Three games, a couple of which are already fairly do or die for their team’s trajectories. Can LeBron recover? Can Utah slow down the Thunder enough to steal a win? Is Minnesota going to get steamrolled by Houston by James Harden’s strength of will while Chris Paul almost throws games away? There are big questions on tonight’s slate.
We’re going to try to answer some of those questions in this column…as well as our Awesemo.com contest on Playline. If you sign up now using the referral code “Awesemo”, you’ll get a free $5 as well as a deposit bonus and can join our contest for the day where you predict the stat lines for LeBron, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden tonight. If you somehow nail it perfectly, you can win a million dollars (and if you just beat everyone and use our referral code, you can win a signed Chris Paul jersey). We’ll be doing more contests with them here so go check it out.
Indiana Pacers (102 implied points, -1.9 on their last 10 games) at Cleveland Cavaliers (110 implied points, +3.6 on their last 10 games)
The Pacers stole Game 1 from the Cavaliers and one would assume LeBron and co will be seeking some revenge after driving LeBron to his only first round loss since 2012. The Pacers should still be productive tonight with a few guys leading the charge. Thad Young focused all his energy on the defensive end last time out, dropping his usage to one of his lowest rates of the season. That opened more opportunity for Victor Oladipo, who carried the team last time out and has played phenomenally down the stretch. He should be a good play tonight. As should Bojan Bogdanovic, who shot 5-for-17 last time out and hit value despite the horrendous percentage. Myles Turner is a little less intriguing to me but looks like another fine play who should get in the neighborhood of 5x again. There’s nothing else on this side I’m terribly into, though I could see wanting to play Darren Collison given his depressed price. The Cavs have defended point guards better down the stretch but he’s cheap enough to have value. Lance Stephenson could be an interesting flyer despite his lack of minutes. He posted a 40% usage rate in his 17 minutes of action, putting up 11 shots in that time frame. Given his ability to accumulate boards and assists, he could be an interesting flyer.
The Cavaliers are going to go as LeBron goes tonight. If he doesn’t carry them to victory tonight, they may actually end up losing this series and forcing him out of town in free agency. I think LeBron will bring it tonight, as should Kevin Love after being challenged by coach Ty Lue:
Lue on Kevin Love: He's got to demand the ball in the post. He said he has to be more aggressive. pic.twitter.com/TiuH3AwHgL
— Ashley Bastock (@AshleyBastock42) April 16, 2018
They need him to pick some of the offensive burden off LeBron and if he shoots as well as he rebounded last time out with 17 boards, he can be a big play tonight. Larry Nance is the only other play I’d personally consider here. He got 29 minutes last time out and while he wasn’t crazy effective, he can rack up a lot of boards and steals if things break his way.
Utah Jazz (101.5 implied points, -8.3 on their last 10 games) at Oklahoma City Thunder (106 implied points, -6.6 on their last 10 games)
Ricky Rubio immediately jumps off the page here. He’s one of few A values on Awesemo’s rankings for the day and has a ton of upside at his price given his run of minutes and usage. Donovan Mitchell’s price is a little high but he’s shown what he can do in the playoffs despite being a rookie. He looks good tonight despite the somewhat iffy team total. Joe Ingles had some issues with the Thunder’s athletic wings, particularly Paul George, last time out and at this current price I don’t love the risk profile there given that Paul George seems to relish owning his ass:
Paul George nails another one, and WHO can read lips? What does he say to Ingles on way back to bench?? pic.twitter.com/d83rSnvSpr
— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) April 15, 2018
Rudy Gobert received an A value in Awesemo’s rankings for the day and he has some good upside at his price despite the tough matchup with Steven Adams. Derrick Favors is at an appealing price although I’d probably rather get Jae Crowder for a little cheaper given how they needed his defense last game.
Paul George and Carmelo Anthony both played well last time out as the Jazz were unusually porous on defense. George has a lot of athleticism on Joe Ingles and will be a tough matchup for him and Jae Crowder all series. Carmelo is more of a “minutes vs price” play for me. He’s too cheap for the amount of shots he takes and the 37 minutes he played last time out. Russell Westbrook is going to do Russ things but with the lowish team totals, I’m not feeling like this game is going to be the high pace type of matchup Russ plays best in. I’d likely rather have LeBron tonight although the $700 savings with Westbrook is appealing.
Minnesota Timberwolves (102.25 implied points, -3 on their last 10 games) at Houston Rockets (112.25 implied points, +9 on their last 10 games)
Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns were not at their best in their first game versus Minnesota. I worry that Butler is a little too banged up to be effective right now but it seems like he’s still going to get a ton of minutes despite his recent knee issues. Towns seems like a better shot to rebound after being called out by Tom Thibodeau for needing to be more active. Towns and Jeff Teague are likely keys for the Wolves to pick up the win and Teague in particular has played well in matchups versus Houston all year and highly effective last time out despite picking up three fouls in the first quarter. Towns likely will siphon some usage off of Andrew Wiggins or Derrick Rose after those two put up more shot attempts than one would expect last time out. Jamal Crawford is tempting getting 26 minutes with Butler ailing a bit last time out. The low team total isn’t super encouraging but there are a fair amount of places to look.
Houston meanwhile was paced by James Harden last time out in one of his most efficient performances of the year. I like him tonight but I like Chris Paul more. He had a couple of seriously boneheaded plays that harkened back to old Chris Paul playoff runs:
I think Paul responds to some of the criticism with a good game today and he’s priced to have upside. Clint Capela got 34 minutes last time out and given his penchant for putting up boards and put backs, that much time on the court is like gold for him. I have no issue with his shot at production despite the elevated price.
Thanks for reading, follow me on Twitter @ChrisSpags and make sure to join Josh Engleman and me for our live before lock show tonight at 6PM Eastern on the Awesemo Youtube where we’ll be talking NBA and MLB action and I’ll see you guys tomorrow for more NBA playoff action.