Cavaliers can finish things with a win in Chicago, so can the L.A. Clippers at home vs. Houston. Here are my free ATS NBA picks for these two playoffs games with WagerWeb odds.
Cavaliers at Bulls (-2)
Immediately after Cleveland's Game 5 home win, this line had the Cavs as big as 1.5-point favorites at the NBA betting odds board, but now it's moving the other direction. I'm sure part of that is because bettors believe that the Bulls will play desperate with their season on the line. In fact, the Coach Tom Thibodeau Era might be on the line. He has been clashing with Bulls management for a couple of years, and just about every NBA "expert" believes the Bulls will try to trade Thibs (the most likely scenario and there is recent precedent with the Celtics trading Doc Rivers to Boston), letting him walk away from his contract or simply firing him. It may not be a coincidence that New Orleans just fired Coach Monty Williams this week. Thibodeau loves Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis from coaching him with Team USA last summer.
But the other part of this line move is that Chicago All-Star forward Pau Gasol is going to try to play and there's no way the NBA suspends Taj Gibson, the team's top reserve. Gasol has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury that still won't be anywhere near 100 percent but he's going to try. Expect limited minutes for sure. Gibson was ejected for supposedly kicking Cleveland's Matthew Dellavedova in the fourth quarter of Game 5. Ridiculously, Gibson was ejected when it was clear that one camera angle showed that Dellavedova had a leg lock around Gibson's foot and that Gibson was just trying to get it free. The refs gave Gibson a flagrant-2 foul that triggers an automatic ejection -- that actually really fired up the Bulls and they nearly rallied from a 15-point deficit, but the team is clearly better with Gibson. As of this writing the NBA hadn't officially ruled on that but it's a done deal that Gibson plays. In fact, Dellavedova was assessed a technical after the game.
NBA Free Pick: Bulls at WagerWeb. The Cavs are 2-5 ATS in their past seven road games. Chicago is 5-1 ATS in its past six at home and 4-1 ATS in past five following a loss.
Rockets at Clippers (-8)
Why can't the Clippers win a series before it goes seven games? They have won three playoff series since Chris Paul joined the team in the 2011-12 season. In the first round of these playoffs, the Clippers rallied from a 3-2 deficit to beat the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 Los Angeles. In the first round last year, the Clips were 2-2 with the Warriors before taking Game 7 at home. In 2012, the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead but would win in Memphis in Game 7. So was anyone really shocked that Houston dominated Game 5, 124-103?
As for this NBA pick, I'm not saying Clippers-Rockets hasn't been fun to watch, but it has had none of the drama that Cavs-Bulls has. Only one game was decided by less than 16 points: Houston's Game 2 115-109 victory, and Paul didn't even play in that one. James Harden decided he wasn't being aggressive enough -- or apparently handling the ball enough -- as in Game 5 he was clearly the No. 1 star with 26 points, a career playoff-high 11 rebounds and 10 assists despite dealing with some flu-like symptoms. "We didn’t play with the urgency that we’ve played with through the playoffs," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said in an understatement. I believe they totally underestimated Houston after beating the Rockets by 33 and 25 points in the previous two games at the Staples Center. Houston played with all the desperation to avoid their first three-game losing streak this season. The Rockets are now 8-0 after consecutive defeats. Obviously it behooves the Clippers to finish this series off Thursday so they don't have to try and win a Game 7 in Houston and so Paul's hamstring can get as much rest as possible before the Western Conference Finals. The Clippers haven’t gotten past the second round in their 45 years of existence. Time to get that monkey off the back.
NBA Free Pick: Clippers win but don't quite cover. The Rockets have covered seven of their past eight following a double-digit win. The Clippers are 3-8 ATS in their past 11 at home.