We had our NBA winning streak snapped by a tough half-point loss last night. We were right in thinking the Raptors would get off the mat and even the series, but came a last second Kle Lowry free throw miss from covering. Such are the breaks, and in fairness, covering with an overtime winner would have been a nice break anyhow.
We finally have more than one game to choose from tonight as the Western Conference returns from a midweek hiatus and the Eastern Conference keeps chugging along. The Spurs head to OKC fresh off one of the more bizarre end game sequences you’ll ever see in their one-point home loss – just the second time they have lost at home ALL SEASON. Now, they need to go on the road and win to avoid falling in a surprising 2-1 hole. Meanwhile, Atlanta gets to go home, but it remains to see if they’ll leave home again this season (at least in their basketball uniforms). They need to do something they have done in three playoff series against the Cavaliers in order to extend the series back to Cleveland; win a single game against the Cavs.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Cleveland Cavaliers -2.5 at Atlanta Hawks
This one is pretty simple. Cleveland OWNS the Hawks. Simply OWNS them. Sure, the series shifts locale tonight and series often shift on a dime when the home court shifts, but this just feels WAY different. The level of domination exhibited in the last meeting was severe. The whining by the Hawks afterwards felt desperate and defeatist. This series is SO OVER. Maybe Atlanta steals one and extends it for one more useless flight, but I think this has SWEEP written all over it.
Not sure what else to say here. Cleveland has beaten them ten straight in the postseason. Tonight should be number eleven. Cavs all day.
San Antonio Spurs -2 at Oklahoma City Thunder
Picking two road favorites is not usually a recipe for success in postseason wagering, but I think Cleveland and San Antonio are clearly better than their opponents in the Round Two, despite the high profile and insane talent level of the Thunder. The regular season matchups don’t mean a ton because of how rarely either team suited up a full strength, but there are a few team metrics I like.
Namely, San Antonio’s defensive efficiency. OKC is actually one slot higher offensively, #2 to #3, but on defense, no one in the NBA is CLOSE to the Spurs. Their 96.6 is two full points better than Atlanta and more than six points better than OKC’s 103.0. This series is even at a game apiece, and stealing a game in San Antonio is HUGE. It means my original prediction of five games is probably aggressive. But I think there is an enormous difference in the teams respective wins. San Antonio simply decimated the Thunder in Game One. OKC snuck past on a rare off night for the Spurs in Game Two. I think the Spurs play their normal game tonight and it is a little too much for OKC.
If the Spurs play well, they are simply BETTER than the 2015-2016 Thunder. If OKC wants to keep up offensively, they have to play a porous defensive lineup. If they want to defend with Steven Adams and company, then it all comes down to Durant and Westbrook being superhuman. The OKC margin for error is just so much slimmer than that of the Spurs.
I’ll take San Antonio to reclaim control of this series tonight.