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Wednesday NBA winners
With three games on the board, and some tempting NBA playoff betting spreads to attack, there’s a lot of intrigue to dig in to here. The Knicks and Thunder can punch tickets to the second round with wins, while the Pacers-Hawks is now a best of three that is taking on a completely unexpected twist. What can we expect on Wednesday night?

NEW YORK KNICKS -9 over Boston Celtics
Wednesday, May 1st --- 7pm EST

With a 97-90 overtime victory the Boston Celtics stayed alive for one more game, and unfortunately for them that’s all they’re going to get. There’s some attraction here based on the fact that the Celtics usually respond to having their backs against the wall, but overall New York is too good for them when they have all their pieces in place.

On Wednesday night, J.R. Smith will take to the court after serving his 6 game suspension. He’s averaged 16.9 points per game in this series, and any kind of contribution from the reigning 6th Man of the Year will tilt this game squarely in New York’s favor. The Celtics haven’t had an answer for him all series and when Smith’s hand is scorching, it’s easy to have faith in him. (Likewise, when he’s cold you have to sit on your own hands and wait for him to show a semblance of consistency).

With Smith out, and Stoudemire still recovering form surgery, Monday night become a Carmelo shooting spree that reminded us of how callously bad his shot selection can get. Melo still finished with 36 points, but was a laughable 10-for-35 from the floor. The extra points came from the charity stripe as he tactically drew fouls, hitting 16-of-20 free throws. From long distance, Melo shot blanks.

It’s easy to point fingers at a stat line like that, but Melo needed to play hero ball and if the Knicks had won all would be forgiven. New York is short on studs and their bench (which amassed all of 7 points) hasn’t really shown up in this series. With J.R. Smith back in the fold, the offence will be back to its usual, spread busting self.

Don’t get lippy with Boston here. The Celtics don’t have enough players to stop the perimeter scoring of New York, and even if Paul Pierce dials back the clock it won’t be enough. I’m loving the Knicks more and more as the playoffs go on, and when Amar’e comes back, he’ll add much needed front court depth and rebounding to a team that sorely needs it. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to edge the Heat, but it certainly makes them a much more attractive underdog in the Eastern Conference Finals projections.

No team has ever overcome an 0-3 deficit in the NBA playoffs. Don’t count on these Boston Celtics being the first. Bet the Knicks as favorites at home to put the Celtics to bed for the offseason and notch their first playoff series win in 13 – yes, THIRTEEN – years.

INDIANA PACERS -7 over Atlanta Hawks
Wednesday, May 1st --- 8pm EST

The Atlanta Hawks must have put something in the Indiana Pacers’ plane food, because they did not handle the trip to the Dirty South well at all. Indiana lost 102-91 on Monday night, and 90-69 before that. At home, they are much safer pick. The metrics won’t say so, because they coasted down the final leg of the regular season, but their 32-11 SU record at home is rock solid.

Josh Smith exploded in a big way on Monday night, giving the Hawks 29 points and 11 rebounds. That’s cute and all, but Smith is a horrifically inconsistent entity. I can’t back a play on the Hawks here because there’s nothing encouraging about Smith’s outburst from Game 4. Great performance? Sure. Likely to happen again? Nope. He averaged just 15.5 points in the first two games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The curious part about this series is Indiana’s defense, which ranked second in the regular season. It completely vanished in Atlanta. The optimist in me says that it will come back in full force on Wednesday night when they’re in front of their home crowd, but I’m still a bit nervous about them overall. Indiana can’t keep getting blown out on the road like this or they’re looking at a second round exit.

This series is now tied and will probably go the distance. I’m not totally sure what the hell happens to the Pacers on the road, but it’s obvious that they play much better in the home state of the Hoosiers. For now this is a home court series.

Bet the Pacers at -6.5 in the UNDER but tread lightly.

Houston Rockets +8.5 over OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Wednesday, May 1st --- 10:30pm EST

Chandler Parsons, everybody! Who knew? With 27 points, 10 rebound and 8 assists, Parsons led the Rockets in a rousing home win to keep themselves alive. The issue with feeling exuberant about the Rockets after Game 4 is that they were the fortunate benefactor of getting “homer calls” from the refs. They won’t have that advantage in Game 5 as this series swings back to Oklahoma City.

The Rockets were able to withstand 38 points from the ever improving Kevin Durant. With Westbrook out for the season, Houston would’ve had a decisive advantage in the backcourt. Sadly, they lost that advantage when the offensively creative Jeremy Lin when down with his own injury. The starting point guard for Houston will likely be out for Game 5 with a bruised chest, and you can probably add a broken heart to his assortment of ailments when this game is over.

Keep in mind that Houston is just 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games when playing in Oklahoma City. They have some momentum now, but it will be hard for them to keep that up on the road. Parsons was able to sneak up on the Thunder in Game 4 but they’ll key on him and Harden to stop the Rockets in their tracks. If that happens, who’s going to step up for Houston? Francisco Garcia? Please.

It’s hard to be overly optimistic about the Thunder with Westbrook out. Reggie Jackson has scored 18 and 14 points in his two starts at point guard, while Derek Fisher continues to defy father time. He added 12 points in Game 4. You can’t ever replace a talent like Westbrook, but the combination of Jackson-Fisher is doing an admirable job.

The Oklahoma City frontcourt has always been a big issue, and will be a bigger target once they play teams with stronger inside presences. The Memphis Grizzlies and the San Antonio Spurs could absolutely murder them right now with the way they’re playing. Kevin Durant can do a lot, but he can also only do so much.

Unfortunately for the Rockets, they don’t have the personnel to take advantage of Oklahoma City’s problems. They’re also pretty bad as a road bet, going just 1-5 ATS in their last 5 trips away from Houston and 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games following a cover.

Does that mean I’m betting against them? Absolutely not! The Rockets have kept games tight by relentlessly pursuing points with reckless abandon. They’ve gone 2-0 ATS in their last 2 games and it’s obvious to me that the oddsmakers refuse to push the spreads for OKC even with Westbrook’s absence.

Bet Houston to keep this game close, even in the dying minutes. Oklahoma City doesn’t have the personnel to blow the doors off the scoreboard and the hot spread offence of the Rockets will at least keep the margin for this game within the spread.

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