NBA Trends: Top ATS Picks For Friday's Game 3's

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, April 23, 2015 11:10 PM GMT

Thursday, Apr. 23, 2015 11:10 PM GMT

Only one team in the first round of the playoffs won the first two games of their series on the road: the Wizards. They can take total control of Toronto in D.C. on Friday night. Here are  my ATS recommendations for the three games. Odds from 5Dimes.

Rockets vs. Mavericks (pick'em)
When the playoffs began, I didn't consider the Rockets as legitimate contenders to win the West even though they were the No. 2 seed thanks to a Spurs loss and Houston win on the final day of the regular season. I thought the Warriors, Clippers and Grizzlies were better. Now I'm not sure. I realize Dallas is totally banged up and might actually be the worst team in the West playoffs at this point, even behind No. 8 Golden State. But what has to be exciting for Rockets fans in the first two easy wins over Dallas is the play of Dwight Howard. If he's back to Orlando Magic Dwight Howard, then Houston could win an NBA title. He was spectacular in Game 2's 111-99 win with 28 points (10-for-15 shooting), 12 rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes. It was easily  his best game since missing a large chunk of the season due to injury. That helps take some pressure off James Harden, who is just 9-for-28 in this series but averaging a solid 24.0 points per game. Another good sign for Houston: Josh Smith is not being a knucklehead off the bench. He had 15 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in Game 2 after a good opening game. So really the Rockets probably have the three best players in this series (for sure the best two in Harden and Howard). Why shouldn't it be a sweep? Dallas has no answer for them and is now without Rajon Rondo and Chandler Parsons, so keep that in mind when placing your NBA picks.

NBA Free Pick: Rockets. They have covered six of the past seven meetings. Dallas is 2-6 ATS in its past eight at home.

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Raptors vs. Wizards (-4)
The next time Toronto plays a home game, as in maybe next fall, the team could look very different. The Raptors' Masai Ujuri is one of the most aggressive (and apparently publicly profane) general managers in the NBA. His team lost in the first round of last year's playoffs with home-court advantage to Brooklyn. If the fourth-seeded Raptors are swept out of these playoffs by the No. 5 Wizards, then I think change will be coming, although I'm not sure really what. Certainly Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan would have value to other teams in a possible trade. And it's Lowry and DeRozan mainly why the Raptors lost the first two games at home. The Washington backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal is dominating. NBA odds makers know that any chance Toronto had in this series was if its backcourt of Lowry, DeRozan and NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams outplayed Wall and Beal. It's not close right now. The Wizards are superior in the frontcourt with  Paul Pierce, Nene and  Marcin Gortat. I don't know why this line isn't bigger. Washington dominated Game 1 but blew a late 15-point lead before  winning in OT. Game 2 was never in question in the fourth quarter. Toronto did win in Washington 120-116 in OT on Jan. 31 but that means little because the Raptors won all three regular-season meetings and clearly are an inferior team right now.

NBA Free Pick: Wizards. Toronto has covered just seven of its past 28 vs. teams with a winning record. Washington has covered six of its past eight after a win of at least 10 points.

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Clippers vs. Spurs (-4)
Do you realize that the Los Angeles-San Antonio series is the only one that was split in the first two games? Every other home team swept except for Toronto, which was swept by Washington. That's pretty unusual. No doubt the Spurs saved their season Wednesday night with a 111-107 overtime win in L.A. That ended a two-game losing streak, both bad losses, going back to the regular-season finale. With Tony Parker hobbling and Manu Ginobili in foul trouble and mostly ineffective, Tim Duncan showed why he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer with 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, and the future of the franchise, Kawhi Leonard, added 23 points and nine rebounds. The other three starters combined for 12 points on 3-for-13 shooting. Parker had to leave with an injury and Ginobili fouled out. The Spurs are now 8-0 all-time in the Duncan Era in Game 2 of a first-round series after dropping Game 1. That's amazing. Still. how do the Clippers not win that game? If this series goes to San Antonio, the Clips will rue Game 2's lost opportunity.

NBA Free Pick: Spurs. They have covered eight of their past nine at home.

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