Indulge me for a moment. Normally, I use this introductory space to talk about some futures bet I like or a trend I'm noticing, but right now, I just want to lament one of the weird days in the history of this picks column. I put three picks out for Tuesday's games: Over 231.5 in Brooklyn Nets vs. Boston Celtics, Portland Trail Blazers +1.5 over Denver Nuggets and LeBron James over 26.5 points against the Phoenix Suns. I ended up going 1-2 on the day. Not the end of the world, but not what I was hoping for with a 22-10 record through the first 10 days of the postseason. What really got me, though, were the steps that took me to that 1-2 finish.
- Nets-Celtics finished exactly half of a point above the 231.5 line at 232 total points. Great! I'd even marked that game as a loss when I saw that the two sides combined for only 110 points in the first half. I won this pick on some very unnecessary Tristan Thompson free throws. Teams don't always play to the final buzzer when the margin is double digits. I owe the Nets and Celtics a thank you for doing so. It saved me from a winless night.
- Speaking of playing longer than expected, LeBron stayed on the floor through the end of the third quarter despite his Los Angeles Lakers trailing by well over 30 points at times. He generated almost nothing in the paint, so when he went into the half with only seven points, I wrote this one off as a loss as well. And then James made five third-quarter 3-pointers to get up to 24 points in a meaningless game. Hope! With under a minute remaining, James went up for what should have been his seventh made 3-pointer and a successful pick. It swished. But Andre Drummond committed an offensive foul. Shot wiped off the board. James left the game, never to return. My miracle was lost.
- I can't do Nuggets-Blazers justice in a single paragraph. All I will say is, when a game goes to double overtime and you have the underdog, you usually feel pretty good about your chances. A better bounce on a few free throws could've swung this game to Portland, or at least the pick. Robert Covington missed multiple dunks. Damian Lillard's masterpiece was wasted. Rarely will an underdog you bet on score 55 points without winning you your bet. Lillard was the exception on Tuesday.
I know, I know, nobody cares about my sob stories. I just can't believe 100 percent of my picks on a single night warranted a paragraph of explanation. I could've gone 3-0 or 0-3 easily. That's how thin the margins are, so let's get back on track with Wednesday's best bets.
All lines via William Hill Sportsbook
Daniel Gafford was one of the NBA's per-minute kings of the second half of the season. The problem with playing him in this series, though, has been the presence of Joel Embiid, who is simply too big for the 235-pound Gafford. Alex Len and Robin Lopez are significantly bulkier, so they've matched up with Embiid more in the series. But Embiid got hurt in Game 4, and not coincidentally, Gafford played a series-high 26 minutes. Embiid is out for Game 5, so expect Gafford to feast in the paint and on the boards if the 76ers' big man is inactive. The pick: Daniel Gafford total points, rebounds and assists over 18.5
The Knicks were a regular-season team. There's nothing wrong with that, relative to where they are on their timeline. Nobody expected them to even pose a regular-season threat. But in this postseason setting, they simply lack the roster talent to prevent Atlanta's defense from packing the paint to shut down Julius Randle, or to hunt Trae Young in pick-and-roll on defense. All of the things that a normal playoff team would be able to do to counteract the Hawks just aren't available to a Knicks team that has relied extremely heavily on three players for all of its offense this season and effort to power its defense. The Hawks should finish this one off on Wednesday. The pick: Hawks +1.5
The lowest point total in this series was 221. I repeat, the lowest point total in this series was 221. The next three were 270, 232 and 233. Neither side is shooting particularly well, at least in relative terms. The Jazz have been roughly two percentage points better than their season average from behind the arc while the Grizzlies have been roughly four points worse. This is just a fast-paced, all-offense series. The Jazz can get a good look from long range whenever they want. The Grizzlies will never stop making floaters. Don't overthink this. Trust the offense. The pick: Over 226
Forget about what the Clippers have unlocked with their small-ball lineup. Forget about Dallas' hot shooting in the first three games. Forget about home-court advantage. Just ask yourself this: If Luka Doncic is still hurt and plays the way he did in Game 4, who is generating offense for Dallas? The correct answer, based on what we've seen in this series, is probably nobody, at least not on the level that Kawhi Leonard has been playing. The Mavericks had a real shot at this thing when Doncic was healthy, but in the state that he's in now, it just seems unrealistic to expect them to compete with a Clippers team that is clicking like this. The pick: Clippers -7.5