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Tuesday's NBA Picks

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Tuesday’s NBA Free Play
 
New York and Oklahoma City are the sexy picks in their second round matchups, but good looks will only take you so far. I know that Indiana and Memphis don’t exactly thrill basketball fans, but I’m here to make you money. The road teams in the pair of Tuesday’s Game 2 simply post a better value because they have reliable game plans. Read on to find out where you should invest your hard earned cash tonight.
 
Indiana Pacers +6 over NEW YORK KNICKS
Tuesday, May 7th --- 7pm EST
 
It’s clear that Indiana is not intimidated by the star power, scoring or swagger of the New York Knicks. What was more surprising to the public is that the Pacers offence took control of Game 1. But it’s their defense that will shine tonight. The Pacers’ versatility on both ends of the floor is going to be a deciding factor in this series that will be showcased in Game 2.
 
The win on Sunday brought the series record to 6-4 SU and 4-6 ATS for the Indiana Pacers against New York, which doesn’t really do anything to boost confidence. It’s also a bit discouraging that the Pacers don’t have a great franchise record in the Eastern Conference semifinals, going just 5-12-1 ATS in their last 18 games during the second round. Where they are slightly comforting is in their 5-2 ATS overall record.
 
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The Knicks have generally been a strong bet so the trends are leading in their direction overall. At 11-4 ATS in their last 15 games at Madison Square Garden and 19-7 ATS in their last 26 games overall, it’s hard to lean away from Woodson’s bunch. But you have to in this game because long term trends don’t necessarily dictate the immediate feel of a series.
 
We saw what happened with the Knicks against the Celtics; when smashed in the mouth, they had trouble responding. Even though no team had ever bounced back from an 0-3 SU deficit in the playoffs, there was a genuine consensus that it was possible with Boston, despite the fact that they weren’t anywhere close to full strength. Can you imagine what they’d be like if they had guys like Rondo and Sullinger in the mix?
 
The glaring issue for Knicks fans is that – like Boston – the Indiana Pacers are completely dialed in on team defense. Roy Hibbert’s 14 points, 8 boards and 5 blocks created a nightmare for the Knicks because if their shots weren’t falling from 12-feet out, they weren’t getting anywhere near the basket with Hibbert stuffing the lane.
 
I know that Amar’e has his detractors but his absence leaves a big front-court void for the Knicks. Tyson Chandler took just two shots in Game 1, never got to the charity stripe, and isn’t known for his offensive tact in general. Without offensive diversity there are no options outside of J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton and Carmelo Anthony. All three of those guys make their money from distance.
 
As Chandler becomes a non-factor on offence, the perimeter defense of the Pacers will get a chance to stand out in this series. The starting rotation of Hill-George-Stevenson-West-Hibbert is a great defensive unit that helped Indiana notch one of the best overall scoring defenses in the league, and if New York can’t build momentum on the stat sheet they run out of steam fairly quickly.
 
Indiana’s ability to control possessions, hound the perimeter and use Hibbert as a deterrent in the post will deny New York a chance to build any serious momentum. There will be a game when Paul George will have to go toe-to-toe with Melo on the scoreboard, but until New York shows some resiliency without the ball and a more dynamic offence, this is Indiana’s game to lose.
 
Memphis Grizzlies +2.5 over OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Tuesday, May 7th --- 9:30pm EST
 
Kevin Durant bailed OKC out yet again with a  dazzling 35-point performance in the opener, but it’s obvious that Memphis controls this series. I keep harping on the absence of Rudy Gay, and in a series like this one, they will miss his length and athleticism. Memphis doesn’t have a single player who can stop Durant and that’s how Kevin Martin was left open to score 25 points of his own. Poor Tayshaun Prince is getting embarrassed on defense and needs as much help as he can get.
 
You can’t scramble to limit Durant with double teams in a situation like this. It’s part of what makes the Westbrook-Durant combo so deadly. On a routine basis, there’s no way you’re stopping both of them. But with Westbrook out, Durant is the lone scoring engine for the Thunder. I say let him. He can’t score 100 points a night.
 
Memphis was unusually sloppy in Game 1. Maybe it was jitters. Perhaps it was that they were truly scared of Durant. But the truth is that one dimensional teams built around a prodigal star have been beaten before. It’s the same strategy teams once employed against the Lakers: let Kobe score 50 and shut down everyone else. Memphis has no choice but to let that happen because without Gay, they don’t have a real chance of shutting down Durant.
 
(I get that this only works because Westbrook is hurt.)
 
It’s not a terribly sound strategy because Durant is a tour de force in the scoring department, but Memphis needs to rely on their own strengths and worry less about the fact that they can’t stop the league’s best scoring machine. They dominate the front court matchup by miles and Mike Conley is too good to suddenly fall in to the gutter for the entire series. If Memphis can play the possession based game that led them to a win over the Clippers, they can definitely win this game and steal momentum as this series heads back to Tennessee.
 
All the trends lean in Memphis’s direction. They’re 5-1 ATS on the road, and 6-0 ATS when playing the Western Conference. Oklahoma City is also just 1-6 ATS in their last 7 home games.
 
Memphis is designed to devour Oklahoma City. Their brutal post attacks can’t be matched by Serge Ibaka (who has vanished) and Kendrick Perkins (who sucks). Game 1 got away from the Grizzlies because they made untimely mistakes and tried to stop Durant in vain. My suggestion would be to let KD go bananas and ensure that role players like K-Mart and Ibaka never get going. There is no scoring depth for the home team here, which is why Memphis will likely get the nod from me through this entire series.
 
Bet Memphis to at least keep this game tight, or blow the doors off as Conley returns to playing at the level he has for the last three months and the monster we call Zarc Gasandolph takes over the series for good.

  
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