Sunday, April 20, 2014

April 20, 2014

ATP Monte-Carlo Masters - Finals: Who will WIN the championship?

#3 Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) vs #4 Roger Federer (SUI)

Here we have an all-Swiss finals match to finish the ATP Monte-Carlo Masters tournament, #3 Stanislas Wawrinka being the favorite over #4 Roger Federer in this one. Wawrinka has evidently had the cleaner tournament, conceding zero sets in three rounds he has played leading up to the championship, most notably blanking David Ferrer in the semifinals. He's easily has tougher opposition consisting of talent that matches the quality of #27 Marin Cilic, #10 Milos Raonic, and ultimately #6 David Ferrer. Executing wins over all these elite tennis players, Stanislas Wawrinka has played two tiebreakers and it's a really good sign that he's been able to win them all under immense pressure. In his last victory over his most talented opponent, David Ferrer, the Swiss managed to hit 31 winners in just two sets, destroying the Spaniard in the aspect. Looking at how Wawrinka will match up with Roger Federer in this one, the #3 seed has lost his last four on the clay. Shockingly, Stanislas Wawrinka's last win over Federer came in his last Monte-Carlo clash, in which he conceded zero sets. But as of late, Federer has seen his game decline, reaching this prestigious match only after less potent opponents.

Looking at Roger Federer's opponents in this tournament, he's actually faced seemingly difficult opposition including Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but in my opinion these opponents don't match the level of Stanislas Wawrinka. What I mean is that Novak Djokovic, who looks like an intimidating opponent, was likely struggling against Federer due to a wrist injury that he was enduring throughout some of his recent matches. In his quarterfinals match vs Tsonga, the Frenchman also provided us with a tight match till Federer managed to pull away in three sets, and none of the #6 seed's early opponents rank above the Top 40. Looking at Roger Federer's game, it's really been facing a downturn in comparison to the start of his playing career. I feel like a younger Stanislas Wawrinka that has overcome far tougher opponents should be able to win his first title at Monte Carlo with a win over a fellow Swiss player.

Key Facts: 

- Wawrinka has defeated #4 Ferrer, #10 Raonic in straight sets to reach the finals
- Wawrinka recorded 31 winners in his 2-0 win over Ferrer, a successful player on the clay
- Wawrinka won his last Monte-Carlo meeting with Roger Federer in straight sets
- In Federer's last win over Djokovic, the Serb was playing with a wrist injury

Pick: Stanislas Wawrinka (Cold) 

English Premier League: What will be the match result?

Manchester United: Win or Draw @ Everton: Win

This match be an interesting one between two good Premier League squads. Everton is the 5th best club in the league out of 20 total teams while Manchester United is 7th. Manchester United is having a pretty disappointing season compared to how they've played in the recent seasons. The Red Devils won't be seeing one of their top strikers, Robin van Persie, for yet another match with a knee injury that he suffered a while ago. Rafael, who has also been a productive defenceman, also remains sidelined with a thigh strain. On the good side, the Red Devils are going to be seeing Juan Mata make a return. As is Wayne Rooney off a toe injury. Manchester United, with all these injuries, is really in need to qualify for even the Europa League. This is a situation the club hasn't been in for several seasons and they are renowned for finishing strong. Surprisingly, the fact that the Red Devils will not be playing at home gives them a tremendous advantage, as they've led the EPL in wins and points away from Old Trafford. Manchester United has also kept five straight clean sheets in Premier League clashes, most recently defeating decent squads such as Newcastle United and West Ham.

Everton has also been outstanding as of late, but they've most recently been stunned by #11 Crystal Palace, a match that was 1-3 at one point in Palace's favor. Otherwise, the Toffees have been hard to topple in front of their home crowd, winning nine straight matches at Goodison Park before the loss. Midfielder James McCarthy is returning to the club's starting lineup as well after being marked as a substitute in Everton's recent loss to Crystal Palace. Two other midfielders also remain sidelined.

Despite Manchester United's away success this season, I feel like the atmosphere at Goodison Park will be too much with the Toffees looking for a Champions League appearance and a banged-up Red Devils squad will pick up yet another loss. Everton is easily the far more potent club in comparison to the squads that United's defense managed to shut down, and I should expect a low-scoring one in Everton's favor.

Key Facts: 

- Manchester United has been missing Robin van Persie to a long-term knee injury
- United's Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata are banged-up, coming off injuries themselves
- Everton has won nine of their last ten matches at Goodison Park, 4th best home team
- Everton is seeing midfielder James McCarthy back in their starting lineup, did not start vs Palace
- Lower confidence, because United has been the EPL's best away team 

Pick: Everton: Win (Freezing/Cold)

NBA Western Conference Playoffs - 1st Rd (Game 1): What will be the GAME RESULT?

Mavericks: Win or Single Digit Loss @ Spurs: Win By Double Digits

Another NBA playoffs prop, this one between two Southwest Division foes. First I'll have to point out that the San Antonio Spurs are probably the NBA's greatest team looking at how they've managed to incorporate a 19-game winning streak into an exceptional 62-20 regular season record... executing all these wins when they're placed in a superb Western Conference. At home, they've been tremendous, dropping just 9 of 41 at the AT&T Center leading up to the playoffs. Taking the fact that the Spurs will need to carry out a double-digit victory to win this prop into consideration, they've already beaten the Mavericks by an average of 13.3 points this season. In their only home meeting with Dallas, the Spurs embarrassed the Mavericks with an immense 22-point victory. Looking at San Antonio's recent losing trend, I'm quite sure that they've been resting some of their stars like Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, to only name some. San Antonio's offense has really been the team's x-factor, featuring Danny Green, who has been delivering at an unbelievable rate from beyond the arc. He has shot 12-for-20 on threes against the Mavs in their three regular season meetings. The team's offense is also built around Tony Parker, who has dismantled his probable assignment, Jose Calderon, this season. In their meetings leading up to the postseason, Parker has shot 10-for-18 off the Spaniard.

Dallas hardly survived the regular season in a clash with the Memphis Grizzlies that unfortunately sent them to the dreaded #8 spot in the West. The Mavericks ranked second-to-last place in the Southwest Division, only ahead of the Pelicans as the regular season came to a close. This team's offense is led by Dirk Nowitzki, who should have a tough time at the power forward position in this one. The German will likely be defended by Kawhi Leonard, a young player who has been menacing on defense. Leonard certainly poses much more of a threat than the Tiago Splitters and Boris Diaws that were sent to defend him in recent meetings.

This regular season has really been up-and-down for the San Antonio Spurs, but when they put full effort into a game, they're nothing short of unstoppable. In front of their home crowd and with their stars, who have gotten a great deal of rest, they should be fully capable of grabbing a big win to start of their postseason. 

Pick: San Antonio Spurs W/DD (Warm) 

Spanish Primera Division: What will be the match result?

Athletic Bilbao: Win, Draw or Lose By 1 @ Barcelona: Wins By 2+ Goals

This match will be Barcelona's first after a Copa del Rey heartbreaker, in which Barca collapsed against a Ronaldo-less Real Madrid squad. Barcelona currently stands at 3rd in the Spanish Primera Division, an unlikely position for a club that has dominated the league in past. Although there remains a distance in between the 3rd and 4th spot, where Athletic Bilbao currently stands, this match could have a major impact on the league's standings. Barcelona is currently going through a disappointing season, allowing an unlikely Atletico Madrid squad claim the first-place spot in the Spanish Primera Division, scoring 0 goals in a meeting that led to their elimination in Champions League contention. They're enduring a number of injuries, possibly leading to their Copa del Rey fall, such as that of Neymar and Jordi Alba. Despite the woes they've been through as of late, Barcelona has still managed to win/draw eight straight home matches. They've won by 2+ goals in three of their last five at Camp Nou, but I feel like they haven't matched up against any competent opposition in a while. These three wins came against lesser squads like #20 Real Betis, #11 Celta Vigo, and #15 Osasuna. In their only recent meeting with an adequate club, in this case it being Atletico Madrid, the match resulted in a draw. Barcelona, away from home, has been unnatural, recently falling to Granada CF.

Looking at Athletic Bilbao, they've come off a losing trend, winning/drawing 7 straight away matches. They've kept three clean sheets during the run, owning their opponents with one of the better defenses in the Spanish Primera Division. But the Lions, like Barcelona, haven't matched up with any competent opponents during the run, the highest ranked club being #7 Villareal. Bilbao hasn't seen Ibai Gomez, their second-leading scorer, Kike Sola, Carlos Gurpegi, or Mikel Rico for some time, a serious hit to the team's success overall. In their last meeting with Barcelona, the Lions managed to pull off a win, but I doubt they can repeat with a banged up squad. Barcelona should be able to get the win here, but 2+ is still quite unlikely.

Key Facts:

- Barcelona hasn't lost in eight straight home matches, opposition was very weak
- Athletic Bilbao is missing Ibai Gomez, Kike Sola, Carlos Gurpegi, and Mikel Rico
- Athletic Bilbao hasn't lost in seven straight away matches, but their opposition was quite weak
- Barcelona is missing striker Neymar and Jordi Alba, big for their scoring 

Pick: Athletic Bilbao W/D/L1 (Cold)

NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs - 1st Rd (Game 1): What will be the GAME RESULT?

Bobcats: Win or Single Digit Loss @ Heat: Win By Double Digits

 Here we have an Southeast Division clash— the Miami Heat being the distinct favorites to win the series. The Heat have been facing late-season struggles, a trend that has allowed opponents to penetrate their home court advantage, as 3 of their 9 losses at the American Airlines Arena have come in Miami's last five games in front of their home crowd. Miami is the double-digit favorite to win this one at home, as they own one of the top offenses in the NBA, led by LeBron James and the Big 3. They will be confronting a challenging task of containing the Charlotte Bobcat's center, Al Jefferson, a job that will likely be taken by Udonis Haslem. Also, the match-up between Kemba Walker, one of the Bobcats' top scorers, and Mario Chalmers should become quite interesting. But the major headline for the Miami Heat in the postseason is that they will finally see Dwyane Wade on the court, an injury that likely led to their recent decline. Wade will easily strengthen a poor Heat backcourt and will also solidify the team's offensive production. 

Charlotte, on the other hand, is built around a solid defense that has allowed the 4th lowest scoring average. They're team is basically built around big man Al Jefferson, who they acquired from the Utah Jazz before the regular season began. Jefferson will likely become an issue for a Miami Heat team that hasn't been known to be dangerous in the paint. Adding on to my previous statement, the center will see time with Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen, and possibly Greg Oden. I like this front court match-up in favor for the Bobcats, but I'm doubting that their backcourt will be able to get anything done with Dwyane Wade back in the Heat lineup. 

These two teams have met four times in the regular season, with Miami winning all of their confrontations. The Heat have won by an average margin of 9.0 points at home, with LeBron James embarrassing his assignments Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Tolliver and scoring 61 points in their last meeting. I like the Heat to get another big win here at home in what should be an electric atmosphere, as there's no doubt they'll put full effort into their postseason opener.

Key Facts:

- Miami is 15-0 vs Charlotte with LeBron James
- Miami owns one of the better offenses and a solid defense
- Miami is seeing Dwyane Wade make a much-needed return, minutes won't be restricted

Pick: Heat W/DD (Cool)

NBA Playoffs (Wizards @ Bulls): How many 3-POINTERS will be MADE in the 2nd Quarter?

3 or Fewer vs 4 or More

First off, here are some important statistics that are relevant to this rather unpredictable NBA prop:

2nd Quarter Statistics

Chicago Bulls (Overall): 23.4 points per 2Q... ranks 27th in NBA
Chicago Bulls (Home):  24.0 points per 2Q... ranks 28th in NBA

Washington Wizards (Overall): 24.3 points per 2Q... ranks 22nd in NBA
Washington Wizards (Road): 24.4 points per 2Q... ranks 21st in NBA

- At home, 18.7% of Chicago's points come from three-pointers... ranks 25th in NBA
- On the road, 25.9% of Washington's points come from three-pointers... ranks 9th in NBA

Chicago has allowed the lowest scoring average among all NBA teams and they're a team that is really strong in the paint. Jimmy Butler is exceptional on perimeter defense, known for repeatedly shutting down LeBron James in his meetings. Also, Joakim Noah provides the team with consistency in the paint, lessening the Bulls' need for long-range shots. 

On the other hand, Washington has been quite decent from beyond the arc, but they too own the 9th best scoring defense in the league. John Wall and Bradley Beal should pose particular threat to the unders, but I feel like they'll have a tough time against Chicago's highly developed perimeter defense at home.

Pick: 3 or Fewer (Freezing)

NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs - 1st Rd (Game 1): Which side will record a HIGHER TOTAL?

Trail Blazers: Players with Made Field Goal @ Rockets: Winning Margin or Tie

Sorry I don't have time to do a detailed write-up. The Blazers average 8 players with a made field goal per game. The Rockets are only favored by 5 points coming into this game. I think the Blazers are a solid team that really ended the season well, including wins over the Clippers, Warriors, Grizzlies and Bulls, and I think the Blazers have a good chance to straight up win this game. However, this could go either way because the Rockets are pretty good at home, while the Blazers aren't.

Pick: Trail Blazers P w/MFG (Freezing/Cold)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April 19, 2014

Sorry for not posting many picks for the last few days, I'll be posting picks at a regular rate for many days to come. Be sure to check out Charlie's MLB Picks and Nate's SFTC Picks as usual!

ATP Monte-Carlo Masters - Semifinals (#2 Novak Djokovic vs. #4 Roger Federer): What will be the match result?

Novak Djokovic (SRB): Wins 2-0 vs. Any Other Result

Here is an interesting semifinal between two superb players. Djokovic cruised past his first two opponents in the ATP Monte-Carlo by winning 6-0, 6-1 in both matches against an okay Pablo Carreno-Busta (#67), and Albert Montanes (#57). However, Djokovic's quarterfinal match was not very good, as he dropped the first set against a mediocre Guillimero Garcia-Lopez (#38). This is a player who Djokovic should have beaten 2-0, but he wasn't looking very good. 

Looking at Federer, he is coming off a win over a talented Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (#12)... a match that could have easily went either way in three sets. Roger Federer has served extremely well on the clay court, a surface that regularly tests serve-based players, winning almost all first-serve points that have been played. The Swiss hasn't had much real competition besides Tsonga, who hasn't been nearly as successful has Djokovic overall.

This should be a particularly challenging early morning SFTC prop, looking at both these players' recent form, but I think a 2-0 win should be really hard for Djokovic, who didn't even beat #38 Garcia Lopez 2-0, to execute over a player like Roger Federer.

Pick: Any Other Result (Cold/Cool)

English Premier League: What will be the match result?

Stoke City: Win or Draw @ Cardiff City: Win

Here we have an English Premier League match featuring the second worst team in the EPL, Cardiff City, who has just been terrible this season against an okay Stoke City team, who is 10th out of 20 teams in the league. This is a pretty important match for Cardiff City, and not so much for Stoke City. Cardiff Cty is trying to get out of the relegation zone which they are currently in, so they can stay in the English Premier League. Cardiff City recently had a big win over Southhampton earlier this week. Southhampton is a good team, they are 8th in the league, better than Stoke City, and the match was on the road for Cardiff City, but they still won, 1-0. However, Southhampton actually outplayed Cardiff City that match, getting 8 shots on goal while Cardiff only got 4. Southhampton also got a lot more possesion time. Before that win, things weren't so good for Cardiff. They had some pretty bad losses including a 0-3 loss to an average Crystal Palace team, a 3-3 draw against a bad West Bronwich Albion team and a 3-6 loss @home against the league leaders, Liverpool. Cardiff City has the homefield advantage here, but Cardiff city,isn't that much better @home. they have only won 1 of their last 5 and the only win was against another terrible team in the relegation zone, Fulham.  

Stoke City, on the other hand, has been playing well lately, but they are bad on the road. Stoke City has won 4 of their last 5, and won or drawn 6 of their last 7, but it's a different case on the road. They have only won 1 of their last 16 matches on the road, and lost 10 of those. However, almost all of these teams were good, much better than Cardiff City. Stoke City recently lost 0-3 against a very good Chelsea team, but before that they actually beat Aston Villa (#14), 4-1, which was a great win. That was also on the road for Stoke City.

Although Cardiff City is trying to avoid relegation, I think that they are too bad of a team to beat a much better Stoke City team. Cardiff City is not in very good form, and I personally think they did not deserve to win against Southhampton. Stoke City on the other hand, is in decent form, winning 4 of their last 5. Also,the last time these two teams played, it was a 0-0 draw, on December 4th, 2013.  Again, I think this match will result in a draw even though Stoke has less to play for than Cardiff City, due to how bad Cardiff City is. This is a tough pick, so I'd recommend the tennis one instead

Key Facts:

-At home, Cardiff hasn't beaten a team that are NOT one of the worst 5 teams in the league in 17 matches. 
-Cardiff City has never beaten Stoke City since 2005, including a 0-0 draw 3 months ago.
-Stoke City has won or drawn 6 of their last 7, and recently beat Aston Villa, 4-1 on the road.
-Cardiff City only won 2 of their last 11 matches
-Lower confidence because Cardiff City has more to play for and Stoke City is bad on the road.

Pick: Stoke City W/D (Cold)

NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs - 1st Rd (Game 1): Who will WIN this matchup?

Brooklyn Nets (44-38) @ Toronto Raptors (48-34)

This game features the first NBA playoffs matchup, in which the Toronto Raptors face-off with the lesser Brooklyn Nets in front of their home crowd. Both teams have been placed in a weak Eastern Conference, thanks to its wide collection of inadequate basketball teams, some of which have even made the playoffs.

Looking at the favorites, the Toronto Raptors, they'll get a tremendous home-court advantage due to the fact that they won't have to start off this series in Brooklyn. That's because the Nets have been electric at home, winning 14 straight at the Barclays Center before they came on their recent slump, in which the team lost two of its last three on home court. This run included a 4-point win over the Raptors as well. But looking at Toronto, they have caught fire as of late, winning six of their last eight... their only two losses to New York. This effort has helped the team win the Atlantic Division, which in my opinion is possibly the worst out there. Despite this team's success this season, they don't even come close to the Brooklyn Nets in postseason experience, who currently have veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to only name some. This could also be a disadvantage for the Nets, though, whose depth is facing a decline as time goes on. The Raptors are a really young and balanced team, with a decent defense and a 100+ offense. Deron Williams, who has also played for the Jazz and the Nets for quite a while, should have a tough assignment with Kyle Lowry, one of the more menacing defenders in the league.

Brooklyn has been a tough task when they played at home after the All-Star break, most notably winning 14 straight home games as I mentioned before. The Nets have a slow offense but their front court provides them with a much-needed defensive quality. They're also in the Atlantic Division, finishing just 2nd in the regular season. This team, despite their menacing ways in front of their home crowd, should be particularly easy for Toronto to defeat at Air Canada Centre.

Key Facts:

- Toronto has won six of their last eight games overall
- Toronto's Kyle Lowry is capable of shutting down Nets' point guard Deron Williams, huge for their offense
- Brooklyn's roster is slowly wearing due to a roster made up of several veterans such as Paul Pierce
- Toronto has won five of their last six home games
- Brooklyn has lost five of their last seven away games

Pick: Toronto Raptors (Cool/Warm)

English Premier League (Sunderland @ Chelsea): What will be the match result?

Chelsea: Wins By 3+ Goals vs.  Any Other Result

Here we have a match featuring the 2nd best team in the league, Chelsea, against the worst team in the league, Sunderland, fighting off relegation. Chelsea hasn't been as good as they normally are, winning 4 of their last 5, and recently having a close win against a bad Swansea City team. In this match, I expect Chelsea to be resting a few of their key players, in preparation for a more important UEFA Champions League match against Atletico Madrid, which will take place in 3 days. Sunderand is a terrible team, but they recently pulled off a shocking draw against the 3rd best team in the league, Manchester City/ This was really surprising. Sunderland almost won that game, but Man City scored a late 88' goal to draw it. Compared to how they normally play, Sunderland's form has actually been much better lately, as they only lost by 1 against a very good Everton team, and almost beat a hot West Ham team. They also only lost to th league's leader, Liverpool by 1 goal. 

Sunderland has been keeping it pretty tight against good teams like this, so against a team like Chelsea, who will probably rest starters coming into this match, I don't think Sunderland will lose by 3. Also, after Chelsea gets a goal or two, they will probably make even more substitutions, and just play defense, in preparation for the UEFA Champions league match later on. I see Chelsea winning 2-0.

Key Facts:

-Sunderland recently had close games w/ very good teams, like a 2-2 draw against Man City, 3 days ago.
-Chelsea will almost certainly rest starters, and "park the bus" after scoring a goal or two.
-Lower confidence because Chelsea is superb @home

Pick: AOR-Sunderland (Cold)

MLB: Who will WIN this matchup?

Cincinnati Reds (7-9) Cingrani @ Chicago Cubs (4-11) Jackson
Cincinnati has won three straight games, an ideal way to get off a very slow start, and they'll be putting the streak at risk once more at Wrigley Field. The Reds won their first game at Chicago, starting Alfredo Simon, who has been lights-out this season. Now they'll be seeing Tony Cingrani on the mound, another elite starting pitcher that has allowed an earned-run average of just 2.60 for the season. Cingrani hasn't allowed much hits against the Chicago Cubs' lineup as well, the teams' batters hitting just .175 off the Reds starter. He's faced only a handful of Cubs batters in his pitching career, but he has really handled them well in my opinion. This season, Cingrani has been quite weak on the road, losing his only decision away from Great American Ball Park in the 2014 MLB season. But the road has strangely been his strong point career-wise, with the Reds pitcher allowing a batting average of just .183 away from home in his last three seasons.

Looking at how this Reds lineup has been doing this season, they're really coming off a terribly slump that put them at the bottom of the league to start off the season. Cincinnati has made a statement after winning three straight games, and 3 of their 7 regular season victories haven't been executed in front of their home crowd.

This surging Reds team is going to be facing off with the lesser Chicago Cubs that have recorded just four wins in 15 regular season games played. The Cubs will be starting Edwin Jackson, who has had a rough opening to another MLB season, allowing an earned-run average of 6.19 so far. Jackson has matched up quite well with the Cincinnati Reds, though, allowing a batting-average just above .200 in his career. The Cubs starting pitcher has been more successful at home, where this game will be played, and I wouldn't be very surprised if the right-hander could have a big night here.

This should probably be far closer of a baseball game than most would expect, due to Jackson's success against the Reds, but I feel like Tony Cingrani will overwhelm the Cubs batting-wise and Cincinnati will get another win.

Key Facts:

- Cincinnati has won three straight games, they have won only seven games this season
- Cingrani has allowed a batting average of just .175 vs Chicago Cubs lineup
- Cingrani has allowed a batting average of just .183 on the road in his last three seasons
- Chicago has been just 4-11 this season, one of the worst records in the MLB so far
- Edwin Jackson has allowed a batting average of below .250 vs the Reds lineup

Pick: Cincinnati Reds (Cool/Warm)

NBA Western Conference Playoffs - 1st Rd (Warriors @ Clippers - Game 1): Which side will record a HIGHER TOTAL?

Stephen Curry (GSW): Field Goals Made or Tie @ Clippers: Winning Margin

Just to provide some much-needed info to start of this write-up, here are Stephen Curry's split statistics:

Stephen Curry (Overall): 8.4 FGM per game
Stephen Curry (Road): 8.6 FGM per game
Stephen Curry (vs West): 8.5 FGM per game
Stephen Curry (vs West + Road): 9.0 FGM per game
Stephen Curry (vs LAC): 8.0 FGM per game
Stephen Curry (@ LAC): 9.5 FGM per game
Stephen Curry (last 10): 9.8 FGM per game

Looking at these statistics, you can easily get the idea that Stephen Curry is one of the more consistent players in the NBA. In my opinion, he's also one of the elite point guards with some of the greatest shooting numbers in all of the league. Against a Los Angeles Clippers team that primarily focuses on scoring the ball, he should get even more opportunities. He will most likely be assigned to Chris Paul, who is also a great defender. On the Golden State Warriors, center Andrew Bogut will not be playing thanks to a broken rib, giving even less chances for Curry to have the ball in his hands.

Los Angeles has been unstoppable at home, with just 7 losses for the season in front of their home crowd. The Clippers have owned arguably the best offense that the league has seen in many years, leading the NBA in points and coming 3rd in assists. Despite the success, this team has seen two of these losses come only in their last five at home. Their last meeting with Golden State was actually played at home not very long ago, in which the Clippers won by 13 points.

Although Curry has been one of the top shooters in the NBA, I think a beat up Warriors front court should be the major factor for the Clippers to get the easy win. I wouldn't be surprised if they put full effort into their first playoff game with a home-court advantage, giving Curry less second-chances on a tough assignment.

Pick: Clippers: Winning Margin (Cold)

NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs - 1st Rd (Game 1): What will be the GAME RESULT?

Hawks: Win or Single Digit Loss @ Pacers: Win By Double Digits

Here we have yet another intriguing playoff match-up between two teams that have seen their postseason hopes fading as the regular season came to a close. Indiana has still been menacing on their home court, where the team has lost just six for the season. The Pacers possibly own the most effective advantage due to location, as is with the Thunder, Heat, Spurs, and Clippers. They are coming off two consecutive wins, but they clearly didn't make a statement. What I mean is that the Orlando Magic, who they crushed to end the regular season, are one of the lousy teams in the NBA. They have also recently defeated the Thunder at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but Oklahoma City appeared to be resting Russell Westbrook, one of the top point guards in the entire league. Indiana's cutthroat defense has also been one of the major factors in their winning ways, allowing the 2nd least points among all NBA teams this season. But that has also seen a downturn, allowing 100.3 points per game in their last four home games. One-third of their home losses have been handed to the Pacers in their last four played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, putting emphasis on how this team has been performing as of late. Roy Hibbert is still on his never-ending slump, in which he has been scoring and defending at a sluggish rate. His assignment against Pero Antic should be mountainous task, considering that the Macedonian center has been shooting .722 from the field against Indiana in the regular season.

Atlanta has come off their 6-game losing streak in an astonishing manner, emerging as the winners in six of their last nine regular season games overall. This trend has included quality wins over even some of the most intimidating opponents such as the Indiana Pacers on the road, the Brooklyn Nets (coming off a 14 game home win streak) on the road, and the #2 Miami Heat at Philips Arena. The shock is that this run has been executed without the expertise of Al Horford, who won't be participating in this series either. Their offense, which has been immense from beyond the arc, should be a challenge for a weakening Indiana defense. Kyle Korver has been marked as arguable the best three-point shooter that the NBA has seen in a while, making almost 50% of his shots from deep.

This should really become interesting, seeing how an improved Atlanta Hawks team can face-off against a defense like Indiana's. Despite their home-court advantage, I feel like the Hawks should be capable of making this game tight, failing to hold on to the game late.

Key Facts:

- Indiana has allowed 100.3 points per game in their last four at home
- Roy Hibbert (IND) has been on a serious downturn from an electric regular season start
- Atlanta has won six of their last nine games after a six-game losing streak
- Atlanta only recently defeated the Pacers on the road
- Kyle Korver (ATL) has been shooting .475 from beyond the arc

Pick: Hawks W/SDL (Cool)

NBA Western Conference Playoffs - 1st Rd (Game 1): What will be the GAME RESULT?

Grizzlies: Win or Single Digit Loss @ Thunder: Win By Double Digits

Another NBA playoff game, this one being a Western Conference clash between the #2 Thunder and #7 Grizzlies, who claimed their spot due to a late win over the Dallas Mavericks. Memphis has seen a great deal of their key players make a return as their regular season came to a close, such as Randolph and Gasol... both tremendous defenders in the paint. The Grizzlies, overall, have been exceptional on the defense, allowing the 2nd least points in all of the NBA this season. They previously defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, huge favorites in this one, in last season's series 4-1. But the Thunder were missing their second-best player, Russell Westbrook, to a postseason injury, and he should be a huge factor for this season's duel with the Grizzlies. In their regular season series, Oklahoma City has been able to win all their meetings that were played at home. Speaking of the Thunder's home-court advantage, they've dropped just 7 at Chesapeake Energy Arena for the regular season, losing only one since February. Memphis will also be missing Nick Calathes for this game for this one, lessening this team's already shallow depth at the point guard position behind Mike Conley. Oklahoma City has a tremendous offense that should be a huge task for even a defense like the Grizzlies' to slow down, and I feel like Memphis's offense is just too slow to catch up. Memphis is capable of winning at least one game in this series with their lockdown defense, but I doubt they'll come very close to it against a surging Kevin Durant and a healthy Russell Westbrook as a road team.

Key Facts:

- Oklahoma City has averaged the 5th most points per game this season... lost just 7 home games
- Russell Westbrook (OKC) has been outstanding when defending Mike Conley this season
- Memphis has a really slow offense and it will be really tough to catch up from a deficit
- Lower confidence, because Memphis owns one of the best defenses in the NBA

Pick: Thunder W/DD (Cool)