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Monday, 25 April 2016

NBA First Round Picks 2016 (April 25-30)

The NBA First Round Play Off games continue this week although two of the eight First Round series are in the books as the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs have moved through to the Conference Semi Finals.

It would be a big surprise if the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors don't join those teams in the strong position they are currently in, although the big news from the first week of the Play Offs is the injury to Steph Curry. That is going to dominate the headlines in the coming days as the prognosis becomes clear for the best player on the current Champions roster and a prolonged absence may open the door for a few teams who will feel they can take advantage.

This should be another fun few days as the First Round comes to a conclusion.

Monday 25th April
The Oklahoma City will be looking to complete their First Round series on Monday while the two other games to be played will see the higher Seeded teams looking to sneak a win on the road that can set them up to complete their own series later this week.

Miami Heat @ Charlotte Hornets Game 4 Pick: The Miami Heat blew out Charlotte in the first two games of the series, but it all changed around in Game 3 as the Hornets came out desperate to get back to 2-1. They made the adjustments in going much bigger in Game 3 than they had started the first two games, and that could be a real key to Game 4 with the Miami Heat potentially missing Hassan Whiteside.

With the big blocking Center likely sitting out in Game 4, Miami might not have a lot of answers for Al Jefferson and Charlotte will believe they can head back to South Beach back at 2-2 in this First Round series.

Erik Spoelstra won't be panicking at seeing his team completely go off the boil Offensively in Game 4 and has to believe Miami come out with more desperation about them. Finding the Offensive groove will be a key, but the Miami Heat have simply not been as effective away from home than they are in front of their own loud fans.

However I am expecting more of the same as what we saw in Game 3 with Charlotte looking to keep Miami off the boards. Defensively I do think the Hornets are hurt by the absence of Nicolas Batum, but the Under has been the predominant trend when these teams meet in Charlotte and I am going to back that to be the outcome of this one as neither team gets into the upper 90's in terms of points scored.

Dallas Mavericks @ Oklahoma City Thunder Game 5 Pick: The Oklahoma City Thunder may have dropped Game 2 of this First Round series, but back to back wins in Dallas have put them in firm control against the Mavericks. Another win on Monday will see the Thunder move ahead to their Conference Semi Final against the San Antonio Spurs and there has been plenty of talk of maintaining the speed they have injected into the last two games.

The one game Dallas have won was unsurprisingly the lowest scoring one of the series and the only time the Mavericks have held Oklahoma City to fewer than 100 points. They have not been able to corral both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in the last two games, although the big talking point out of Game 4 was Durant's ejection in a chippy series.

The Thunder have to make sure they are not dragged into a dogfight and instead try to show the difference in the talent available on the roster. With Deron Williams likely done for the season, Dallas have to find some scoring to complement the big efforts Dirk Nowitzki and Raymond Felton have offered and trying to keep up with the Thunder has not been a good policy for Dallas.

This is a big spread for the Oklahoma City Thunder to cover even though they have had a couple of big wins on the road. Somehow Dallas have to try and slow the tempo if they are going to win this, but they might have lost some heart from the way they have not just lost home court back to Oklahoma City, but lost both games to move to the brink of elimination.

While these teams tend to play hot in Dallas, the shooting has not been as good in Oklahoma City and I think a tighter game should mean fewer points all around.

LA Clippers @ Portland Trail Blazers Game 4 Pick: The gut feeling I had on Saturday turned out to be the correct call as I expect the Portland Trail Blazers to come out and play desperate. However the LA Clippers have to be feeling sick with themselves for blowing a big lead in the final few minutes of Game 3 when they allowed Portland to finish with a 15-1 run.

After the way they collapsed in the Western Conference Semi Finals last season, the Clippers are more than aware of what can happen in a series when they ease off the peddle. JJ Redick was critical of the way Game 3 was blown and I think the Clippers come out with a lot more motivation to move into a commanding lead before heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5.

Portland will feel better as they finally got the performances they expected out of CJ McCollum and Damien Lilliard, but they need more if this surprise package are going to make this a competitive series. There is little doubt the Clippers are the better team, but going back to 2-2 and heading into a best of three will give the Trail Blazers plenty of belief they can win this series.

The Clippers have won three of their last four games in Portland and they are 12-4 against the spread when favoured by 6 points or fewer on the road. They are also 20-9 against the spread in a revenge spot and while Portland have been very good coming off a home upset, I think the Clippers will knuckle down in the Fourth Quarter and not give up a big lead while moving into a 3-1 lead in the First Round series.

Wednesday 27th April
With just days to go until I am going to be settling down, you have to guess that it is going to be very busy for me in the near future.

That might mean short posts or simply making the picks from the games to be played the rest of this week.

Charlotte Hornets @ Miami Heat Game 5 Pick: The first three games of this series had been blow out wins, but Game 4 was much closer although the Charlotte Hornets got back to 2-2 in the series. That means the pressure shifts onto the Miami Heat in this pivotal Game 5 as they look to hold onto home advantage in this tight series and try and move onto the Conference Semi Finals.

Both of the games in South Beach have been massively in favour of Miami and I think this is a team that have been much better at home than on the road. They also have to expect their players are not hindered by being in foul trouble through Game 5 as they were through Game 4 and the Heat also have plenty of Play Off experience to make the adjustments they need in this series.

This is a team that has thrived at home when playing a team with a winning record and Miami are also 14-7 against the spread when favoured by 6 points or fewer at home. Miami have been able to cover more often than not when playing with double revenge and they have covered the last three times they have hosted the Hornets.

Of course Charlotte will look to continue to play a high level of Defense having held Miami to 85 points or fewer in the last two games, but they haven't performed as well here. I think the Heat can find a way to get back on track and I will back them to cover and win for a third time at home in the series.

Portland Trail Blazers @ LA Clippers Game 5 Pick: Once again it was a Fourth Quarter collapse that prevented the LA Clippers from stealing a game in Portland, but it has gotten much worse for them since then.

It looks like both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are out for the rest of the season and that means the Clippers are without their two best players the rest of the way. Of course it gives others the chance to step up, but the Clippers are not exactly the deepest of rosters and I think the absence of Paul and Griffin is a blow that they will not recover from.

Doc Rivers will have to bring in a Defensive shape to his team to hold Portland and try and sneak a couple of wins in this best of three series, but the layers look to be thinking along a similar line as me. That is the only reason that the Trail Blazers can be considered the favourites to win this one although I wouldn't want to back them as the road favourite here with the Clippers likely to rally around one another.

The Under has been the dominant trend in a 2-2 First Round series and it is actually 7-1 in the last eight games between these teams. I am expecting the Clippers to try and make this a low-scoring game and try and win that way especially as they can't rely on the scoring without Paul and Griffin available.

Houston Rockets @ Golden State Warriors Game 5 Pick: They might have won 73 games this season, but it will meaning nothing to the Golden State Warriors unless they win the NBA Championship. When Steph Curry slipped on a wet patch during the Game 4 win over the Houston Rockets, it looked like the Warriors might be losing Curry for a prolonged period.

The MRI has come back and it looks like Curry is out for the next two weeks which could see him back for the Eastern Conference Finals. With the Clippers losing two key players for the rest of the post-season, the Warriors might be feeling confident they can handle the load in the absence of Curry until he returns and the key is to finish off the Houston Rockets who they have in a 3-1 hole.

Golden State are 1-1 without Curry in this First Round series, but only lost a game where James Harden should have been called for an Offensive foul. They effectively crushed Houston without Curry in the Game 4 win on the road and I think the Rockets don't have the same sense of belief as they did when coming back to beat the Clippers from 1-3 down in the Play Offs last season.

The Warriors have won each of their last four home games against Houston by double digits which includes a win without Curry in Game 2. I think the Rockets are looking at a roster that doesn't have the same belief and I believe Golden State go on and win this one to move into the Conference Semi Finals with a victory by ten points or more.

MY PICKS: 25/04 Charlotte-Miami Under 195.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
25/04 Oklahoma City-Dallas Under 205.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
25/04 LA Clippers - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
27/04 Miami Heat - 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
27/04 LA Clippers-Portland Under 197.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
27/04 Golden State Warriors - 9 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)

First Round Update:

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