Free NBA Picks: Friday, May 4, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Interesting news out of Oklahoma City on Wednesday as general manager Sam Presti said that Billy Donovan would return as coach next season. There were many reports that there might be a parting of the ways, with Donovan perhaps eyeing the Knicks job with his ties to that franchise. Plus, Donovan clearly can't reign in Russell Westbrook - can anyone? - and Carmelo Anthony seemed to throw shade on Donovan's coaching ability in Melo's exit interview with the media. Frankly, no one cares what Anthony thinks any longer.
Many OKC fans were hoping the team would move on from Donovan and find a coach who could promote more of an inclusive offense, i.e. the Warriors, Jazz or Celtics. It is notable that Kevin Durant had no problems with his transition to the pass-happy Warriors. It should also be noted that Presti and Donovan have had a long relationship. I have two thoughts on this news: 1) Will it affect Paul George's decision whether to re-sign? 2) Is it Presti's way of telling Anthony to go f*** himself and hoping that Melo will now NOT exercise his $28 million player option? I assure that the Thunder don't want him to, and Anthony almost dared Donovan in that media session to try and bring him off the bench next season. Then again, Anthony's not making close to that money as a free agent. Stay tuned. Here are Friday's Game 3s in the playoffs. We have now shifted to an East/West alternating schedule.
Warriors at Pelicans (+4, 230.5)
An 8 p.m. ET trip on ESPN. At this point, I'd call this series a success simply if the Pelicans can win a game. Shoot, the postseason already has gone better than expected with that surprising first-round sweep of Portland. The Warriors were never threatened in Game 1 of this series, but New Orleans played much better in losing Game 2, 121-116, and covering a double-digit spread. Interesting that it was much more competitive even though the Dubs welcomed back Steph Curry. The former two-time NBA MVP didn't look rusty at all, scoring 28 points in 27 minutes off the bench with a team-high (by far) rating of plus-26. I'm guessing Curry will return to the starting lineup as soon as Friday as Coach Steve Kerr wanted Curry to get his sea legs. Nick Young started Game 2 and was terrible with three points and a minus-11 rating in 11 minutes. Kevin Durant added 29 points and seven assists. In all honesty, though, the Warriors go as Draymond Green goes. If he's a triple-double machine and not getting stupid technical fouls or losing his focus, Golden State is just about unbeatable. Green was terrific again Tuesday with 20 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.
Anthony Davis was his usual dominant self in Game 2 with 25 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and three blocks. What made the biggest difference from the opener was Davis got plenty of help. Jrue Holiday played 47 of the 48 minutes and had 24 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Rajon Rondo was in "Playoff Rondo" form with 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and five steals. Nikola Mirotic added 18 points and nine assists before fouling out. What should worry New Orleans is that quartet all played so well and the Pelicans still never were a huge threat to win. Plus, the New Orleans bench is fairly terrible. One thing that should change with the shift to the Big Easy is the Pelicans getting more calls. The Warriors have gone to the free throw line 59 times already and New Orleans just 20.
Key trends: The Warriors are 3-11 against the spread in their past 14 road games vs. a team with a winning home record. The Pels are 5-2 ATS in their past seven at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The "over/under" is 4-0 in the past four meetings.
Early lean: Warriors and over.
Rockets at Jazz (+3.5, 207)
A 10:30 p.m. ET start on ESPN. At least we know one Western Conference semifinal will not end in a sweep - Warriors-Pelicans easily could. Utah pulled the stunner in Game 2 in Houston, 116-108 as an 11-point underdog; the Jazz still haven't lost back-to-back games in these playoffs. Aussie Joe Ingles, a very underrated player who is one of the NBA's best three-point shooters, had a career night with 27 points in 10-for-13 shooting (7-for-9 from deep). That helped make up for star rookie Donovan Mitchell shooting just 6-for-21 for 17 points, although he did have 11 assists. Rudy Gobert (15 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks) also had a strong game. But Utah won because of its bench. Alec Burks had 17 points, Jae Crowder 15 and Dante Exum nine with spectacular defense. There's a reason that Aussie was the No. 5 overall pick in 2014; injuries have ruined his career so far.
Houston simply fell apart in the fourth quarter, shooting just 24 percent, its second-worst fourth quarter all season including playoffs. In the final eight minutes, the Jazz outscored the Rockets 24-14. James Harden was only 2-for-7 in that stretch. He finished just 9-for-22 (2-for-10 from deep) for 32 points as Ingles and Exum (and others) hounded him all night. Clint Capela (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Chris Paul (23 points) had good games, but no one else on the team did. Coach Mike D'Antoni said after he thought the easy Game 1 victory "lulled" his team to sleep in Game 2. I tend to agree, although Utah is clearly better than I thought.
Key trends: The Rockets are 1-5 ATS in the past six on the road. The Jazz are 4-1 ATS in their past five at home. The under is 5-2 in Houston's previous seven following a loss. The over is 5-2 in Utah's previous seven at home.
Early lean: Rockets and under.
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