Today’s Free NBA Picks:
Chicago Bulls -4.5 @ Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have done everything right so far in this series except for win a game. They have come tantalizingly close in the first two games in the Windy City, only to have their hearts broken late by the stingy Bulls defense, and the irrepressible Derrick Rose. Tonight, the look to head back home and finally get over the hump, and back into this series.
The key for Indiana is finding someone besides Danny Granger to contribute offensively. In Game One, it was Tyler Hansbrough. In Game Two it was… really nobody. A.J. Price gave them a lift with 13 points off the bench, but his inability to maintain possession of the basketball eventually led to his giving way for T.J. Ford to finish off the game. Darren Collison is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game, so I am assuming he will be suiting up. IF he can go at 85% I like the Pacers chances to finally get the win they have been flirting with all series.
On the Chicago sideline, there should be some cause for concern. Namely because Derrick Rose has been absolutely brilliant…yet the Bulls struggled twice with one of the worst teams (record-wise) to ever make the Playoffs; at home nonetheless. Boozer chipped in 17, Deng added 13 despite a horrid shooting night – and STILL the Bulls barely escaped.
The Pacers didn’t pick up a win, but they did pick up something valuable. The sincere belief that they can beat this Chicago team.
I think they finally do tonight.
PICK: Indiana Pacers +4.5
Dallas Mavericks @ Portland Trailblazers -4.5
I admit it. I am getting gun-shy about sticking with the Blazers at this point. But looking at the rosters, the teams, the match-ups, and now coming home to the Rose Garden – I’m afraid I can’t advise you any other direction.
Portland SHOULD win this game at home, and should not allow Peja Stojakavic a half-dozen open looks the rest of the series, let alone in one game.
The biggest problem for Portland has been the lack of penetration by their guards to create better shot attempts for emerging star LaMarcus Alderidge. LA can shoot; but he has been taking a lot of 20-footers this series (a shot Rick Pitino once accurately labeled the “worst shot in basketball” – the 20-foot 2-pointer, not LaMarcus Alderidge’s, because that would be just rude…)
And could someone please put an A.P.B. out for Brandon Roy? The oft-injured shooting guard played only eight minutes Tuesday and missed the only shot he attempted. If Roy is unable to go at full strength, the Blazers are going to have to get someone to step up and contribute offensively.
The ideal candidates are Gerald Wallace (17-7-6 on Tuesday) and Andre Miller (17-7-8). Outside of them? Here’s the real key to Thursday’s game. Nicholas Batum. The big man with the outside touch can loosen up defenses with his presence on the floor once he knocks down a few threes.
I like Batum to re-discover his shooting touch at home in the Rose Garden and the Blazers to finally show why so many of us thought this was the series to watch for a potential upset.
PICK: Portland Trailblazers -4.5