Published on Tuesday, 4/26/16, at 10:50 a.m. Eastern.
–I went 2-0 last night with both ‘unders.’ I ended up adding Portland personally at the last minute so it was a good night after Sunday’s excruciating loss on the Hawks in Game 4 at Boston. Here’s what I have for tonight.
–With Steph Curry sidelined for at least two weeks with a knee sprain, the door for Chris Paul and the Clippers to get to the NBA Finals looked beautiful going into last night’s Game 4 at Portland. But then Paul sustained a broken bone in his hand in the third quarter of last night’s loss to the Trail Blazers. It was his right (shooting) hand, too, so he’s likely out for the rest of the playoffs. With a broken bone in your hand, you can’t even catch the ball, much less dribble or shoot with any sort of effectiveness (nevermind the pain). What a crushing blow for the Clippers! Making matters worse, Blake Griffin is ‘questionable’ for Game 5 with a quad injury. What an amazing turn of events for the Trail Blazers, who evened the series at 2-2 last night and go into Staples Center for Game 5 brimming with confidence.
–The Clippers’ odds to win the NBA title were adjusted from 18/1 to 60/1 at The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas this morning.
–The updated NBA futures at The Westgate now look like this:
Trail Blazers 100/1
–Most feel like Cleveland will cruise over the Atlanta/Boston winner in the Eastern Conference semifinals and, barring an injury to LeBron James, they are wise to think that way. But let’s forget about that for a moment and focus on tonight. I cannot put into words what a travesty it would be for Atlanta fans if the Hawks don’t advance past the Celtics in this series. The Braves suck these days. With a new stadium set for next year, the organization has turned into the former Florida Marlins of the 1990s the last 2-3 seasons, selling off their best players to invest in the future when the new stadium opens up north of downtown in Marietta. Such strategies really suck for cities and fan bases. Frankly, I could care less about baseball these days, so it doesn’t impact me at all. But I grew up an Atlanta fan across the board — Hawks, Falcons and Braves. I lived in the ATL for a decade. I’ve been to games at the old Omni, the old ‘Launching Pad’ (Fulton Co. Stadium), etc., etc. etc. I had season tickets during Michael Vick’s best years. I was at the Ga. Dome three years ago when the Falcons raced out to a 17-0 lead over San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game, only to eventually lose a heartbreaker. The Braves have delivered the only title in the city’s history with its World Series victory in 1995. The Falcons have failed to make the playoffs the last two seasons despite having golden opportunities to get there in December, and Matt Ryan is coming off his worst career season but he’s not going anywhere due his contract situation. The Hawks advanced to the Eastern Conference finals last year for the first time since the organization moved from St. Louis in the late 1960s. The Hawks are the city’s best team these days, yet they might be losing the best thing to ever happen to the franchise (with the possible exception of Dominique Wilkins) if Al Horford leaves via unrestricted free agency this coming offseason. They have been tormented by the Celtics for decades. The second-best team the Hawks have ever had — one with a starting lineup of Wilkins, Doc Rivers, Randy Wittman, Kevin Willis and Wayne ‘Tree’ Rollins – beat the C’s in Boston Garden in Game 5 of the 1988 Eastern Conference semifinals to take a 3-2 series lead going back to The Omni. Trailing by one on the final possession, the ball went to Cliff Levingston, who was supposed to pass the ball to Wilkins. Instead, he penetrated and missed a left-handed hook shot in the lane. Boston rebounded, won and took the series back to Beantown for Game 7. Everyone that likes the NBA and was born in the mid-70’s or earlier knows the rest. The Celtics won Game 7 by a 118-116 count in one of the greatest games in NBA postseason history, with Dominique and Larry Bird putting on a scoring show for the ages in the fourth quarter. Twenty years later, the C’s beat the Hawks in another seven-game series. They sent Atlanta packing from the playoffs again three years ago. Like Peyton Manning and every current member of the Tennessee Volunteers football program is 0-for-LIFE against my Gators, I’m 0-for-LIFE against the Celtics. In other words, this shit is personal. I accept that the Cavs will most likely put it on the Hawks in the next round. I cannot accept defeat in this series. If the Hawks can’t get this done, it will be catastrophic for Atlanta fans.
-OKC eliminated Dallas with a 118-104 win in last night’s Game 5 that was closer than the final score indicated. The Mavericks, who were crippled by injuries, hung tough for four quarters and covered the number as 14.5-point underdogs. Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 24 points, was outstanding and clearly has at least 1-2 years of productive play left in him. He can become a free agent if he wants, but I just don’t see him blazing out on Mark Cuban and the franchise.
–The ‘under’ is 4-0 in the Toronto-Indiana series going into tonight’s Game 5.