Miami Looks to End Series with Game 6 Win over Indiana

Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals will take place tonight in south Florida when the Indiana Pacers visit the Miami Heat. The Heat is leading the series 3-2 and can eliminate the Pacers with a win tonight.

If Indiana can will at American Airlines Arena, the series will return to Indiana for a seventh and deciding game on Sunday.

The current line at Bovada and topbet has Miami favored by 7.5 points. At sportsbook.com and betonline, the point total for the over/under has settled in at 183.5.

Miami could have eliminated Indiana in Game 5, but could not close out Indiana at Indiana on Wednesday. The Pacers were able to win 93-90 thanks to a superb second half by shooting forward Paul George.

Miami is 3-2 ATS in this series but are playing at home were they have dominated in the regular and postseason. Miami in the postseason over the last three years is 12-2 SU and 9-5 ATS at home. However, over the past three years, Indiana has a record of 5-1 ATS when taking part in a Game 6 during the postseason. Indiana is 3-0 ATS during this postseason when they have faced elimination.

However, they are playing a Miami team that has a record of 39-19 ATS when revenging a loss against the same opponent over the last three seasons.

This is the first time in three rounds that Miami has been extended to a sixth game in a series. In round one, they swept Charlotte in 4 games and defeated Brooklyn in 5 games in round 2.

The Heat hopes to get Chris Andersen back after the big man missed the past two games due to a thigh contusion.

The Pacers were helped in Game 5 by center Roy Hibbert who scored 10 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while playing 38 minutes. In Game 4, Hibbert was held scoreless but was not forced the ball in Game 5 and seemed to be more into the flow of the game.

Lance Stephenson played solid for Indiana in Game 5 but it was the play of George that helped Indiana to its win. George scored 31 of this game high 37 points during the second half of play. He also scored 21 points during the final quarter including two key 3-pointers

Miami came close to ending this series Wednesday and did so without LeBron James being a factor. James picked up two early fouls in the game and ended up playing  just 24 minutes while scoring a career playoff-low 7 points.

However, at home James has averaged over 27 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals per game during the postseason.

The Heat will look to finish off the series tonight and not have to travel and face Indiana on the Pacers home court in a seventh game.

I like the Heat to win straight up in this but will take the Pacers and the points to cover.

Heat Are 6.5 Chalk at Home versus Pacers

The NBA playoffs tip off Monday night from south Florida when the Miami Heat hosts the Indiana Pacers in Game 4 of their best of seven Eastern Conference finals series.

Indiana let a great opportunity to win home court advantage back getaway on Saturday. Tonight the Pacers need a win to tie the series or they will fall behind 3-1 and be on the brink of elimination.

Indiana led Game 3 early opening up a lead of 19-5 during the first quarter of play. However, the rest of the way, the Pacers were outscored by 24 points and lost by 10.

Miami has been outrebounded by Indiana as the Pacers are a superior rebounding team, but in Game 3, the teams tied with 29 rebounds apiece. Miami also was the leader in points in the paint with 40 to Indiana’s 38.

In this head-to-head series, Miami is 16-11 SU and 14-13 ATS over the past three seasons. At home, the Heat has been a dominating force in the head-to-head series with a record of 16-3 SU and 12-7 ATS.

Nevertheless, according to data from Bovada and betonline, the Pacers on the road this year are 26-22 SU and 22-26 ATS.

According to information gleaned from topbet and sporstbook.com, Indiana is 31-17 ATS following a road loss over the past two seasons.

This season Miami is just 22-24-1 ATS playing at home, but a strong 38-9 SU.

While Miami is just an average 32-35-3 against the number on less than two full days of rest this year, the Heat is 10-2 against the spread playing five games or less over a span of 14 days.

In this series, Indiana is averaging 92.3 points per game. In the regular season, Indiana averaged 97 points per game.

All five Indiana starters are scoring at least 12 points per game with Paul George leading the team with 18 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds per game.

Miami was great offensively this season with 102.2 points per game average. However, with the tough Indiana defense, Miami is scoring just 94 points per game.

Both LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are averaging 24 points per game in the series, with both scoring 73 points over the three games.

The Pacers have had a tough time holding onto leads and closing out Miami late in the game. If the games were just three periods, the Pacers might be 3-0 in the series.

Nevertheless, the Pacers are down 2-1 thanks to falling apart in the fourth quarter in Games 1 and 2.

Pick: Indiana will show they belong. I like the Pacers 98-91.

Pacers Take Game One and Will We Have a Triple Crown Winner or Not?

George
George
Paul George and the Indiana Pacers took game one in Miami.

Allow me a moment to bask in the sunshine of a Pacers victory that I just couldn’t help but see coming. The last three months, the Indiana Pacers have looked like anything but a team that could defeat the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.

The Pacers struggled through the first and second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs leaving very few people to think they would have a chance in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat. I chose to see this differently however because the Pacers have been better on the road in these playoffs than they have at home. That isn’t the only reason I like them though.

It’s been abundantly evident to me that the Pacers have been waiting for this moment to get another shot at Miami and now it’s here. They did not let the opportunity get away from them with a 107-96 win at home.

Both teams shot 51% on the day but the game was won and lost at the free throw line. Indiana made far more than the Heat even attempted going 29 for 37 while the Heat hit on just 10 of 15 free throws for 66%. What that tells us is that Indiana was clearly the aggressor in this game taking the ball to the hoop on numerous occasions.

This game by no means indicates the Heat are done but they now know what they need to do at both ends of the floor. Besides the fact they already knew Indiana would have a rebounding advantage, Miami still must address it. The Heat must get bodies on the bigger Pacers’ front court guys.

Look for Miami to bounce back in game two but it won’t happen unless they rebound and take more balls to the hoop more often.

Chrome
Will California Chrome run in the Belmont or sit out because of a nasal strip?

My good fortune this weekend wasn’t relegated to just the NBA because I also liked California Chrome to win the Preakness Stakes on Saturday and he did exactly that. Of course, I also had Bayern and Ria Antonia in the top three so I wasn’t exactly flawless.

Chrome’s 1 1/2 length victory sends him to the Belmont where he will be looking to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. As of yesterday however, this might not be the case.

During Chrome’s six-race winning streak, trainers have had the young horse wearing a nasal strip ala Jerry Rice back in the days with the San Francisco 49ers. The problem for the California Chrome team is that New York, where the Belmont is held, doesn’t allow nasal strips. This doesn’t mean that the CC team can’t ask for an exception as the horse has been wearing one for sometime, but it’s likely we won’t know the answer for some time.

Obviously, there will be tremendous pressure on the folks in New York to allow the horse to wear the nasal strip because of the money involved. Television networks, sponsors and even racing enthusiasts will want to see this horse have a legitimate shot at winning the crown but the final decision on whether Chrome runs or not will ultimately sit with the owners.

As the day wore on yesterday, it was up in the air as to whether the owners would still run California Chrome in the Belmont should the nasal strip not be allowed. The mile and a half race is the longest and most grueling of the three Triple Crown races and happens to be a length that Chrome has yet to race.

As of right now, I just can’t imagine this horse not running. With history and tremendous riches at stake, it will be awfully hard to turn down.

Pacers 4.5-Point Road Dogs at Washington

The NBA conference semifinal best of seven series continues Sunday night with a great matchup between the resurgent Indiana Pacers and the host Washington Wizards.

The Pacers are currently holding a 2-1 lead in the series after dropping Game 1 but winning Games 2 and 3. In Game 3, the Pacers held the Wizards to just 63 points, an all time low for Washington as a franchise.

Indiana can put the Wizards on the brink of elimination with a win tonight on Mother’s Day.

Bovada and topbet currently have Washington favored at home by 4.5 points, while betonline and sportsbook.com have the point total for the OVER/UNDER sitting on 180.

Indiana was victorious in Game 3 85-63 Friday night as a 5-point dog on the road. Washington could manage just 33% shooting from the field.

Indiana was No. 1 in the East due to defense. The Pacers allowed just 92 points per game, which was No. 2 in the league.

In the first round, Indiana gave up 96 points per game through the first give games versus Atlanta. However, since then, in their past five games the Pacers are allowing just 83 points per game. Due to that, the UNDER has cashed in 4 of the past 5 games Indiana has played.

Roy Hibbert is no longer sleep walking on offensive averaging 21 points per game over the past two games, after scoring just 4.6 points per game over the first 8 Indiana playoff games.

His defensive presence and play has been an important part of energizing the team and has caused Bradley Beal and John Wall to have second thoughts about driving down the lane with his 7-foot-2 body filling up much of the paint.

The Wizards are loaded with offensive talent and should never be held to only 63 points. In the series, Wall has hit just 30% of his shots and had seven turnovers in Friday’s loss.

Nene Hilario and Marcin Gortat the two big men for Washington scored a combined 12 points in their Game 3 loss, after combining for 31 points per game in Games 1 and 2.

Washington needs to score inside to take some pressure from the shoulders of the young backcourt for Washington.

During the postseason, Washington is 1-2 SU as well as ATS on their home court while they are 4-1 SU while 5-0 ATS on the road in the playoffs this season.

The Pacers are comfortable on the road with a record of 3-1 SU and ATS, while at home they are 3-3 SU and just 2-4 ATS.

With Indiana getting 4.5 points in a low scoring game it seems to lean toward taking Indiana and the UNDER.

Was It Really That Simple For Roy Hibbert?

Hibbert-Gortat
Hibbert-Gortat
Roy Hibbert was his old self again in game two despite the efforts of Marcin Gortat.

I asked the question on Wednesday. “What’s wrong with Roy Hibbert?” This was a question that had been asked probably more than anything in the NBA other than “Just how racist is Donald Sterling?”

Hibbert is of course the all-star center for the Indiana Pacers who has been about as useful as a garden hose on a raging house fire in the playoffs. In his first eight playoff games he had a trio of games in which he scored as many points as I did. If you’re keeping track at home, that means “zero!”

The Pacers evened up their series with the Washington Wizards Wednesday night and their victory was due in great part to……… Roy Hibbert. No goose eggs on this night for the 7’2″ big man. Somehow, some way, Hibbert found his old self and poured in 28 points on 10 of 13 shooting and also collected nine rebounds.

So the question must be revisited but perhaps asked a little differently. “What was wrong with Roy Hibbert?” Well, the answers may be something we really don’t want to hear but not commenting on them would be wrong.

After Hibbert’s poor outing in game one, teammate Paul George took Hibbert and another teammate bass fishing. During the trip, an instagram post from George showed the three players holding a fish but the comment said nothing related to fishing. Instead, George told people to stop believing the rumors and that he and Hibbert were “brothers.”

Hibbert
Was a bass fishing trip with teammates just what the doctor ordered for Hibbert?

The rumors that were reported by balleralert.com centered around Paul George possibly being involved with Roy Hibbert’s significant other. I say “significant other” because Hibbert was supposed to marry the young woman back in August but they called it off. The website also reported that this was the cause of the altercation between Evan Turner and Lance Stephenson earlier in the playoffs.

If any of this is true it fits my assumption perfectly. I stated that Hibbert’s issues had to stem from something going on in his personal life. You just don’t see a guy play as well as he did and then look like a guy pulled off of the street. I’m in no position to know whether the allegations are true but one way or another, something changed between game one and game two.

Was it the fishing trip or was it perhaps the team sending Andrew Bynum packing which they did prior to game two? It was no secret that Hibbert was not crazy about the troubled center joining the team. When Frank Vogel started to call some plays for Bynum that he rarely called for Hibbert, anger and jealousy may have been afoot.

With Bynum jettisoned, was this all that Roy Hibbert needed to play like his old self again? Chances are good that this entire slump that Hibbert has gone through was a combination of factors all rolled into one. What is on the mind of most people, especially those who wager on these games, is whether this Roy Hibbert is the one that will show up again in game three in Washington.

What really struck me about Hibbert’s performance in game two was the overwhelmingly obvious plan by the Pacers to get the ball to Hibbert at will. Sometimes a running back needs several carries before he can really get going and perhaps this was the logic used by Frank Vogel heading into the game.

I doubt the Wizards will let that happen again so Hibbert may have to be creative. One way or another, Roy Hibbert was himself again and whether we know the reason that’s been missing or not is no longer the question.

So What’s Wrong With Roy Hibbert?

Hibbert
Hibbert
I'm convinced that Roy Hibbert's struggles have off-court influences.

We all have times that we want to scream at the television. Whether it’s during our favorite team’s game or when a favorite character is killed off of a show, we all do it. Yesterday morning I was watching Mike and Mike in the Morning as I always do and they led off with the horrendous performance by Indiana’s Roy Hibbert.

As the two talking heads bounced all over the spectrum talking about Hibbert’s poor play in the playoffs I found myself again ready to scream at my television.

As bright as both Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic are, I was astonished that they didn’t hit on a question that I have been thinking about this entire playoffs. “Is Roy Hibbert dealing with an off-court situation?”

Perhaps it isn’t as obvious to others as it is to me but there is without question something wrong with Hibbert. He has now gone three of eight playoff games in 2014 without scoring a single point. He had more fouls Monday night than he did points and rebounds combined.

What I’ve been waiting to happen finally did according to the Pacers and ESPN. Veteran Pacer David West apparently had seen enough and become very loud and angry and directed every bit of his energy at Hibbert. This was bound to happen and it comes as no surprise that West was the guy to do it because without him, the Pacers are already home planning their summer vacations.

Vogel
Frank Vogel is at a total loss over the poor play of Roy Hibbert and who can blame him?

Indiana Head Coach Frank Vogel has tried his best to treat Hibbert with kid gloves and remain firmly in his big man’s corner but even he had to admit that Monday night’s performance may have been the breaking point. With his job clearly on the line, will Vogel continue to stay with Roy Hibbert? If he is smart, he won’t.

Back to my main point though. Has anyone else considered that what is ailing Hibbert could be 100% non-basketball related? Is he in a relationship that has gone wrong? Is his family healthy? Did something occur in his life that most of us just aren’t aware of?

We view our professional athletes as almost inhuman. We expect them to be at the very best each and every time they enter into their respective fields of battle but we often forget they are human like we are.

Roy Hibbert looks completely disinterested in playing basketball to me. Would it be so wrong if he just wasn’t into playing the game anymore? No, it sure wouldn’t but his timing couldn’t be a worse if that is the case. This is a man who has won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award and finished second this season.

He most certainly knows what he is capable of doing yet he seemingly cannot do it. We can credit the Atlanta Hawks for having a masterful game plan that limited Hibbert’s effectiveness because they spread out the Pacers so well, but it’s significantly more than that and we all know it.

We thought the Pacers would be unable to survive the Hawks without Hibbert being a factor but they did. After Monday’s loss to the Washington Wizards, it’s evident that Indiana will not make the conference finals without the real Roy Hibbert. Wizards’ big men Nene and Marcin Gortat dominated the boards collecting 21 rebounds between them.

At this point, I don’t see Roy Hibbert suddenly waking from his trance. Something isn’t right in this man’s head and I know plenty who would pay good money to know what it is but we may never know. Frank Vogel doesn’t and neither do Hibbert’s teammates.

Something just isn’t right and I think it has far more to do with than just basketball.

Indiana Pacers Odds Double on NBA Title Futures

The Indiana Pacers must feel like their season is falling apart around them as they continue to lose games heading towards the postseason. In a week’s time, the Pacers odds of winning the NBA Championship on Bovada and sportsbooks.com have doubled.

Indiana on the season is 53-25 straight up and 35-42-1 against the spread. During the majority of the season, the Pacers looked to be the NBA’s best team as they started the season 25-5 SU before the start of the New Year.

Indiana at one time was 40-12, but since then has gone 13-13 after being the lone favorite on betonline and topbet to win the NBA Championship.

Since early March, the team is just 7-12 with poor play on both the offensive and defensive ends causing them problems. The pre-All Star break record in offensive efficiency has dropped from 102 points per 100 possessions to just 99. On defense, the same result with their rating climbing to 101 from 93.

The recent struggles the Pacers have encountered has caused online bookmakers such as Bovada to double the championship odds for Indiana from last week’s 3 to 1 to this week’s 6 to 1.

The Pacers’ odds to take the top spot in the Eastern Conference were doubled as well to 2 to 1 from even-money.

Over their past 10 games, the Pacers are 3-7 SU and 1-9 ATS. During the 10 games, the Pacers have lost two at home, where prior to this poor form they were close to unbeatable on their home court.

What is the most alarming is the two losses suffered at home were both blowouts losing 103-77 to San Antonio and 107-88 to Atlanta. Prior to the blowout loss to San Antonio, Indiana’s had won 33 of 37 home games.

From the perspective of the bettor, the doubled price for Indiana could be a pleasant sight. Even going back to the playoffs from last season, Indiana looked like a club that could contend for an NBA Title.

If bettors believe they are just going through a dry spell and can shake it off when the postseason arrives, then the present times has the Pacers at the best value since prices pre and during the early season were much shorter.

However, with the way the team is currently playing, they might not make it out of the first round against Charlotte.

Top 10 to Win 2014 NBA Title

Miami Heat 8 to 5

San Antonio Spurs 5 to 2

Oklahoma City Thunder 3 to 1

Indiana Pacers 6 to 1

Los Angeles Clippers 12 to 1

Houston Rockets 20 to 1

Golden State Warriors 30 to 1

Chicago Bulls 40 to 1

Portland Trail Blazers 40 to 1

Toronto Raptors 40 to 1

Pro, College Basketball in My Sights Today

Hibbert
Hibbert
Roy Hibbert's face says it all. The Pacers are struggling right now.

Basketball as we know can be a funny game. It can go in favor of one team for the longest of times and then with just one shot the fortunes can turn on a dime. It isn’t that way for just a game though because over the course of a long season fortunes can change drastically as well. Just ask the Indiana Pacers.

It wasn’t long ago that the Pacers were ahead of the Miami Heat by two or three games and now they are looking up at the Heat in Eastern Conference standings. Losers of seven of their last ten and two straight, the Pacers are facing the prospect of once again having to go to Miami in a potential game seven should the two teams meet.

The bigger problem right now is that who knows if Indiana will even make it to a potential conference finals’ match-up with Miami? Big man Roy Hibbert was benched during yesterday’s game and he’s been one of the more outspoken players during this recent slump.

Defense has never been an issue for the Pacers but now they are suddenly showing some serious dents in that part of their armor. Combine that with a severely slumping offense and you’ve got yourself a pretty bad stretch.

Right now, I have doubts that the Pacers’ team as it exists right now will be able to get past Chicago or Brooklyn let alone Miami. To say Head Coach Frank Vogel has his work cut out for him would be an understatement right now.

Auriemma
I expect to see Geno Auriemma doing this again tomorrow night.

Battle of the Unbeatens in Women’s’ Basketball

The game that anyone associated with women’s’ college basketball anticipated is finally here. 39-0 UConn takes on 37-0 Notre Dame for the national championship tomorrow night.

In an era when many people hate all of the conference realignments, this is a situation where we can thank the realignment people. It wasn’t long ago at all when both of these teams were members of the Big East and would have played each other during the regular season and probably in the conference tournament as well.

Now, UConn is in the American Athletic Conference while the Irish are in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Both teams obviously went through their respective conference schedules without a blemish and did the same in the NCAA Tournament so here we are.

Notre Dame scores about four more points per game than does UConn but the real story is on defense. UConn is the top-ranked team in women’s’ basketball. They give up just 47 points per game while the Irish surrender just shy of 61 points per game.

We can perhaps point to level of competition in that stat because Notre Dame does play a little bit tougher conference schedule but that is a huge discrepancy. I think you’ll see a close game early but I expect the Lady Huskies to pull away late and win yet another title.

The Men’s game takes center stage tonight

If you saw my piece yesterday then you know I like the UConn men to get the points and win the national title. My thinking hasn’t changed much over the last 24 hours. Kevin Ollie may have only coached in five NCAA Tournament games but he has total control of this Huskies’ team. They took punches against Michigan State and Florida and yet survived by nailing their free throws and forcing the offenses to do things they just didn’t want to do.

Kentucky is loaded with NBA talent and if they won I wouldn’t be surprised one bit but this UConn team just seems to have all of the right cards to play and Ollie seems to know when exactly to play them.

New NBA Futures have Indiana Favored to Win NBA Title

NBA odds makers released new championship odds on Monday. The Indiana Pacers moved into first place alone this week after sharing first with the Miami Heat last week. The Pacers are 40-11 on the season and hold the best record in the league. Miami is four games behind at 35-14.

The Pacers saw their odds shortened this week from 2 to 1 to 9 to 5. The Heat remained at 2 to 1 where they were last week.

This has been the first time since LeBron James came to the Heat that Miami has not been the favorite to win the NBA title on topbet, Bovada or betonline, with the exception of a playoff situation when they trailed in a particular series.

Odds makers at sportsbook.com believe that Indiana, Miami and the Oklahoma City Thunder are the three top teams in the league. However, Miami is known to take certain nights off during the regular season playing as if it were at times the preseason.

This year however, it might be harder for them to turn on the switch when they need it come playoff time, said one well-known odds maker at Bovada.

In the deep Western Conference, a team emerging as a dangerous threat to the status quo is the Phoenix Suns who are currently at 50 to 1. To start this season, the Suns were at 2000 to 1, the second longest odds in the league.

It is easy to call the Suns, coached by Jeff Hornacek, the league’s biggest surprise this season.

Phoenix likely will not push the elite teams of the conference and threaten them with elimination in a postseason series, but their 30-20 record proves they have talent and will be around making noise during the postseason.

The Suns are led by Goran Dragic with 20 points and 6 assists per game and Eric Bledsoe with 18 points and nearly 6 assists per game.

The two guards run the team’s up-tempo scoring machine that is fifth in the league in scoring at 105 points per game. However, on defense, the Suns are giving up nearly 102 points per game.

If the season ended today, Phoenix would play the Portland Trail Blazers, who the Suns have defeated two out of three times this season.

The NBA All-Star break takes place this weekend and will give every team an opportunity for four days of rest. Players who have injuries will also have time to rest without missing additional games.

The Thunder, ranked No. 1 in the Western Conference are expecting their starting point guard Russell Westbrook back from his knee surgery following the break. Westbrook has missed 25 games thus far this season.

Current Top 5 in NBA Championship Odds

Indiana 9 to 5

Miami 2 to 1

Oklahoma City 7 to 2

San Antonio 12 to 1

Los Angeles Clippers 12 to 1

Three NBA Games I Like Tonight

George
George
Paul George and the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers head to Atlanta tonight.

College Football has come to a close and the National Football League is now well into the playoffs. While I prepare to make my NFL Divisional Round picks later this week, I’m turning my attention today to the National Basketball Association.

The news of the week has centered around trades and potential trades. The Chicago Bulls traded Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum and then immediately cut Bynum after the trade was completed. The move saves the Bulls about $15 million.

This trade happened while there are several others that are or were in the discussion phase. First, the Lakers were trying to trade Pau Gasol for Bynum in an effort to save $20 million but that has obviously fallen through. There has also been a rumor about the Clippers trading Blake Griffin to New York for Carmelo Anthony but that seems to be nothing more than a gossip.

Don’t forget too that Denver has made it known that guard Andre Miller is on the market. Basically, the wheeling and dealing in the NBA has just gotten underway and we aren’t even to the All-Star Break yet.

On to tonight’s games.

Indiana (-6) at Atlanta -The Eastern Conference’s best team heads South to Atlanta with a three-game winning streak and an 8-2 run over their last ten. The Pacers are tied with Miami at 11-5 for the conference’s best road record and have a 12.5 game lead over second place Chicago who just traded one of their best players.

The good news for the Hawks is they are in second place in the Southeast Division. The bad news however is immense. They trail Miami by nine games, have lost three straight and have lost Al Horford for the season due to injury. Despite giving seven points tonight, take the Pacers to cover.

Love
Kevin Love leads the T-Wolves against Phoenix tonight.

Phoenix (+7.5) at Minnesota – The surprising Suns head to the frigid Midwest trailing the Clippers and Warriors by just two games in the Pacific Division. They are coming off a five-point loss to Chicago last night so they’ll be playing on limited rest.

The Timberwolves find themselves 9.5 games back in the Northwest Division, but they rank second in the NBA in scoring with more than 107 points per game and they also rank in the top ten in rebounding and assists per game.

I expect a high-scoring affair tonight in Minneapolis which will be led by Kevin Love and his more than 26 points per game. I like Minnesota to win, but I like the Suns with the points.

Orlando (+12.5) at Portland – The Blazers dropped a 123-119 game to struggling Sacramento last night and I have no doubt that they’ll be re-focused this evening. They sit just a game behind Oklahoma City in the Northwest and got a bit of help as the Thunder lost last night as well. The secret to the Blazers’ success isn’t a secret. They rank first in scoring and third in both rebounding and assists per game. The Achilles’ heel however may be that they rank 27th in points allowed so they can be scored upon.

Orlando enters having lost four in a row and sits in the cellar of the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division. At 10-24, there isn’t a lot to feel magical about for Orlando as they continue a stretch on the West Coast. The combination of Portland losing to a lesser team in Sacramento last night and weak Magic team coming to Rip City spells trouble in my mind for Orlando.

Although 12.5 is a tall order for any NBA team, I think this is a situation where Portland can handle it. Take the Blazers to cover.