NBA Picks ATS: One Underdog Will Cover
Atlanta Hawks (-4.5) @ Brooklyn Nets
Blah blah blah. The Hawks don’t have a “star” player. Blah blah blah. You know what they do have? More talent than the Nets, and even though Brooklyn has played them tough through three games, I have a hard time seeing them winning this game, or even really keeping it close. Their Game 3 victory was about as statistically confusing as it gets: they took seven fewer shots from the field, were outscored 25-2 in transition, and allowed 50 points in the paint (20 more than they scored). They lose this game by 25 points if those trends continue, and even if some adjustments are made, they don’t cover the 4.5 point spread. Remember the last time the Hawks failed to cover 4.5 points in back-to-back games? If you exclude the final month of the regular season, as Atlanta coasted to the finish line, it has happened once since Christmas. Once. And even that comes with an asterix, as there was a nine day layoff between games because of the All Star Break. It is no mistake that the Hawks are a Top 5 team in terms of first half scoring differential and the Nets rank in the bottom third. The visitors control this game from the tip and take a commanding 3-1 lead back to Atlanta.
Milwaukee Bucks (+8.5) @ Chicago Bulls
The Bulls can no longer sweep this series, but they are clearly the better team and that should be evident in a close out game at home. That said, with a gritty Bucks team on the other sideline and an over/under of 187.5 points, I’m skeptical about laying the 8.5 points that Vegas is demanding. A lower scoring game makes the 8.5 points more like 10-12, and that’s just too much to give a talented, yet raw, Bucks team. Milwaukee has kept the last two games within 8.5 points and that’s with Derrick Rose (34 points) and Jimmy Butler (33 points) producing strong stat lines along side double doubles from Pau Gasol. The Bucks are a team that is built to cover big numbers, as they were the second most efficient defense in basketball (!) and scored the fifth highest percentage of their points via two pointers this season. It’s been six weeks since the Bulls lost in the Windy City, but I expect this game to be decided in the final five minutes, and I’ll take my chances with 8.5 points in that spot.
Memphis Grizzlies @ Portland Trailblazers (-3)
Does this feel like war to anybody else? The Blazers came in limping and now the Grizzlies, armed with a gritty style to begin with, will be without Mike Conley as he gets his face reassembled. The difference is that Portland has had time to rework their offense while Memphis has had 48-hours to devise a game plan that doesn’t include the straw that stirs their drink. Sure, the dominant interior duo produces the big numbers, but they become easier to cover without a lifetime 37.4 percent three point shooter and effective facilitator on the perimeter.
Memphis projects as less efficient in the half-court without Conley, and that’s going to be a major issue when you consider that they were the fourth least efficient fast break team with him. I’m not smarter than you, but if a team cannot score in transition or in the half court, I feel confident in saying that they are going to struggle. The three point shot is becoming an increasingly important facet to every offense in the league (Kyle Korver, every member of the Warriors, how teams build around LeBron James, etc), and there is no denying the significant edge that the home team holds in that regard. The Blazers ran fifth in points scored via the triple at home this season while the Grizz ranked dead last … and that’s with Conley suiting up for 70 games this regular season. Sure, Memphis was able to overcome being outscored by 21 points from distance in Game 3, but that was in large part to 39 made free throws. I’ll go ahead and take the “under” on a reoccurrence of that in an elimination road game.
Portland averaged 104 points at home this season while Memphis averaged 97 on the road. I’ll say Memphis keeps this game close, but are fighting from behind for the majority of this game and misses Conley in the fourth quarter and falls by that exact score.
Photo via Getty
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