Thursday's NBA Picks
May 2, 2013
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Can Chicago, Golden State Bounce Back?
There are only two games on the board for Thursday’s NBA playoff betting, and both games have slim 1.5 point margins. Chicago and Golden State both return home after suffering losses in each of their Game 4’s. Will home court give them the advantage they need? Let’s find out.
Brooklyn Nets +1.5 over CHICAGO BULLS
Thursday, May 2nd (TNT, 8:00 p.m. ET)
The Chicago Bulls missed a mighty chance to close this series in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, losing in blowout fashion 110-91 as +6.5 dogs. Without Derrick Rose serving as the catalyst of the offence, scoring was always going to be an issue for this team. But this team has suffered another untimely injury exactly where they couldn’t afford one.
In a somewhat surprising stat, offensive efficiency hasn’t been an issue for Chicago. They shot 49.3 percent from the field and a respectable (albeit disappointing) 33.3 percent from range. All five starters managed to score double digits with Nate Robinson’s 20 points leading the way. Suffice to say, when Nate Robinson is your leading scorer you’re in big trouble overall.
The loss of Kirk Hinrich, who will miss Game 6 as well while nursing a strained calf, is a huge concern for Bulls fans. He has been the sole reason that Deron Williams couldn’t get going in Games 3 and 4. There’s been a lot of fuss made about Hinrich’s reaction to the Jason Collins news since he called it a “big distraction” but I think that vastly undermines how frustrated Hinrich is with his injury. The guy wants to win playoff games and help his team. He doesn’t want to be on the sidelines answering questions about the sexual orientation of a former teammate (no matter how big the story actually is). You can’t fault him for being short with the media; he knows how big of a deal his absence is.
With Hinrich out, Deron went bananas with 23 points while dishing out 10 assists. I said before that Williams is a nightmare for a guy like Robinson, who brings a lot of offensive potential to the table but can’t play solid defense against a bull-rusher like Williams. You can’t slide Deng over to guard him because Robinson would be just as inept against the deadly shooting of Joe Johnson.
When Williams is running unopposed, the Nets are simply a much better team. After being a skunk for the majority of the season, Williams ended the season with an astonishing run that reminded us all of why we consider him an All-Star. He creates this seamless flow that opens up shot opportunities for all of his teammates. He can score himself or give easy looks to Brook Lopez, who led the team with 28 points on Monday night.
Chicago is being dealt serious injury after serious injury, and while they seemed well equipped and fully prepared to weather the void left by Rose they can’t possibly overcome the loss of Hinrich. Williams will run roughshod over Chicago once again, and push the Nets in to a series tie.
Back the Nets no matter how much it hurts.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS +1.5 over Denver Nuggets
Thursday, May 2nd (TNT, 10:30 p.m. ET)
Don’t get inspired by Denver’s 107-100 victory that kept their hopes alive in the first round. Every series, there’s a game where an unexpected force decides to live up to his potential and take over the game. On Tuesday night, that was Andre Igoudala who had 25 points and 12 rebounds along with 7 assists. The problem there is that he averaged just 14.7 points in the first four games of this series.
Igoudala is a great athlete, but an inconsistent producer and while he can be a solid defender against the superior swingmen of the league, he’s just not reliable enough to bail Denver out of another game. Keep in mind that Denver is a woeful 0-4 ATS in their last 4 road games and just 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games after scoring 100+ points. If Igoudala played at his ceiling more consistently, he’d be in line for a max deal this summer (where he becomes a RFA with a player option next year). I’d be shocked if Denver extended him.
I’d be even more surprised if Denver won this game. If Igoudala plays at the level he has through this series, you have a Warriors win in Game 5 and this series is over. The Warriors have been outstanding throughout this series, even after losing David Lee. So what gives?
Credit first goes to Andrew Bogut. At one time in his career, Bogut was amongst the best centers in the league but he’s been in a funk since his strange rash of injuries (and before you call him injury prone, remember first that most of his injuries are wonky freak accidents). Bogut’s numbers won’t jump out at you. He’s averaged 5.0 points and 8.2 boards in this series, but he has ramped up his defensive attitude tremendously and is becoming the one-man wrecking crew Golden State hoped he could be when they traded for him.
Bogut’s rebounding numbers can be explained partly because he’s the only low post player on a team that is running small ball all night long. He gets boxed out by McGee and Faried often enough to keep his stats in check. His scoring numbers are self explanatory because he’s not a go-to option for this offence.
Of course, Bogut getting in to shoving matches with Denver is what sparked the Nuggets on a rampant scoring spree that the Warriors couldn’t match. I like the toughness he brings, but he needs to hurt the opposition more on the scoreboard instead of acting like an idiot.
If Bogut can keep a cool head, which he should in Game 6, the Warriors will be just fine. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson form one of the best scoring backcourts in the entire league and both led a frantic fourth quarter in the last matchup that almost propelled the Warriors to a win. Harrison Barnes can’t be blamed for his up-and-down play, but he’s another big reason for the recent scoring sprees in Golden State.
There’s this idea that momentum has shifted in the series after Denver turned Bogut in to a scapegoat, and took over Game 5. I’d agree with that sentiment if Game 6 was being played way above sea level back in Denver. But since Game 6 is at Oracle Arena, I think Bogut can get his act together and the Warriors can win this series outright.
Golden State has been a reliable scoring machine in this series. The Denver Nuggets will need Andre Igoudala to breach the 20-point barrier which is a charming thought until you realize he’s only done it once all season and that was back in December. Are you going to hope Iggy performs well in back-to-back games, or lay your money down with a solid shooting team that knows they really control this series?
Be smart. Bet on the Warriors to cover and win in the OVER.