NBA Picks: Top ATS Plays for Wednesday's Playoff Games

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, May 5, 2015 6:30 PM UTC

Tuesday, May. 5, 2015 6:30 PM UTC

The home teams largely dominated in the first round of the NBA playoffs but that wasn't the case in the Game 1s of the conference finals Monday. Can the Clippers and Bulls take surprising 2-0 series leads? Here are my ATS picks with WagerWeb odds.

Bulls vs. Cavaliers (-6)
Interesting line here considering that Cleveland was a 4.5-point favorite on NBA odds for Game 1 and was pretty completely outplayed, never leading in a 99-92 loss, just the Cavs' second home defeat in their past 24 at Quicken Loans Arena overall. It was also the first time in LeBron James' career that his team never led in a home playoff game. That's a pretty amazing statistic. Yet NBA odds makers have given the Cavs 1.5 more points for Game 2? The Bulls are taking about 60 percent of the early action. Perhaps it was more of rust vs. rest factor for the Cavs in Game 1 as they hadn't played since sweeping out Boston on April 26. And of course that game might have changed the outlook of the entire 2015 postseason because Cleveland lost Kevin Love for the rest of the season -- he may never wear a Cleveland uniform again as a potential unrestricted free agent -- and 3-point specialist J.R. Smith for the first two games of this series after he whacked the Celtics' Jae Crowder in the face during an under-the-basket tussle. Smith was lucky he only got two games.

Both guys were hugely missed vs. Chicago. Love and Smith are good 3-point shooters and Cleveland was just 7-for-26 from long range without them. Iman Shumpert, who started for Love in small lineup, was 4-for-10 from deep. Mike Miller started for Smith and Miller was literally a huge negative. In 16 minutes of action, the Cavaliers were outscored by 20 points with Miller on the court. He should not be playing  meaningful NBA minutes at this stage of his career. I suppose if there's a bright spot for the Cavs, they were outplayed but still had a chance late in the game. LeBron had two huge turnovers, however.

NBA Free Pick: Take the points with your NBA picks even though Cavs probably win. It should be close. The Bulls have covered six of their past seven after a win. The Cavs are just 2-5 ATS in their past seven at home.

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Clippers vs. Rockets (-6.5)
Game 1 might have been the most surprising result of the playoffs thus far. It's not that the Western Conference third-seeded Clippers aren't a good team. They obviously are. But they had no right stealing Game 1, 117-101, coming off an emotionally and physically grueling seven-game slugfest against San Antonio that only ended Saturday late night. And did I mention that one of the NBA's best players, All-Star point guard Chris Paul, didn't play in the opener because of a hamstring injury?

Houston, meanwhile, had a very easy five-game series win over Dallas that ended on April 28. How do the Rockets give up home-court advantage that easily with all the intangibles on their side? They came out totally flat. Coach Kevin McHale admitted his team's effort just didn't match the Clippers': “We didn’t play with much composure all night long. We were just sloppy. They played with more of an edge. They played harder than we did." The Rockets had 24 turnovers, their most in these playoffs, that led to 34 Clippers points. Houston doesn't really start  a point guard with Patrick Beverley out injured. They use ancient shooting guard Jason Terry in the starting five. Terry was a team-worst minus 23 while James Harden was minus-20 and had a whopping nine turnovers. Those two were outplayed by the Clippers starting backcourt of Austin Rivers (starting for Paul) and JJ Redick. They combined for 34 points and a plus-22. And Clippers forward Blake Griffin was the best player on the court with his third triple-double of these playoffs. Griffin also became a much more vocal leader with Paul in street clothes.

NBA Free Pick: Obviously this line could move depending on Paul -- it was eight points in Game 1. I don't think he plays and I'm giving the points as Houston plays much better on Wednesday. The Rockets are 5-0 ATS in their past five games following a double-digit loss at home.  

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