Obviously the Oklahoma City Thunder aren't in the playoffs, but I do want to touch on the team firing Coach Scott Brooks on Wednesday. I'm assuming the Thunder checked with Kevin Durant before doing so because Durant, a free agent after next season, always has backed Brooks. Seems a bit harsh to dump Brooks considering how many injuries he had to deal with, but presumably the Thunder have a plan in place and reports are the team will target either UConn coach Kevin Ollie, a good friend and former teammate of Durant's, or Florida's Billy Donovan. I'm sure that some site like Bovada will offer a prop on this. If I'm Ollie or Donovan, I get an assurance from Durant he is staying before taking that job. Now a look at Friday's postseason games.
Game 3: Rockets at Mavericks (-1, 214.5)
It's a 7 p.m. tip on ESPN, and I 100 percent don't understand this line. The Rockets had no trouble holding serve at home, following Saturday's 118-108 win with a 111-99 victory in Game 2. Dwight Howard looked as good as he has all season with 28 points and 12 rebounds, James Harden added 24 (was just 5-for-17 from the field) and Josh Smith was great off the bench with 15 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Maybe the Rockets have a Big 3 after all?
There really was nothing positive out of that game for Dallas. Dirk Nowitzki looked his age, shooting 3-for-14 from the field, although he did have 13 rebounds. Monta Ellis hit only 8-for-23 from the field. But the big news was regarding starting point guard Rajon Rondo and small forward Chandler Parsons. Coach Rick Carlisle and Rondo have not seen eye-to-eye since Rondo arrived in trade from Boston, and Rondo got on the floor for only 34 seconds in the second half when the game was still tight. In the 10 minutes or so Rondo was on the floor overall, it looked like he didn't care at all, randomly fouling guys and leaving people wide open. The Mavs have been outscored by 36 points during Rondo's 37 minutes on the floor this series. He will not play again in a Dallas uniform. That was Carlisle's quote after the game and the team is saying Rondo is out indefinitely with a back issue. Yeah right. He's fine. That trade turned out to be terrible, and Rondo will probably sign with the Lakers this summer as a free agent. He's not a very good player any longer. In addition, forward Chandler Parsons will not play again this season as he will undergo knee surgery. So tell me how Dallas can be favored? J.J. Barea will start for Rondo, and the team is expecting point guard Devin Harris back after he missed Game 2 with a toe injury. Richard Jefferson continues to start for Parsons, and Jefferson hasn't been a good player in about five years.
Updated series line: Rockets -1150, Mavericks +800.
Key trends: The Rockets are 6-1 against the spread in the past seven meetings. The Mavs are 2-6 ATS in their past eight at home. The "over/under" has gone under in five of the past six.
Early lean: Uh, Houston! Go under.
Game 3: Raptors at Wizards (-4, 195.5)
An 8 p.m. start on ESPN2. Washington was the only road team to take the first two games of a playoff series and in fact the only road team at all to win until the Spurs did at the L.A. Clippers on Tuesday. After blowing a big fourth-quarter lead in Game 1 but winning in overtime, there were no doubts in Game 2 on Tuesday as the Wizards won 117-106. Toronto used a 12-3 run to close within two points in the third quarter but then Washington scored 10 straight and the Raptors wouldn't get within single digits again. John Wall totally outplayed Kyle Lowry again in a matchup of All-Stars as Wall had 26 points and 17 assists. Bradley Beal added 28 points. With their size, the Wizards could beat most anyone when Wall and Beal are hitting.
As for Lowry, he's was batting back soreness and is now dealing a left shin contusion suffered in the fourth quarter of Game 2. He is a shell of his All-Star self as Lowry followed up a 2-for-10, seven-point effort in Game 1 with a 3-for-10, six-point effort in Game 2. Lowry also picked up his second and third fouls 10 seconds apart early in the second quarter. He had to leave the game with Toronto up six, but the Wizards closed the half on a 31-14 run. Lowry will play in Game 3, but if this were the regular season he wouldn't. He's almost hurting the team at this point.
Updated series line: Wizards -650, Raptors +500.
Key trends: Toronto is 2-5 ATS in its past seven on the road against teams with a winning home record. The Wizards have covered just one of their past 11 Friday games. The over is 8-2 in Washington's past 10 at home.
Early lean: This series is finished. Take the Wizards and over.
Clippers at Spurs (-4, 204.5)
It's a 9:30 tipoff on ESPN for the most entertaining series of the first round. I should have known better than to pick against the Spurs in Game 2 -- they had never lost a Game 2 of a first-round series in the Tim Duncan Era after losing Game 1. And win Game 2 they did, 111-107 in overtime, the best overall game of these playoffs so far. Tim Duncan looked about 10 years younger as he had 28 points and 11 rebounds just shy of his 39th birthday. Kawhi Leonard, named NBA Defensive Player of the Year on Thursday, added 23. Somehow the Spurs won with a combined 12 points from their other three starters. Tony Parker had another bad game. He left with an Achilles' injury but wasn't good before, going 0-for-6 from the field. Parker says he will play Friday. Manu Ginobili was in foul trouble and eventually fouled out with just nine points. Yet the champs found a way.
The Clippers had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but Chris Paul missed a jumper. Blake Griffin had another huge game with 29 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his first playoff triple-double, but he had five turnovers -- none bigger than with 11.9 seconds left in regulation and the Clippers leading by two. It would lead to two Patty Mills free throws to tie the game. Griffin also missed a few key shots in OT. Free throws killed the Clippers as they were just 20-for-37. The Spurs did resort to fouling DeAndre Jordan in the fourth quarter for a while, and it worked. He would finish 6-for-17 from the line. Shoot underhand dude!
Updated series line: Spurs -180, Clippers +160.
Key trends: The Spurs are 8-1 ATS in their past nine at home. The under is 6-1 in the Clippers' past seven following a loss. The over is 8-3 in the past 11 meetings.
Early lean: I don't think Parker will be close to 100 percent and Duncan won't go off like that again. Take the points and go over.
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