And just like that, the teams that stole home-court advantage in Monday's series openers have become the favorites in those respective series (at least in terms of Bovada odds to win the conference but not on BetOnline). Chicago beat a LeBron James team for the third straight time in a Game 1 on Monday. Don't get too excited Bulls fans as they then lost the next four games in both series. Chicago is now the 3/2 Bovada favorite to win the East with the Cavs at 8/5. In the West, I was shocked that the exhausted Clippers were able to win in Houston in Game 1 on Monday. The Warriors remain heavy Western Conference favorites at 4/11, but now the Clippers are No. 2 at 7/2 with Houston at 8/1. Here's a look at those two Game 2s on Wednesday.
Free $60 in Member NBA Picks No Obligation Click Here
Bulls at Cavaliers (-6, 194.5)
Chicago took Game 1 99-92, leading wire-to-wire. Rather amazingly, it was the first time in LeBron's career in a home playoff game that his team never led. So Cleveland fans, do you appreciate Kevin Love a bit more now? It was astounding how often the Bulls were getting open shots on pick-and-rolls involving Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol -- it felt like Gasol was open all night. I'm not saying Love is much of a defender, but he's used to playing out on the perimeter. Gasol was 10-for-16 from the field along with 10 rebounds, four assists and four blocks. Another reason Love was missed: Gasol didn't have to work much on defense. Rose, meanwhile, continued his trend of being fantastic with at least two days of rest as he had 25 points, five assists and five rebounds along with only two turnovers in 39 minutes. He did suffer a shoulder stinger at the end while running through a pick but should be just fine -- those hurt like heck if you have never had one but then just go away after a minute or two. Jimmy Butler may have been the best player on the floor with 20 points, six assists and five rebounds and stellar defense on LeBron. My only criticism for Chicago would be that Tom Thibodeau rode his starters other than Joakim Noah heavy minutes. Why did Aaron Brooks play only nine minutes off the bench? Why Nikola Mirotic only two? The Bulls have the huge edge in their bench.
Without Love and the suspended J.R. Smith, who will also miss Game 2, the Cavaliers moved Iman Shumpert and Mike Miller in the starting five. Why David Blatt started Miller I will never know as he didn't play a second in the first-round series against Boston and really shouldn't be an NBA player at this point in his career. Shumpert played pretty well with 22 points, but Miller was a team-worst minus-20 in his 16 minutes. The guy simply can't guard anyone. LeBron got his 19 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists but was only 9-for-22 from the field and had six turnovers, including two key late ones. Without Smith and Love, the Cavs were an ugly 7-for-26 from long range.
Updated BetOnline series line: Cavaliers -115, Bulls -105 (some books have Chicago as series favorite now).
Key trends: Chicago is 6-1 against the spread in its past seven after a win. The Cavs are 1-6 ATS in their past seven playing on one day of rest. The "over/under" has gone under in each team's past four overall. The under is 4-0 in the past four meetings in Cleveland.
Early lean: I see no reason why you wouldn't take the points here. Go under.
Clippers at Rockets (TBA)
If you made me give a percentage number on Houston winning Game 1 with plenty of rest and not having to deal with Paul, I would have probably said 80 percent. So kudos to the Clippers, who have very little depth even when Paul plays, in a 117-101 victory. I thought they would be totally flat after that epic seven-game series win over San Antonio that ended late Saturday night. Instead it was Houston that looked like it went through the meat grinder in Round 1. The best player in these playoffs so far has been the Clippers' Blake Griffin, and he dominated on Monday with 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists, his third triple-double of these playoffs. Matt Barnes hit 8-for-11 from the field for 20 points (that won't happen again), and Austin Rivers was actually decent starting in place of Paul with 17 points in 28 minutes. Other than Jamal Crawford's 21 points, the L.A. Bench was a joke again.
As for Houston, how does James Harden take only 13 shots? He made six for 20 points but was minus-22. Dwight Howard had 22 points and 10 rebounds but was minus-17. And Houston's two main bench players, Josh Smith and Corey Brewer, were a combined 6-for-24 from the field. The Rockets must dominate the bench scoring like the Spurs largely did. Houston also has to take care off the ball, coughing it up 24 times (nine by Harden), leading to 34 L.A. points. The problem is they don't have a true point guard with Patrick Beverley out injured.
Obviously this TBA is because of Paul. If I am Clippers coach Doc Rivers, no way do I play him in Game 2. You have accomplished your goal of stealing home-court advantage, and you can get Paul a few more days of rest and put him back in the lineup in Game 3 back at Staples Center on Friday. Frankly, I think even with Paul that the desperate Rockets are going to win Game 2, so just punt on it.
Updated BetOnline series line: Clippers -180, Rockets +160.
Key trends: The Clippers have covered two of their past nine after a win. The Rockets are 5-0 ATS in their past five following a double-digit loss at home. The over is 4-0 in the Clippers' past four after a win. The over is 9-2 in Houston's past 11 games. The under is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Houston was -8 for Game 1, and I assume will be around that number for this one. Give however many points. Go over the total, which should be around 214 (212 in Game 1).
Get free picks from any of Doc's Sports Advisory Board of expert handicappers - and with no obligation or credit card. You can use these free picks for any sport, and you will never deal with a salesman. Click here for your free Doc's Sports picks.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
Most Recent NBA Handicapping Articles
- Free NBA Picks: Saturday, March 24, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
- NBA Betting Trends: Totals Report for Hot Over and Under Teams
- Free NBA Picks: Friday, March 23, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
- Free NBA Picks: Thursday, March 22, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
- Expert NBA Betting Advice: How to Wager the Golden State Warriors with Injuries
- Free NBA Picks: Wednesday, March 21, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
- Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, March 20, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
- Handicapping the NBA Western Conference Playoff Race
- Free NBA Picks: Saturday, March 17, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
- Free NBA Picks: Friday, March 16, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping