The Celtics responded the way champions are expected to yesterday; with an enormous, gutty, dominating home performance and willed themselves back into the series. In order for there to be any chance of a pulse in the Los Angeles v. Dallas series, the defending champion Lakers are going to need to muster a similar effort on the road.
Do the champs have anything left in the gas tank? Let’s get on to today’s free picks and find out.
Today’s Free NBA Picks:
Los Angeles Lakers @ Dallas Mavericks -2.5 (Total: 188)
For all the resiliency that Boston showed yesterday; the heart, the hustle, the resolve, the Lakers have shown the opposite; apathy, in fighting, failure to execute down the stretch. As a result, the Lakers find their championship run nearing an embarrassing final chapter. A loss today would complete the sweep, and ensure we will crown a new NBA champ this June.
The Lakers’ biggest issue has been finishing games, something not customarily a problem during the Kobe Bryant Era. The Mavs have outscored the Lakers 82-55 the fourth quarter so far this series.
The Lakers need to get more production out of their inside trio of Pao Gasol, Andrew Bynum and to a lesser extent, Lamar Odom. The trio hasn’t all played well at the same time this entire post season, and the ill-effects are being felt heavily.
All that said, I just don’t believe this Lakers team will roll over and die easily. Perhaps I am overly nostalgic, perhaps I am being myopic, perhaps I am placing to much faith in the Jordan-like quality of Kobe; whatever the reason, I just don’t think today is the day we bury the Lakers dynasty officially.
I think Kobe has one dominating performance left in the gas tank, and he pulls it out today to keep the Lakers alive (barely) for another day.
Chicago Bulls -3.5 @ Atlanta Hawks (Total: 179)
Atlanta started this series out with a glimmer of promise of just how good this team can be on their best night. Then Chicago put the defensive clamps down, and the league’s best defensive team showed how the earned that title. Atlanta hasn’t eclipsed the 80-point mark since.
The difference in the series, just as it was in the Indiana series, is that the Bulls have Derrick Rose, and you don’t. Rose was as his MVP unstoppable finest in Game Three and the Hawks had no answer.
I don’t see Rose dominating in quite the same fashion, but I do see the Bulls playing with the same defensive intensity. Once that defense ratchets up, the hawks slip into their old bad habits; poor shot selection, questionable ball possession, and quick shots in the shot clock leading to run outs and defensive mismatches.
The Bulls come out strong today and remove much of the suspense from this series, heading back home with a 3-1 lead. Gimme the Bulls with relative ease again on the road.