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The NBA playoffs are nearing the halfway point with the conference semifinals reaching the late stages and the conference finals slated to start in about a week.

The hottest team remaining continues to be San Antonio. The Spurs swept their second consecutive series when they eliminated the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday night.

Going back to the end of the regular season, San Antonio has now won 18 straight games, going a remarkable 15-2-1 ATS in the process. Going a bit further back, since March 21 – a period of more than two months – the Spurs are 29-2 SU and 24-5-2 ATS. Wow!

In winning those eight straight playoff games (against Utah and the Clippers) the Spurs have won six by double digits, including all four home games. Perhaps the most impressive win was last Saturday’s 96-86 Game 3 victory in which they trailed 33-11 after the first quarter.

It would have been easy to mail it in and just wait for Game 4 to be played barely 24 hours later. They could have settled for a split on the road and return home to San Antonio with a 3-1 lead.

Their comeback and ultimate 10-point win is a testament to the heart and mentality of this franchise that has won four NBA Titles in the past 13 seasons yet gets so very little recognition. Their last title came in the 2006-07 season.

The only “flaw” in San Antonio’s performances to date has been their failure to cover the spread in the Game 4 clinching wins against the Jazz and Clippers. But that’s being picky.

The Spurs are likely to face what should be their first major challenge in the playoffs when they likely square off against Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals.

The Thunder had a chance Monday night to eliminate the Los Angeles Lakers as they took a 3-1 edge back home after splitting the two games in LA after winning both home contests to start the series.

OKC is a young and aggressively confident team and thus a series between the veteran and savvy Spurs and the young, talented and deep Thunder has the makings of producing some excellent basketball.

The Lakers will have taken the court Monday night with a fair amount of confidence of at least being able to extend the series to a sixth game back in LA. Although Oklahoma City won the first game of the series 119-90, the next three games all came down to the final minutes with final margins of 2, 3 and 3 points.

Still it will be hard for the Lakers to overcome a 3-1 deficit, but if the Lakers do force a Game 6 then they would be playable back home if not favored by more than a deuce. Oklahoma City would be playable if there is a Game 7 but at no more than as a 6-point favorite.

The two Eastern Conference series are each tied at two games apiece with all four teams splitting their first four games on each other’s home court.

Boston had a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead over Philadelphia but blew a 15-point halftime lead in Game 4 only to see the 76ers play a strong second half and win, ironically, by a deceiving yet comfortable 9-point margin, 92-83.

The Sixers have been scrappy in covering three of the first four games after winning, and covering, two of three regular season games against the Celtics. Boston was a 5-1/2 point favorite back home in Monday’s Game 5.

Game 6 will be played on Wednesday in Philly and the preferred play would be to take at least 3 points with the underdog. Should there be a seventh game back in Boston there might be a temptation to take the underdog 76ers, especially given their success against Boston this season. But the preference would be to lay 5 points or less with Boston on their home court.

Indiana was in position to take a 3-1 lead over heavily favored Miami but the Heat rallied from an 8-point halftime deficit in Sunday’s Game 4 to win 101-93. The series returns to Miami for Game 5 on Tuesday in what is now a best of three series.

With Chris Bosh sidelined, Miami is clearly vulnerable and the Pacers have not been intimidated. Including the regular season, Miami has won five of eight meetings. But two of Indiana’s three wins have been by at least 15 points, including their win in Game 3 of this series.

Miami is favored by 7 in Tuesday’s Game 5. The preference is to take the points with Indiana. The Pacers barely missed covering in Game 1 at Miami in a matchup that was tied after three quarters. Indiana then won Game 2 outright before splitting their two home games.

Indiana has shown enough in this series to warrant a play back home in Game 6 if facing elimination and are either an underdog or favored by no more than 2. If Miami is facing elimination in Game 6 then the look would be toward the Heat if not laying more than a trey.

Miami would be the play back home for a Game 7 if laying no more than 6. Depending on how long it takes for the three current series to play out, the Conference Finals may be under way by the time you are reading next week’s column.

Although there is no certainty of the matchups the call remains for Boston to meet San Antonio in the NBA Finals. Thus, San Antonio would be the series play over either Oklahoma City or the Lakers in the West.

Boston would be the play over either Indiana or Miami. The Celtics would be underdogs to Miami but favored over the Pacers. But should Philadelphia defeat the Celtics the call would be for either the Pacers or Miami to get by the 76ers to reach the NBA Finals.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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