The NBA is in no hurry to end its "bubble" experience, with the finals not likely end until October’s second week.
Thus, the teams that finish their first round series early will likely have
to wait a few days before starting the second round. That extra rest could be critical going into September. No long flights between cities. No rush for weary or nicked players to return. Nothing but time for coaches to work on physical and analytical preparation.
So, how will that affect the games today?
Will Miami put all its energy into finishing Indiana to get nearly a week to ready their minds and bodies to take on the top seed?
Will the Bucks stop toying with the Magic and grab a 3-1 lead?
And will Houston, already shorthanded without Russell Westbrook, put former teammate Chris Paul on his heels?
The picks for Monday’s slate….
Heat (3) over Pacers (0):
There was a scene at the end of Game 3 that symbolized the split
between these teams. Victor Oladipo, whose commitment to the Pacers has been questionable of late, committed a cheap sixth foul in his Miami 10 shoes, shook his head on the bench and then retired to the locker room early. While his teammates have played with more spirit, especially Malcolm Brogdon, they can’t seriously compete without more from their semi-star.
Miami has too much shooting, and too much moxie, with Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic in charge.
The Better Bet: Miami by 10.
Bucks (2) over Magic (1):
Giannis has, um, activated. The Bucks’ star has been a one-man wrecking crew in this series, as he should be against a squad without its starting forwards. But the bigger development is that Eric Bledsoe has sprung to life, to make up for Khris Middleton’s struggles (32.4%). The Bucks know what’s at stake. They’re an older group, and they have had trouble with the Heat this season. So they’ll be all business, and now that they have corralled Nik Vucevic some, the Magic have no answers.
The Better Bet: Bucks by 15
Rockets (2) over Thunder (1):
The story of this series? It’s not James Harden. It’s “Uncle” Jeff
Green, discarded by the thin Jazz this season, averaging 19.7 points on 61.1 percent shooting. That speaks to the Thunder’s issues up front, and it’s hard to see how those are corrected. Foul trouble plagued the Rockets late in Game 3, but figure on them getting their shooting going (Harden is just 29.7 percent from three in the series). Oklahoma City needs Steven Adams to play well and the Rockets have basically played him off the floor.
The Better Bet: Rockets by 8
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