March Madness is approaching and the 64 team tournament is consistently the most heart pounding and exhilarating collection of games in all athletics. Who will win it all? A perennial favorite that won't be denied or will one team catch lightning in a bottle and make history?
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Sunday NBA Playoff Over Unders
By Dan Favale
Indiana Pacers (+3.5) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (-3.5)
Close-out games are always the hardest, as the Cleveland Cavaliers will attest, and the Indiana Pacers did post a top-10 defensive rating at home during the regular season. But, really?
Not a single one of the first three games between these two teams saw them combine for less than 217 points. And they've twice combined for more than 225. Should we actually expect that to stop?
There's always the possibility the Cavaliers jump out to an early lead and kill the Pacers' morale, sending their offense into a tailspin that, in turn, favors the under. But all of these games have been close, and the Cavaliers' defense is good for letting up 100-plus points even on its best nights.
We're picking the over here, and we're not sorry about it.
The Pick: Over 212.5
Though the average score of the three games in this series checks in at 219.3, this line actually makes sense. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets have totaled at least 226 points through each of their last two outings, which they've split, suggesting that this will be the norm for the rest of the best-of-seven set.
And there's evidence to suggest it will be.
For one, the Rockets are involved. They launch a ton of threes and sprint up and down the floor, which in turn forces their opponent to shoot a good amount of threes and get up and down the floor.
The Thunder have also found ways to clear the 110-point plateau without ever knowing where their second-most productive offensive outing is coming from. Will it be Andre Roberson, Taj Gibson, Victor Oladipo or someone else who partners with Russell Westbrook? They just don't know.
While there's a chance the defenses play a bigger role in this Game 4 matchup, it's unlikely. The Thunder would have to be the ones to dictate those terms, and that won't happen unless they're blowing out the Rockets or figure out how to defend James Harden high pick-and-rolls—neither of which feels especially plausible.
The Pick: Over 224
Two consecutive blowouts from either team have really butchered the over/under numbers here.
The Chicago Bulls won Game 2, 111-97, which just barely hit the over. Then, in Game 3, the Celtics annihilated the Bulls 104-87, completely removing the over from play. What are we to do now?
Roll with the under.
Rajon Rondo's absence hurts the Bulls' offense. They can use Jimmy Butler at point guard and sub in Paul Zipser for Jerian Grant in the starting lineup, but that still won't be a potent enough adjustment. The Bulls are easier to defend with Rondo off the floor, because you know where more of their offense is coming from.
Even if Game 4 is closer than Game 3, we should expect it to miss the 200-point benchmark.
The Pick: Under 204.5
This over/under line should be higher.
Sure, the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers are, on average, combining for under 200 points during this series. But their 199.7 mean is still higher than this 198 touchstone, and more importantly, the complexion of this matchup has suddenly taken a turn toward offense.
Rudy Gobert is still nursing a sprained knee, and now, the Clippers have announced Blake Griffin is done for the postseason with a toe injury. Both teams figure to run out smaller lineups now, as they did for much of Game 3, and those are conducive to higher-scoring totals, as we also saw in Game 3.
Unless it's announced that Gobert is returning to action, bet on both the Jazz and Clippers topping the century scoring mark once again.
The Pick: Over 198
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