Washington Wizards vs. Indiana Pacers
Not long ago, we were talking about Indiana's potentially historic collapse, as they were one loss away from elimination in the first round against Atlanta.
The Pacers, though, have certainly elevated their play, winning five of their last six games, closing out Atlanta with two straight victories and now taking a commanding 3-1 lead over Washington in the conference semis.
Game 3 was a hard-fought win for Indiana, especially since they were losing by as many as 19 points at one point. The Pacers out-scored the Wizards 57-37 in the second half to win by three and cover as 3.5-point underdogs in the NBA betting odds.
Paul George was the star of the show, pouring in 39 points on 12-of-20 shooting while also hauling down a game-high 12 rebounds. He hit seven threes and only turned the ball over twice in an all-around fantastic performance from the All Star.
In truth, the Wizards only had themselves to blame for a costly collapse. Their veterans had helped them recover in the fourth, but the young guys couldn't finish the job in the fourth quarter and Indiana's experience ultimately made the difference.
Now we head into a pivotal Game 5 where the Pacers are favored by five points on their home court. Will they close out the series tonight?
We're still not convinced. Washington has played well on the road in these playoffs and Indiana hasn't exactly shown a killer instinct. There are still question marks for the Pacers, so we'll take the points and hope for another game that comes down to the wire.
Pick: Wizards +5 (and lean UNDER)
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
We witnessed another collapse two nights ago and that came in the afternoon game between the Thunder and Clippers.
Oklahoma City was up 32-15 after the first quarter and held a convincing lead even in the fourth quarter, but they fell apart late and allowed Los Angeles to pull off the stunning comeback win. Instead of heading back home up 3-1, the series is now tied 2-2.
Despite a combined 67 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists and five steals from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder simply couldn't close the deal. No other player scored in double figures, including Serge Ibaka, who had only eight points on five shot attempts.
For the Clippers, Darren Collison made a number of important plays in the fourth quarter and his contributions were the catalyst for the team's comeback. Elsewhere, Chris Paul (23/10/5) and Blake Griffin (25/9) were solid as usual.
The momentum is now back on LA's side, so it'll be interesting to see if they can carry it over into a hostile environment in Oklahoma City. CP3 and company have already won once there in Game 1 (122-105) and that should give them some confidence.
And, after considering some of the other angles – we're leaning on the OVER with our NBA picks tonight after an unusually low-scoring total in Game 4 – we've decided that readers should go with the underdogs tonight.
While the Thunder have the two dynamic superstars, it's not like Paul and Griffin are slouches, and the Clippers simply have more scoring options and the better coach. We expect balance and ball movement to win out in this all-important Game 5.
Pick: Clippers +5.5 (and lean OVER)