In the first round of the 2015 NBA Playoffs, three teams have been eliminated in four game sweeps.
Golden State swept New Orleans out of the Playoffs even though the Warriors covered the point spread just once in the four games as New Orleans backers cashed in each of the first three games before Golden State finished off the sweep with its 109-98 Game 4 win in New Orleans this past Saturday.
That series clinching win was Golden State’s eighth straight dating back to the end of the regular season and was also the Warriors’ first point spread cover in its last 10 games. Golden State ended the regular season on an 0-5-1 ATS run before also losing to spread in the first three games of the series against the Pelicans.
The Warriors endured a rare stretch of 7 straight games in which they won the game straight up but failed to cover in any of them with 6 ATS losses and a push. That stretch of games can be cited for years to come to aspiring bettors and handicappers that although the favored team is usually the better team, the “value” is often with the underdog.
As the saying goes, when you bet on an underdog three things can happen and two of them are good (winning outright or losing by less than the point spread). Of course Golden State’s 1-3 ATS mark against New Orleans may speak more to the bright future of the Pelicans heading into next season than about any vulnerability of a Warriors team that won 67 regular season games.
Also victorious in four game sweeps were Cleveland and Washington.
The Cavaliers swept Boston out of the playoffs, going 3-1 ATS, winning the first two games at home and then winning both in Boston.
Washington took a rather unusual route to sweeping Toronto, winning the first two games in Toronto before heading home and winning both of those games as well. The Wizards cashed all 4 tickets including those two wins in Toronto in the role of underdog.
Two other series could have ended in four game sweeps but both Chicago and Houston failed to end their series over the weekend. On Saturday the Bulls lost 92-90 in Milwaukee to extend the series to at least a fifth game, back in Chicago, on Monday. On Sunday, in a similar situation, the Rockets were beaten soundly in Dallas as the Mavericks extended that series to at least a fifth game, in Houston, on Tuesday.
Two other series had seen just three games played through Sunday. The Memphis Grizzlies were in position to sweep Portland out of the Playoffs on Monday night but were slight underdogs as the Blazers were 2 point favorites to force a fifth game.
The one series that had gone according to form was the series between Atlanta and Brooklyn. The Hawks, top seeds in the East, won both home games but Brooklyn pulled to within a game of tying Atlanta with its home win on Saturday. The teams played Monday night and were then headed back to Atlanta for a fifth game on Wednesday when the Hawks could clinch the series or either they or the Nets would take a three a 3 games to 2 lead in what would have then become a best of three series with a Nets win on Monday night.
But saving the best for last the one first round series that has the talent for a Western Conference Finals matchup is that between sixth seeded San Antonio and the third seeded LA Clippers. After the Clippers won rather decisively in Game 1 the Spurs came back to win Game 2 in overtime to square the series as the teams traveled to San Antonio.
The Spurs tried to send a message with a resounding 27 point win in Game 3 (100-73) but that message was not received. Or if it was received it may have not been interpreted as intended as the Clippers opened a fourth quarter double digit lead in what had been a very competitive Game 4 on Sunday to win 114-105 to return home to Los Angeles, having reclaimed home court advantage in what has now become a best of three series with Game 5 on Tuesday at Staples Center.
Thus at the start of the week, Cleveland awaits the winner of the Chicago vs Milwaukee series, Golden State awaits the winner of the series between Memphis and Portland and the winner of the Atlanta vs Brooklyn series will face rested Washington.
Of those three rested teams Cleveland may be the most vulnerable as a result of losing at least one, and possibly two, players for at least part of their second round series. Kevin Love, who had been performing at a high level in the first post season of his NBA career, suffered a dislocated shoulder and early reports have him missing two weeks.
Mid-season acquisition J R Smith, who had played well since coming over from the Knicks, also had been playing well but could be suspended for his flagrant foul committed against Boston’s Jae Crowder while up by a huge margin in Sunday’s series finale. Most likely he will be suspended for one game.
Golden State most likely will face Memphis in the next round as Memphis should get past Portland even if they lost Game 4 and had to return home for a Game 5 on Wednesday. Despite the presence of two All Stars, LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, Portland has not matched up or fared well against Memphis as the Griz are a perfect 7-0 both Straight Up and ATS this season, including the first 3 games of this series. 6 of Memphis’ 7 covers have been by more than 7 points.
Should Portland have won on Monday night the play would be on Memphis to wrap up the series back home in Game 5. Memphis was expected to be without Mike Conley for at least
Monday’s game which could have been enough for Portland to force a fifth game although prior to Conley’s Game 4 injury he had been playing at less than full strength dealing with a sprained foot. In the unlikely scenario in which Portland wins twice to force a sixth game back home in Portland the Game 6 play would be on Memphis.
Golden State won 2 of 3 games this season against Memphis although the Warriors were just 1-2 ATS. The lone loss came back in mid-December while Golden State’s two wins were more recent, in late March and two nights before the regular season ended.
Golden State should get by Memphis, most likely in five games although they might make for an attractive play as a small favorite if the series goes six games and the Warriors would be in position to clinch on the road in Memphis.
Cleveland will most likely face Chicago as the Bulls were solid home favorites to defeat Milwaukee on Monday night. But with Smith out likely for one game and Love perhaps missing most if not all of the series Chicago may be in position to pull the upset. A healthy Bulls team would have presented a challenge to a healthy Cleveland. With Cleveland at less than full strength the Bulls may not be attractively enough priced to recommend a series play but at plus 125 or more the Bulls can be given serious consideration.
Washington will be well rested when they face either Atlanta or Brooklyn. The Wizards would be favored over the Nets and an underdog to the Hawks. Atlanta won 3 of 4 games against Washington in the regular season (3-0-1 ATS) and Washington split its four games with the Nets (also 2-2 ATS).
Atlanta should get by Brooklyn and would be playable to defeat Washington in the second round if favored by no more than minus 130. In a Wizards vs Nets matchup the preference would be to back the Wizards if similarly favored by no more than -130.
Houston will be a solid favorite to wrap up its series against Dallas back home in Houston on Tuesday night and would be worth playing if laying 6 points or less. Should Dallas force a sixth game Houston would be playable if favored by no more than 3 points in Dallas.
The series between the Spurs and Clippers is guaranteed to go at least six games and it would surprise nobody if the series goes the full seven games.
The survivor will likely face Houston and the Rockets will have the home court advantage and would be a solid play in the series opener against a team that will have been through a draining opening round series.
As to how the rest of the Spurs/Clippers series may play out the Clippers are likely to be a very small home favorite in Game 5. If so the Clippers would rate a modest play to win that game but San Antonio would be an even better play at home in Game 6 if down 3 games to 2. If the Spurs are in a position to clinch the series with a Game 5 win the play would in Game 6 would be based on the line.
At -3 or less the Spurs would be worth a play but at plus 6 or more the Clippers would be playable. If there is a Game 7 it would be hard to go against the Clippers at home although San Antonio would be given strong consideration if the Clippers were somehow favored by 3 points or more which is unlikely, but possible.
After another week of play the playoffs will be revisited in next week’s column.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]