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NBA Picks and Predictions for Saturday April 18

NBA Picks and Predictions for Saturday April 18

NBA Picks and Predictions for Saturday April 18

Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their NBA picks and predictions for Saturday, April 18.

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Detroit at Cleveland, 3:05PM ET

There's no love in the NBA playoffs. Now is not the time nor the place for fondness or friendship.

With so much on the line, the pressure can be smothering. And with each possession, game and series the intensity increases to unmatched levels.

``It's 100 times what it is in the regular season,'' said Cavaliers superstar LeBron James.

Buckle up. It's here.

About to enter his fourth postseason, and this time fully confident he and his Cleveland teammates will finish what has been a season of seasons with the shiny Larry O'Brien Trophy in their grasp, James has learned the playoffs can turn the best of friends into the worst of enemies.

``You're playing the same team over and over,'' he said. ``You start to hate that person, you're tired of seeing them everyday. You have no reason why you hate them or don't like them, it's just seeing the same person and the same plays, you have to be really dialed in on what's going on.''

So getting focused to play the Washington Wizards the past three years was a challenge?

``No,'' James said. ``We really hated them.''

NBA Free Pick: Cleveland | Best Line: -12 Sports Interaction

Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs, 8:05PM ET

The Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs were so dominant three years ago that they practically forced the NBA to change how playoff teams are stacked.

Three years later, the Spurs and Mavericks have ceded that superiority.

Tim Duncan and the Spurs are the third seed, but were a Michael Finley buzzer-beater this week from dropping to fifth and starting the playoffs on the road. Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas are seeded sixth, and had to win seven of the last nine to get there.

In the Western Conference, it's now the Los Angeles Lakers and everyone else.

``But we think we're still up there,'' said Duncan, embarking on his 12 consecutive postseason. ``We still think we have a chance.''

So do the Mavericks, who renew their playoff rivalry with the Spurs starting Saturday in San Antonio. But unlike in 2006, it won't be the same meeting of 60-win titans who played to a thrilling seven-game series in the West semifinals. The Mavs prevailed, and went on to the NBA finals before losing to Miami.

NBA Free Pick: San Antonio | Best Line: -4 Sports Interaction

Houston Rockets at Portland Trailblazers, 10:35PM ET

It will be up to Houston's physical tandem of Ron Artest and Shane Battier to stop Brandon Roy, Portland's top scorer and team leader heading into the upstart Trail Blazers' first playoff appearance since the 2002-03 season.

Bring them on, Roy says.

``I think that just like they're getting excited about shutting me down, I'm getting excited about not letting them to,'' he said.

Roy, a two-time All-Star, has been steadily grabbing the league's attention since his debut in 2006-07, when he was named Rookie of the Year.

He is averaging 22.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game this season. He's had 55 games with 20 or more points, and 12 with 30 or more.

The 24-year-old's steadiness, however, may be his greatest contribution to the Blazers. If he's not hitting his shots, he's able to get the ball to a teammate who is. If Portland falls behind, he redefines the team's focus.

NBA Free Pick: Houston – View Game Matchup | Best Line: +4.5 Sports Interaction

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