Two teams with 2-0 series leads will try to take complete command in Game 3’s this weekend. Meanwhile, the Bulls and Nets will jostle for positioning in a pivotal Game 4 NBA betting encounter in Chicago.
Game 3: Oklahoma City Thunder @ Houston Rockets
Saturday, 9:35 PM ET
Odds: Thunder -1
The Oklahoma City Thunder were strolling to an easy victory in Game 2 of this series on Wednesday night, leading 89-74 early in the fourth quarter and showing absolutely no signs of being seriously threatened. Then, however, the Houston Rockets uncorked a stunning 21-2 run built on the back of Omer Asik’s rebounding, James Harden’s all-court virtuosity, and Carlos Delfino’s perimeter shooting. Houston grabbed a 95-91 lead with under four minutes left in regulation and turned a rout into a tense fight to the finish. Oklahoma City, though, hit open jump shots at crunch time, while Houston failed to get the ball into Harden’s hands and could not execute well on most of its last few possessions. The Thunder won, but Houston sent the message that it is not going to go away in this series. Houston is probably good enough for one game in this series. Expect the Rockets to max out in Game 3 and do just enough to prevail.
Game 3: Indiana Pacers @ Atlanta Hawks
Saturday, 7:05 PM ET
Odds: Hawks -2.5
In each of the first two games of this series, the Atlanta Hawks have been embarrassed… not by the Indiana Pacers so much as by their own selves. Atlanta’s defense has been nonexistent. The Hawks have been shredded by a team that’s missing its leading scorer from 2012, Danny Granger. The Hawks have been going through the motions, perhaps a response to playing in a hostile environment while lacking the full measure of confidence they need to win this series. Indiana will advance to the second round, but will the Pacers be able to sweep the Hawks away? That’s the question worth discussing here, and one gets the sense that as the series shifts to Atlanta, the Hawks will find the energy on defense that they lacked in Indianapolis in Games 1 and 2. Go with Atlanta here, though the game should be extremely close on the betting lines.
Game 4: Brooklyn Nets @ Chicago Bulls
Saturday, 2:05 PM ET
Odds: Bulls -3
In Game 3 on Thursday night, the Chicago Bulls shot under 40 percent from the field and scored fewer than 80 points… and won. That’s because the Brooklyn Nets shot under 35 percent from the field and finished with only 76 points, three short of the Bulls. This series is turning into a nightmare for the Nets after an easy Game 1 romp. Brooklyn hit only 2 of 19 shots in the third quarter of Game 2. In Game 3, it hit just 1 of 24 shots in an extended sequence from the first half. Deron Williams is being contained by the Bulls’ defense. Chicago is packing the paint and preventing Brooklyn big man Brook Lopez from doing any meaningful damage. Can the Nets get any production from Joe Johnson or another role player in Game 4? They’ll need it to even this series at two games apiece. It’s hard to say which way this game will break, but give the Nets the edge just because their season is very much on the line in this contest.