Still not much drama in these playoffs yet, but things suddenly got interesting in the Warriors-Rockets matchup. There's little doubt Golden State would have swept Houston had Steph Curry been healthy. But he has now missed the past two games, and the Warriors dropped Game 3 in Houston on Thursday night on a last-second jumper by James Harden (although he clearly committed an offensive foul to get the space). So now what does Golden State do on Sunday if Curry still isn't 100 percent? You don't want to make this series 2-2. And while you can't look past the Rockets, you'd like to get as much rest as possible before a conference semifinals matchup most likely against the Clippers, who have looked great thus far. L.A. can take a commanding 3-0 lead on Portland among Saturday's four games.
Game 4: No. 2 Raptors at No. 7 Pacers (+1.5, 193)
Toronto looks like a totally different team than the one that lost Game 1 of this series. The Raptors seized a 2-1 lead with a 101-85 win in Indianapolis on Thursday. After struggling the first two games, All-Star DeMar DeRozan had 21 points as did fellow All-Star guard Kyle Lowry. But the best news for Raptors backers in that game was the 35 minutes played by DeMarre Carroll. That's by far the most he has played since returning from a long injury absence on April 7. Carroll had 17 points and five assists. If he's going well, this is a dangerous team with DeRozan, Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas.
Carroll is a very good defensive player. Paul George led Indiana with 25 points in Game 3 but was just 6-for-19 overall from the field and 1-for-8 from long range. George was 2-for-13 from the field and 0-for-6 from long range when Carroll was guarding him. The Pacers shot 6-for-22 from 3-point range overall and had 16 turnovers. The four other starters opposite George combined for 27 points. Don't be surprised to see rookie Myles Turner (17 points) start this game ahead of Lavoy Allen, who was invisible in Game 3.
Series line (BetOnline): TBA
Key trends: The Raptors are 9-1 against the spread in the past 10 meetings in Indiana. The "over/under" has gone under in five of the past six meetings.
Early lean: Raptors and under.
Game 3: No. 3 Heat at No. 6 Hornets (-2, 201)
What on earth has gotten into Miami's offense and what has happened to that Top-10 Charlotte defense? The Heat followed a 123-91 Game 1 blowout with a 115-103 victory in Game 2. The Heat had a franchise playoff-record 72 points in the first half of Game 2 on a record 74.4 percent shooting from the field. Every Heat player shot at least 50 percent for the game other than Amar'e Stoudemire. Hassan Whiteside was 8-for-8 and is 17-for-19 in the series. The Heat have now posted an offensive rating of better than 120 (points per 100 possessions) in back-to-back games, which they never accomplished during the regular season.
I gave Charlotte a decent shot at winning this series but now believe it will be a sweep because it looks like swingman Nic Batum, arguably the club's best player, won't be back for this series and definitely won't play Game 3. Batum left Game 2 after stepping on the foot of Heat rookie Justise Winslow and rolled his left ankle. Batum was on the floor for several minutes before being helped to the locker room. Batum scored 24 points in the series opener after missing Charlotte's final regular-season game due to a sore left ankle. During the regular season, Batum was second on the team in scoring (14.9 ppg), first in assists (5.8 apg) and fifth in rebounding (6.1 rpg).
Series line: Heat -750, Hornets +575
Key trends: The Heat are 8-2 ATS in their past 10 in Charlotte. The over is 5-2 in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: I'm pretty stunned the Hornets are favored here. Heat and over.
Game 4: No. 3 Thunder at No. 6 Mavericks (+9.5, 201.5)
OK, I was wrong on Game 3 of this series. Thought Oklahoma City would win but believed giving nine points to Dallas was too many. But Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook bounced back from awful Game 2 performances in a 131-102 win -- by a mile the highest-scoring game of this series. Durant did miss 14 shots but had 34 points and seven rebounds, while Westbrook had 26 points and 15 assists. Enes Kanter had 21 off the bench. OKC shot 57.7 percent overall and 55.6 from long range. The Thunder will beat anyone shooting that well.
Deron Williams, J.J. Barea and David Lee were all questionable in Game 3 for the Mavs. The latter two did play, Lee for the first time in this series. Barea was OK with 15 points and seven assists. Dirk Nowitzki played through a bruised knee and was 7-for-12 for 16 points. He probably should have gotten more shot attempts. Dallas never led while missing 10 of its first 12 shots from 3-point range. It was the most one-sided home playoff loss in Mavericks history.
Series line: TBA
Key trends: The Thunder are 1-5 ATS in their past six after scoring at least 125 points in their previous game. Dallas is 6-1 ATS in its past seven after allowing at least 100 points in the previous game. The under is 4-0 in the Mavs' past four after doing that.
Early lean: Mavericks (cover, not win) and under.
Game 3: No. 4 Clippers at No. 5 Trail Blazers (+2, 207.5)
Surprising mismatch between these clubs so far. The Clippers followed a 20-point Game 1 win with a 102-81 Game 2 victory. The L.A. bench was fantastic on Wednesday with 43 points to Portland's 10, and the reserves were the ones that broke it open. NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford had 11 points and four assists and was plus-18 in his 27 minutes. Cole Aldrich had eight points and eight rebounds and was plus-15 in his 12 minutes. Jeff Green, Wesley Johnson and Austin Rivers all were also at least plus-15. Chris Paul led the starters with 25 points and again outplayed Damian Lillard. The only negative for the Clippers right now is that J.J. Redick may see his minutes cut back because a heel injury is bothering him. So you may see more of Crawford.
Lillard is probably a borderline Top-10 player in the NBA but he has been shaky in the postseason since hitting a series-clinching shot against Houston in Round 1 of the 2014 playoffs. Portland is 2-10 in the postseason since then and Lillard is shooting only 39.5 percent from the field and 17.9 percent from long range in those games. He was 6-for-22 and 0-for-6, respectively, in Game 2. C.J. McCollum was deservedly named the NBA's Most Improved Player on Friday but he was terrible in Game 1 and not much better in Game 2, going 6-for-17 for 16 points. The Blazers were outscored by 25 points when he was on the court.
Series line: Clippers -2500, Blazers +1200
Key trends: The Clippers are 6-0 ATS in their past six games. The Blazers are 2-6 ATS in their past eight at home. The under is 5-1 in the past six meetings.
Early lean: Statistically, I have no reason to lean Blazers but I will. Think they get one game. Go over.
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