Uh oh Pacers. Uh oh Thunder. Things just got really interesting last night and perhaps a little scary for two of the league’s top seeds.
The upset barrage continued NCAA-Tourney style, and suffice it to say many of the league’s top teams, other than the Heat, are thrilled they have a long series to eventually prevail. We split our picks last night with the Pacers game going UNDER thanks in part to the Pacers’ anemic offense. Meanwhile, both the Clippers and the Warriors stayed just under 100 points for the first time in several years of head-to-head play, though we came really close to stealing an overtime period which would like have netted a sneaky back-door cover.
Let’s make it simpler tonight and grab a few wins and see if we can kick off the weekend with a pair of winners.
Tonight’s Free Picks:
Chicago Bulls @ Washington Wizards -2.5 (Total: 182)
I’m not a big “must-win” guy, but tonight is a “must-win” for the Chicago Bulls. After dropping the first two games of the series they’ve put themselves into a position that less than 10% of teams have ever come back from in a best of seven playoff series. So does that rally one last heroic Chicago Joakim Noah-led effort? Or is this season safely put to rest??
As much as I like the mythology of a good comeback story and the guy whi “just refuses to lose” Joakim has a bigger problem to deal with; “big” as in “Nene.” Nene has eaten him up and been an absolute animal in this series. Combine him to the already vastly superior backcourt of Washington and you are left with a bit of a mismatch.
I like the Wizards to remain calm and level-headed and to win their first playoff game at home in more than six years. Two and a half is a pretty cheap price to get what appears to be the superior team playing in their home arena.
Houston Rockets at Portland Trailblazers -3 (Total: 215.5)
The West is going crazy with teams trading haymakers back and forth. The only 2-0 series lead? That’d belong to the #5 seeded Blazers after they took a pair in Houston. I may be putting too much faith in James Harden, but I think the Rockets inexplicably dig themselves up off the mats tonight on the road in the raucous Rose Garden.
I look at the first two games as great hoops, but a few aberrations. LaMarcus Aldridge is really good. I mean, he is really, REALLY good. But his 89 points in the first two games of the NBA Playoffs is the third most in the last FIFTY YEARS of the NBA Playoffs, joining Michael Jordan and Jerry West.
He’s not that good. And the stat that James Harden has missed as many shots as L.A. has made (29) is also a bit of an aberration. Tonight I’ll put one of my favorite theories to work; the regression to the norm theory. It’s possible that Portland just matches up brilliantly with Houston and that the ball just doesn’t move well enough without Patrick Beverly. But I’m guessing things are much more balanced tonight. If you get a B+ games from Harden and an A- game from LaMarcus Aldridge in Game Two this is a completely different series. I’m looking for at least that regression to the norm tonight.
Give me the slight underdogs on the road tonight. There is a reason Houston is only a three point dog – they are every bit as good as Portland, if not a little tiny bit better.