The first game in both of these series provided a bit of a surprise. The Bulls won in Cleveland, while the Clippers stole a game from the Rockets… in Houston… without Chris Paul. Will the home teams come alive on Wednesday? Analysis with picks below.
Chicago Bulls (+6) at Cleveland Cavaliers
The absence of Kevin Love was felt in Game 1 with Tristan Thompson having to play 37 minutes, while only producing four points. Without Love’s ability to stretch the defense, the Cavs need help from elsewhere. Mike Miller started and played 16 minutes en route to one made three-pointer while totaling the worst plus/minus in the game (minus-20). Iman Shumpert dropped 20 points and LeBron James almost had a triple-double, but it still wasn’t enough.
The Cavs need to win Game 2 and with their backs against the wall, LeBron will lead the charge. With how the first game ended, all of the numbers point to the Bulls winning this series now. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Expect a better overall performance from Cleveland on Wednesday, even without J.R. Smith.
The Pick: Cavaliers -6
Los Angeles Clippers (+6.5) at Houston Rockets
Not a lot can be said about Game 1 for the Rockets as the win was there for the taking. James Harden finished with nine turnovers and it was clear what LA’s strategy was against him since he isn’t a point guard. But that’s what Houston has to deal with because they don’t have a point guard. The Rockets are in an even bigger hole than the Cavs because they don’t have LeBron and they just lost to a team without one of the Top 10 players in the NBA.
Blake Griffin was absolutely dominant in the first contest (26/14/13) and there’s no doubt the Rockets will switch something up to make it more difficult for him. However, Houston lacks a reliant power forward. With the Rockets playing for their lives, I have to go with the home team again. Harden and Dwight Howard have to play better or they are done because no one else on this team will change that.
Doc Rivers has said that he won’t rest Chris Paul if he’s ready, but why risk his hamstring right now? It’d be a surprise if CP3 suits up for Game 2 and it’s hard to see LA’s point guard by committee working so well again.
The Pick: Rockets -6.5