NBA Re-Starts After Week Long All-Star Break

The NBA returns from his All-Star break on Thursday with just two games on the calendar but bigger slates of games will tip off on Friday and Saturday.

A number of teams in the NBA would have preferred if the season would have not stopped for the All-Star break. LeBron James and the Cavaliers were on a roll winning 14 of their past 16 games prior to the break and the last loss was to Chicago the night prior to the break and some say the Cavs might have being looking ahead to a week off.

James was consulted last season by Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, about extending the All-Star break. James said he had a say in it and thought everybody would benefit in the league.

James, in theory should be right, as it gave players a chance to have an extended rest with the majority of teams not practicing until this past Wednesday.

Overall, the advantages outweigh any disadvantages, but disadvantages still do exits. If teams have a difficult time getting back into a rhythm it could be disastrous for them down the stretch.

Chicago exits the All-Star break with the longest active winning streak in the NBA with four straight. Milwaukee and Toronto have each won 8 of their past 10. Memphis is the only Western Conference team to be that hot of late. It will be interesting to see how the Spurs, Mavericks and Rockets can start pressuring the Grizzlies for second place in the conference.

The Grizzlies do not start again until Sunday night in Portland. Each team starting this stretch run has between 26 and 31 games left on their regular season schedule.

The NBA re-starts with Dallas playing at Oklahoma City and San Antonio visiting the Los Angeles Clippers. OKC has battled its way back to within a half game of Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

San Antonio, Dallas and the Clippers all have lost 19 games and are holding down the 5 to 7 seeds at the moment.

The West is by far the deeper of the two conferences with the tenth place New Orleans Pelicans one game over .500, while the East has just six of its 15 teams over .500.

Odds maker have kept Cleveland at or near the top all season thus far in the futures and the Cavaliers are currently at the top with Golden State at 7 to 2 to win the title.

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.

Three Game 6 on Tap in NBA on Friday

Friday night’s NBA playoff schedule features three Game 6 matchups. The San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers can all advance to the second round with wins tonight.

The Houston Rockets backs are against the wall trailing to Portland Trail Blazers 3-2 in their best of seven series. On Bovada and topbet, the Trail Blazers are favorites by 3.5 points at home.

Houston won game 5 in Houston after holding LaMarcus Aldridge to just 8 points. He was double teamed early and often, as Dwight Howard would help Omer Asik as soon as Aldridge touched the ball.

Houston controlled the boards, received another solid game from Howard and Jeremy Lin filled in at the point and scored 21 points.

Pick: Houston 104-99

The Toronto Raptors visit the Brooklyn Nets in a game 6 matchup. The Nets at home are a 5-point favorite on betonline and sportsbook.com.

Both teams have complained about the officiating in the series. The Raptors hold a 3-2 edge in the series but Nets head coach Jason Kidd complained during a call on Thursday about his team’s loss on Wednesday 115-113. He said his team might have to start flopping more to get more calls from the officials.

In this series according to data from Bovada, the dogs have covered the spread in 4 of the 5 games. As a favorite at home, Brooklyn is 0-2. If the Nets are to win and force a seventh game, they will need better play from veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

Pick: Toronto 97-91

The San Antonio Spurs visit the Dallas Mavericks and are favored to win on the road. A win for San Antonio will close out the series. The Spurs said Tony Parker their star point guard sprained an ankle in Game 5 but played through the pain. He is scheduled to play tonight. The Spurs won Game 5 at home 109-103 to take a 3-2 lead in the series.

On many books, such as topbet and betonline the Mavericks were able to cover for the fifth consecutive game versus San Antonio.

Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter led Dallas on offense once again.

While Dallas has kept games close and won two of the first five games, the Spurs seem to be getting their swagger back as before this series, San Antonio had defeated Dallas eight consecutive times.

Dallas just does not have the guns to stay with the Spurs. The Spurs have three veterans in their 30s – Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and the ageless Tim Duncan. Those three along with the recent fine play of big man Thiago Splitter has helped the Spurs.

Pick: San Antonio 109-98.

Four More NBA Series Get Underway Today

Duncan Nowitzki
Duncan Nowitzki
The two future Hall of Famers battle in the playoffs for potentially the final time.

On Friday, I laid out the match-ups for the other four game ones and gave you my prediction for those series. Today I’m doing the same with the other four playoff contests that get going.

Dallas (+9.5) at San Antonio – The Spurs and Mavericks are two veteran-laden teams but the similarities pretty much stop there. San Antonio has owned the Mavs this season winning all four of the face-offs by an average of 11.5 points. While the Spurs have been a fantastic franchise under Gregg Popovich, there has to be a little bit of an edge to this team this year.

They really should have put away the Heat last year in the NBA Finals but faltered. The year prior, they jumped to a 2-0 lead over Oklahoma City before being blitzed in four straight games. I believe the Spurs are ready to put those type of things to bed and I expect them to come out strong today in game one.

Dallas will make their runs but in the end I like the Spurs to cover in this one.

Series Prediction: Spurs in Four

Jefferson
If the Bobcats are to have any chance, Jefferson must play out of his mind.

Charlotte (+10) at Miami – Where do we even start in this one? The Heat have won all four games they played against the Bobcats during the regular season and have beaten them in fifteen straight games overall. So dominant have the Heat been that their average margin of victory is 10.5 and that includes a one-point win.

We really should take a second to celebrate the success of the Bobcats this season. Yes, the Eastern Conference was pretty bad this year but they still did what they had to do to earn a spot in the postseason. Next year they will go back to their original name of ‘Hornets.’

We can surmise all we want to as to whether or not Miami looked at the Eastern Conference Playoff landscape and decided that being the two-seed was better than being the one, but we’ll never really know. Either way, look for LeBron and company to win the opener but I’m taking the Bobcats to and the points.

Washington (+4.5) at Chicago – The Wizards took two of three from the Bulls during the regular season with both wins coming in early and mid-January. The Bulls’ victory came just last week. When you enter the NBA Playoffs the first thing you have to look for is defense and the Bulls clearly have the edge here.

This is a team that has certainly learned how to win without Derick Rose and to a lesser extent, without the traded Luol Deng as well. I do not believe however, this will be an easy task for Chicago. I expect a great game and series from John Wall who has matured a great deal and plays smarter and better than last year.

That said, I like Chicago to ride their rowdy home crowd’s enthusiasm to victory even giving the points.

Series Prediction: Bulls in Six

Portland (+5) at Houston – The Rockets took three of four from the Blazers this season by an average of 11 points per win. While I’m not ready to anoint the Rockets the champions for this year like any analysts are, I do believe they should be taken quite seriously.

Portland has struggled to regain the form they had earlier in the season when they were far and away one of the best teams in the league. The consistency at both ends of the floor just hasn’t been there and they’ll need to find it quickly if they expect to get through the playoffs let alone this series.

The tandem of James Harden and Dwight Howard will be tough to beat but if LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard are on top of their game it’s possible. I just think over the long haul the Rockets will prevail. I like them giving the points today as well.

Series Prediction: Rockets in Six

NBA Playoff Picture as Regular Season Winds to a Close

The NBA regular season has entered its last weekend with just 2 or 3 games left on team’s schedules. However, with just five days left in the regular season there are two seeds left to fill out West and one in the East.

Back East

In the east, Friday night was wild, with six of the top seven seeds changing. Miami defeated Indiana to move to the top of the East a half game in front of Indiana. If the Heat can win out over their final three games, they would be the conference’s top seed. If the two teams tie, Indiana would win the tiebreaker.

Chicago was 18 points down in their game against Detroit but rallied to win. That combined with a loss by Toronto to New York moved Chicago into No. 3 and pushed Toronto into the No. 4 spot.

However, Toronto clinched the title in the Atlantic division when Brooklyn was defeated by Atlanta. Washington won while Charlotte lost, so Washington moved to No. 6 and Charlotte dropped to No. 7.

The magic number for Atlanta to eliminate the New York Knick for the No. 8 and final place in the playoffs is one.

Out West

With its win on Friday night rallying from a deficit of 21 points, the San Antonio Spurs clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference throughout the entire playoffs.

Stephen Curry recorded a triple double for Golden State in their win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The win clinched a second consecutive postseason for Golden State.

Houston continues to have problems on defense allowing Corey Brewer to score 51 points. The Rockets lead for the No. 4 spot melted to a half game in front of Portland.

Houston lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Portland beat the Utah Jazz.

Memphis defeated Philadelphia and with the collapse by Phoenix against San Antonio moved Memphis to No. 8 and Phoenix is now sitting at No. 9 and on the outside looking in.

Saturday Game Notes

Washington visits Milwaukee with the Wizards controlling their own destiny for the No. 6 spot to avoid Pacers and Heat during the first round.

Charlotte hosts Philly with Bobcats fighting to get No. 6 spot back.

Atlanta hosts Miami with the Hawks having a chance to clinch a berth in the postseason. Heat looks to keep pressure on Indiana as they lead Pacers in No. 1 spot in the East.

Boston visits Cleveland in a game with no playoff implications.

Houston hosts New Orleans and will try to creep closer to clinching the No. 4 spot and home court advantage in the first round. New Orleans has lost 7 straight.

Dallas hosts Phoenix in a battle for the 7th and 8th spots out West. Dallas is No. 7 entering the game, Phoenix is No. 9, with Memphis squeezed in between with all three separated by just a half game.

Denver hosts Utah with no playoff implications for either club.

According to Bovada, topbet, sportsbook.com and betonline, if the season ended after Friday’s games the playoff would look like this:

East: Atlanta at Miami, Charlotte at Indiana, Washington at Chicago, Brooklyn at Toronto

West: Memphis at San Antonio, Dallas at Oklahoma City, Golden State at Los Angeles Clippers, Portland at Houston.

Breaking Down the Eastern Conference First Round

Carmelo and LeBron

 

Carmelo and LeBron
Are James and Anthony headed for an Eastern Finals Showdown?

The regular season of the National Basketball Association is now behind us and the playoffs are days away from starting so I’m going to take a couple of days to break down the first round match-ups starting with the Eastern Conference first.

The Eastern Conference playoffs this year are the Miami Heat and ‘you other seven teams.’ If the NBA Playoffs were one-game series I would have no problem calling for an upset or two but they aren’t and never will be. There were in fact many rumors that Atlanta tanked the final games just to avoid the Miami half of the bracket.

Be that as it may, I see this first round in the East being pretty competitive but I’m also seeing the powdery white of chalk for the opening sessions. By the way, New York and Boston start their series on 4/20/13. If it goes seven games it would end on 5/20/13. That’s just ridiculous but I digress… On to the breakdowns.

8 Milwaukee at 1 Miami – It’s very easy to immediately say the Heat will just dust the Bucks away like they are nothing but a mosquito not so fast my friends. Only once since 2003-2004 have the Heat swept an opponent in the first round. Even last year they stumbled once in defeating the Knicks.

With that said, the Heat should not exactly struggle with Milwaukee. Too much experience and too much firepower in this one.

Prediction: Heat in 5

7 Boston at 2 New York – The Boston Celtics have won five straight opening round series while the Knicks have lost two straight opening round series and haven’t won one since the 1999-2000 season.

This is clearly a different Knicks team though and they have to know they are the Eastern Conference’s only legitimate chance of knocking off Miami who they defeated three out of four times this season. They defeated Boston in their three out of four meetings but last played them on March 31st.

Part of me wants to take Boston but I just can’t do it.

Prediction: Knicks in 6

 

Josh Smith
Smith and the Hawks will push the Pacers to the brink in round one.

6 Atlanta at 3 Indiana – These two split their season series with each winning two games. The Hawks won the first two while the Pacers the second two. No one plays defense and rebounds the way Indiana does in the Eastern Conference. It’s the rebounding edge that worries me if I’m a Hawks fan because they don’t rebound well at all.

With that said, if Atlanta can find ways to score and they usually being 2nd in the league in assists, they could put real pressure on the Pacers to match them. I have a feeling this will be one of the more under-rated yet better series of the first round.

Prediction: Pacers in 7

5 Chicago at 4 Brooklyn – The Bulls were 3-1 against the Nets in ’12-’13 and that isn’t by mistake. Chicago is in the top eight in rebounding, assists and points allowed in the NBA but can have trouble scoring.

The Nets rebound and defend pretty well too though and that’s why I think this match-up will be indicative of their latest one where Chicago won 92-90 in Barclays’. I know a lot of Chicago fans think this is where Derrick Rose finally makes an appearance but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

I fully expect this series to go the distance and right down to the wire in game seven.

Prediction: Nets in 7