Midway through the Conference semifinals its certainly appears a repeat of last season’s NBA Finals is in the making. Both San Antonio and Miami have elevated their level of play in the month since the Playoffs began, responding well in critical situations.
Miami was a slight 2-point favorite to defeat the Nets and return home with a chance to wrap up the series on Wednesday and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
An upset by the Nets would have made this a best of three series and given Heat fans at least a reason to pause before looking into further Playoff travel plans.
After going 0-6 ATS in the first six games of their series against Dallas the Spurs have since gone 4-0 at the wagering windows, winning each of the four contests by 15 points or more heading into Monday night’s potential series-ending Game 4 at Portland.
Next week’s column will preview the two Conference Finals, which could end with a potential, though unlikely, three Game 7’s next Sunday from the three other series.
Here’s a look at how each of the four series may play out based on how things stood as of Monday morning.
Indiana vs. Washington: The Pacers may have regained some of the swagger they displayed for much of the first half of the season when many observers suggested not only could Indiana compete with Miami but would be the team to dethrone the two-time defending champions.
All that chatter stopped following the Pacers’ collapse over the second half of the season, which continued into the first round when taken to seven games by Atlanta, the only one of the 16 Playoff teams with a losing regular season record (38-44).
After dropping the first game of this series to Washington – at home no less – the Pacers have responded with three straight wins, including an improbable double digit second half comeback in Sunday’s Game 4. The Pacers are in position to wrap up the series at home Tuesday night and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals with the home court advantage against either Miami or Brooklyn.
Indiana is favored by 5 points to end the series against the Wizards on Tuesday, and while it’s too soon to conclude the Pacers are back in form there has been a better display of team chemistry over the past week. Roy Hibbert has been found and made significant contributions in the three wins over Washington.
Game 5 presents a tough wagering situation but a Wizards win would force a sixth game in Washington on Thursday night in which they would be the play as a small favorite. The suspicion is the Pacers will win Tuesday to end the series in 5, but don’t expect Washington to go down easily.
The best play for Game 5 would be to look UNDER the total – 5 of their 7 meetings this season have produced fewer than 170 total points. And 180 or less UNDER would be the way to look for the balance of this series. Should there be a Game 7 the play would be to lay 3 or less with Indiana or take 6 or more with Washington.
Miami vs. Brooklyn: By the time you read this the Heat will either be up 3-1 with a chance to end the series Wednesday night at home or the Nets will have won Monday night to even the series and make this a best of three with Miami having two of the potential three games at home.
The Nets did sweep the regular season series with Miami but three of the wins were by a single point and the fourth needed overtime. In the Playoffs, Miami swept Charlotte in 4 with three of the wins by double digits and won the first two games of this series by double digits. Miami would be playable in Game 5 laying 6 points or less if seeking to wrap up the series or laying 8 or less if seeking to take a 3-2 lead.
Miami would again be the play if there is a Game 6 in Brooklyn whether they are seeking to end the series or even things if the Nets are up 3-2. At their best Miami remains the best team in the NBA and they will want extra rest before the Eastern Conference Finals. That means they will do all they can to avoid a Game 7 on Sunday.
With their 6-1 SU record in the Playoffs heading into Monday night (5-2 ATS) the Heat are focused on the task at hand of winning a third straight title while being as fresh as possible. The Nets present a formidable challenge but their aging veterans and the inconsistent play of Deron Williams suggests the Heat will win this series in 5.
Ignoring overtime points, four of the seven meetings this season would have produced UNDERS. But we have seen downward adjustments in the Totals with Monday night’s 187.5 the lowest of the season between the Nets and Heat. The preference would be to look OVER 190 or lower.
San Antonio vs. Portland: Despite needing seven games to get past Dallas in the Playoffs’ opening round while Portland needed just 6 to defeat Houston, San Antonio exploded out of the gates in winning the first three of this series and being in position to pull off a four game sweep at Portland Monday night.
No team in NBA history has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a best of seven series. And that streak should remain intact if the teams do meet in San Antonio on Wednesday for a fifth game. The Spurs entered Monday night’s Game 5 with a streak of four straight double digit wins and covers. Should the Blazers have gained a measure of well deserved success with a win to avoid the sweep the series likely ends Wednesday.
The Spurs would be the play in any remaining games of the series, laying 7 or less at home or 4 or less back in Portland for a Game 6. The OVER would also be the play at 208 or less. But the shelf life of this paragraph may well have expired or, at the most, have 24 hours or so remaining until expiration.
OKC vs. LA Clippers: In stating the obvious this series has the greatest chance of going the full 7. Of course it’s the only series that enters Monday tied at two games apiece, which makes this now a best of three after the Clippers staged their remarkable fourth quarter comeback to overcome a 16 point deficit with just over 9 minutes left.
The key move was Clippers coach Doc Rivers having star PG Chris Paul defend Kevin Durant, who spurred his team down the stretch. OKC’s Russell Westbrook, who can be both brilliant and bone headed, often within the same minute, missed a last second shot that would have made the Clippers’ comeback fall just short. But the miss enabled LA to win a game it should have lost, making for an intriguing handicap for Wednesday’s Game 5 in OKC.
Will that successful comeback be an emotional/adrenaline booster for the Clippers? Will the collapse be emotionally/mentally draining for the Thunder? OKC is a 5.5 point favorite, the same amount they were favored by in both Games 1 and 2. The uncertainty created by the result of Game 4 makes a side play very tough to determine for Game 5. The straight up loser would be the play in Game 6.
What is most interesting to note is how the totals have fallen in the eight games played between the Thunder and Clippers this season. The closing total at the LVH has been in the relatively narrow range of 209.5 to 215.5. The totals results have alternated in each of the games, starting with an OVER in their first meeting back in November and alternating in each successive game through the UNDER in this past Sunday’s meeting.
Not only that but 5 of the 8 games have resulted in variances of double digits between the Total and the total points scored with none of the eight games going overtime. If this pattern continues then games five and seven would go OVER with Game 6 staying UNDER.
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]