s Free NBA Picks:

Denver Nuggets @ Oklahoma City Thunder -5

The Nuggets were crying foul play after Kendrick Perkins’ clearly goaltended basket was allowed to count in the final minutes of their Game One thriller. They have to hope they can channel that frustration into an energy lift tonight in raucous OKC.

The Thunder have advantages at seemingly every position – but yet many teams who have fallen to the Nuggets in the post-Carmelo era could probably say the same thing. The key for the Nuggets is finding someone to slow down Russell Westbrook who had his way with the Nuggets, especially down the stretch, using his size and strength to get foul line-extended jumpers anytime he wanted.

If Westbrook is allowed to dictate the offensive tempo again, the Nuggets will be traveling home in a deep 2-0 hole.

I think Westbrook and Durant handle their business at home, and the defensively superior bigs of the Thunder control the paint, en route to a more-comfortable than expected Thunder win tonight at home.

PICK: Oklahoma City Thunder -5

New Orleans Hornets @ Los Angeles Lakers -11.5

The Lakers played arguably the worst game of any of the 16 Playoff teams over the opening weekend, and as a result find themselves in a surprising 0-1 deficit heading into tonight’s game at the Staples Center.

There aren’t many games where New Orleans center Aaron Gray will thoroughly outplay Pao Gasol – but that is exactly what happened in the opener. Expect Pao to have a nice bounce-back game tonight against the should-be overwhelmed Hornet front line.

Kobe played well in Game One, but it wasn’t enough. Same scenario tonight. In order for the Lakers to have the bounce-back dominating effort Vegas obviously expects them to have, they are going to need much more than just Kobe.

I think the Lakers win tonight at home, and eventually win the series – but I haven’t seen anything out of them the past three weeks that suggests they deserve to be 12-point favorites over anyone; let alone in a Playoff game…

Give me Chris Paul keeping his Hornets within shouting distance and covering the huge spread.

PICK: New Orleans Hornets +11.5

Chris Scheeren / Author

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