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

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 10:58 PM GMT

Here's a first for the 2015 NBA playoffs: All three home teams on Thursday night are underdogs, and all three look to avoid an inescapable 3-0 series hole. Are any underdogs worth taking? Here are my picks with NBA odds from Pinnacle.

Cavaliers vs. Celtics (+4)
Let's be honest here: Boston probably doesn't belong in the playoffs, not yet. True, the Celtics played really well over the final two months, especially after acquiring guard Isaiah Thomas from Phoenix. But the C's are at least one year ahead of GM Danny Ainge's schedule. He probably would have preferred a chance to win the draft lottery rather than possibly being swept by the Cavaliers. Boston has been competitive in the first two games but has been dominated in the two third quarters. In Tuesday's 99-91 win, the Cavs used a 17-4 run in the third to take a 14-point lead. That's interesting only because generally how a team plays out of halftime is due to coaching. Everyone seems to think Boston's Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in the NBA and Cleveland's David Blatt is often mocked. One thing that has surprised me thus far in the series is how ineffective that Boston's Avery Bradley and/or Marcus Smart have been in stopping Kyrie Irving. Bradley is widely considered one of the lockdown perimeter defenders in the league and Smart looks like he will be one. However, Irving followed up a 30-point Game 1 with 26 points, six assists and five rebounds in Game 2. I suppose if you are a Boston fan you point to the fact that the Cavs were only 22-19 on the road this season. The Celtics slaughtered the Cavs at TD Garden 117-78 late in the season, but Cleveland didn't play Irving, LeBron James or Kevin Love.

NBA Free Pick: The Boston fans will be fired up to at least steal one game from LeBron but the talent level simply isn't close. Give the points with your NBA picks. The Cavs have covered four of their past five road games vs. a team with a winning home record.

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Bulls vs. Bucks (+2.5)
I would certainly call Chicago the most likely of Thursday's three favorites on the NBA odds to lose outright. It helps Milwaukee's cause that excellent Bulls rookie Nikola Mirotic almost surely will not play because of strained calf and bruised knee suffered during a bit of a scrum with Zaza Pachulia in a very chippy Game 2. Keep an eye out for that here as there could be some lingering bad blood and the Bucks might try to bait one of Chicago's stars, Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol or Joakim Noah, into some sort of altercation to get them ejected. Any Bucks starter ejected who takes one of those guys with him is a win for Milwaukee. But where is the Bucks offense going to come from? They don't have that one guy who can make a tough shot at the end of the shot clock. Maybe rookie Jabari Parker will be him in 2015-16 when he recovers from his torn ACL. The Bucks did beat the visiting Bulls 95-91 on April 1 behind 21 points and 10 rebounds from Michael Carter-Williams. That ended a nine-game home losing streak in this series. It may not feel much like home-court advantage on Thursday with many Bulls fans expected to make the 90-mile-or-so drive to Milwaukee.

NBA Free Pick: Bucks steal one. The home team has covered the past five meetings. Milwaukee also is 9-1 ATS in its past 10 Thursday games.

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Warriors vs. Pelicans (+5)
It should be a raucous crowd for the first NBA playoff game in Louisiana since 2011. And the Hornets were no pushovers at home. They beat Golden State there once this season and in fact beat every Western Conference playoff team at least once at home other than Portland, which only made one trip to the Big Easy. Will point guard Jrue Holiday play for New Orleans? He is still battling soreness in his leg that cost Holiday more than half the regular season. He played 21 minutes in Game 1 and had five points and five assists. He couldn't go in Game 2, but seems likely to return for Thursday's game. Holiday can't play big minutes but at least could provide some bench depth as the Pelicans need all the help they can get.

NBA Free Pick: Warriors. They have covered seven of their past nine on the road against teams with a winning home record.

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