Friday NBA Picks
May 3, 2013
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Which teams will advance to second round?
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES -6.5 over Los Angeles Clippers
Friday, May 3rd --- 9:35 pm EST
When I started ranting and raving about the NBA playoffs, I touted that the Clippers could be a surprise take in the Western Conference as a long term play. I loved that they improved this year on all fronts, came together as a unit and boasted depth that no other team really had. And how could you not admire Chris Paul’s MVP-worthy campaign?
Now they’re about to be eliminated in the first round.
Don’t get me wrong. I was convicted at the onset of the playoffs because the Clippers were 8-3 SU and 7-4 ATS heading in to the fray, that included a stiff seven game winning streak. The major issue against a grizzly Memphis team is that everything that was reassuring about Lob City hasn’t shown up in the post season.
Obviously, the injury to Blake Griffin is a major concern. He’s an underrated defender and a physical force of nature on offence, but a high ankle sprain suffered in Monday’s practice was worse than previously reported. He managed just 4 points and 5 boards in 20 ineffective minutes on Tuesday night.
Chris Paul carried the weight of the world as best as he could, chipping in 35 points over 42 minutes while hitting 11-of-24 from the field. It goes without saying that Paul is a magnificent player, but he needs help just like any other superstar does when the stakes are so high and the competition is relentless.
The supporting cast in Los Angeles seemed shell shocked with Blake Griffin reduced to a puddle of his usual self in Game 4. Jamal Crawford added 15 points in 36 minutes, which isn’t terrible, but nobody else scored in double digits. Caron Butler should be amnestied to hell and Matt Barnes added just 6 points while playing starter’s minutes. Nobody – and I mean nobody – stepped up when Blake hit the bench.
It doesn’t help that DeAndre Jordan is getting molested in the post by Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, who combined for 46 points and 19 rebounds while they silenced the LAcrowd on Tuesday. Jordan has tons of offensive short comings, and without Griffin to play off of, he’s veritably useless. With a long lay-off between games, there’s hope for the two-time Slam Dunk champion, but high ankle sprains do not heal quickly.
My admonishment of the Clippers shouldn’t deride the Grizzlies’ efforts either. Zach Randolph has suddenly returned to playing at a world crushing level. Afteraveraging just 14.2 points per game through April, he’s exploded in the playoffs. Randolph has obliterated the Clippers in the last three games, scoring 27, 24 and 25 points. The Grizzlies were only going to go as far as Z-Bo could take them with Rudy Gay gone, and the reason the Clippers seemed like a better bet when this series started was because he wasn’t playing up to his standard.
The scary part? Randolph can easily continue these kinds of numbers. He thrives on high percentage opportunities that are close to the basket, and has an extremely versatile skill set underneath the rim. When Z-Bo was trying to figure out his game throughout the season, the Grizzlies seemed like canon fodder. Now that he’s playing at his best, Memphis is a legitimate contender in the Western Conference (with and without Westbrook’s injury).
His play has allowed everyone else on Memphis to play more to their strengths instead of overreaching. Mike Conley has been brilliant, Marc Gasol continues to compliment his tag team partner perfectly and everyone else – including Tayshaun Prince! – fills the gaps nicely.
The trends for Memphis aren’t pretty as they went just 3-3 ATS in their last 6 home games to end the regular season. But with Randolph renewed, this team is dangerous. The injury to Blake makes this game, and this series, a wrap on Friday.
Bet Memphis heavy to avenge their opening round loss to the Clippers in 2012 by giving them a swift kick to the curb. They’re going to be a stiff matchup for the Spurs.
Don’t just back the suddenly surging Grizzlies in this game; invest in them as the Western Conference Champions.
BONUS FRIDAY PICKS
If you’ve been following the next three series, then you know that none of them make any real betting sense. I’m backing all the major momentum plays to make things short and sweet as I round out the Friday night playoff board.
BOSTON CELTICS +2.0 over New York Knicks (7pm EST)
I guess the Knicks wore black to their own funeral? I don’t know. Boston will be wild for another upset and the Celtics are finding more than enough fight despite the shallow depth of their rotation. This series should’ve been over by now but the Celtics are responding to having their backs against the wall. I still like the Knicks overall, but there’s some bad mojo happening in this series and New York is playing scared so I’m backing the home team in front of a very drunk, and rabid, Boston crowd.
ATLANTA HAWKS -1.5 over Indiana Pacers (7:05pm EST)
Honestly I just want this series to be over, and Indiana could very well grant my wish by the end of the night. But so far, the home team has gone 5-0 ATS in this series. So as much as I yearn for Indiana to just put Atlanta out of their misery, the trend follower in me foresees the Hawks bouncing back and pushing this first round series to a Game 7.
HOUSTON ROCKETS -1.0 over Oklahoma City Thunder (9:35pm EST)
I take back making fun of Francisco Garcia in my Game 5 preview of the Rockets-Thunder. With 18 points, Garcia was one of six Rockets that scored in double digits during a fairly dominant performance on Wednesday night. Where the Thunder are hurting is in scoring. Nobody on OKC has the offensive punch to compliment Durant and the Rockets are getting major contributions from every position of the floor. I expect Houston to ride this momentum in to Game 6 and force a massive, dramatic Game 7 finale.
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