Indiana Pacers vs. Washington Wizards
The Pacers managed to avoid a thoroughly embarrassing first-round exit at the hands of the Hawks. After going down 3-2, Indiana won Game 6 in Atlanta and then had their best all-around performance in a Game 7 win at home.
There's no time for rest for the Pacers, as they kick off their Eastern Conference semi-final with the Wizards, who have been off since April 29th. The NBA betting lines have Indiana favored by four points.
Washington closed out their first-round series by topping Chicago in five games. They won all of their three road games in the Windy City, including the series-clinching victory (75-69) in Game 5.
It's been fun to watch this Wizards team mature and become a true contender in the East. Their backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal has been the catalyst for success, with the two averaging 38.6 points per game between them.
Washington's also getting great production out of Nene, Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat so far in the playoffs, with Trevor Booker, Martell Webster and Andre Miller soaking up most of the extra minutes off the bench.
For Game 1 here tonight, it's going to be tough not to take the points and back the Wizards. They've had plenty of rest and should be well-prepared for what the Wizards have the offer.
Not only did Washington rise to the occasion on the road in the first round, they also present matchup problems for Indiana. The Pacers had a lot of trouble containing Jeff Teague and now they have to contend with an even more dangerous backcourt. Washington has the momentum and we're siding with them.
NBA Pick: Wizards +4
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers
It took both of these teams the full seven games to get the job done, but they stayed mentally strong and were able to stamp out their place in the conference semis because of it.
The Thunder, who came in as the two seed in the Western Conference, looked down and out at 3-2 down. However, they won a big Game 6 in Memphis and then took advantage of a Grizzlies team playing without Zach Randolph in the deciding Game 7 at home. Oklahoma City, after a brief scare early on, recovered to win easily.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook got a lot of slack for their play early on in the series, but they really turned it up a notch over the final three games. In all, Durant averaged 29.9 PPG and 9.6 RPG and Westbrook was good for 25.6 PPG, 9.7 RPG and 8.0 APG. Can't fault those numbers too much.
As for the Clippers, they were pushed to their limits by Stephen Curry and the Warriors, but ultimately made more plays down the stretch of their Game 7 win at the Staples Center two nights ago.
Obviously Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have been leading the way, with Griffin averaging 23.3 PPG and 6.3 RPG and CP3 putting up 17.4 PPG, 9.0 APG and 4.7 RPG in the first round of the playoffs. DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes and Darren Collison have all made impacts as well.
When we look over the NBA odds for Game 1 of this Western Conference semi-final, we see the Thunder favored by 5.5 points. And who do we like to cover?
We look for Oklahoma City to start off the series right. They were able to iron out some kinks in the first round and we certainly don't expect the likes of Durant and Westbrook to struggle with their shots like they did against the pesky Grizzlies. Look for a cashed ticket for Thunder backers this evening.
NBA Pick: Thunder -5.5