So now that we know what's going on with Cleveland's Kevin Love (out for probably the rest of the playoffs) and J.R. Smith (suspended for the first two games for the conference finals), has that changed the Cavs' futures odds? Slightly. Maybe more if the Bulls didn't look terrible on Monday night and could have closed out Milwaukee instead of having to play a Game 6 back in Wisconsin on Thursday. The Cavs are now 12/5 second favorites to the Warriors for the NBA title and 1/2 favorites to win the East. Do I think the Bulls could beat them without Love? I do. The Bucks can't. Here's a look at Wednesday's action.
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Game 5: Nets at Hawks (-9, 200)
A 7 p.m. tip on TNT. I thought the Hawks were a tad overrated and that the Nets might take this to six games but right now I'm not sure that Brooklyn isn't the better team. The Nets lost two close games in Atlanta before taking Game 3 back at home 91-83 on Saturday. Then on Monday night, Nets guard Deron Williams played like he was back in his All-Star days with a career playoff-high-tying 35 points (16 in fourth quarter) in a 120-115 overtime victory. This from a game who had five total points combined in the previous two games. Even his own coach Lionel Hollins admitted that Williams clearly wasn't the player he used to be. Yet he went out and was 7-for-11 from 3-point range along with seven assists, five rebounds and three steals. Brooklyn trailed 102-101 late in regulation and was in danger of going down 3-1 in the series, but Williams hit a desperation 3-pointer from 27 feet away as the shot clock expired. Prior to hitting that, Williams was 2-for-17 in the final five minutes of playoff games the Nets were ahead or trailed by five points or fewer in his career. All five Nets starters scored at least 10, with Brook Lopez adding 26 points and 10 rebounds.
The Hawks were fine on the offensive end as all five of their starters had at least 16 points, with DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Teague leading the way with 20 each. Paul Millsap had 12 rebounds and Kyle Korver 11 (11 rebounds for Korver?). Korver, the NBA's best 3-point shooter, missed three straight from long range in the final seconds with the Hawks trailing by three. Korver is 4-for-18 from 3-point land in the past two games of this series after making 8-of-18 in the first two games. He had gone 2-for-2 on go-ahead or tying 3-point attempts with less than a minute to play during the regular season. The bench was the problem. The three bench guys who played the most, Pero Antic, Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder, each were minus-12. This is when the Hawks miss Thabo Sefolosha.
This is the seventh time that a best-of-seven No. 1 vs. No. 8 matchup has been tied 2-2 after four games. The top seed won the previous six.
Key trends: The Hawks are 0-4 ATS in their past four after a loss. The "over/under" has gone under in four of each team's past five games overall. The Nets are 5-1 ATS in their past six meetings in Atlanta.
Early lean: Obviously Williams isn't going to go nuts again. But that's just too many points. Hawks win, but take the Nets and the under.
Game 5: Trail Blazers at Grizzlies (-5, 191.5)
That Mike Conley eye injury has changed this series potentially. The Grizzlies won the first three games but lost their very underrated point guard Conley in Game 3 when he was inadvertently hit in the face by an elbow from Portland guard C.J. McCollum. Conley had surgery on Monday to repair a facial fracture near his left eye. It's not clear when he can play again and an official timetable isn't likely before Wednesday. However, the Memphis newspaper is reporting it could take weeks. That's a devastating loss because I could see the Grizzlies lose this series now and certainly won't beat Golden State in the next round without Conley. He was averaging 16.0 points, 3.7 assists and 1.0 steals in this series and playing fantastic defense on Damian Lillard.
In Portland's 99-92 win in Game 4 on Monday, Lillard was a totally different player with 32 points and seven assists as the Blazers rallied from a 10-point deficit by outscoring Memphis 31-17 in the fourth quarter. LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points (just 6-for-22 from the field) and 12 rebounds for Portland, while McCollum added 18 points as the Blazers ended a seven-game losing streak to the Grizzlies. Nick Calathes moved into the starting lineup for Conley and had 12 points and three assists. The Memphis bench was dominated by Portland's. McCollum was great for the Blazers in a reserve role, and big man Meyers Leonard had 13 points and 13 rebounds off the bench.
Key trends: Portland is 0-6 ATS in its past six road games. Memphis has covered four straight after a loss. The under is 5-0 in the Grizzlies' past five following an ATS loss. The Blazers are 0-5 ATS in their past five in Memphis.
Early lean: I doubt that Portland can count on McCollum and Leonard again. Give the points and go under.
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