Today's Top Picks: Back the Thunder and these two MLB plays Friday, plus how I would improve the NBA playoffs
Also, watch SportsLine on CBS Sports HQ live at 6 p.m. ET for all today's best bets
Are you in the mood for a dumb idea? Because I think I have a dumb idea, but it's the best kind of dumb idea: one that could be incredibly entertaining. Earlier this week on Twitter I saw a tweet from The Action Network's Matt Moore stating that if a team jumps out to a 3-0 lead in an NBA playoff series, that should end the series. It makes some sense, as the odds of coming back from that deficit in the series are minuscule at best, so we may as well end the series and reward that team with some extra rest.
Then on Friday's episode of Pardon My Take, it was proposed that if any team wins a playoff game by 35 points or more, that should end the series. That idea is dumber than mine, though I appreciate it because it helped serve as inspiration.
People often joke about the length of the NBA playoffs. I know I have, but the reality is nobody is complaining about the playoffs in the later rounds when the best teams in the league are playing exciting, competitive basketball. The problem is the first round, which was made a best-of-seven series in 2003 after years of having it be a best-of-five series. This leads to a lot of matchups between great teams and average teams in which the great team wins far more often than not, and often includes a bunch of blowouts.
So here's my proposal, and I hope you're reading this Adam Silver.
In the NBA playoffs, shrink the first round from a best-of-seven to a best-of-three with the higher seed getting all three games at home. They earned it. The second round can continue to be best-of-seven, but the conference finals and NBA Finals are extended to best-of-nine. As things are currently constructed, the most playoff games a team would have to play to win a title would be 28 (four rounds of seven) with 16 wins (four rounds of four). In my proposal, the most games a team would have to play in the postseason would be 28, and the champion would have to win -- wait for it -- 16 games.
In other words, the playoffs last just as long and feature just as many games, but there are a lot more of the games fans want to see than the boring first-round matchups. Think about it, NBA, and if you decide to use the idea, we can negotiate my fee.
Speaking of the NBA, that's where my three picks for tonight start. All odds via Westgate.
1. Portland Trail Blazers at Oklahoma City Thunder: Thunder -7.5
Portland leads this series 2-0 after winning the first two games in Portland, including a 20-point win in Game 2. Well, the series is in Oklahoma City now, and I think it will look a bit different on Friday night than it has in the first two games. First of all, while it's not a must win, it is pretty much a must win for the Thunder. If you go down 3-0 with two games left in Portland, you're in a lot of trouble, so we should expect the Thunder to put their best foot forward Friday night.
As for how things have worked between these two, the home team has had the better side. The home team has been favored in each of the last five meetings, and it's gone 4-1 ATS in those five meetings. On the season Portland is 26-16-1 ATS at home and 34-19-1 ATS as a favorite, but it's only 21-20 ATS on the road, and 13-17 ATS as an underdog. As an underdog on the road, the Blazers are 9-15 ATS. Furthermore, the Thunder have played Portland at home twice this season, and they won both games by nine points.
The SportsLine Projection Model has simulated this matchup 10,000 times and likes one side of the spread to cover 55 percent of the time, but the stronger pick is on the total, with the computer's selection cashing in 65 percent of simulations. See those plays only at SportsLine.
2. Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays: Rays -118
I don't think the Red Sox are as bad as their 6-13 record suggests, nor do I believe Tampa is as good as its 14-5 record suggests. But I do think Tampa's a better baseball team than Boston right now, as it's smoking the ball on offense and limiting hard contact with its pitching staff. Tonight, a Tampa offense that's hitting the ball harder than any other team in baseball will face a starter in Eduardo Rodriguez who is prone to giving up fly balls. Fly balls that are hit hard tend to travel pretty far! Combine that with a Boston bullpen that currently has a 5.15 ERA, and I like the Rays at this price. If the Red Sox were the same team but named the Orioles, the Rays would be at least -150 in this spot.
SportsLine expert Michael Rusk is on a heater with his MLB picks, going 16-7 on his last 23 plays. And now he's locked in three best bets for the Friday slate. Find out which sides you should follow over at SportsLine.
3. San Francisco Giants at Pittsburgh Pirates: Under 7.5
A lot is working in our favor here. First and foremost, the weather is kind of iffy tonight, with rain in the forecast, but more important than the rain is the wind. It will be blowing, and it will be blowing in from center, which should help keep fly balls in an already spacious park in the field of play. Also helping matters, Madison Bumgarner is starting for the Giants. He's a lefty. As a team, the Pirates have a wOBA of .245 against lefties. Only the Angels have been worse at .241. Also, Pirates starter Jordan Lyles has done well against Giants hitters, limiting them to a wOBA of .324 in 126 plate appearances.
In the mood for some DFS winners? Mike McClure is building his tournament lineups for Friday's slate with Carlos Correa at shortstop, and you'll want to see who else he loves over at SportsLine before locking in your plays.
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