Three teams faced elimination yesterday. Two lived to fight another day, and both in very different fashion. The Pacers showed they have a legitimate chance at pulling off the series upset with their thorough and controlling beat-down of the Raptors last night in Indianapolis, the third time they have beaten the Raps by double digits in this series. In fact, one could argue they were about 0.05 seconds away from possibly being DONE with this series already (yes, I know, the Game Five shot would have forced OT, not won, so possibly the Raptors still win Game Five). Either way, I expect Game Seven to be a little better than past Game Sevens which have seen the home team win in a snoozer.
Meanwhile, the Heat went on the ROAD to win Game Six at Charlotte, and have to at least be considered a strong favorite to go home and finish the series off. Assuming they can, they might be favored in the next round or would at least be a pretty even bet against Toronto (obviously, favored should the opponent be Indiana). It was a pretty clutch effort from D-Wade and company to stay alive.
Both the Heat and Raps are 6.5 point favorites for Sunday, but I view the two series much differently after last night.
And, we notched a winner with the Clippers pushing the Blazers to the final minutes before their season ended with a 106-103 loss. And for the few people harassing me because I said the Clippers would win this series easily, seriously dude?? If anyone forecasted; I think Chris Paul AND Blake will suffer catastrophic injuries, you are eerily prescient (and kind of morbid). Of course, I kid. But MAN what bad luck for LAC. And kind of disappointing – a Warriors/Clippers series at full strength would have been a LOT of fun…
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Today’s Free Pick:
Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs -6.5 (Total: 201)
NOW the Playoff start. The first round has a few cute little interesting series, and sure, we get a few Game Seven’s tomorrow. But nothing has come even CLOSE to what we get tonight with the Spurs and Thunder, arguably two of the three (or four) best teams in the NBA about to square off in a series where BOTH teams legitimately think they have a chance to win a Title, and BOTH must feel like that precious window is near-close to closing.
So who has the edge?
It’s hard to go against the Spurs at home, considering they went a record-tying 40-1 in that building and notched one of the greatest regular seasons in the NBA, even if it was largely understated thanks to the Warriors historic run. With or without the Warriors, one could argue this was one of the five best regular season performances in the history of the NBA. They have met twice before in the Playoffs, with each team winning a series 4-2, starting with the Thunder in 2012 and the Spurs in 2013. I think both teams are a little better now, but that the Spurs might have grown more. The biggest difference is the addition of LaMarcus Alderidge and the growth of Kawhi Leonard. Leonard, whom even Durant admits is one of the best players in the league and is not the “system player” he labeled him as two years ago, will be matched up against Durant for much of the series which means KD is gonna have to WORK.
From there, I think the edge is depth. Yes, Westbrook should run wild against anyone San Antonio throws at him unless they take the bold move of sliding over Kawhi, but is it enough? I don’t think so. San Antonio is just so much deeper than the Thunder and much better coached. Billy Donavan is likely not nearly as bad as people like to say, but he is at a definite disadvantage against Coach Pop. The Tunder have blown more fourth quarter leads than any team in the NBA except the lowly Sixers. Just one or two of those in this series could mean a 4-1 or 4-2 exit.
I like the Thunder and think they are excellent. But the Spurs are more than excellent. I think they might win this series disappointingly easily, starting with tonight.
Only one team has gotten over on the Spurs on the Riverwalk this season, and Steph Curry ain’t walking through that door (hopefully…hopefully, he will next series….). For tonight, look for a strong opening salvo from the Spurs.