NBA Betting: Thursday Playoffs Preview
by Matt Severance - 04/30/2009
Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls, Game 6 (TNT)
Hopefully you took some rare good advice from me for Game 5 of this series, when I wrote that the Celtics giving eight points in that one was simply too many as close as this series as has been. Chicago probably should have won Game 5 as it turned out, but the Bulls did cover as the series saw its third overtime game - a first in NBA playoff history.
Chicago is back home tonight and a three-point favorite on Bodog for Game 6 with the Bulls' season on the line. The Bulls were hoping to deal with a Rajon Rondo-less Celtics team tonight, but the NBA opted not to penalize the Boston point guard in the wake of his flagrant-type foul in the final seconds of Tuesday's overtime.
The Bulls' Ben Gordon no doubt will play again tonight despite that strained hamstring. Gordon was a game-time decision Tuesday yet managed to play 51 of a possible 53 minutes, scoring 26 points. And as good as Gordon and Derrick Rose have been for Chicago, the Celtics say they need to stop fellow guard Kirk Hinrich.
Hinrich has been great as the first player off the bench, scoring 19 points Tuesday and averaging 12.2 points on 48.8 percent shooting in the series.
"He just can't keep coming in and hurting us and giving them a spark. We shut Kirk Hinrich down and we can close out the series," Boston center Kendrick Perkins said.
Chicago is 13-4-1 ATS in its last 18 games following a loss but has covered just once in the past six home games.
Orlando Magic at Philadelphia 76ers, Game 6 (NBA TV)
Some might argue that the lock of the night in the NBA playoffs is Philadelphia giving 5.5 points tonight against the visiting Magic, who can close this series out with a win.
Orlando center Dwight Howard's wayward elbows have cost the Magic two starters tonight - Howard and guard Courtney Lee. Howard was suspended for Game 6 after his elbow connected with the face of Samuel Dalembert in Game 5. Lee took an inadvertent elbow from Howard and has a fractured left frontal sinus. The rookie is out of Game 6 and maybe much longer.
Howard is averaging a team-high 24 points and 15.8 rebounds while completely dominating the Sixers inside, and Lee is averaging 12.6 points per game, up from his regular-season average of 8.4. He also is probably the Magic's most athletic player, and the Sixers have a lot of athletes to cover.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy hasn't yet said who will replace his two starters. Either Marcin Gortat or Tony Battie will replace Howard, with both playing sparingly in this series so far. Look for it to be Gortat, as the Magic were 2-0 this year (2-0 ATS) in the two games he started early this season when Howard had a knee injury. The Magic did drop a late-season game with Gortat in the lineup and Howard out, but that was a meaningless contest against the Bucks when the Magic sat three starters.
Either Mickael Pietrus or J.J. Redick will start for Lee. Pietrus provides good defense, while Redick is purely a shooter - although just 1-for-7 in this series.
While you might be inclined to jump on Philly, remember that the Sixers lost a crucial home game as a favorite in the season's final week to Boston when the Celtics didn't have either Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen. And then the Sixers were pushed to overtime on the season's final night by a Cleveland team playing all reserves.
Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets, Game 6 (TNT)
The reason for Portland's Game 5 home victory to extend this series was pretty simple: The Blazers completely focused their defense on Yao Ming.
Yao was held to 15 points and just two in the fourth quarter on Tuesday as Portland used constant double-teams on the 7-foot-6 Rockets center. Yao has totaled just 26 points in Houston's two losses in this series.
LaMarcus Aldridge was a key in Game 5 for Portland, as he scored 25 points. Aldridge is averaging 26 points in Blazers wins in this series and 13 in the three losses.
All the Blazers' focus on Yao has often left Rockets forward Luis Scola open. He has responded by averaging a team-high 17.6 points while shooting 58.5 percent from the field.
"It's tough, because you are going to give up something, and that's what we have given up, that jump shot," Aldridge said of Scola; Aldridge is often the second defender on Yao and the one who leaves Scola. "We will live or die with that."
Playing at home tonight is a major advantage for Houston, as Portland has lost six consecutive games and 12 of its last 13 at the Toyota Center. So it's little surprise that Houston is a five-point Bodog favorite for Game 6. But while two of those Portland losses came last week in this series, the Blazers did cover in both.