The Golden State Warriors lost as the Oracle Arena for the first time since January and just the third time all year. Needless to say, we didn’t see it coming as we split last night’s NBA picks (now 32-12 in the playoffs). Atlanta did well to tie up their series, and now two more teams have a shot at notting up their series tonight, as well. Can the Cavaliers and Rockets take care of business, or will they fall into dangerous 0-2 holes on their own floor?
Let’s break down both matchups to find out:
Chicago Bulls (3) @ Cleveland Cavaliers (2)
We saw a pretty obvious weakness for the Cavs in game one: they were a lot better with Kevin Love. Despite receiving a lot of unwarranted criticism for not dominating as the third scorer in Cleveland, Love’s outside shooting and rebounding were sorely missed right away, as the Cavs struggled to rebound effectively and didn’t have much scoring outside of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert. Their offense came mostly in spurts and two huge runs, and ultimately they fizzled down the stretch.
The Bulls also displayed superior defense on the inside and the perimeter, and Cleveland is going to have to shy away from small ball to tie this series back up. That should mean more Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov, and less Mike Miller. That, or LeBron James could just man up and slide into Love’s power foward position. That’s not happening for some reason, so the Cavs are only going to make life harder on themselves. LeBron James said he’d be more aggressive in game two, but with Jimmy Butler locked in on keeping him from blowing up, I’m not sure it matters. I’m sure we get strong efforts from James and Irving, but Cleveland’s defense isn’t good enough to survive lulls on offense – especially when Derrick Rose is playing as well as he played in game one. We might have to wait until J.R. Smith returns in game three to see if the Cavs have a real shot in this series.
I can definitely see James putting Cleveland on his back with 40+ points and squeaking out a win, but the Bulls know they have Cleveland right where they want him. They’re under-manned and extremely vulnerable and if Chicago is going to win this series they probably need to deliver the knockout punch with a big win tonight.
Pick: Bulls 108, Cavs 104
Los Angeles Clippers (3) @ Houston Rockets (2)
Game one was crazy, as Chris Paul sat out (hamstring) and the Clippers still won – by 16. Houston looked sluggish as James Harden turned the ball over nine times and Corey Brewer and Josh Smith were lifeless off the bench (combined 6-24 shooting). The bench will be better tonight in a must-win game, while Paul is looking likely to miss a second straight game. I don’t take the Rockets for being quite as soft as they appeared to be in game one, and they have to know that if they go down 2-0 this series is probably over.
A huge issue for Houston was not keeping Dwight Howard involved down the stretch (zero shots in final seven minutes) and it looked like they just gave up after L.A went up big with about four minutes to go. We’ll see their true grit tonight if they’re faced with a similar situation late in this contest. I doubt that happens, though, as Harden and Howard should be quite motivated to avoid embarrassment for a second straight game.
If Paul plays, it’s a toss up. If he’s out again, the Rockets should find a way to take care of business and even this series, 1-1.
Pick: Rockets 106, Clippers 101