The 2013 NBA Playoffs are approaching the end of the opening round and as of Monday morning two series had resulted in four game sweeps.
Miami had little difficulty in dispatching Milwaukee, winning all four games by double digits, covering in three. Three of the four games stayed below the total with the fourth resulting in a push in Game 3.
The Heat looked very much intent on making it through the Playoffs in as few games as possible and will be rested as they await the winner of the series between Brooklyn and Chicago.
San Antonio had similarly little difficulty in sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers out in four games, also winning by double digits in each game. And they “one upped” Miami by covering in all four games, with the Totals evenly split with 2-2.
The Spurs also outdid the Heat in winning their four games by an average of 18.8 points per game, as compared to Miami’s average margin of 14.8.
San Antonio has now assumed the role of favorite to emerge from the Western Conference and play for the NBA Title. It’s not necessarily the fact that their four-game sweep makes them the favorite. Rather, it’s the loss to injury for the balance of the season of Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.
Injured in Game 2 of the Thunder’s series against Houston, the loss of Westbrook cannot be overstated. In Saturday’s Game 3 the Thunder were able to overcome that loss, although they blew a huge lead and did have to rally in the game’s final minute for a 104-101 victory to take a nearly insurmountable 3-0 series lead over the Rockets.
It’s highly debatable as to whether OKC can defeat the Spurs in a best of seven series should both teams get past their second round foes.
Houston might have been able to avoid a sweep if they were able to win at home Monday night as short 1-point underdogs. But if the series does return to Oklahoma City the Thunder would be playable laying 10 points or less, and would also be playable in the unlikely even the series is extended beyond five.
The winner of that series, presumably OKC, will take on the winner of Memphis and the Los Angeles Clippers, the only matchup tied at 2-2 as the week began. The home team has won each of the first four games and we might well be treated to another seven-game series such as the one between these teams last season.
As far as the team to play you might do well to look to play the home team if favored by 3 points or less or to take the points with the road team if getting at least 5 points. These teams appear evenly matched based on what we’ve witnessed in the first four games of the series.
Second seeded San Antonio awaits the winner of the 3 vs. 6 series between Denver and Golden State while top seeded Oklahoma City will play the winner of the 4 vs. 5 matchup of the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets.
Denver was stunned at home by Golden State in Game 2. The Warriors had lost David Lee in Denver’s Game 1 win but were able to overcome Lee’s loss with an impressive win to square the series at a game apiece headed to the Bay.
The Warriors held serve and enter Tuesday night’s Game 5 in Denver holding a 3-1 lead, needing just one win to end the series and advance to the Western Conference semifinals. Denver would be the play in Game 5 with Golden State playable back home in Game 6 should Denver pull to within 3-2.
It’s hard to buck the home team in a seventh game and Denver would be the play if the series is tied 3-3. Not only would the Nuggets have rallied from a 3-1 deficit but in doing so would have regained its confidence and swagger while at the same time the Warriors would be in the untenable situation of having had two shots to win the clinching game, including once on its home court.
Two of the three remaining Eastern Conference series could be wrapped up by Wednesday night as both Chicago and New York hold 3-1 leads over Brooklyn and Boston, respectively.
The Knicks had a chance to sweep the Celtics out of the Playoffs on Sunday but were challenged with having to win the clincher without the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, J R Smith. In Friday’s Game 3 win at Boston, Smith was ejected after a flagrant two foul against Boston’s Jason Terry and upon review of the play by the NBA, the status of the foul was upheld and a one-game suspension was handed Smith.
New York’s Carmelo Anthony, this season’s scoring champion, tried to make up for Smith’s absence but had a horrible 10 for 35 shooting game on Sunday. Still the Knicks, trailing most of the game, rallied in the fourth quarter and it went to overtime with the Celtics winning 97-90.
Those Knicks backers who bet on a four-game sweep were denied cashing their tickets as were those who played the UNDER in Game 4 – a reasonable play since the first three games of the series each stayed below the Total by significant double digit margins. Game 4 went to overtime tied at 84, well beneath the closing total of 181.
Look for New York to wrap up the series back home in Game 5 Wednesday night. It may be tough to lay the 8 points with the Knicks, but if you do play the game that is the preferred side. Boston has been anemic at the offensive end of the court for much of the series, especially in the second half of games.
Should the Knicks fail to win Game 5 and be forced to travel back to Boston, New York would be playable as short favorites to wrap up the series in Game 6. Should Boston force a Game 7 back in New York, having overcome a 0-3 deficit, the Celtics would be playable at +8 or more. The Knicks would be playable laying 5 or less.
Chicago had a chance to eliminate Brooklyn on Monday night at the Nets’ new home, the Barclays Center, but was from 5 to 6 point underdog. Should the Nets win that fifth game and force a Game 6 back in Chicago the Bulls would be the play.
If there is a Game 7 back in Brooklyn the Nets would be worth backing if getting at least 6 points, while the Nets would be playable at minus 4 or less.
Finally, the home team won each of the first three games in the series between third seeded Indiana and sixth seeded Atlanta with the Hawks looking to square the series at two games apiece at home Monday night.
Indiana should survive this series and would be playable back home in Game 5 whether up 3-1 or knotted 2-2. In fact, the Pacers would be playable for the balance of the series with the most likely outcome now being Indiana in no more than six.
By the time you read next week’s column the second round of the Playoffs should be under way in one or more series. The early thoughts here are that it would be tough to recommend Miami being upset by either Brooklyn or Chicago but the Heat should suffer their first postseason loss in a series likely to go no more than 5.
Similarly, a well-rested San Antonio should get by either Denver or Golden State although a series against either the Nuggets or Warriors might well be extended to six or seven games. As such you might consider a play on the underdog at a price of +300 or more, which would provide the chance for a hedge if the series goes more than five.
The series with the greatest upset potential might be the survivor of the Memphis vs. LA Clippers. Both teams are capable of giving OKC a real test. The Clippers would be playable at +200 or more to pull the upset while Memphis would require a price of +250 or more.
New York has shown enough in its series with Boston to justify the Knicks being favored over either Indiana or Atlanta. The Knicks should have a much easier task against Atlanta but the Pacers could present a real challenge. Much like the case that can be made for the Denver/Golden State winner in the West, Indiana might be worth a series play if getting +300 or more.
We’ll revisit the Playoffs next week based upon the matchups that have resulted and the status of each through Sunday.
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]