So much for the “worst first round in NBA history,” huh Charles Barkley??!?
What began as a boring slate of foregone conclusions has evolved into one of the most tense and dramatic first-rounds in recent memory. Tonight is an absolute bonanza for basketball fans with four elimination Game Sixes packed into ESPN’s Friday TV lineup.
(By the way, the pick linking the article is Omer Asik speaking on behalf of ALL NBA Fans, saying “stop bleeping fouling me on purpose!)
So how many series are going to end tonight? Can Indiana finally win in Atlanta and put to bed the least-interesting close series ever?? Can the Celtics push New York fans even further onto the edge by winning their third straight game and forcing only the third Game Seven in the 103 series history of team’s trailing 3-0?? The same question is valid for the Rockets and Thunder.
And lastly, the nastiest, most-physical, and perhaps only matchup of two teams with legit Finals aspirations, the Clippers and Grizzlies, will try to extend their series to the maximum for the second straight year.
It’s going to be a fantastic night, so let’s take a look at a few games tonight and see if we can build on the nice NBA this week.
Indiana Pacers at Atlanta Hawks -1.5 (Total: 187.5)
It seems like the Pacers would eventually flip the switch and finish off the Hawks, but if recent history and the trends are any indication, we are headed toward one of the least-eagerly anticipated Game Sevens in years. The Pacers have lost 13 straight games in Atlanta and no road team has come within 11 points of winning yet this series. As much as I still believe Indiana is a far superior overall team, I think Atlanta forces a Game Seven by doing what they always seems to do against Indy; winning at home.
Free Pick: Atlanta Hawks -1.5
Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets -1 (Total: 206.5)
If not for a fortuitous bounce on a Kevin Durant three-pointer in Game Three, this could be a close-out opportunity in a much different sense. Instead, it is Houston still clinging to life, but full of momentum heading back to Houston looking for force a Game Seven and with a legitimate chance to be the first team in NBA history to erase a 3-0 deficit and win the series.
The biggest difference is obvious – the Thunder desperately miss Russell Westbrook. Their offense is stagnant and has devolved to four guys hoping Kevin Durant makes a play. He’s made enough of them to keep them competitive, but the strategy is losing steam. They need him to play hero-ball, a la, Dwyane Wade in the 2006 Finals… but it just isn’t KD’s personality.
Houston is playing loose and full of confidence and they probably should be favored by more than just a single point tonight at home. I like them to extend this series and come back to meet a very, very nervous OKC crowd.
Free Pick: Houston Rockets -1