Congratulations to the Indiana Pacers last night, who will make a return to the post-season after a three year absence. The Pacers clinched their spot with an offensive explosion against the road-hapless Wizards, winning 136-112. Indiana led 75-56 at halftime and all five starters scored more than 15 points in the win.
It gives the Hoosiers a nice respite to see the ball actually go through the hoops a few times after slugging their way through Monday night’s horrid National Championship game in which the local Butler Bulldogs mustered less points all game than the Pacers netted in the first quarter alone…
The Pacers’ reward? A first round match-up against the league’s best defense, the Chicago Bulls. Suffice it to say there won’t be too many more 136-point outbursts from here forward.
Today’s Free NBA Picks:
Boston Celtics @ Chicago Bulls -4.5
It doesn’t get much better than this does it? With a mere week and change remaining in the NBA regular season, the East’s two top teams square off in a tantalizing Playoff preview.
The Bulls have a comfortable lead at 3 games, but a win tonight (coupled with Miami’s loss at home to the Bucks) will all but seal up the top seed in the East for Chicago for the first time since the Jordan Era. Chicago comes into tonight’s game on fire, having won 16 of their last 18 games. A win tonight would even the season series at two a piece.
These two teams are very similiaraly constructed, both a defense oriented teams, both allow less than 91.5 points per game, both score in the 97-98 point range – giving both about a six point average point differential. Tonight’s game is going to come down to how well the Bulls handle the glamour and energy of the moment, because facing a hostile crowd is certainly nothing new for the veteran Celtics.
For me, the biggest difference is going to be the amount of spring in the step tonight. Chicago won a tough, hard-fought contest in Phoenix on Tuesday – now they return home for a much bigger tussle. Meanwhile Boston had a relatively easy time discarding the red-hot Sixers, 99-82.
I think Boston is ramping up for the Playoff push, and will bring their A-game tonight. It’s hard to lay 5 AND pick against the champs – so I won’t. Give me Boston plus the 4.5 – and don’t be surprised if they send a message and win outright.
Portland Trailblazers -5 @ Utah Jazz
The Blazers clinched their Playoff berth two nights ago, but they certainly didn’t play like a Playoff team. Portland’s defense went AWOL in the second half, allowing 37 points in the third quarter to the Golden State Warriors (9-30 on the road), en route to a blowout loss on their home floor.
Not exactly the kind of momentum you’re looking for a week before the “second season” starts. However, since the All-Star break the Blazers have been very good, while the Jazz have been very, very BAD.
The Jazz have gone 6-18 since Jerry Sloan’s abrupt departure, and have lost four straight at home and 11 of 14 overall. However, they are not currently on a losing streak, as they knocked off the Lakers in LA 86-85 on Tuesday. It’s a strange season sometimes…
I look at Tuesday’s win as more of a “one-off” than the beginning of a new trend; the Jazz are still dreadful and will likely just “play out the string” as they say in baseball to get to the merciful offseason.
I like Portland coming into town and getting back on track by roughing up the Jazz.