The NBA Playoffs field has been cut in half as the first eight teams have been eliminated. Although there were a pair of series that went the full seven games the first round was marked by low scoring blowouts.
Two of the eight series resulted in four game sweeps with the top seed in the East, Cleveland, sweeping by Detroit and the West’s second seed, San Antonio, doing the same against Memphis.
Golden State needed just 5 games to get past Houston with Oklahoma City dispatching Dallas also in 5.
Two series last six games when Atlanta eliminated Boston and Portland defeated the LA Clippers.
The two series that went the distance were both in the East as Toronto outlasted Indiana and Miami did the same against Charlotte.
Of the 44 first round games 31 stayed UNDER the Total with just 13 going OVER. In contrast, both of the opening games of the Western Conference semifinals, the two second round series that have already started as we go to press, went OVER the Total with San Antonio blasting Oklahoma City 124-92 and Golden State having a similarly easy time in defeating Portland 118-106 in a game not as close as that final score might suggest.
Home teams went 26-18 ATS and Favorites were 26-17 ATS (one game closed at Pick ‘em). Home teams won 30 of the 44 games straight up.
28 of the 44 games were decided by double digits with 12 of the 28 decided by more than 20 points.
In theory the second round of the Playoffs should be more competitive with the lower seeded teams eliminated. Of the 8 teams that won their opening round series only Portland, seeded fifth in the West, was seeded lower than the team it eliminated. And the Trailblazers advanced largely due to the season ending injuries suffered by the LA Clippers’ Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in Portland’s Game 4 win that evened their series at two games apiece.
Of course the big news surrounding the Playoffs is the absence of NBA MVP Steph Curry whose injured knee sidelined him at the end of the Houston series and is expected to have him miss a good part of the series against Portland. The Warriors did not need him in their opening win but his absence could be felt when the series moves to Portland for Games 3 and 4. Recall that on February 19, the first game following the All Star break, Portland dealt Golden State its worst loss of the season, winning at home 137-105.
Here’s an assessment of the four second round series in which the two Western Conference series have seen one game played through Sunday and the two Eastern Conference series beginning Monday and Tuesday.
Cleveland vs. Atlanta: The top seeded Cavaliers had only slight difficulty in getting past Detroit in 4 games and will have been idle for 8 days when the opened their series against Atlanta Monday night. The Hawks wrapped up their six game series against Boston last Thursday and should also be fresh following a trio of off days.
Cleveland opened a 5 to 1 favorite to win this series and as 8 point favorites to win Game 1. Atlanta is a well-coached team that has nice balance and should be more competitive against the Cavs than was inexperienced Detroit. Still, it’s hard to envision the Hawks pulling off the series upset. At most this series goes 6 games with a 5 game series the most likely outcome.
Should Cleveland sweep both games at home the Hawks would make for a nice play back home in Game 3. Should the Cavs fail to sweep their two home games then Cleveland becomes the play in Game 3. Cleveland won – and covered – all 3 regular season meetings, two of which were played in April.
Toronto vs. Miami: Both teams needed 7 games to advance and Miami was much more impressive in clinching its series than was Toronto, although it appeared for much of the game that the Raptors were going to win by a huge margin. But that’s been a problem for the Raptors in recent years so perhaps having finally won a series the Raptors can ride that momentum deeper into these Playoffs. Miami recovered from a 3 games to 2 deficit in its series against Charlotte to win the final two games, including a 33 point rout in Game 7.
Toronto saw a 14 point lead at the end of 3 quarters trimmed to 3 before holding off Indiana in Game 7. Toronto won 3 of 4 regular season meetings with Miami including each of the last 3. But the Playoffs are a different story and that’s indicated by the series price. Despite having the home court advantage and having won 8 more games than the Heat Toronto is a rather modest minus 160 to win this series. Miami’s experience proved critical in getting past Charlotte and should be what helps the Heat advance to the Conference Finals.
The call is for Miami to get past Toronto in 6 games. Miami is capable of at least gaining a split in Toronto and is playable as 4.5 point road underdogs in Tuesday’s opening game. If the Heat lost straight up they are playable again in Game 2. Toronto would be playable in Game 2 if they lose Game 1 and also in Game 4 in Miami unless they are on the verge of being swept.
Golden State vs. Portland: Golden State had little trouble getting past Portland in Sunday’s opening game. To be fair, the Warriors had been rested after wrapping up their opening series last Wednesday while the Blazers had less than 48 hours to prepare and travel for Sunday afternoon’s opener after clinching their series against the Clippers Friday night.
Steph Curry has stated there is a good chance he would be able to play as early as Game 3 later this week in Portland but if the Warriors win Tuesday’s Game 2 it would be no surprise if Curry sits that one out and perhaps even misses Game 4 if the Warriors are seeking a sweep. Note that after playing Game 2 on Tuesday the teams won’t play again until Saturday in Portland for Game 3. Portland would be playable in Saturday’s game if they lose on Tuesday.
If the series is tied at a game apiece heading to Portland the Warriors – with or without Curry – would be the play. But continue to consider the OVER throughout this series. All 4 regular season meetings and the opening game of this series have gone OVER the Total and have gone OVER by at least 11 points. The total points scored have ranged from 224 to 247 with none of the games going into overtime.
San Antonio vs. Oklahoma City: The home team has won all 5 games between these teams this season. Oklahoma City covered all 4 regular season meetings, including both SU losses, but there was no doubt in the opening game of this Playoff series as the Spurs crushed OKC 124-92. The Spurs opened as minus 270 favorites to win the series and following their Game 1 win the adjusted price has the Spurs now 8 to 1 favorites. Although a sweep is possible the Thunder did play well against San Antonio during the regular season, winning both home games (by 8 and 4 points).
The Spurs’ Greg Popovich enjoys a huge coaching edge over Billy Donovan and has the more talented and deeper team. Pop will let Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant do their scoring, at least until it gets to crunch time when the defense takes over, especially Kawhi Leonard. But expecting a sweep may be discounting OKC too much and thus this series could well be a typical 5 game series with the Spurs winning the first two games, losing the third and then winning Games 4 and 5.
By the time you are reading this column Game 2 will have been played Monday night. If OKC lost that game as was expected, the Thunder is playable in Game 3. If they pull the upset and have a chance to pull even in Game 4, the Spurs would be playable to take a 3 games to 1 lead. The OVER may also be considered for the two games in Oklahoma City.
In next week’s column the series will be assessed from the perspective of how they stand through Sunday.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]