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Tuesday NBA Playoff Betting Advice
By Dan Favale
The Houston Rockets have won this series more than the Oklahoma City Thunder have lost it. Let's make that much clear.
James Harden is reaching the paint with ease, something he's struggled to do during past postseasons, with the litany of shooters and drivers and screen-setters around him. Head coach Mike D'Antoni is cornering market inefficiencies in the rulebook; players are setting picks for Harden well above the three-point line, allowing him to draw more fouls on long-ball attempts, and in Game 4 specifically, he displaced Andre Roberson, a bad free-throw shooter, from the Thunder's lineup down the stretch by fouling him off the ball incessantly.
But Oklahoma City's performance without Russell Westbrook in the game stands out just as much. Look at Game 4 specifically. They were a plus-14 with him on the floor, and a minus-18 without him. That's a huge difference, and it's one head coach Billy Donovan must address.
There is no perfect answer. The Thunder are imperfectly built. They lack shooters and shot-creators. But Victor Oladipo should be given the chance to run the offense without Westbrook on the floor, not Norris Cole or Semaj Christon.
If Donovan makes that adjustment, the Thunder probably win. That's food for thought as we enter Game 5. The Thunder are going to lose this series, but they've hung close in almost every game despite failing to utilize the full benefit of their makeup.
The Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder (+7.5)
San Antonio Spurs (-9.5) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (+9.5)
Some people might be concerned about the San Antonio Spurs dropping two straight outings to the Memphis Grizzlies. Don't be one of them.
Indeed, Manu Ginobili has been unable to make a shot thus far. And Tony Parker, while a boon on offense, is hurting the Spurs' defense. They are too reliant upon Kawhi Leonard doing anything and everything, and it showed more than ever during their Game 4 overtime shot.
Still, the Spurs are going to improve in a lot of areas for Game 5, and not just because they're playing at home, or simply because they're the Spurs. No, they'll improve because they've missed a lot of easy shots.
Credit the Grizzlies' defense for its last two games' worth of work, but the Spurs are shooting 25 percent (6-of-24) on open threes through the past two tilts. In Game 4 specifically, they were a terrible 3-of-13 when left wide-open beyond the arc.
That basement-level efficiency isn't going to hold. Danny Green and Patty Mills have shown they can be more deadeye than not. So, too, has Ginobili.
And if the Spurs get back Dewayne Dedmon, their low-key defensive anchor, for Game 5, even better. They should get back to their decidedly winning ways.
The Pick: San Antonio Spurs (-9.5)
Four games into this series, and the Utah Jazz have already won once without Rudy Gobert and once without Gordon Hayward. Joe Johnson and Joe Ingles have stepped up big time, and Utah's bench consistently outpaces the Los Angeles Clippers' second unit. Their depth, in layman's term, has been overwhelmingly off the charts.
And yet, the Clippers held a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 4, before completely collapsing. Both teams are playing small, and you can argue that the Clippers' four-out combinations are more dangerous than the Jazz's ooptions on that front.
Plus, when you play small, the pace of play tends to elevate. The Jazz kept the deficit in check by being super efficient in the half-court, but if their offense bends even a little bit, they don't have the experience playing fast and free enough to keep up with the Clippers.
The Pick: Los Angeles Clippers (-3)
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