Experienced NBA handicappers understand that all teams have their own individual Achilles Heels. We share our Game 3 Playoffs picks & offer up our Futures Odds analysis.
The eight teams left in the NBA Playoffs certainly don’t need me telling them how to beat anyone in these NBA Playoffs, as all four lower seeds—the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference and the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference—have already won either a Game 1 or a Game 2 on the road in their respective Conference Semifinals series’, stealing away the homecourt advantage like some playground thief in the night, thus putting the pressure on the West’s top-seed, the Golden State Warriors (+125 to win NBA Championship, Titan Bet), the Houston Rockets, the Cleveland Cavaliers and superstar LeBron James (+500 to be NBA Finals MVP, Paddy Power) and the East’s top-seeded team, the Atlanta Hawks.
So, with all four series presently deadlocked at 1-1 with the onus now on the higher seeds to try to win back that precious home-court advantage they all worked so hard over the Regular Season to earn, and a nice break in the postseason hardwood action today (Thursday) with action resuming Friday night, let’s look at some ways in which all the teams left in the NBA postseason can get beat in what is starting to look like a wide open and possibly really fun and surprising NBA Playoffs—a good thing for the sharp sports gambler looking for some value in some potential Futures Bets. What we’re saying, is that we can no longer laugh out-loud about the prospects of the Clippers, Grizzlies or Wizards making it to the NBA Finals this year.
Eastern Conference—How to Beat the Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers (+120 to win Eastern Conference, 32Red) are without PF Kevin Love for the rest of the postseason and maybe forever, so that was a big plus for Chicago heading into their Eastern Conference semifinals Best-of-7 series with the Cavaliers, which will resume with Game 3 on Friday night at the United Center in Chicago (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT; Odds: Bulls -2, 196; GTBets). Head Coach Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls (+850 to win NBA Championship, Stan James) have already shown how to beat Cleveland, by getting off to a red-hot shooting start and taking the Home Crowd out of the game as they did in Game 1 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Limiting both offensive and defensive rebounds by Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson is crucial too, as the Cavaliers showed in Game 2 when the Findlay Prep-product Thompson made a huge difference on the glass and in the paint in evening up the series. And, letting LeBron try to do it all while bodying up and frustrating him like the Bulls Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson have tried to do is also a good idea when trying to topple this team, which when healthy, has one of the NBA’s best starting 5s.
Eastern Conference—How to Beat the Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls (+300 to win Eastern Conference, Paddy Power) seem to play good every other game which also means they play bad every other game also. True Geminis in Chitown, Lou Malnati’s breath. One team that showed how to beat the Bulls was Chicago’s Round 1 opponent, the upstart Milwaukee Bucks who used their long-ass arms to block shots when Bulls guards Derrick Rose (20/1 to be NBA Finals MVP, Paddy Power) and Jimmy Butler (17/1 to be NBA Finals MVP, Paddy Power) tried to penetrate to the rim. And Young Rubber Bands like John Henson, Michael Carter-Williams and Scrabble-champion Giannis Antetokounmpo seemed to have the longest arms when blocking shots from star Bulls guards shots in their Round 1 Eastern Conference series, ultimately won by Chicago. But simply just letting the hot-and-cold Rose shoot when he is open is always a good idea for Bulls opponents, with the opposite holding true when Mike Dunleavey and Kirk Hinrich are wide open. Cover those freaks. Opponents can’t let those two Bulls gunners get on a roll from outside. And, frustrating Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah with big bodies and bumps underneath often works well against Chicago, especially when the referees aren’t blowing the whistle. And kidnapping mascot Benny the Bull and holding him ransom for 8 points which you may use at A Future Point In The Series is advised, although Commissioner Adam Silver may not have passed the legislation I had flown in to the Big Apple via a Little White Mouse On a Big Black Carrier Pigeon in late November. Perhaps mascot abduction doth not translate to points in 2015.
Eastern Conference—How to Beat the Atlanta Hawks
The best way to beat the Atlanta Hawks (12/1 to win NBA Championship, William Hill) is to just play your own game offensively and pretend that they can’t beat you on the Defensive end of the floor. Getting a hand in guard Kyle Korver’s (14.8 ppg, 37.5% grom 3-ville) face and not giving him room to attempt open 3’s and potentially get hot from outside is another way to limit Atlanta’s (+350 to win Eastern Conference, SkyBet) point production, as is trying to prevent Hawks Main Man Paul Millsap (15.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg) from getting inside positioning and getting Easy Rebounds and Buckets, something the Wizards have already proven they know how to do. Game 3 in this series is set for Saturday afternoon (ESPN, 5 p.m./2 p.m. ET; Odds: Hawks -1½, Total: 200, GTBets) at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. Limiting Offensive production from Hawks Big Men SF DeMarre Carroll (18.9 ppg) and C Al Horford (15.1 ppg) is also imperative in trying to defeat this Hawks team which has already had its home-court advantage snatched away while we were all looking at our hellphones. Can you hear me now?
Eastern Conference—How to Beat the Washington Wizards
As mentioned, these wily Washington Wizards (33/1 to win NBA Championship, Paddy Power) have already stolen the home-court advantage away from the #1 Eastern Conference seed Hawks, and this team is sort of like the Chicago Bulls in that they seem to alternately play good-bad-good-bad-good bad, making them a hard team to figure out as well as a hard team on which to place NBA picks with. With underrated Marcin Gortat (11/9 ppg, 8.7 rpg), Nenê (11.2 ppg, 5.1. rpg), Paul Pierce (12.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Bradley Beal (14.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.2 apg) and speedy playmaker John Wall (17.6 ppg, 9.8 apg, 1.8 spg), this team matches up well with the Hawks and could also provide fits for the Cavaliers-Bulls winner in a theoretical Eastern Conference Finals. Toss in a bench with guys like SF Otto Porter and this is a hard team to beat when they’re motivated, but stopping Wall from creating is Priority One, then not letting the Wizards dominate the glass and set a tone for a physical game is Priority Two. The Wizards might be a good team to make a small Futures bet on to win it all at these lofty odds, knowing they already have a leg up on the Hawks in Round 2, aren’t scared of the Cavs or Bulls in a potential East Finals, and could create a Hedge possibility should they make the NBA Finals.
Western Conference—How to Beat the Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors are the team with the best record in the NBA, the loudest and maybe most valuable fans now, the best Starting 5 in the Western Conference and the most talented scoring guard tandem in the league in quite some time. So the Warriors can't be beat, right? Wrong. Do you have lettuce for brains, Elmo? The upstart Memphis Grizzlies have already pinched the home-court advantage in their Best-of-7 Western Conference series on Tuesday night, surprising the host Warriors at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland to even the series, 1-1. On Saturday night, the series heads to Memphis and the FedEx Forum for Game 3 of this Western Conference semifinals series (ABC, 8:15 p.m. ET/5:15 p.m. PT; Odds: Warriors -4, 196, GTBets), and what Memphis needs to do is to do exactly what it did in Game 2—bang on Golden State. And with Marc Gasol, the aggressive Zach Randolph, defensive junkyard dog Tony Allen and Mike Conley back, Memphis can bang and frustrate with the best of them. The Grizzlies (22/1 to win NBA Championship, Sky Bet) are a team which could indeed shock the professional basketball world and bring that coveted Larry O’Brien Trophy back to Lil Ol’ Tennessee. Also, trying to keep the O.co Coliesuem crowd out of the game is massive, as the offesnsive runs by the warriors creates waves of energy which can often be intimifating to opponents. And Memphis did just that in their win. And not letting C Andrew Bogut or F Draymond Green have a field day underneath is also important in trying to keep Golden State from being Golden State at its absolute Blue-And-Gold best these days. Not easy, as the NBA betting odds makers 4-point edge to the visitors from California shows on Saturday.
Western Conference—How to Beat the Memphis Grizzlies
To beat the Memphis Grizzlies, teams need to match up well with the aforementioned Gasol and Randolph—two of the NBA’s best and most unheralded Bigs—and that’s hard, but doable. Keeping Mike Conley from doing his thing in the backcourt is also in the Recipe for beating The Griz, as is not letting Defensive First-Teamer Allen dominate opponents and get in a groove like he did when the Warriors failed to register back-to-back baskets for eternity and then some. It was Defensive Art by Memphis (22/1 to win NBA Championship, Sky Bet) and the energy allen creates through his lockdown Defense can be devastating to opponents. And the best way to beat the Grizzlies over a potential 7-game postseason series? Don’t let them beat you on your own home-court, a concept a little late for the Western Conference’s top seed to digest right now. This game on Saturday evening in the Volunteer State should be an awful lot of fun, Bubba. Can’t-miss stuff.
Western Conference—How to Beat the Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers (9/1 to win NBA Championship, Betfair Sportsbook), along with the Washington Wizards, have probably been the biggest surprise of these NBA Playoffs after unmercifully taking out Tim Duncan, Tony parker and the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in an epic 7-game, Round 1 series, and then promptly upsetting the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinals Best-of-7 series on Monday night in Houston at the Toyota Center. But the Rockets rebounded to tie it in Game 2 on Wednesday, so Friday night’s Game 3 from the Staples Center in Lalaland (ESPN, 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT; Odds: Clippers -4, 217, GTBets) should be epic. The Rockets (11/1 to win NBA Championship, bet365) have shown they know how to beat the Clippers, and that means limiting star PG Chris Paul’s freedom both outside and inside, even if it means gambling and occasionally double-teaming the former Wake Forest Tech star. Keeping the Clippers home crowd in Los Angeles to a dull roar and limiting the amount of floor space for the suddenly hot Blake Griffin is also highly recommended. If you can find a way to neutralize both Paul and Griffin, you’re in business. But, much easier typed on the keyboard then executed on the Hardwood.
Western Conference—How to Beat the Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets (12/1 to win NBA Championship, William Hill) are much like the aforementioned East teams the Bulls and Wizards in their inconsistency, and like Chicago and Washington when Rose and Wall are off, the same can be said of the Rockets when star SG James Harden (27.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 7.0 apg) isn’t right, as he wasn’t in Game 1 as you could see at the end when he was shooting Free Throws, frustrated and chirping at the Clippers when the game was already out of reach. Bottle up Harden (+1400 to win NBA Finals MVP, Paddy Power) and you can beat this upstart team. And not letting Houston dominate underneath with Dwight Howard (16.3 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 1.38 bpg), Donatas Motiejunas (11.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Trevor Ariza (12.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg) is also important, and something the Clippers and potentially the Warriors-Grizzlies may all be able to do in a potential Western Conference Finals with their talented frontlines.
NBA PLAYOFFS GAME 3 PICK: Washington Wizards +1½ over Atlanta Hawks, Saturday (GTBets)
NBA PLAYOFFS FUTURES PICK: Grizzlies 22/1 to win NBA Championship (Sky Bet)