New NBA Championship Futures See Thunder Rise and Heat and Suns Fall

Odds makers have released the latest futures for the NBA Championship. The Oklahoma City Thunder are playing so well the team has moved into third on the odds board, while teams such as the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns are rapidly going in the other direction.

Only a week ago, the Thunder was sitting in seventh place on the odds board, but has seen their odds shortened to 60 to 1, which is down from last week’s 12 to 1.

The odds makers are showing a great deal of respect to the Thunder, despite the team holding down only the eighth and final postseason spot in the NBA Western Conference. However, the Thunder has won 7 straight games including wins over the Grizzlies, Mavericks and Clippers last week and picked up three players on the trade deadline to add to their roster.

The futures odds shortened for the Thunder even despite the lingering concerns over the health of Kevin Durant who had what was described as a minor procedure to ease some discomfort on his right foot. The soreness has come from surgery Durant had on his foot in October. It is thought Durant will return prior to the end of the regular season.

Amongst the teams in a free fall of sorts this week on the boards is the Heat. After receiving Goran Dragic in a trade last week, the starting five for Miami looked strong. However, the next day, Chris Bosh was lost for the season with blood clots. Without the best player on the Heat, their odds of winning the NBA title fell to 300 to 1 from last week’s 100 to 1. The Phoenix Suns have lost five straight games and 8 of their past 10 to fall out of the eighth spot in the West and into 10th. The Suns also dropped to 300 to 1 from 100 to 1 last week.

NBA CHAMPIONSHIP FUTURES
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS 3 to 1
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 4 to 1
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 6 to 1
ATLANTA HAWKS 7 to 1
SAN ANTONIO SPURS 8 to 1
CHICAGO BULLS 8 to 1
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES 12 to 1
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS 12 to 1
TORONTO RAPTORS 20 to 1
HOUSTON ROCKETS 30 to 1

2015 NBA All-Star Game Today From the Big Apple

The NBA All-Star game will be played today in the Big Apple at Madison Square Garden. The 64th annual All-Star game will have the West looking to avenge last year’s 8-point loss.

This game is all entertainment. While players are clearly competitive and want to be victorious, there are some that go well above and beyond for these types of games.

Last season, it was the Eastern Conference team led by LeBron James that ended a losing streak of three years with a 163-155 win.

Kyrie Irving, James’ current teammate, won the MVP award, after shooting 14 for 17 for 31 points and adding 14 assists.

This season five players voted to the team have played in 10 or more All-Star games but two Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade are sidelined with injuries. The other three Tim Duncan is playing his 15th, LeBron James his 11th and Chris Bosh his 10th.

Besides Bryant and Wade, Blake Griffin misses the game due to an injury and was replaced by Portland’s Damian Lillard. Kyle Korver and DeMarcus Cousins replaced Bryant and Wade. This will be the first All-Star appearance for both Korver and Cousins. Anthony Davis is injured and was replaced by Dirk Nowitzki who will be playing the All-Star game for the 13th time.

Stephen Curry who received more than 1 million votes for the Western Conference team has led his Golden State Warriors to the top spot in the conference.

According to Bovada and betonline this year’s favorites for the MVP in the All-Star game are:

Stephen Curry 13 to 4

LeBron James 7 to 2

Kevin Durant 7 to 2

James Harden 11 to 2

Carmelo Anthony 6 to 1

According to topbet and sportsbook.com the favorites for high scorer are:

Stephen Curry 3 to 1
Kevin Durant 3 to 1
LeBron James 3 to 1
James Harden 6 to 1
Carmelo Anthony 7 to 1

The current line has the West favored by 2 points over the east. NBA fans and bettors know the West is far deeper in talent at the individual and team level. However, it is difficult for that to play out in this type of game since the talents levels are so close when only the top 15 from each conference play.

Pick: West 145-138

NBA Spotlight on Bulls, Cavs Heading into the All-Star Break

LeBron Rose
LeBron Rose
LeBron James and Derrick Rose hook up in Chicago tonight.

The National Basketball Association is a one-man show this evening as all of the focus is on the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. It also happens to be the last game of the “first half” of the season. Friday evening brings a number of events as does Saturday before it all culminates on Sunday in the annual All-Star Game between the Eastern and Western Conferences.

The first portion of the season has brought numerous storylines to the forefront of the league. From Atlanta’s rise in the East to the rise of Golden State and Memphis in the West.

Today I’m looking at the Bulls and Cavs as the two Central Division rivals hook up with momentum for the second half on the line.

Cleveland (-1) at Chicago (O/U 201.5) – The Cavaliers have been as streaky as any team in the National Basketball Association this season and they’re now in the midst of an upswing but that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues. As I wrote in the blog yesterday, LeBron James tweeting an anonymous, motivational message to teammate Kevin Love was not the way I or many others would have done things but if it works then OK.

Love
Kevin Love responded to LeBron's tweet but will he keep it going?

At 33-20, the Bulls have a solid record and lead the Cavaliers by just a game right now in the Eastern Conference. Chicago is tied with Washington for the third seed but holds the tie-breaker while Cleveland sits in fifth. The fact of the matter is, and this goes for both the Cavs and Bulls, is that they are light years behind conference leader Atlanta who has a lead of 11 and 10 games respectively.

Although the All-Star Game is this weekend, the season is well past the halfway point. What this means for the Cavs and Bulls is that any designs on getting the one seed in the East are futile barring an epic collapse by the Hawks and I don’t see it happening.

If you didn’t think the Bulls and Cavaliers were close enough in just about every way then consider this; they both average exactly 102.0 points per game and defensively Cleveland gives up 99.2 points per game while Chicago gives up 99.1. So far this season, the Cavaliers own a 2-0 record against the Bulls.

Cleveland won the first match-up with Chicago in the Windy City in overtime and then defeated the Bulls in Cleveland by 14.

The Pick: If Kevin Love continues to play inspired and LeBron keeps on being LeBron then the Cavs are going to be difficult on anyone they play. While the Bulls have the advantage of being at home this evening, they also played Miami last evening while Cleveland had an off night. Keep in ind too that the Bulls have better on the road than at home. Take the Cavs to cover and take the UNDER tonight as well.

Trends: Cleveland has won nine of their last ten games (written before conclusion of last night’s game)… Chicago has won three straight games and six of their last ten games… The Cavs are 12-12 on the road… The Bulls are 14-11 at home.

The NBA Slate Offers Some Potential Pitfalls

DJ
DJ
D.J. Augustin has done his best to replace the injured Brandon Jennings in Detroit.

There are some really interesting lines tonight and just as interesting are some of the trends too. As the Knight of the Templar told Indiana Jones, “Choose wisely.”

Detroit (+2) at Charlotte (O/U 191.5) – The Pistons were playing so well following the dismissal of Josh Smith and then Brandon Jennings went down with his season-ending injury. D.J. Augustin has actually played pretty well in his absence averaging over ten points and almost five assists per game. Still, the Pistons are two games out of the final playoff spot and it’s not going to be easy.

The Hornets are in the seventh seed but have lost two straight despite winning six of their last ten. With Kemba Walker out indefinitely and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist day-to-day, Hornets could be in trouble.

Trends: The total has gone OVER in four of Detroit’s last five games… The total has gone UNDER in six of Charlotte’s last seven games… The Pistons are 5-1 straight up in their last six games at Charlotte… The Hornets are 1-7 against the spread in their last eight games at home versus Detroit.

The Pick: Take Detroit and the OVER.

Joerger
David Joerger has the Grizzlies in great shape in the Western Conference.

Brooklyn (+11.5) at Memphis (O/U 190) – The Nets are dead even with the Miami Heat for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference but would lose the tie-breaker if the season ended today. Brooklyn has actually been better on the road than they have been at home but I’m not sure that will help here.

Memphis continues to put pressure on Golden State in the West. Right now, the Grizzlies are three games back. What’s gone in Memphis has been impressive and I don’t see this team going away any time soon.

Trends: The Grizzlies have won nine of their last ten games… The Nets have lost six of their last ten games.

The Pick: Take the Nets getting those points and the OVER.

Houston (+2) at Phoenix (O/U 214.5) – The Rockets come to the desert six games out of the first seed in the Western Conference but they have teams breathing down their necks. Portland, Dallas, the LA Clippers and the defending champion Spurs are all within three games of Houston.

The Suns find themselves currently hanging on to the final playoff spot by the skin of their teeth. New Orleans is a game back and Oklahoma City is two games behind. Phoenix must win games at home and needs to try and beat teams ahead of them in the standings.

Trends: The Suns have won four of their last ten games… The Rockets have won seven of their last ten games…

The Pick: Take the Rockets getting the points and the OVER.

Denver (+2) at LA Lakers (O/U 198.5) – These two teams have combined to lose nine straight games and they’ve also combined to win just two games in their last 20. The Nuggets are just 7-19 on the road this season and they are a full eight games out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. In other words, they aren’t making the playoffs.

The Lakers are a mess on and off the court as disgruntled players have started to speak out a little more than the Lakers’ front office would like. Between injuries and an overall lack of talent, this has just not been a good run for the purple and gold.

Trends:  The Lakers have lost four in a row and nine of their last ten… Denver has lost five straight and has lost nine of their last ten.

The Pick: I’ll take the Nuggets getting the points and the UNDER.

Hawks host Wizards, Bulls visit Rockets and More…

The Wednesday night calendar in the NBA has a number of good matchups to choose from and here are three.

Washington at Atlanta

The Atlanta Hawks are looking to start another winning streak after their 19-game streak was snapped by the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday.
Atlanta has allowed 100 points or more, only six times over their past 20 games played. However, in its past 5 games played, Atlanta is just 1-4 ATS. The Hawks are 10-0 in their past 10 games played at home including a 31-point rout of Washington in January.

Washington lost two straight at home before hitting the road to Atlanta. The Wizards are 0-7 ATS in their past 7 games overall.

In a 92-88 loss on Monday, the Wizards were only able to score 37 points during the second half against Charlotte. Washington is 1-4 SU over its past 5 games at home.

As a road dog this season, the Wizards are 3-7 ATS, while 1-4 ATS on the road versus teams from the Southeast division.

Chicago at Houston

Chicago has had four days of rest leading up to this game while on a road trip of six games. Chicago will try to break a skid of two games. The road trip started well with an overtime win over Golden State, as 11-point road dogs. However, the Bulls lost consecutive games to the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns. In Phoenix, the Bulls covered the spread as a seven-point dog. The Bulls have yet to lose three straight his season, while going 4-0 SU off two straight losses.

Houston starts a three game stay at home after losing at Detroit 114-101 on Saturday as a favorite by four points. The Rockets loss snapped a winning streak of four games for Houston.

Houston has won six of its past seven home games, while going 6-2 straight up and 4-4 ATS in its past eight home games against opponents from the Eastern Conference.

Oklahoma City at New Orleans

New Orleans is the hottest team against the spread in the NBA at this time covering 6 of its past 7 games. New Orleans ended the 19-game winning streak of Atlanta on Monday with a 15-point victory as a home dog by 3 points.

New Orleans won the first two head-to-head games vs. the Thunder this season, with two underdog outright wins. The teams will conclude a home and home set on Friday in Oklahoma City.

Kevin Durant has a toe injury and is doubtful. The Thunder is 2-4 SU and 0-6 ATS in its past six games.

Saturday NBA Slate Has Some Big Spreads

Anthony
Anthony
I have to wonder what goes through Carmelo's mind when he laces them up for this Knicks' team each night.

With the NFL taking a break this weekend, the NBA is in my focus. Here are four games I like for you tonight.

New York (+9.5) at Charlotte – The lottery-bound Knicks are dead last in the Eastern Conference and I see little help on the way. I expect Phil Jackson to continue dumping as much salary as he possibly can.

The Hornets have won eight of their last ten and have pulled within a half game of the eight spot in the Eastern Conference. Strangely enough though the Knicks come in on a three-game winning streak.

Trends: The total has gone OVER in five of the Knicks’ last seven games… The total has gone UNDER in six of Charlotte’s last seven games at home… New York is 3-7 against the spread in their last ten games against the Hornets… Charlotte is 4-1 straight up in their last five games at home.

The Pick: Take the Hornets to cover and the OVER.

Kidd
Jason Kidd has made the Bucks competitive despite the loss of Jabari Parker.

Detroit (-2) at Milwaukee – The Pistons have won seven of their last ten games as they continue to play well in the weeks since Josh Smith was sent packing. Although they are currently in the 10th spot in the East, they are just a game behind Brooklyn for the all important eight spot.

The Bucks sit at 21-21 and not surprisingly they have gone 5-5 over their last ten games. The loss of Jabari Parker to his ACL injury was a tough blow but Jason Kidd has kept this team competitive with good defense.

Trends: The Pistons are 12-3 straight up in their last 15 games… The total has gone UNDER of 12 of Milwaukee’s last 13 games… Detroit is 0-5 against the spread in their last five games against the Bucks… The total has gone OVER in five of Milwaukee’s last seven games against the Pistons.

The Pick: With the Pistons being better on the road then at home, I like them to cover and I like the UNDER.

Philadelphia (+16) at Memphis – At 8-35, the Philadelphia 76ers are going nowhere and now they have to try without guard Troy Wroten is out with a knee injury. The Sixers have lost four straight and are just a half a game ahead of the New York Knicks who have won three in a row.

Memphis has won six of their last ten and currently resides in the second spot in the Western Conference. Although the Grizzlies have been good at home (17-5), the Sixers are actually better on the road than they are home.

Trends: Philly is 1-8 straight up in their last nine games on the road… The total has gone OVER in five of Memphis’ last seven games… The Sixers are 2-4 against the spread in their last six games when playing on the road in Memphis… The Grizzlies are 5-1 SU in their last six games at home against Philadelphia.

The Pick: Take Philly getting the points and the OVER.

Washington (-4.5) at Portland (O/U 195.5) – The story here is obviously “life without LeMarcus” in Rip City. Portland’s all-star big man is out six to eight weeks with a hand injury. Portland currently resides in the third spot in the West but common sense tells us that won’t last. The question is just how long can the Blazers hang on without Aldridge?

For the Wizards, they are in the second spot in the Eastern Conference and trail the Atlanta Hawks by six and a half games. Washington needs to pay closer attention to Toronto and Chicago who are just a game behind them. The Wizards will go as John Wall goes and he’ll be challenged by good guard play in Portland.

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in four of Washington’s last six games… Portland is 1-5 straight up in its’ last six games… The Wizards are 3-6 against the spread in their last nine games in Portland… The Blazers are 2-4 SU in their last six games against the Wizards.

The Pick: I like the Blazers to halt their two game skid and take the UNDER.

Nets, Blazers Looking to Avoid 0-2 Deficits

Garnett and Pierce
Garnett and Pierce
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett cannot have a repeat of game one if they want to even up the series in Miami.

Well, I certainly couldn’t have been more wrong about the openers in Miami and San Antonio. Yes, I predicted a Spurs’ victory but I certainly didn’t see that butt-whooping coming that the Blazers took.

I was even worse in my prediction about game one of the Miami-Brooklyn series. I really thought the Nets would come in and play well and they did for a half… After that, the Heat, who I figured would be rusty, were anything but in big-time win.

So now I’m back for more and while going down 0-2 is not a death sentence, especially since both teams would be returning home, it isn’t a very ideal place to be. How do the Blazers and Nets even things up? Let’s examine that right now.

Brooklyn (+8) at Miami, Heat Lead 1-0 – Paul Pierce played 29 minutes and scored eight points. Kevin Garnett played 18 minutes and pulled a “Roy Hibbert” (too soon?) and scored zero points. Toss in the fact the Nets shot just 10 of 17 from the free throw line and you’ve got a formula for failure against the defending champions.

If ever there were a time the Nets missed having Brook Lopez on the court, game one was that time. The Heat outscored Brooklyn 52-28 in the paint as Miami players went virtually unchallenged. Do I really need to tell you that can’t happen again?

Brooklyn must force Miami into tougher shots as the Heat hit on about 58% of their field goal attempts in game one. We can also wonder if letting LeBron get his isn’t a better strategy after the balanced attacked of Miami was too much for the Nets. The Heat had five players in double-figures including Ray Allen’s 18 off the bench.

I fully expect a better performance from the Nets tonight simply because they’ll want to avoid the 0-2 hole. But I also expect more urgency which they lacked in the second half of game one. They know they cannot give up anything easy to Miami or else this series will be over before it has started.

Take the Nets getting the eight points but I like the Heat to win.

Aldridge
Aldridge needs some help if the Blazers are going to compete in this series.

Portland (+7) at San Antonio, Spurs Lead 1-0 – If you would have told me that LaMarcus Aldridge was going to go for 32 points and 14 rebounds and the Blazers would still lose by 24 points I’d probably tell you that you’re nuts. That’s exactly what Aldridge did in game one but he had very little support from his teammates.

Damian Lillard scored 17 points but the only other guy in double-figures was Robin Lopez with 10. If you look down at the other end of the court, the Spurs had six different players in double-figures and were led by Tony Parker’s 33 points.

The Blazers need to do two things in order to even this series. First, they must get back to running. Portland had just seven fast break points against a Spurs team that was obviously bent on limiting their high-paced action. Secondly, the Blazers just need to shoot the basketball better. Sounds rather pedestrian but they took poor shots in game one and need to do a better job of being patient against the veteran Spurs’ defense.

Portland can even this series and drawing even in bench-scoring would help to as they were outscored 50-18 by San Antonio but it won’t be easy. The Spurs have been great at home all year and Gregg Popovich and his staff are rarely out-coached so I look for another Spurs’ victory but I do like the Blazers getting the seven points.

Three Teams in the NBA Have Their Backs Against the Wall Tonight

DeRozan
DeRozan
Can DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors end the series tonight in Brooklyn?

It’s a forgone conclusion that when you reach a game six in a seven-game series that someone is playing to advance and someone is playing stay alive. That’s the situation tonight in Brooklyn, Dallas and Portland and the only team looking for the clincher is the Blazers.

Toronto (+5) at Brooklyn, Raptors Lead 3-2 – I guess I was duped. I really thought we’d see the Nets go into Canada and take game five behind a veteran crew of playoff savvy guys and I was wrong. It doesn’t help of course when you keep Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on the bench in fourth quarter either.

As good as Toronto has been at times in this series, I just can’t imagine Jason Kidd not relying on his veterans and that includes Deron Williams as well. The Raptors will not want a game seven even though its home so I like them with the points but I feel that Brooklyn wins.

Keep an eye on… The Raptors are 2-5 straight up in their last seven games in Brooklyn… Toronto is 2-3-1 against the spread in their last six games in Brooklyn… The Nets are 2-7-1 ATS in their last ten games… Brooklyn is 17-3 straight up in their last 20 games at home.

 

Parker
Parker was excellent in game five on a sore ankle. Can he do the same in game six?

San Antonio (-3) at Dallas, Spurs Lead 3-2 – Tony Parker played better in game five despite nursing a sore ankle. His 23 points led the Spurs and countered a big night from Dirk Nowitzki who had 26 points. I don’t know that these guys will be the difference or not tonight because there are so many different guys who have contributed big time in this series so far.

Conventional wisdom says the Spurs go into Big D and close out the series but I sense a lot of fight still in the Mavericks and I like them getting the points and for the win.

Keep an eye on… The Spurs are 5-1 straight up in their last six games at Dallas… San Antonio has a 34-30 rebounding average over the Mavericks… Dallas is 3-7 against the spread in their last ten games at home against the Spurs… The total has gone OVER in four of Dallas’ last five games at home against the Spurs.

Houston (+3.5) at Portland, Blazers Lead 3-2 – Of the three series hitting the floor tonight, this one has arguably been the most one-sided with Portland jumping out to a 3-1 lead. I say arguably because three of the games so far have gone to overtime.

Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge had been averaging over 35 points per game before scoring just eight in the game five loss to the Rockets. Common sense tells us that this poor performance was an aberration. I expect Aldridge to be right back to his scoring ways.

For Houston, Dwight Howard has been solid as he’s averaging a double-double in this series but I think the bigger key will be James Harden. He must be consistently good in terms of shooting and dishing the ball when necessary. He has to counter Damian Lillard who will do both of those things for the Blazers.

Clearly the Rockets are a different team on the road versus the one they are at home and I also feel Portland has no desire to return to Texas unless it’s to play the Spurs. I like the Blazers so give the points with confidence.

Keep an eye on… Houston is 6-1-2 against the spread when playing in Portland in their last nine games… They are however 3-6-1 in their last ten games overall ATS… Portland is shooting 10% better at the free throw line than Houston is… The Blazers are 1-6-2 ATS in their last nine games at home against Houston.

With Sterling Gone for Good, Attention Can Turn Back to the Court

Silver
Silver
New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver nailed his first crucial decision when he gave Donald Sterling a lifetime ban.

New National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver wasted no time in putting his stamp on the league. Faced with a growing chorus of players, fans, politicians and common citizens, Silver banned Los Angeles Clippers’ Owner Donald Sterling for life.

Sterling was also fined $2.5 million which in the grand scheme of things is small potatoes considering his worth is nearly $2 billion. It’s widely believed that Sterling will be forced to sell the team but based on his past, he won’t go quietly into the night. I expect a long, drawn-out process in the years to come unless he just decides it isn’t worth it.

Some are speculating that the franchise could fetch as much as $1 billion in a sale.

While I applaud Silver’s forceful action, it isn’t a day to celebrate. Yes, the NBA is ultimately better without Donald Sterling in it, but the damage has been done. Sports were often thought to be safe harbor from this kind of bigotry despite random cases in the past. This situation illustrates that we remain far from where we need to be.

Williams needs an improved performance to get the Nets' a game five win.Brooklyn (+3.5) at Toronto, Series Tied 2-2 – I have to give the Toronto Raptors some credit. I really thought after the game three loss that they were in trouble and would fold under the playoff pressure. The young Toronto team finished off the Nets with a 12-4 to end the game to even the series and take it back home for tonight’s game.

For the Nets to grab game five Deron Williams has to be better than four of twelve shooting. He scored just 10 points in game four and was 0-5 from three-point land. My gut feeling is that he plays significantly better tonight.

While both squads shot almost an identical 41% from the field, the difference ultimately was from the charity stripe. Toronto went 19 of 23 while the Nets were just 19 of 29. I think this is where the veteran leadership in Brooklyn kicks in; take the Nets and the 3.5 points.

Dallas (+6) at San Antonio, Series Tied 2-2 – I just don’t have a feel or this series. Just when I think the Spurs are ready to dominate and move on, the Mavericks come firing back. Even after a 20-point lead in game three, the Spurs still let it slip away but were able to pull out the victory.

Both teams were almost identical in the three-point shooting department in game three as they each hit on just 29% of their long-range shots. Ultimately the difference was better field goal and free throw shooting by San Antonio. If I’m Gregg Popovich, I’m concerned about Tony Parker. Again he struggled from the field and didn’t even attempt a three-point shot.

Parker’s poor shooting was offset by a 46-28 advantage in the paint and that’s something the Spurs must repeat. I like San Antonio to win, but I really like the Mavs getting the six points.

Portland (+5.5) at Houston, Blazers Lead 3-1 – If Rockets’ coach Kevin McHale was fighting for his job when the series was tied 1-1, then what must he be fighting for now? Granted the Rockets have dropped two overtime games, they’ve still lost three games total and one more ends a season that many had figured to be going much longer.

Houston had excellent balance in their scoring and dominated the paint to the tune of 68-30. While Portland didn’t exactly have the balance, they did have LaMarcus Aldridge who has dominated the series.

The Rockets were very good at home this year and they have to ride the crowd to a victory tonight but I really like Blazers getting the 5.5 points.

Three Different Scenarios Tonight in the NBA

James
James
I expect LeBron and D-Wade to sweep the Bobcats tonight in Charlotte.

When you look at odds and lines on a daily basis like I do there are bound to be times when things just don’t go well. Saturday night’s games were a prime example of that as I went just 1-3. Oh sure, I could quit, hang up the keyboard and walk away but the challenge of actually being right is too much to pass up.

Tonight’s games feature three different situations; the Miami Heat are looking to close out the Bobcats, the Pacers and Hawks look for a game five win and in Dallas, the top seeded Spurs are looking to avoid a 3-1 hole.

Let’s get to the games.

Miami (-6.5) at Charlotte, Heat Lead Series 3-0 – Whether LeBron James stared down Michael Jordan during Saturday’s game three win is a topic for another day, but what was clear was that the Heat made a statement to the Bobcats; we are by no means going to let you in this series.

Playoff experience the Bobcats do not have and it was evident towards the end of the half on Saturday when they just couldn’t take care of the ball during a sequence when Miami was turning it on. I have to think that the Heat are taking some solace in the fact that the Pacers and Bulls are struggling right now to advance to the next round.

With that in mind, the Heat would like to finish off Charlotte as soon as possible in order to get the rest they need. I anticipate a strong early effort from Charlotte but I love Miami to cover and get the sweep.

Hibbert
The Pacers pulled out game four despite another poor showing from Roy Hibbert.

Atlanta (+7) at Indiana, Series Tied 2-2 – The back and forth continued this past weekend as the teams split in Atlanta leaving the series tied at two games apiece. Many wondered if Frank Vogel would sit all-star Roy Hibbert but he did not. In a little less than 25 minutes of action, Hibbert finished with six points and three rebounds.

While Indiana proved that they could win without much of an effort from their big man, the question remains as whether they can win the series in the same manner. The Hawks continue to spread the floor to limit Hibbert’s defensive presence but Atlanta really didn’t do themselves any favors down the stretch in game four either.

The Hawks turned the ball over and suffered from poor shot selection before the Pacers’ David West ultimately put the dagger in. Whether the pattern of wins and losses continues in game five I cannot say but I feel very confident taking the Hawks and seven points.

San Antonio (-4) at Dallas, Mavericks Lead 2-1 – If you ask most casual NBA fans about Vince Carter they’d probably say something like, “he had a nice career.” The reminder that Carter sent about his current status resonate like a bomb going off as he hit an off-balance three-pointer to beat the San Antonio Spurs.

The eighth seed Mavericks now hold a surprising 2-1 lead over the Spurs and this lead has been accomplished in large part without a dominant Dirk Nowitzki. Carter and Monta Ellis have been the key players so far in the series for Dallas.

If you asked most experts they’d tell you that Rick Carlisle has outcoached Gregg Popovich to this point in the series. Everything Carlisle does seems to work while Pop’s moves haven’t panned out quite as well.

Tony Parker knocked down 17 points in the first half of game three and then scored nothing in the second half. That cannot and will not happen in game four in my opinion. While I expect another close game, I like the Spurs to cover and even the series.