Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, April 30, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
I would argue no sport is more affected by the referees/umpires/officials than the NBA. It's pretty obvious, for example, that the bigger stars get the huge benefit of calls. It's not easy being an NBA ref as these huge, fast guys are creating contact on almost every play and running miles and miles per game. I don't envy those referees. That said, they completely ruined Game 1 of the West Finals, a 104-100 Warriors win, both because of too many fouls called (45, plus four technicals) and yet also because it sure felt like they missed several when Houston players were dinged while attempting three-pointers. No team in the NBA has mastered the art of getting fouled while shooting from deep like the Rockets - and no player like James Harden. He got just one foul call while attempting a three in the opener. As a franchise, the Rockets believe the NBA is letting the Warriors get away with stepping under a shooter and not being called for it. I have no dog in this fight, but I tend to agree. But the Warriors have also earned a bit of leeway with how good they've been. Here's a look at Tuesday's Game 2 in the conference finals.
No. 4 Celtics at No. 1 Bucks (-7, 219.5)
An 8 p.m. ET tip on TNT. For the first time in months, we have a new Eastern Conference title favorite. It had been the Milwaukee Bucks but they dropped to the +170 second-favorite at Bovada following Sunday's shocking 22-point home loss in Game 1 to Boston. The Raptors are now +140 favorites, a number that may only get shorter should Toronto take a 2-0 lead over Philadelphia (+750) on Monday. If the Dinos lose that and Boston (+300) takes a 2-0 series lead, the Celtics probably shift into the favored role.
Boston's defensive strategy in Game 1 was crystal clear: Don't let the Giannis Antetokounmpo get to the basket. As good as the Freak is, he doesn't have much of a jump shot. That's largely what he settled for - or contested shots in the paint - in hitting just 7-for-21 for 22 points and a team-worst rating of minus-24 in the Game 1 loss. Eric Bledsoe was flat-out terrible with six points in 25 minutes. Brook Lopez had three points. The Bucks shot only 34.8 percent. The Celtics, meanwhile, got 26 points and 11 assists from Kyrie Irving and 20 points and 11 rebounds from Al Horford (also played great D on the Freak) as they were the two best players on the court. Terry Rozier was better than Bledsoe, and Rozier played just 20 points off the bench (11 points, nine rebounds). The 22-point loss by the Bucks was the third-largest by a No. 1 seed since the current playoff format was instituted in 1984.
Key trends: The Celtics are 6-0 against the spread in their past six road games. Milwaukee has covered seven straight on Tuesday. The "over/under" has gone under in four of the Bucks' past five after a loss. It's 4-1 in Boston's past five.
Early lean: Celtics and under.
No. 4 Rockets at No. 1 Warriors (-5.5, 218.5)
The NBA started enforcing the running under the shooter rule in the 2017-18 regular season. Why then? In Game 1 of the 2017 West Finals, the Spurs were destroying the Warriors in Oakland. However, then Zaza Pachulia didn't give Kawhi Leonard any room to land after a three-pointer and Leonard suffered what would be a series-ending ankle injury (and started in motion him eventually leaving the Spurs). The Warriors would rally to win that game and swept the series. There's little doubt the Warriors still are making an intentional habit of doing this, especially on Harden. With 7.4 seconds left in Game 1, Harden let fly a potential tying three-pointer but went crashing down the ground as he landed on the legs of Draymond Green.
Should there have been a foul called there? Probably depends on which team you root for/bet on. An argument could have been made for yes, but at the same time Harden didn't jump straight up but forward and kicked his legs out. I personally thought the no-call was right. Harden got his 35 points but was just 9-for-28 overall and 4-for-16 from deep. That won't cut it in this series. Clint Capela's odd playoffs continued - he has been dealing with a virus -- as he had just four points and was minus-17. Chris Paul was ejected in the final seconds for arguing with and then bumping an official. If he was some nobody named Paul Chris, he probably gets suspended a game for that. No shot he's suspended for Game 2. Kevin Durant led the Dubs with 35 points, his 35th straight playoff game with at least 20. That's No. 6 all-time. Both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were questionable with ankle injuries, but naturally both played. They only totaled 31 points and five made three-pointers. Really feels like the Rockets blew their shot already to win this series by not stealing Game 1.
Key trends: The Rockets are 10-3 ATS in their past 13. The Warriors are 7-19 ATS in their previous 26 after a loss. The under is 4-0 in Houston's previous four on the road. It's 5-1 in the past six meetings in Oakland.
Early lean: Rockets and under.
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