I'm not sure I've ever seen a day like Monday in the NBA playoffs where the championship odds shifted around so much. When we learned that Warriors star and lock repeat NBA MVP Steph Curry would miss at least two weeks with a knee sprain, the Warriors were passed at sportsbooks by the San Antonio Spurs as title favorites. But then the Warriors caught a massive break on Monday night: Clippers star Chris Paul broke his hand against Portland and is expected to miss the rest of the playoffs. I would have projected the Warriors to lose to a healthy Clippers squad if Curry were to miss at least the first four games. Now? No chance. In fact, I'm not even sure the Clippers can get by the Blazers now. Golden State is again the title favorite at BetOnline at +135. But San Antonio is just behind at +170.
Game 5: No. 6 Hornets at No. 3 Heat (-6, 193)
I haven't been able to figure out this series at all. I gave Charlotte little chance to get this past five games after losing swingman Nic Batum to a Game 2 injury and being blown off the floor the first two games in Miami. But the Hornets evened the series with two low-scoring home wins. It was 89-85 on Monday as Kemba Walker dominated with a career playoff-high 34 points. He also had 11 of his team's final 13. In one run down the stretch, he was 4-for-4 from the field (one 3-pointer) and 2-for-2 from the line. Jeremy Lin tied a playoff career high with 21 points; he has been the main beneficiary of Batum sitting out. It's not likely that Batum returns from his sprained ankle here but he will travel.
Miami basically kept turning the ball over in the two games in Charlotte and got into foul trouble. Offensively, the Heat averaged 82.5 points and shot only 35.9 percent from the field combined in the two games. Dwyane Wade had just 12 points in Game 4 (but 10 assists and seven rebounds) and Goran Dragic 12 as he dealt with foul issues. The Heat were minus-10 when Dragic was on the court. Hassan Whiteside was a game-time call with a thigh injury but played. He was held to eight points and seven rebounds and also some foul trouble. The Heat have never had a 2-0 lead in the playoffs and lost the series.
Series line: Heat -195, Hornets +170
Key trends: The Hornets are 2-5 against the spread in their past seven road games. They are 3-8 ATS in their past 11 following a win. The Heat are 13-3 ATS in their past 16 at home. The "over/under" is 5-0 in Charlotte's past five on the road.
Early lean: Heat and over.
Game 5: No. 5 Trail Blazers at No. 4 Clippers (-2, 199)
I think you can stick a fork in the Clippers and any championship hopes with a core of Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan now. Time to get rid of one of those guys and recalibrate. Paul has never gotten a team past the conference semifinals and that seems impossible now that he's likely done with that fractured right hand. Just crushing news as Paul had such a great regular season carrying the team in Griffin's injury absence. Yes, the Clippers split two road games without Paul in the playoffs against the Rockets last year when he was sidelined by a hamstring injury. But Griffin also might miss Game 5 as he aggravated a quad injury in Game 4. After the game, Coach Doc Rivers said it's "50-50" whether Griffin will be able to play, and Griffin could barely move so it's not looking good. The Clippers could still beat the Blazers without one of those guys but highly doubtful without both. Also remember that J.J. Redick is laboring through a heel injury.
Portland took Game 4 98-84 despite just 12 points from Damian Lillard. All series, the Clippers have been trapping Lillard and C.J. McCollum and daring Al-Farouq Aminu to hit shots. He finally did in Game 4 with a career-playoff high 30 points, nailing 6-for-10 from long range. Mason Plumlee isn't scoring much but is holding his own otherwise against Jordan as Plumlee had 14 rebounds, 10 assists and three blocks in Game 4. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good and Portland has some great fortune right now to win Game 5 and close it out at home in Game 6.
Series line: TBA
Key trends: The Clippers are 1-5 ATS in their past six following a loss. The under is 6-0 in Portland's past six. It is 20-6 in L.A.'s past 26 at home.
Early lean: Blazers and under.
Game 5: No. 8 Rockets at No. 1 Warriors (-9.5, 211.5)
Considering how it looked and what could have been, the Warriors were quite fortunate to learn that Curry might only miss two weeks. And now they know the Blazers-Clippers series will go at least six games and not start the conference semifinals until early next week instead of Sunday. The longer Blazers-Clippers goes, the better for Golden State obviously to trim Curry's missed potential games. I saw some early series projections that the Clippers-Warriors matchup might have been a pick'em if not for those L.A. injuries. I don't see Portland beating Golden State in a series even if Curry misses 3-4 games. Shaun Livingston starts with Curry out, but the offense will run mostly through Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
Houston simply lacks any heart. The Rockets should have taken Game 4 by the throat after Curry left, but they literally didn't care at all after that happened and were blown out in the third quarter as Golden State took control on the way to a 121-94 win. This presumably will be the final game in a Houston uniform for Dwight Howard. Good riddance, dude. Why anyone would pay $20-plus million a year to that sourpuss is beyond me. Probably also the final game for interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. The Rockets aren't sure if point guard Patrick Beverley will play in Game 5 due to a hamstring injury. He was a total non-factor in 16 Game 4 minutes.
Series line: None
Key trends: The Rockets are 5-2 ATS in their past seven after a loss. Golden State is 2-5 ATS in its past seven following a double-digit win. The over is 8-1 in Houston's past nine following a double-digit loss. The over is 5-1 in Golden State's past six at home.
Early lean: Warriors win, but I'll take the points. Maybe James Harden can single-handedly keep this close. Go over.
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