Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to April 12 inclusive:
It took until the final week of the NBA regular season, but the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors have both made it into the Western Conference playoffs. Portland (52-28 SU, 43-37 ATS) is in fifth place, one game behind the Houston Rockets for fourth and 1.5 games ahead of Golden State (49-30 SU, 38-38-3 ATS) for sixth. The Warriors, meanwhile, are one game up on the No. 7 Dallas Mavericks.
So how seriously are these two teams going to take Sunday’s matchup (9:00 p.m. ET)? Seriously enough, I would imagine. A win by Portland would clinch at least the No. 5 seed; meanwhile, Golden State would secure at least the No. 6 seed with a victory. That should be enough incentive to allow us to approach this game like any other betting opportunity. The Trail Blazers are 3-point home faves on the NBA odds board with a total of 203.
Portland’s season was on the rails for a while there. After an incredibly hot start to the 2013-14 campaign, the Blazers came back down to earth hard. First, their shooting touch regressed to the mean, then the injury bug started biting. Things got really desperate when Portland started the month of March on a 5-9 SU and 6-8 ATS bender. Were we about to witness one of the NBA’s most epic collapses?
Spoiler alert: No. LaMarcus Aldridge (21.8 PER) returned from a back injury on March 27, dropping 25 points and 16 rebounds on the Atlanta Hawks (+5 at home) in a 100-85 victory. That started Portland’s current 7-1 SU and 5-3 ATS run into the playoffs. The Blazers are otherwise fairly healthy; Joel Freeland (11.3 PER) is the only remaining casualty, and he’s a game-time decision for Sunday after testing his sprained right knee in practice.
The Warriors aren’t quite as healthy as Portland. Andre Iguodala (13.7 PER) and Jermaine O’Neal (15.5 PER) both missed Friday’s 112-95 win over the Los Angeles Lakers (+9.5 at home). David Lee (19.3 PER), however, did manage to suit up after missing seven games with back and hamstring issues, posting 10 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. Andrew Bogut (17.2 PER) also played 23 minutes despite a bruised pelvis that appears to be limiting his performance.
We’re expecting to see both Iguodala and O’Neal back in action on Sunday; they were given the night off against the Lakers after both played in Thursday’s 100-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets (+12.5 away). That leaves everybody but Festus Ezeli (9.3 PER last year) available for the Warriors; again, though, there are a lot of wounded old souls in this lineup.
Furs Adorn the Imperious
The last time we saw these two teams in action on March 16, Golden State was at 100 percent capacity, but Aldridge was unavailable for Portland. The Warriors ended up winning the game 113-112 at the former Rose Garden; however, it was the Blazers cashing in as 2-point puppies. Aldridge and the usual suspects were involved in their other two meetings this year in Oakland, splitting the games SU and ATS.
The Warriors have picked things up of late at 4-2 SU and ATS in their last six games, but they’re still in something of a crisis after parting ways with yet another assistant coach, Darren Erman, who was given his walking papers last week. Portland is the hotter team right now, and the prospect of grabbing that No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round should be enough of a carrot to give the Blazers enough basketball betting value in this matchup.
NBA Pick: Take the Trail Blazers –2.5 (–111) at SBOBET