There's obviously no question that Carmelo Anthony won't be back with the Knicks next season after what Phil Jackson said in his exit interview to the media, and Melo seems resigned to that fact. Plus, part of the reason he wanted to stay in New York was for his wife's career, but now they are splitsville. I do believe Anthony's next team is one still playing: Cleveland, Boston or the L.A. Clippers. The Cavs might opt to trade Kevin Love for Anthony if they are somehow upset before the NBA Finals. That trade would work straight up. The Clippers could offer a bunch of junk to New York, and taking on Anthony's salary would work this summer because the Clips will no longer be on the hard salary cap. I won't bother explaining what that means. If Boston is upset in the first round by Chicago, Danny Ainge must do something. However, the Celtics might prefer to try and sign Gordon Hayward in free agency or trade for Jimmy Butler or Paul George. Here's a look at the four NBA playoff games Saturday.
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Game 4: Raptors at Bucks ( -2, 194.5)
Simply wow. I believe what the Bucks are doing to the Raptors is more surprising than what Chicago is doing to Boston. Now part of me wants to see Milwaukee wins this series simply to watch Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James go at it in the conference semifinals. The Bucks slaughtered the Raptors 104-77 on Thursday to take a 2-1 series lead over third-seeded Toronto. It was 32-12 after one quarter and essentially over. The Freak had 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks. With the big lead, no Bucks player had to go heavy minutes. They had six guys in double-figure points. This is a very good defensive team. When Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton (20 points) get some help scoring, look out.
I honestly don't know what to say about the Raptors. I thought they had a legitimate shot at winning the East, and maybe they still can. But the Bucks' athleticism and length is giving them fits. Kyle Lowry (4-for-10, 13 points) and DeMar DeRozan (0-for-8, 8 points) reverted to Game 1 and last year's postseason form in Game 3. DeRozan is the first player in NBA history to go 0-for-3 or worse in a playoff game after averaging 25 points per game during the regular season. Lowry's 13 points actually tied for a team-high. The Raptors are 6-27 all-time on the road in the playoffs, the second-worst win percentage among active franchises (Pelicans).
Key trends: The Bucks are 5-1 against the spread in their past six following a double-digit win. The "over/under" has gone under in 13 of Toronto's past 16 vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 4-0 in the past four meetings.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
Game 3: Wizards at Hawks (-3, 209.5)
Washington is up 2-0 after winning 109-101 on Wednesday. Once again, the Hawks had no defensive answer for John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wall had 32 points, nine assists and five rebounds (although the Wiz were minus-2 with him on the court) and Beal 31 points (team was plus-14 with him). Wall and Beal are the first pair of Wizards to each score at least 30 points in a playoff game since 2006. To me, the Wizards are Blazers East in that their backcourt is so good offensively, but they often don't get enough help to be considered a contender. I'm especially concerned with Washington small forward Otto Porter. He had a breakout season but has been largely invisible in these two games. He was just 2-for-7 for four points in Game 2.
So if you told me entering Game 2 that Dennis Schroder would have 23 points and six assists with just one turnover, Paul Millsap would have 27 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, and Tim Hardaway Jr. would add 19 points, then I'd think the Hawks would have won. Except Dwight Howard shrunk when it mattered like he usually does with just six points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes, although he did have some foul trouble. The bench did absolutely nothing. The Hawks are 0-18 in series when trailing 2-0 in a best-of-7.
Key trends: The Hawks are 1-5 ATS in their past six after a loss. The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean : Hawks and under.
Game 4: Spurs at Grizzlies (+4, 190)
I expected Memphis coach David Fizdale to change things up in Game 3 after his Grizzlies were dominated the first two games of this series in San Antonio. Being honest, I didn't think it would matter - but it did for one game. Fizdale inserted Zach Randolph and James Ennis into the starting lineup. Randolph had 21 points and eight rebounds and Ennis 12 points in 20 minutes as Memphis upset the Spurs 105-94 to end a 10-game postseason losing streak in the series; the home team has won every meeting this season.
Really the only huge advantage Memphis has vs. the Spurs would be at point guard, and that was on display Thursday as Mike Conley had 24 points and eight assists. By comparison, Tony Parker looked old again as he was shutout in 19 minutes and didn't even have an assist. I mean, I could do that. Kawhi Leonard was also held largely in check with 18 points. The only bright side for San Antonio is no player got more than 30 minutes - Gregg Popovich benched his starters 52 seconds into the third quarter (after two careless turnovers) for a while to show his displeasure, and that's when the game turned. I guess that can be a teaching moment, but it didn't work in Game 3. Incidentally, Fizdale's epic post-Game 2 rant about the foul discrepancy didn't really work, either. San Antonio shot 28 free throws and the Grizzlies 20.
Key trends: The Spurs are 4-1-1 ATS in their past six after a loss. The under is 4-0-1 in the Grizzlies' past five after scoring at least 100 points in the previous game.
Early lean: Spurs and under.
Game 3: Warriors at Trail Blazers (+6, 217)
Golden State leads 2-0 after crushing the Blazers 110-81 in Game 2 on Wednesday. Believe it or not, the difference-maker in that one might have been Warriors reserve forward JaVale McGee, who has always had tons of talent but is a complete knucklehead. In just 13 minutes off the bench, a group that was thinner without the injured Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston, McGee had 15 points (7-for-7 shooting), five rebounds and four blocks and was plus-19. The Blazers simply have no size to deal with him. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were just OK with 35 combined points on 12-for-35 shooting.
It will be hard to speculate about Game 3 until Durant's status is known, and to a lesser extent Livingston's as he's a valuable bench guy. Durant is dealing with a calf injury and Livingston a finger/hand issue. If I'm Steve Kerr, I'm not playing Durant here, either. Get him 100 percent for a much tougher second-round opponent, most likely the Clippers. I didn't expect Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to combine for 75 points again as they did in Game 1, but they were terrible in Game 2: 10-for-34 for 23 total points. It was just the second time all season they were held to fewer than a combined 30 points in a game. The Blazers are now 4-10 ATS this season when they are held under 40 combined. The team shot 33.3 percent (30-for-90) from the field and 20.6 percent (7-for-34) from beyond the arc in Game 2. The Blazers had 18 turnovers compared to 17 assists.
Key trends: The Blazers are 8-1 ATS in their past nine at home. The over is 6-1 in the past seven meetings in Portland.
Early lean: I'm going to guess Durant sits. Take the points.
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