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Better Sunday NBA Playoff Picks
Better Sunday NBA Playoff Picks
By Liam Davis
Indiana Pacers (+3.5) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (-3.5)
Jeff Teague, starting point guard of the Indiana Pacers, says his team, which is down 3-0, is playing for pride. But is that really enough of a motivator at this point?
No squad in NBA history has ever successfully erased a 3-0 deficit, and the Pacers aren't about to become the first. They have given the Cleveland Cavaliers trouble at different stages of every game, but they've yet to win, and there's no coming back, emotionally or tactically, from the loss they suffered on Thursday night.
The Pacers led by as many as 26 points in Game 3. They took a 25-point lead into halftime. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love barely played in the second half.
They still lost.
LeBron James posted a game's worth of numbers through the final two frames, and the Cavaliers outscored the Pacers by 30—yes, 30—points. Cleveland's defense can still be a wreck, their offense is too good. The Pacers don't have the firepower to match it, and they don't have the defense to stop it.
This series is a wrap, folks.
The Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers (-3.5)
Oklahoma City Thunder (-1) vs. Houston Rockets (+1)
The Oklahoma City Thunder finally broke the seal in this series by squeaking out a Game victory over the Houston Rockets. The win was both encouraging and highlighted all of their most damning flaws.
Despite holding a double-digit lead, the Thunder allowed the Rockets to get back in the game. The offense bogged down during crunch time, as we also saw in Game 2, and Russell Westbrook missed a few key free throws down the stretch that could have helped put the game away.
You also have to wonder how much longer they'll survive with Andre Roberson as their second-most productive offensive player. Taj Gibson popped on Friday night, but Victor Oladipo has been mostly a ghost, and the Thunder don't let him run the offense nearly enough when Westbrook is on the bench.
And yet, with the way the Thunder are hanging around even when they're far from perfect, you have to like their chances. Someone other than Westbrook and Roberson should burst eventually, and they've shown they can at least sniff Houston's offensive output. This series feels destined to go the distance, and that would begin with a Game 4 victory from Oklahoma City.
The Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder (-1)
Chicago Bulls (+2.5) vs. Boston Celtics (-2.5)
The balance of power has basically been restored in this series. The Boston Celtics still trail the Chicago Bulls 2-1, but their Game 3 victory was convincing enough to make you believe they're the favorite.
Not just in Game 4, but for the entire damn thing.
Rajon Rondo is done for what's left of this matchup thanks to a fractured thumb, and the Bulls don't have anyone to guard Isaiah Thomas without him. They can use Jimmy Butler at point, but it'll come at the expense of his offensive energy.
The Celtics, meanwhile, started hitting their wide-open threes and playing small, both of which forced the Bulls to pull Robin Lopez from Game 3 on multiple occasions. Chicago doesn't have the personnel to counter, and that'll be the difference in Game 4—and, ultimately, the series.
The Pick: Boston Celtics (-2.5)
Utah Jazz (-2.5) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (+2.5)
The Los Angeles Clippers were dealt a crushing blow on Saturday morning when it was announced Blake Griffin is done for the rest of the postseason with a toe injury.
Immediately, this isn't the end of the world. The Utah Jazz don't know whether Rudy Gobert can play after suffering a knee injury in Game 1, and the Clippers are arguably just as good, if not better, when Luc Mbah a Moute plays the 4.
But depth is going to win out here. The Jazz are at home, and they can now play Joe Johnson at power forward without fear of him or Gordon Hayward being torched by Griffin.
The Pick: Utah Jazz (-2.5)
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