NBA Game Previews & Predictions
NBA Playoff Games Odds Analysis
By Dan Favale
Charlotte Hornets (+4.5) vs. Miami Heat (-4.5)
One has to assume that Game 2 between the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat will be closer than Game 1, which was an absolute disaster for the former. The Heat blitzed the Hornets, showering them with three-pointers and draining a ton of contested looks.
We shouldn’t be in store for a repeat performance, even if Miami wins. The Heat are one of the worst three point chucking teams in the league, and the Hornets’ defense in the paint is better than what it showed during Sunday’s blowout loss.
Still, Charlotte doesn’t appear poised to try dictating the pace, and therefore terms, of this matchup. Head coach Steve Clifford seems more inclined to trot out lineups that can combat the presence of Hassan Whiteside, when really, he should be trying to force him off the floor with five-out combinations that feature Marvin Williams at center and Nicolas Batum at the 4. The Heat are already using both Luol Deng and Joe Johnson as small ball power forwards for stretches at a time, and doubling Whiteside didn’t help much in Game 1, so the tactical disadvantages to giving up that much size are negligible—especially if Charlotte can coaxing Miami into swapping out Whiteside for Amar’e Stoudemire or Josh McRoberts at center.
But that isn’t the route the Hornets favor taking as of now. And unless word leaks to the contrary, we can’t realistically bet in their favor here, on the road, given what happened in Game 1. Keep your eyes peeled on how Clifford finagles his rotation in Game 2, though, as it will help a great deal leading into Game 3 wagers.
The Pick: Heat (-4.5)
Cleveland Cavaliers (-10) vs. Detroit Pistons (+10)
Investing in large spreads that favor the Cleveland Cavaliers hasn’t always been a good idea. It certainly wasn’t a good idea in Game 1, as the Cavaliers nearly coughed up that contest whenever LeBron James wasn’t on the floor.
Here’s the thing: That initial tilt should have awakened Cleveland’s players. The comments from Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy on how LeBron is officiated should serve as inspiration, too. Expect to see a more engaged Cavaliers squad from start to finish, particularly when LeBron needs a breather.
On the flip side, Reggie Jackson is a nightmare matchup for Cleveland’s backcourt. Kyrie Irving cannot keep up with him defensively, and throwing Iman Shumpert on him means the Cavaliers would have to stash Irving on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, creating another unfavorable matchup.
There’s little doubt Cleveland will ultimately win this game. The Cavaliers are playing at home and have the decided edge on paper. The real question is: How much will they win by? And the answer is, truthfully, unknown, given their track record this season. But, again, if there was a night to bet on them securing a double digit victory, it’s this one.
The Pick: Cavaliers (-10)
Los Angeles Clippers (-8.5) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (+8.5)
Game 1 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers was eye-opening for those who thought the latter had enough firepower to keep up with the former. The Blazers looked good at different stages of the night but were absolutely manhandled overall.
The Clippers really showcased the value of star power. Their defense was more consistent than Portland’s, and they have the offensive arsenal to not only match but exceed the Blazers’ potency level. Another blowout game could await us here.
However, Blazers coach Terry Stotts is a whiz at making adjustments. He will adapt Portland’s defensive approach to guarding Chris Paul, while both Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, not to mention Al-Farouq Aminu, should have better shooting nights.
Truth told, the Blazers will do most of their damage, if they do any damage at all, in this series while playing at home, at Moda Center, where they have been juggernauts for most of this year. The Clippers are the superior squad and are equally deft at holding serve on their own court. But this series shouldn’t consist of one blowout after another. Some of these games have to be close. The Blazers are too good for them not to be.
Feel free to soften on that stance if Game 2 is a dud. For now, bank on a tightly contested affair that embodies everything the fourth-place vs. fifth-place matchup is supposed to be.
The Pick: Blazers (+8.5)
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