This past weekend got the ball rolling for the 2017 NBA Playoffs and delivered its fair share of upsets through the first game of action. Utah and Milwaukee delivered surprising upsets in the first game of their series on Saturday, followed up by a huge game one upset with the Bulls taking down the Celtics in Boston on Sunday.
We actually nailed the Bulls over Celtics pick in what we view as a very weird series. Complicating matters in that series could be the mental state of Boston star point guard Isaiah Thomas, who recently lost his sister in a tragic car accident.
This first round of NBA Playoff series is a mixed bag of obvious calls and toss-up picks, but through the first two days of action we’re sporting a healthy 5-3 mark. We’ll look to improve upon our NBA picks record and also help our NBA bettors win some cash as we continue on with Monday’s playoff slate:
Indiana Pacers (+7.5)
Cleveland Cavaliers (-7.5)
Paul George leads his Pacers back into Quicken Loans Arena on Monday, as the Pacers hope to pick up where they left off during a tight one-point loss in game one. Logic doesn’t exactly back that, however, as the Cavs were a blistering 31-10 on their home court and Indy struggled all season on the road (13-28).
Those trends continued in game one, but we did get a well fought game that Indy had a chance to win on the final possession. That either will boost Indy’s confidence as they hope to steal game two and tie this thing up at 1-1, or it will wake the Cavs up so they can rout the Pacers on their way to a commanding 2-0 lead.
This matchup has me leaning more toward the latter, although I think the Pacers can keep it close just because Cleveland’s defense has remained spotty. We certainly saw that in game one, as the Pacers connected on 45% of their outside shots and hit nearly 50% of their shots from the floor, overall.
Cleveland’s lack of urgency on defense is startling for a defending champion, while Indiana also dominated the glass. Kevin Love was held to just four rebounds in what felt like a fluky performance, though, and that figures to turn back around. Indy also only got offensive help from Paul George and Lance Stephenson, and they will understandably be in serious trouble if Jeff Teague and Myles Turner continue to struggle in this matchup.
The Pacers have had major defensive problems all year and their inconsistency seems to be exposed the longer they’re on the road. That isn’t likely to suddenly change in this series, meaning PG-13 will need an even better showing to steal game two, and/or his supporting cast will have to rise up with huge efforts.
We can safely expect George to show up and keep this game interesting, which affords a shot at the Pacers beating this spread. I’m not fully buying on the Cavs cratering on their home floor, though. Cleveland doesn’t like the Pacers, they don’t lose at home and this is a poor defensive team that specifically has issues closing on the road. Because of that, we’re sticking with the Cavs to go up 2-0 tonight. Much like game one, we can’t bank on a whole lot of defense here, so with two highly capable offenses, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Over in game two.
Memphis Grizzlies (+11)
San Antonio Spurs (-11)
The only other game scheduled for Monday is game two between the Grizzlies and Spurs, which we correctly predicted to be a Spurs win. We thought Memphis would have a little more defensive bite and keep things close, however, and instead Marc Gasol (32 points) was the other Memphis player that really showed up.
The Grizzlies might show a little more life in game two, but it’s still going to be hard to get behind them for a straight up win on the road against a much better team. Gasol certainly gives the Grizzlies a solid low-post threat and Mike Conley can eat Tony Parker alive on the outside, but what else does Memphis have?
San Antonio blew the Grizzlies away by nearly 30 points in game one, as the Spurs hit 53% of their shots (52% from three) and contained Memphis across the board (39% from the field). Kawhi Leonard did as he pleased (32 points) with Tony Allen on the shelf with a lower leg injury. We can probably expect more of the same with Alle again ruled out for game two:
There is little doubt the Grizzlies will want to get back into this series, or at the very least show up and be much more competitive. The big question is if they can strike early and really buckle down defensively. That wasn’t the case last year when these two met in the playoffs, as the Spurs wrecked them in the first two games before Memphis gave them more of a fight in game three on their home floor.
Defensively, it’s not crazy to anticipate the Grizz coming out with a little more toughness and execution. Marc Gasol can limit LaMarcus Aldridge and his brother Pau down low, while Mike Conley can certainly do a better job on Tony Parker than he did in game one (18 points). But who will stop Kawhi Leonard? And are we really to believe this lethargic Memphis offense is going to destroy an elite Spurs defense on the road?
The former might not even happen given how efficient the Spurs are offensively, while it’s hard to believe San Antonio’s aggressive defense will randomly regress here. If anything, we may want to be on the lookout for the Grizzlies when this series shifts to Memphis. For now, we love the Spurs straight up and don’t see much reason to shy away from them covering. The Total could be tricky here, as the Spurs forced the Over last time, even though their defense curbed the Grizzlies pretty easily. Their own offensive dominance has us slightly favoring the Over, however.
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