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The Miami Heat are on the verge of their fourth straight Eastern Conference Finals appearance. The Heat put a strangle hold on this series with a 102-96 win in Game 4. LeBron James tied a career high by notching 49 points. James made 16 of his 24 shots and once again made Paul Pierce look foolish defensively. James is averaging 30.3 points per game during this series.

Still, the Nets are a proud, veteran bunch that will not give up their season without a fight. Brooklyn must defeat Miami three times in five days in order to advance. Talk about a difficult journey. To make matters worse for Brooklyn, the LeBron-led Heat are 8-0 at home in potential close-out games. Two of these eight victories came against Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett when they were members of the Boston Celtics. Pierce and team mate Joe Johnson have stepped up offensive. The two wing players are averaging 30 points per game, which matches James. 

A win on Wednesday would slot Miami back into the NBA’s version of the Final 4. James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh know what’s at stake and how they cannot give the Nets an inch of breathing room. Expect a spirited, high pace effort from Miami.

The books are backing the Heat as Miami is slotted as a seven-point home favorite. That number may seem steep given the closely fought Game 4, but I’m expect James and Co. to come out with a huge effort. Expect a Miami win in excess of ten points.

The Pick: Heat -7

After narrowly winning Game 7 against the Toronto Raptors, the Brooklyn Nets came out flat in Game 1 against the Miami Heat. LeBron James’ 22 points paced the two-time championships as they flew by the Nets, 107-86. The Miami Heat had seven days to rest while the Nets only had one day to recover. Miami used their fresh legs to their advantage as they routine won loose balls and had no trouble getting to the basket. Despite the lop sided score, the Nets are very experienced and are coached by one of the better basketball minds of this generation. The Heat shot a staggering 57 percent from the field in Game 1 and erased any doubts about their match-ups against the Nets. During the regular season, the Nets won all four games against the Heat. 

The Nets have shown a propensity to bounce back, so expect a spirited effort in Game 2. The Nets boasted an embarrassing 10-21 record on New Year’s Day before ripping off 34 of their next 51 games to secure the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. More importantly, the Nets are 12-4 when coming off losses of 15+ points. 

The Nets allowed five Heat players to score double digit points in Game 1, so they must do a better job at limiting opportunities. The Nets held LeBron and D-Wade to just three free throws. Expect the Nets to continue playing solid defense. 

The Nets have been led by Joe Johnson and Deron Williams who made 14 of their 21 shots in Game 1. The rest of the team shot just 19 of 49 from the field. 

The oddsmakers are expecting another Heat win in Game 2 as NBA odds opened with the Heat listed as eight-point favorites. Even though I think the Heat will win Game 2, I expect the Nets to cover. Recent history has shown us that the Nets are a resilient bunch. Expect them to keep it close in Game 2.

Official Pick: Nets +8

The Brooklyn Nets (2-3) will look to defend its home court and starve off a first round elimination to the upstart Toronto Raptors (3-2). The Raptors dominated the first three quarters and built up a huge 26-point lead. Brooklyn’s offense scored a whopping 44 points in the fourth quarter, but Toronto did enough to hold on for a 115-113 victory. Toronto’s two best players, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, combined for 59 points. The Nets must do a better job at limiting them on the offensive end.

The Nets season ended last season on the home floor in Game 7 to the Chicago Bulls. The 2013 Nets lacked toughness and to make up for that deficiency, the Nets acquired Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Pierce and Garnett have added an edge, but did not play many minutes in their Game 5 loss. Pierce scored just ten points in 24 minutes while Garnett only played 12 minutes. Reserve forward Mason Plumlee is averaging more minutes than Garnett. 

The Nets will rely on their veteran experience in this pivotal Game 6. Expect Pierce and Garnett to play limited, but effective minutes. Look for Deron Williams and Joe Johnson to carry the offensive burden. 

Current NBA odds have the Nets listed as a five-point home favorite. I’m taking the home team in this one. I’m expecting a very emotional effort from the Nets. I expect the Nets to carry over their big fourth quarter into Game 6. Lay the points and take the home team.

NBA Pick: Nets -5

The Brooklyn Nets finished sixth in the Eastern Conference and will face the upstart three seed Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. The Raptors haven’t made the playoffs in years and the Nets will look to rebound after last year’s first round exit against the Bulls. The match-ups alone are interesting. The Nets boast one of the NBA’s oldest rosters, but that old roster, which is led by Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Joe Johnson, has logged over 17,000 playoff minutes. The Raptors have one of the NBA’s most explosive back courts in point guard Kyle Lowry and shooting guard DeMar DeRozan. Can the Nets slow down this dynamic duo?

Both teams have gone on impressive runs which makes this a very captivating playoff series. Since trading small forward Rudy Gay in December, the Raptors have gone 41-22, which is the best record in the Eastern Conference during that span. During this stretch, the Raptors rank 10th in turnover percentage, demonstrating a very diplomatic approach to offense. Center Jonas Valanciunas, who emerged late in the season by averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds, will be a critical player. The Nets have the second worst rebound percentage in the NBA, so Valancuinas will have opportunities around the rim. This Toronto team has a lot of talent, but lacks playoff experience. Can they come together?

On the flip side, the Brooklyn has the second best record in the East since January 1st (34-17). A season ending injury to center Brook Lopez forced Brooklyn into more a ‘small ball approach’ with Pierce playing the power forward position. Brooklyn boasts may grizzled veterans that have championship experience, but backup point guard Shaun Livingston may be their most important player. The 6’7″ Livingston perfectly fits Brooklyn’s small ball approach and his size will be critical to slowing down DeRozan. The Nets average three fewer points with Livingston on the court.

Current NBA odds have Toronto slotted as a 2-point favorite. Toronto opened as a 2.5 point favorite, but were quickly bet down to 2 points. I’m expecting an emotional, spirited opening game from the Raptors. I think Brooklyn will win this series, but Toronto will take Game 1. Lay the points and take the Raptors.

Pick: Toronto -2

The Brookyln Nets (26-28) are midst a western road trip. So far, the Nets are 2-1 on their west coast swing with wins over Utah and the LA Lakers and a close loss to the Golden State Warriors. They’ll race their toughest test Wednesday night in Portland. The Portland Trail Blazers (39-18) are one of the league’s top scoring teams and have ripped off three straight victories. The Blazers are playing without power forward, LaMarcus Aldridge, who is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a groin injury. In his absence, point guard Damon Lillard has assumed the scoring responsibility. Since the All-Star break, Lillard is averaging 30 points per game. Lillard has been feasting on opposing point guards, so Deron Williams will have his hands full trying to contain Lillard.

The Trail Blazers are playing a ‘back-to-back’ after a 100-95 road win over Denver last night. Portland’s three best players, Lillard, Nicolas Batum, and Robin Lopez all logged over 37 minutes in the win. Could the young, up-start Blazers feel the effects after playing in Denver’s ‘mile high’ climate? Not having power forward, Thomas Robinson, who filled in for Aldridge, will be a big issue. Robinson left Tuesday’s game with an injury and did not return.

Portland has one of the better home records in the West (21-7) and is a staggering 17-4 against the Eastern Conference. Outside of Robin Lopez, the Blazers don’t have much size so expect Kevin Garnett, Andray Blatche, and Andrei Kirilenko to establish themselves early on. If the Nets can slow down Portland’s efficient offense, they’ll have a chance to win.

Current NBA odds have Portland listed as a 3-point home favorite. We think that number is pretty small for a Blazer team that plays very well at home. Brooklyn has already ‘broke even’ per se on this road trip, so they’ll look forward to getting back to New York. Back Portland and lay the points in this match-up.

Just a few days ago, the Big Apple’s two basketball franchises faced each other, with the Nets defeating the Knicks 103-80. It was a case of sweet revenge for the Knicks, who has lost badly in the first cross-town rivalry in December.

However, apart from local bragging rights, little attention was paid to the two results. Both teams are sub .500 and the Knicks, in particular, are off the pace when it comes to looking at the post-season. Few people who bet on NBA would argue that this rivalry is one for the ages; the contest needs some spice added to make it worth fans’ time.

Well, first off, it would help if both teams were better. They may share a division and a city but the game itself is not going to draw more interest until both teams are playing better basketball.

Big-name players are always going to be a draw in any NBA rivalry, and the Knicks have one of those in Carmelo Anthony, but is less clear who his counterpart would be within the Nets organisation. Yes, they have both Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce but both of those are too far beyond their prime to be considered a direct match for Anthony. The Nets need to find a marquee player to really make that head-to-head work and prove a talking point between the two teams.

What would spark a real contest and rivalry between the two teams would be a playoff series – regular season games are fine but there is nothing to spark the fans’ interest like a seven-game competitive post-season series. These two last met back in 2004 and, since then, the two teams have had problems, with none of them making the post-season let alone both of them. However, in the future, a real post-season head-to-head should spark major interest in New York and fuel the rivalry.

Last, but not least, wouldn’t it be fun to see the two franchises going toe-to-toe over a big name signing? Further spice can be added to that confrontation if the player they are fighting over plays (or has played) for one of the franchises previously. In the present, we might have to wait a couple of seasons before we have such a situation. As things stand, both franchises are focused on slashing their payrolls, not poaching the other team’s overpriced players. Fans may have to wait until the following summer of 2015 for a major bidding war between the teams.

This Knicks-Nets match-up has the potential to be a great rivalry; sometimes, it just takes a spark to ignite such competition. It may take a few years, but fans of NBA betting know that any one of the above sparks could well light a fire that could rage for years. 

The 2013 NBA playoffs start this weekend, and for the first time in almost 20 years, the New York Knicks are going into them as the Atlantic Division champs. It’s not just New York that is going to be on display at home in the first two games of the postseason though, as the Brooklyn Nets are going to be hosting their first playoff games at the Barclays Center as well this year.

Just because Brooklyn and New York are going to have home court advantage in the first round of the postseason doesn’t mean that they are anywhere near locks to get into the second round, though. NBA betting fans know that both teams have very tough matchups. The Knicks have to contend with the Boston Celtics, while the Nets draw the Chicago Bulls. Both enemies play stout defensive basketball, and both have enough talent to not just win their respective first round series, but subsequent series down the road as well.

The Knicks did play quite well this year against the Celtics, but there is definitely some cause for concern. The 3-1 record both SU and ATS was impressive for New York, but the one win that the boys from Beantown had happened at Madison Square Garden earlier in the campaign. If the C’s can figure out how to steal one of these first two games at MSG to start this series, it could be a long series that doesn’t go the way that New York wants it to.

The Nets meanwhile, were nowhere near as fortunate against Chicago. The Bulls won two of the three meetings this season and covered all three games. Brooklyn didn’t score more than 93 points in any of the three games this year against the boys from the Windy City, a clear indication that this is going to be a slugfest of a series.

The Detroit Pistons have had no success over the course of this season against the Brooklyn Nets. They have dropped all three meetings this year from an SU standpoint, and they only have one cover to show for their work in those games. On the final night of the NBA’s regular season though, Detroit will have one last chance to work some magic at the Barclays Center on Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

The Pistons are actually ending the season on a bit of a high, and they are playing like a team you would want to make your NBA picks on. They have won four straight games and have gone 7-0-1 ATS in their last eight. We really have seen Greg Monroe come into his own this season, especially in these last seven games of the campaign. The former Georgetown Hoya has averaged 19.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game in that stretch, and he is surely going to be a man to watch out for in this one.

Brooklyn meanwhile, knows that it is going to be the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs regardless of what happens in this one. The team put on a nice charge on Monday night to dispose of the Washington Wizards even after falling behind 34-21 at the end of the first quarter, and as a result, the team is 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS in its last six games.

However, that win against Washington really came with little consequence. Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, Jerry Stackhouse, Keith Bogans, and Reggie Evans all sat out for the game, while Gerald Wallace only played 22 minutes. The entire starting five was basically turned inside out, though it was still impressive to see the de facto bench players to it to a Washington team that had been playing solid basketball down the stretch of the campaign.

The Indiana Pacers are going to war on Friday night with the Brooklyn Nets as 5 ½-point favorites in NBA betting action. Anyone who studies this series though, knows that for whatever reason, the boys from Brooklyn have had a great history against the Pacers, and that could create a great betting stance to kick off the weekend.

The Nets have won three straight games in this series and have covered five in a row dating back to last January 31st, 2012. The last game that the Pacers won and covered here at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in this series was back in January 2011.

This time around, there is probably just a bit more motivation for the Nets to do well than there is for the Pacers. Indiana more or less knows that it is going to be the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs this season. Sure, there is a possibility to run down the New York Knicks, who are two games ahead of the Pacers with four to play, but that isn’t all that likely. It also is just as unlikely that Brooklyn could run down Indiana for the third seed in the East. The Nets though, could win this game and clinch home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs against either the Chicago Bulls or the Atlanta Hawks.

G Joe Johnson has been bothered by a quadriceps injury of late. He has been back in the lineup for four games since returning from injury, but he has only averaged 14.5 points per game since that point, almost two points off of his scoring average for the season.

The last time these two met, the Pacers had massive problems on the boards. F Reggie Evans had 22 rebounds, while F Gerald Wallace had 11. C Brook Lopez led all scorers with 25 points.

You’re not going to find many players that are as dynamic as F LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trail Blazers. He is averaging right at 21.0 points per game this season, and he had a streak of seven straight games with at least 20 points scored going before his team’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder a few days ago in which he scored just 10. The former Texas Longhorns standout and his teammates are back at home at the Rose Garden on Wednesday night for a showdown with the Brooklyn Nets.

Aldridge will have his work cut out for him against C Brook Lopez on Wednesday. Lopez is a fantastic center that has been playing well on both sides of the court. The fact that F Reggie Evans has been cleaning up the glass as well as he has, has allowed Lopez to focus more on shot blocking and making his own shots on the offensive end of the court.

Brooklyn has seen the results of this pan out well, knowing that the team has gone 10-4-2 ATS in its last 16 games. Unfortunately for the Nets though, they are just 8-8 SU in those outings, and they are starting to lose ground to the suddenly surging New York Knicks in the Atlantic Division. This is the sixth game in an eight-game marathon roadie for the Nets.

Portland knows that it has to get on its high horse if it is going to get into the playoffs in the Western Conference. Entering the day, the Trail Blazers are 2 ½-games behind the Los Angeles Lakers with two teams between them in the race for the last playoff spot in the West.

The home team has won four games in a row in this series and has covered three of the four. Brooklyn is not surprisingly a 2 ½-point underdog on the NBA odds on Wednesday night.