The Playoffs are underway and as this column is being penned one game in each of the opening round best-of-seven series has been completed.
Thus far we’ve seen a few blowouts and a couple of remarkable comebacks but have also witnessed season ending injuries to a couple of players, including the defending NBA MVP, Chicago’s Derrick Rose.
The opening eight games saw each of the home teams favored. Five of those teams both won and covered their opening games with four of the wins by double digits. Only Oklahoma City failed to cover in its home win.
The two upsets involved Orlando winning at Indiana and the Los Angeles Clippers winning at Memphis.
Five of the opening games stayed UNDER the Total.
Here’s a look at how the eight opening round series may continue to unfold and how you might wish to consider approaching them at the betting windows.
Chicago vs. Philadelphia: The loss of Derrick Rose for the balance of the Playoffs is a huge blow to Chicago’s chances to win the NBA Title but the Bulls had success when Rose missed a significant part of the season with a variety of ailments. The Bulls are still a deep team that plays excellent defense and has enough to get by a Philadelphia team that played its best basketball of the season back in January.
Although the first game of the series went over the Total by nearly 20 points, look for most of the remaining games to stay UNDER as the Bulls rely even more on their defense and need to be more deliberate on offense to compensate for the absence of Rose. Chicago is favored to win Tuesday’s game two and head to Philadelphia up 2-0. Look for the Bulls to split in Philadelphia and return home to wrap up the series in five games.
The best opportunities to cash a side ticket might be in games four and, if played, game five. If Philly wins game three then Chicago becomes a solid play to win and cover game four. But if the Bulls win game three and are on the verge of a sweep look for the Sixers to put forth an effort to avoid a sweep. The line will probably move towards Chicago with the expectation of the Bulls completing the sweep. If the Bulls do not complete the sweep look for a big effort from them back home in game five.
Miami vs. New York: Miami upped its level of intensity in the opening game of this series as the Knicks were non-competitive after the first quarter as Miami rolled to a 100-67 win. The Knicks also lost G Iman Shumpert for perhaps eight months. Miami’s path to the NBA Finals was also made easier with the injury to Chicago’s Rose. The Knicks still have some talent, but must rely on an aging backcourt.
Baron Davis and Mike Bibby should enable the Knicks to win at least one game of the series and that should be back home in either Game three or four. Their three regular season meetings and game one of the Playoffs have all stayed UNDER the Total, and by decent margins. Look for that to continue throughout the balance of this series.
If Miami won on Monday night to take a 2-0 lead, the play in game three would be on New York. Should Miami take a 3-0 lead into game four the game four play would again be on the Knicks to avoid a sweep. But, as with the Bulls, look for the Heat to win this series in five games as Miami’s LeBron James gets closer to his first NBA Title.
Indiana vs. Orlando: The Magic pulled one of the biggest surprises over the weekend with their late comeback to stun Indiana 81-77. Orlando is without Dwight Howard and the Pacers have been considered by many to be a sleeper, capable of making a deep run. Orlando has now won four of five games against the Pacers this season. Indiana has a talented and deep roster but there has not been a “go to” player to rely upon at critical times of games.
Indiana was heavily favored to win Monday’s game two and based on the line of Pacers minus nine and a half we might see Indiana come small favorites when the series shifts to Orlando. Despite criticism and the well hyped rift with his star player, Howard, Orlando coach Stan van Gundy is experienced and the opening game win gives his team the confidence that the Magic can extend, if not win, this series.
Look to play on Orlando in Game three and then to play the loser in Game four. If the series does return to Indiana for a fifth game, and if the Pacers are not trailing 3-1, look for the Pacers to be the play, even though they are likely to be close to double digit favorites.
Boston vs. Atlanta: The Hawks were in total control from the outset in their Game one 83-74 win on Sunday, outscoring the Celtics 31-18 in the first quarter and fending off a modest challenge in the fourth quarter. Boston’s Rajon Rondo is likely to be suspended for at least Tuesday’s game two after bumping into a ref in game one and the length of the suspension is unknown. Veteran Ray Allen did not play for Boston as he continues to nurse an ankle injury. He may be forced to play in the absence of Rondo with his effectiveness likely to much less than 100 percent although he remains listed as doubtful.
Boston does have a significant experience edge with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Doc Rivers is an established coach and we can look for the Celtics to have made adjustments following the series opener. The call remains for Boston to win this series although it now sets up as a six or seven game struggle. Look to play on the Celtics as long as they are trailing or even in the series unless they are in a position to win the series at home in Game six. In such a situation the play would be on the Celtics, likely as favorites of perhaps five or six points.
The UNDER should also be considered as the preferred Totals play even though the line will hover around 180. Their four meetings thus far have produced total points of 155, 174, 189 and game one’s 157.
San Antonio vs. Utah: The Spurs won the opening game of the series with relative ease, 106-91, marking the Spurs’ fourth win in five games against the Jazz this season. The top seeded Spurs should go on to win this series, likely in five games, with Utah’s best chance at a win coming back home in Game three, assuming San Antonio also wins Wednesday’s Game two in which they are 11½ point favorites.
Utah was 25-8 SU at home this season, including 5-4 SU and 6-3 ATS as home underdogs. Look to play on Utah back home in Game three and then to back the loser in Game four. If the series returns to San Antonio with the Spurs in position to wrap up the series in game five the play would be on the Spurs although expect to again be laying close to a dozen points.
Also the UNDER is the preferred Totals play throughout the balance of the series provided the Total remains above 200.
Oklahoma City vs. Dallas: Defending champion Dallas led most of the way before dropping a 99-98 decision to the Thunder in the opening game of the series as NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant nailed the game winning basket with under two seconds remaining. Oklahoma City did win three of four regular season meetings and should win this series, perhaps in 5. Dallas should be an attractive option throughout this series with perhaps the exception of Game 5.
If the Mavs are down 0-2 heading home for game three, Dallas would be playable in game three if laying no more than a trey. If Oklahoma City is in position to sweep the series they would be the play in Game 4 if getting points. Should Oklahoma City be in position to wrap the series back home in Game 5, they would be playable as a favorite if laying no more than five points.
LA Lakers vs. Denver: The Lakers showed in Game 1 that they may not need the suspended Metta World Peace (aka Ron Artest) to get by Denver as the home team rolled to a solid 103-88 win. The truth is the Lakers match up well against the Nuggets and are likely to need no more than five games to advance. Andrew Bynum played up to his potential in game one with a triple double that featured 10 blocked shots. Kobe played like Kobe.
The Lakers are favored by the same amount in Game two as they were in Game 1, five points. They should at least get the straight up win and head to Denver with a 2-0 lead. If such is the case then Denver should make their stand in game three and are worthy of play if not favored by more than three points. If the Lakers are in position to sweep the series they would be playable in Game 4 if they are underdogs or pick ‘em. If either team has a 2-1 lead after three games the loser of Game 3 would be the play in Game 4.
Back in Los Angeles for Game five the Lakers would be the play if laying no more than six points. The Lakers have now won four of five meetings this season against Denver and all five games have stayed UNDER the Total with four of the five staying UNDER by double digits. The UNDER remains the preferred Totals option provided the line stays at 198 or above.
Memphis vs. L A Clippers: This series produced the most bizarre result of all eight of the series opening games. The Clippers tied a playoff record by overcoming a 21 point deficit at the end of three quarters to pull out a 99-98 win.
Memphis still has the edge in talent and depth and still the pick to win. After losing Game one the Grizzlies are now priced at +115 to +120 to win the series despite having now surrendered home court advantage.
The Clippers have lost Caron Butler for the season after being injured in the opener. Expect Memphis to bounce back with a huge effort in Wednesday’s Game 2 and to cover the 6. Look for the Grizzlies to win at least one of the two in LA.
The three regular season meetings each stayed UNDER the Total before Sunday’s Game 1 went OVER. Play UNDER 188 or higher and OVER 182 or lower.