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Saturday, 16 April 2016

NBA Play Off First Round Picks 2016 (April 16-24)

The regular season is over and you have to be a little excited about the Play Offs. Usually the First Round is not really the most interesting of Rounds, but the Eastern Conference should produce a couple of really good series.

On the other hand, I can't really see any surprises in the Western Conference although that does mean the Semi Finals are going to be something special.

I am going to put the Picks from the First Round through to next Sunday on this thread and then I will create a new thread to cover those series that have perhaps moved into Games 5, 6 and 7.


A poor April has disappointed me to this point with some difficulties getting the right side through the changes that Head Coaches make, but I am excited about the Play Offs and looking for a strong start through this Round.


Saturday 16th April
The Game 1's of the First Round series will be played over the two days of this weekend with the first four games set for Saturday.

Indiana Pacers @ Toronto Raptors Game 1 Pick: The Toronto Raptors might have produced a franchise best number of wins in the regular season, but early Play Off exits the last two seasons means they have doubters. Now the attention is on the Raptors to prove they are capable of challenging the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference by beating the Indiana Pacers in the First Round.

The Raptors have played Paul George really effectively in their regular season games and that is going to be a key for them again. I do think Toronto are perhaps underestimated from a Defensive standpoint with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan giving the back court most of the attention.

That scoring provided by Lowry and DeRozan is going to be important for Toronto especially as they might not get the same foul calls in the Play Offs as they experience in the regular season. This is still a good looking Toronto team and I do think they can make a very positive start to this First Round series compared with last season when they were swept out by the Washington Wizards.

A problem for Indiana all season has been the lack of consistent scoring outside of Paul George and if Toronto are able to lock down on the All-Star, it could be tough sledging for the Pacers. After pushing themselves to get into the Play Offs, I think Toronto might be ready to continue their dominance of this series as they bid to improve their 22-7 record against the spread in the last twenty-nine against them at home.


Houston Rockets @ Golden State Warriors Game 1 Pick: Last season this was a Western Conference Finals, but the Houston Rockets only just got to return to the Play Offs this time around. The Golden State Warriors are coming in with much hotter form behind them having broken the regular season win record during the week, but the focus is on adding a Championship to that success.

The Warriors dominated the Houston Rockets through the regular season and they have the scoring power to put this team to the sword if they pick up some momentum through any game. However they will have to be wary of the players that the Rockets have with both James Harden and Dwight Howard having big Play Off experience behind them.

Houston will need the team to gel and play their A game every time they step on the court during the post-season, while also needing Golden State to perhaps have some blips through the series to earn the upset.

In saying that this does look a big spread at first glance with Golden State but I think they can cover in the first game with the Oracle Arena bouncing behind the regular season success. Two of their three wins over Houston would have seen them match or cover this number too and I think the Warriors can take advantage of a team that might have put too much in to getting into the Play Offs and who may see the best of as the series continues.


Boston Celtics @ Atlanta Hawks Game 1 Pick: The Number 3 Seed in the Eastern Conference was not separated by the Number 6 Seed by anything on the records and these series should be tough. I expect nothing less when the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks meet in this First Round and I don't think anyone would be surprised if we get into a Game 7 in a couple of weeks time.

It is hard to separate them even if Atlanta won three of the four regular season games. I do think Atlanta are perhaps a little better in all departments, but the Celtics play with such heart and determination that they can make up those differences.

The Hawks did win both games at home against Boston this season and would have covered this number in both of those wins. However the form in the final few games of the regular season probably gives Boston the edge and I think this will be a competitive Game 1 right through to the end.

Boston are 6-9 against the spread as the road underdog of 6 points or fewer and Atlanta are 10-6 against the spread as the home favourite in that range. I think the Hawks make the strong start to go ahead in the series with plenty more to come from Boston in the coming days.


Dallas Mavericks @ Oklahoma City Thunder Game 1 Pick: The Dallas Mavericks are a little banged up but they will at least have a couple of Point Guards ready to go when they face the high-flying Oklahoma City Thunder. That is key as they look to slow down Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but it is a big ask for a Dallas team to knock them off in this series especially as most expected them to fall far short of the top eight.

A lot of the credit has to be given to Rick Carlisle who has urged his team to get their Defensive shape in order and hope that is enough for them to win games. They will look to slow the tempo in this one, but the Oklahoma City will look to impose their own style on proceedings.

The key to the whole series will be which of the teams can play with their style for the longest period. It will likely be the Thunder who can do that the most but this looks a big spread for them to cover in the opening game of the series.

I just think Dallas can play enough Defense to keep this close on the scoreboard with the Thunder happy enough to just find a win to put on the board and backing a double digit dog looks to be the call.


Sunday 17th April
The remaining Game 1's of the First Round series will be played through Sunday.

I have had a really crazy Saturday which has exhausted me and that means I will simply put down my picks for the games today in the 'My Picks' section below.


Monday 18th April
After a pretty poor Saturday, Sunday proved to be much better for the picks with a sweep of all four games.

Now we already move onto the Game 2's on Monday with the teams falling in Game 1 looking for a big response. There weren't too many surprises in the Game 1's over the weekend although the biggest was Toronto losing their home court advantage and it is a big test for them to get back to 1-1 before heading on the road for two games.

Indiana Pacers @ Toronto Raptors Game 2 Pick: There have been plenty of doubters of the Toronto Raptors through the course of this season despite that team finishing with the Number 2 Seed in the Eastern Conference. Those voices would have been loudly declaring 'I told you so' on Saturday afternoon as Toronto lost their home court advantage to the Indiana Pacers following being swept out of the Play Offs in the First Round by Washington last season.

Last season saw the Raptors lose Game 1 and Game 2 at home before being dismissed in the nation's capital and the pressure is on the home team to avoid falling into a 0-2 hole again.

It was a bad Game 1 for Toronto as they struggled to shoot from the field and had far too many turnovers. Both Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan couldn't really affect the game in the way they have for much of the regular season, while the Raptors Defensive unit couldn't slow down Paul George who had a huge second half.

The momentum might be with Indiana now who have won seven of their last eight games, although the one loss in that time did come here in the regular season. The zig-zag theory might not be as relevant as it used to be, but I think the Raptors will be much better in Game 2 as the Pacers perhaps take a breath having stolen home court. I will back Toronto for a second time in this First Round series and look for them to level the series before heading on the road.


Dallas Mavericks @ Oklahoma City Thunder Game 2 Pick: I thought the Oklahoma City Thunder were being asked to cover too many points in Game 1 but they blew away the Dallas Mavericks. The latter were perhaps a surprising Play Off team for many and they will have to be a lot better if they are going to make this a competitive series although another injury to JJ Barea is a blow.

It was the Thunder who imposed their game on the first one of this series and they will be looking to do the same again while again a double digit favourite. However it is up to Dallas to try and control the boards and to slow things down if they are going to get back into this one and I do think Rick Carlisle is smart enough to make the right adjustments for his team.

The spread doesn't really appeal to me in this one, but I have been looking at the total points market. The adjustments made by Carlisle are going to try and slow down the possessions each team has and that has shown up in Dallas games following blow out losses.

The under total points is 4-1 off a road blow out loss of 20 points or more and I think the Mavericks will look to lock down on that side of things. That should also make things closer on the scoreboard than Game 1, although Oklahoma City are capable of getting out and scoring points in quick bunches.

In saying that, the under is 2-0 in the last two games between these teams in Oklahoma City and I will look for this to be a third straight time that occurs.


Houston Rockets @ Golden State Warriors Game 2 Pick: There is plenty of disharmony inside the Houston Rockets locker room and I do wonder how much belief they have to turn this First Round series around. Being blown out by the Golden State Warriors is something many teams have experienced in the last couple of seasons, but the Rockets need to show they have plenty of character if they are going to get back into this series.

Once again they will head into the Oracle Arena as the double digit underdogs, but I think there might be a reason to back the underdog this time around. First there is the question mark surrounding Steph Curry who was a little banged up after Game 1, although the likely MVP of the season has stated he will be suited up for Game 2.

However that might mean Curry is a little limited in terms of minutes he can play and getting off his shots in the manner expected. You also have to think James Harden and Dwight Howard are going to have a bigger impact in Game 2 than they did in Game 1 and this is a lot of points for the Rockets to be receiving considering they are 7-3 against the spread this season off a double digit loss on the road.

Of course going against the Golden State Warriors is never easy, especially in their home Arena, but the home team are 'only' 7-6 against the spread when favoured by 12.5 points or more at home this season. With Curry perhaps a little banged up, I will look for the Rockets to make this a much more competitive game than we saw on Saturday.


Tuesday 19th April
It was a second day in a row in the Play Offs where the sweep was completed as all three picks came in following a 4-0 Sunday.

Hopefully the run can continue on Tuesday as two more First Round series complete their Game 2 schedules.

Boston Celtics @ Atlanta Hawks Game 2 Pick: Only a blown nineteen point lead prevented the Atlanta Hawks from running away with Game 1, but in the Play Offs a one point win is the same result as a fifty point win. The important thing for the Hawks was they managed to hold onto home advantage in this tough looking First Round series and will now look to hold serve for a second time.

That won't be easy against this young Boston Celtics team that look to be on the right path back to becoming a Championship contender. However the Celtics have lost Avery Bradley, most likely for the series, which is a big blow as they look to defend the likes of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroeder.

Marcus Smart is a tough defender and will get the start in place of Bradley, but it does take away a little bit of depth when dealing with the Point Guards Atlanta have. You have to also think that Boston are going to need to be a lot better than they were in the first half of Game 1 that put them into that nineteen point deficit if they are going to steal home court before heading back home for two games in the coming days.

The problem for Boston is they are still trying to deal with a team that has looked stronger than them at everything they do well. Game 1 was close at the end, but I think Atlanta might be a little more focused when building a lead this time and I will back them to cover the spread and move into what will look a commanding 2-0 lead in the First Round series.


Memphis Grizzlies @ San Antonio Spurs Pick: The Memphis Grizzlies were run out of town in Game 1 in the second half as the San Antonio Spurs locked down on them. Most anticipated a short series and this looks like being the case if Game 1 is anything to go by as the Grizzlies just have far too many injuries to deal with to be really competitive.

That has also seen the layers increase the spread from Game 1 to Game 2 and the Spurs are now being asked to cover close to twenty points which is a mammoth number. They are more than capable of doing that against this Memphis team, but it is a number that I want no piece of especially as I would expect the Grizzlies to make some adjustments from their blow out loss in Game 1.

One thing that I can't imagine changing too much is the San Antonio focus on the Defensive side of the court and I think that will be the key for the Spurs again to look after home court. They will try and take away what Zach Randolph wants to do and I think San Antonio will accept if someone else gets hot, but they won't allow Randolph to be the guy to take it to them.

That lock down Defensive shape is going to help the Spurs win Game 2 in my opinion but also makes it likely that we will see a second game in a row featuring under the total points. That number has shrunk slightly from Game 1 when the teams combined 180 total points and I think we can see another game where the San Antonio Defense restricts what Memphis can do.

I expect Memphis to try and be better on that side of the court too and this is a team that has seen the 'under' go 3-0 when the Grizzlies are off back to back blow out losses. I will look for this game to follow suit as I back the under total points being offered.


Wednesday 20th April
The run continues with the last nine picks all coming back as winners.

Let's be honest for a moment, that is not a sustainable run in the markets I am looking at, but I would love for the run to go on as long as possible. I also don't want to hit a losing run to ruin what has been a very productive start to the Play Offs this season and that is the key to remain focused and not get too encouraged by what has been a purple patch.

Charlotte Hornets @ Miami Heat Game 2 Pick: I picked the Miami Heat to cover in Game 1 but I couldn't have imagined it would have come in the manner it did. The Heat dominated Game 1 and the pressure is now on the Charlotte Hornets to respond and try to earn a split of the first two games before heading home for the next two.

The Miami Heat will very much be looking to defend home court as they haven't played as well on the road at the end of the season. They will once again look to dominate the paint with Hassan Whiteside a huge body at both ends of the court and then look for their experienced trio of Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson to spark the team.

Miami did split two home games with Charlotte during the regular season, but they have a strong 15-7-1 record against the spread against the Hornets in the last twenty-three games. The Heat will also look to the fact they are 6-2 against the spread off a blow out win of 20 points or more and a solid 13-7 against the spread when set as the home favourite of 6 points or fewer this season.

I do have a lot of respect for what Charlotte have done this season, but I think they might find themselves in a difficult spot in the series after Game 2 is also put into the books. I do think this will be a lot closer than Game 1, but I also think the Miami Heat can cover again.


Detroit Pistons @ Cleveland Cavaliers Game 2 Pick: The Detroit Pistons could have been upset by their near-miss at causing the upset in Game 1, but this is a squad that clearly have a lot of belief in their own game. They will be looking to give themselves another shot at stealing home court advantage when they play Game 2 at the Cleveland Cavaliers, but they will need some things to go for them if they are to achieve that upset.

In Game 1 the Pistons should incredibly well from the three point range and that has not always been the case for this team. Getting that hot shooting for a second consecutive game is hard to imagine, but the Pistons have to be efficient with what they produce to beat a team as good as Cleveland are.

The Cavaliers got big games out of their Big Three which helped them turn around a Fourth Quarter deficit and turned Game 1 into a win. They will be hoping for more out of the role players that Cleveland will need if they are going to win the NBA Finals, but the Big Three having another huge day might be enough to see off the Pistons for a 2-0 lead in the series.

However I still think this could be too many points for the Cavaliers to cover. They are just 7-13 against the spread when the team wins but fails to cover as the favourite, while they are 4-10 against the spread off two days rest. Detroit are also 9-2 against the spread in their last eleven games in Cleveland and have covered in all three games here this season and I will take the double digit points and look for the Pistons to be competitive again.


Portland Trail Blazers @ LA Clippers Game 2 Pick: The Portland Trail Blazers were not really considered a Play Off calibre team before the season began, let alone one that could reach as high as Number 5 in the Western Conference. However all of that will be for nought if they can't become more competitive than they were in their blow out loss in Game 1 to the LA Clippers, although this is a young team that has surprised through the course of the season.

It is a big test for Damien Lilliard and his supporting cast to win this First Round series, but that test increased in magnitude thanks to the manner in which they were seen off in Game 1. The Clippers pulled away in the second half and Doc Rivers will want to see his team ride that momentum into Game 2 and make a much faster start than they had in that one.

Personally I think Portland are going to show why they had such a surprising season and I think they can make this is a closer game. The Clippers have followed blow out losses of 20 points or more by going 3-6 against the spread in their next game, while they are 3-9 against the spread when playing with at least two days rest.

I also feel that the Trail Blazers have shown their youthful exuberance by recovering from blow out losses of 20 points or more by going 7-0 against the spread in their next game this season. The spread doesn't look the biggest, but the likes of Lilliard and CJ McCollum can get hot in the back court and I like the Trail Blazers to cover as the underdog.


Thursday 21st April
The stunning run in the Play Offs is over, but I am hoping to avoid a long losing run to make up for that success early in the First Round.

Hopefully Thursday's Game 3's will get the show back on the right road as a couple of tight series get into a pivotal two game stretch and the defending Champions look to put themselves on the brink of qualification for the Conference Semi Finals.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Dallas Mavericks Game 3 Pick: Game 2 couldn't have ended in closer fashion as Steven Adams' put back game winner was ruled to have come after the buzzer. It felt like a pin had pricked the atmosphere in Oklahoma City as the Thunder lost their home court advantage in this First Round series against a banged up Dallas Mavericks team.

Things don't look to be improving for Dallas on the injury front with Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams both banged up out of Game 2. JJ Barea continues to be questionable and it is a big test for the Mavericks to replicate what they did in Game 2 and hold onto home court over the next two games.

They will need Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to have the same kind of difficult shooting night as they had in Game 2 if the Mavericks are going to win this one. Billy Donovan has to expect both players to be better in this one and Oklahoma City know their chances of winning the NBA Finals depends on Durant and Westbrook being efficient with the ball and with their shooting.

Oklahoma City have not been a great road favourite to back, especially not a big road favourite as they are here. However Dallas are banged up and this is a team that is 5-9 against the spread when having two days rest between games and just 3-8 against the spread when coming off a win as the road underdog.

The Thunder have won convincingly once this season and another which was much closer, but I like them to win this one by double digits. I expect the Thunder to be focused and can't see how a banged up Dallas team stay with them if Durant and Westbrook are better as I expect.


Toronto Raptors @ Indiana Pacers Game 3 Pick: Some of the doubters were silenced as the Toronto Raptors recovered from their Game 1 setback by taking Game 2 to level this series. There is still work to be done for the Raptors as they try to recover home court advantage which was lost in Game 1 while Frank Vogel will try to make the adjustments to help the Indiana Pacers bounce back from their loss in the last game.

You may have thought the Pacers would be happy with their split from the first two games, but there was a feeling they missed an opportunity to go 2-0 up in the series. They have to stop feeling sorry for themselves as they are still to take the best shot that the Toronto Raptors can offer with DeMar DeRozan struggling in the first two games.

Paul George has been the star of the show for Indiana, but the big concern may be the injuries to the front court. That is because Jonas Valanciunas has been dominant on the boards for the Raptors and Indiana may have to play small ball in this one with Ian Mahinimi likely to sit in Game 3.

However I do have to respect the fact that the Pacers are 13-8 against the spread when hosting a team with a winning record this season. They are also 17-9 against the spread when trying to revenge a road loss and 11-3 against the spread when playing with two days rest.

I have to say my concern is that the Pacers have not been at their best as a small underdog at home, but I think the home team can be backed in this one. The Pacers have been a little more loose with the way they have played and getting some scoring support for George will give them every chance to move 2-1 up in the First Round series.


Golden State Warriors @ Houston Rockets Game 3 Pick: Steph Curry missed Game 2 with a tender ankle, although the good news for the Golden State Warriors is there is no significant damage there. There is plenty of depth the Warriors have in their roster which means they can likely win this series without their best player, especially after beating Houston in the regular season without Curry and also in Game 2.

There seems to be plenty of money coming in for the Golden State Warriors with this spread very appealing to most, but the spread has shrunk which suggests the sharp money is on the Houston Rockets.

It is hard to follow that though with the Rockets on the brink of being broken apart in the off-season and a new Head Coach likely to be brought in. While they played better in Game 2, the Rockets still ended up comfortably losing that game even with a better performance from James Harden.

Holding onto home court is imperative if the Rockets are going to win this series and Houston are 4-3 against the spread as the home underdog of 6 points or fewer. However they are facing the defending Champions who are playing with plenty of confidence and looking to get Curry additional rest by winning this First Round series as quickly as possible.

The Warriors are also 7-2 against the spread as the road favourite of 6 points or fewer, and they are 5-1 against the spread in their last six games in Houston. I hate when all the casual fans seem to be backing one team, but it is hard to get past this spread as I think the Warriors are the more cohesive unit and Houston might not have enough depth to stay with them.


Friday 22nd April
It has been a tough couple of days for the picks with a 2-4 record and I am looking to get that turned back around as soon as possible. I did make a couple of bad choices in that run, although I also feel I could have had a bit more luck which might have turned that into a 4-2 record.

I am not going to complain though as the first week of the Play Offs is still in a positive position, but hopefully I can conclude this week in the right way and make sure the First Round finishes on a high.

There are more Game 3's on the schedule on Friday before we head into the weekend and Game 4 action. Some of the series will come to a close in the coming days, but others are already assured of a Game 5.

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Detroit Pistons Game 3 Pick: Game 2 was as close as Game 1 until the Third Quarter when the Detroit Pistons went cold from the field and that has put them in a very difficult position in this First Round series. It is imperative that the Pistons win Game 3 if they are going make this a competitive series as it will be almost impossible to peg the Cleveland Cavaliers back from a 0-3 hole with four games left to play.

That might have shifted the pressure onto the home team who struggled in the second half and haven't had a lot of time to prepare for this one. Stan Van Gundy wasn't too critical of his team for giving up a mammoth twenty three-pointers during Game 2 which matched a Play Off record high, but the Pistons have to find a way to slow down the role players like JR Smith if they are going to turn this one around.

Detroit had an anomaly in Game 1 with their own three point shooting, but that didn't come to the fore in Game 2 as they went back to their usual level from that range. The Pistons can't fall in love with that shot if they are going to find a way to turn this series around, but another key will be better shooting from the Free Throw line as they will look to get inside the paint.

The spread may look tempting to some with the belief that Cleveland avoided the upset in Game 1 and should sweep through the rest of the series, but I think that could be a trap line. Detroit are capable of beating the Cavaliers when the pieces fit and instead I am looking for this game to be a rare 'Over' in the Play Offs so far.

The limited rest should mean tired Defensive units and Cleveland are still pushing the pace which Detroit will have to respond to. Both teams have already had scoring success in the series while the 'Over' is 5-2 in the last seven between them. It is a big total, but another day of lights out three point shooting from one, or both, of these teams will give this Game 3 every shot of surpassing the number.


Atlanta Hawks @ Boston Celtics Game 3 Pick: This was anticipated to be one of the closer series in the First Round, but the Atlanta Hawks have looked superior to the Boston Celtics through the first two games. They head to Beantown with a 2-0 lead and the Hawks have to be feeling confident they can make it 3-0 having won five in a row in the series.

That includes a win here at the TD Garden in December, and now they face a Boston Celtics team that has been banged up at just the wrong time as far as they are concerned. The Celtics were a trendy pick to make a big impact in the Play Offs as a young roster surprised many with their performances through the season, but the lack of a bona fide 'Star' might be costing them.

As I have said before, the Hawks are a better team in most facets of the game compared with Boston and they have been able to show that for the most part. Only a blown nineteen point lead in Game 1 prevented them from making it back to back blow out wins and the Hawks will head to Boston with a lot of confidence.

It does have to be noted that the Hawks have not been the most productive of road underdogs when given 3 points or fewer this season. However this is a team that has thrived on two days rest between games and coming off big home wins compared with Boston who are 4-10 against the spread when playing with a couple of days rest between games.

The shift to Boston is a concern because the Celtics are a much better team at home, but I think the road team are the better team overall in this series and I will back them with the points.


San Antonio Spurs @ Memphis Grizzlies Game 3 Pick: I seriously thought Game 2 might have been more competitive after the Memphis Grizzlies were blown out in Game 1, but this is a team that has been reduced to rubble thanks to the injuries to key players. For the second time in a row, the San Antonio Spurs blew out the Grizzlies as they limited them to 74 points or fewer again and now they visit The Grindhouse hoping to take a complete grip of this First Round series.

It is important for the Spurs to get some rest ahead of the Conference Semi Finals as they have a couple of little niggles on the roster so I expect them to come out focused again. This isn't an easy place to play, but the Spurs have won their last two visits here by an average of 17 points per game and I am finding it hard to see how much this series will change.

Yes I do think Memphis will be inspired by their home crowd, but San Antonio are loaded with experience and I can't see that bothering them. They will continue to play stifling Defense on Zach Randolph and force one of the 'unknown' players to step up, but the Spurs are also rolling Offensively and I have no idea how the Grizzlies keep up with them.

The Spurs have been a solid road favourite to back when trying to cover big numbers and they should be well rested. As much as I think backing a double digit road favourite can lead to trouble, I do also believe San Antonio are capable of winning the NBA Finals and Memphis would do well to finish with a better record than Philadelphia if they played with this roster all season.

I will back San Antonio to move into a commanding 3-0 lead behind another big win and likely close out the series before returning home for rest and recuperation.


Saturday 23rd April
The one thing I wanted to avoid occurred on Friday with some bad luck attached to the three losing picks.

Hopefully that is the low point of the picks being made in the First Round and I can make a big recovery on Saturday.

Toronto Raptors @ Indiana Pacers Game 4 Pick: The last two games have taught us one thing about this First Round series and that is that Indiana will have to play mistake free basketball if they are going to win this one. Turnovers killed the Pacers in Game 3 as they lost home court advantage they worked so hard to earn in Game 1 and that puts the home team in a desperate position.

The Pacers can't afford to drop another home game to fall into a 1-3 hole with three games left to play. However they have to find some support for Paul George, who was inefficient with his shots in Game 3, and Indiana have to find a way from Toronto controlling the boards.

Jonas Valanciunas has been dominant on both ends of the court and DeMar DeRozan may have come alive in the series in Game 3. The pressure is off the Toronto Raptors having taken back home court from Game 3, but they won't want to leave the door open for the Pacers to get back to 2-2 in this series to make it a best of three.

The Raptors have continued their dominance against the spread in Indiana as they improved to 9-1 in that spot, but I think Frank Vogel will make the right adjustments in this one. Vogel will need support from his players in looking after the ball, but the Pacers are better than they have shown in the last two games and I will back them to cover in this one as the home underdog.


Miami Heat @ Charlotte Hornets Game 3 Pick: The Miami Heat have looked far superior to the Charlotte Hornets in the first two games of the series. The latter have looked like the team that wasn't expected to make the Play Offs while the Miami Heat have shown the importance of the experience you get out of past Play Off successes.

Nicolas Batum is one such player for the Hornets from his time at the Portland Trail Blazers, but he has been lost for the series and that is only going to make things tougher for Charlotte. The Hornets have already struggled Defensively and Batum is their premier player in that regards so this looks a big blow to their chances of getting back into this series.

Charlotte will be desperate and we have already seen teams respond to this deficit in previous series when down 2-0 and returning home. I do think the Miami Heat are going to have to ride the early storm as they are unlikely to get into a dominant position early on as they have in the first two games of the series.

Once they ride out that storm I do think the Miami Heat will be able to get their teeth into this one. Steve Clifford will try and make the Defensive adjustments but Miami have been shooting lights out in the first two games and while they are not as strong on the road, I do think the Heat are worth backing as the road underdog to perhaps move into a commanding position in the series.


Oklahoma City Thunder @ Dallas Mavericks Game 4 Pick: The Dallas Mavericks bounced back from their Game 1 blow out loss by stealing home court advantage from the Oklahoma City Thunder. They will be looking to bounce back from another blow out loss in Game 3 or Dallas might be staring down the barrel when the series returns to Oklahoma City next week.

There is no disguising the fact that Oklahoma City have the better roster and Dallas are also banged up, but Carlisle is a very good Head Coach and is capable of getting the most out of his players.

Dallas can't allow Oklahoma City to start knocking down comfortable shots as they were in Game 3 when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were much better than in Game 2. Once the Thunder get going, they can be very difficult to stop as they have been in two of three games in the series and the key for the Mavericks is to not get into a shoot out with them.

Personally I think that will be difficult as these teams tend to play those high scoring games when they meet in Dallas. The Over is now 27-9-1 in the last thirty-seven games in Dallas and I can see this one going the same way as Game 3 as the Mavericks have to try and keep up with the Thunder.


LA Clippers @ Portland Trail Blazers Game 3 Pick: The LA Clippers have managed to secure a big second half run in the first two games of the series that the Portland Trail Blazers have been unable to match. Returning home should be important for the desperate Trail Blazers as they look to avoid a 0-3 hole, but it is a big test for them.

I can't really find an angle I am comfortable with in this game.

I can't imagine Damian Lilliard not getting going at some point in this series, but the Clippers look the superior team. There isn't much on the spread between them and while the gut feeling says the Portland Trail Blazers win, I can't really recommend backing them on that alone.

MY PICKS: 16/04 Toronto Raptors - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
16/04 Golden State Warriors - 13 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
16/04 Atlanta Hawks - 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
16/04 Dallas Mavericks + 11.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
17/04 Detroit Pistons + 10.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
17/04 Miami Heat - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
17/04 San Antonio Spurs - 15.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
17/04 LA Clippers - 8.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
18/04 Toronto Raptors - 7 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
18/04 Oklahoma City-Dallas Under 200 Total Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
18/04 Houston Rockets + 13 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
19/04 Atlanta Hawks - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Coral (1 Unit)
19/04 San Antonio-Memphis Under 187 Total Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
20/04 Miami Heat - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
20/04 Detroit Pistons + 10 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
20/04 Portland Trail Blazers + 8.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
21/04 Oklahoma City Thunder - 8.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
21/04 Indiana Pacers + 1.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
21/04 Golden State Warriors - 5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
22/04 Detroit-Cleveland Over 200.5 Total Points @ 1.95 Betway (1 Unit)
22/04 Atlanta Hawks + 3 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
22/04 San Antonio Spurs - 11.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
23/04 Indiana Pacers + 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
23/04 Miami Heat + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
23/04 Dallas-Oklahoma City Over 201.5 Total Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

First Round Update: 14-11, + 1.94 Units

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