The second round of this season’s NBA Playoffs is nearly half complete as through Sunday two series stood at 2 games to 1, another was tied at 2 games apiece with only the L A Clippers vs. Houston series looking one sided with the Clippers holding a 3 games to 1 lead.
The NBA Finals will have some relatively new blood competing for the Championship. For the first time in a decade and a half the Finals will be played without Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan or Dwyane Wade participating. The most experienced potential grizzly old veteran to compete would be LeBron James if the Cleveland Cavaliers can win the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta vs. Washington: The outcome of this series hinges on the health of Washington’s John Wall. After Washington pulled the road upset in the opening game of the series Wall missed both games two and three with his injured wrist. Atlanta won game two at home to square the series and nearly overcome a fourth quarter 25 point deficit to win Saturday’s game three. After a furious rally to tie the game at 101, Washington’s Paul Pierce made an improbably game winning shot at the buzzer to give the Wizards the win and a 2 games to 1 lead in the series heading into Monday night. Atlanta was a 4.5 point favorite on Monday morning to even the series and return home tied at two games apiece. Should that indeed have occurred the series becomes a best of three. If Wall is able to play the Wizards would be the play for the balance of the series – as slight favorites at home (perhaps minus 2 to minus 3) and as attractively priced underdogs on the road (plus 5 or 6) – with one possible exception. As we go to press on Monday the results of Game 4 are unknown. If Washington pulled the upset in Game 4 to take a 3 games to 1 lead headed back to Atlanta the Hawks would be the play in Game 5 to extend the series, even if Wall plays for the Wizards.
Cleveland vs. Chicago: This has become a best of three series after what can be best described as Cleveland’s ‘sloppy’ win on Sunday that enabled the Cavs to tie the series and make this a best of three, reclaiming the home court advantage. Chicago’s Pau Gasol’s injury and absence somewhat offsets the loss of Cleveland’s Kevin Love, although Gasol is expected back whereas Love is lost for the duration of the Playoffs. Both Kyrie Irving and LeBron James were banged up in Game 4 but both are expected to play in Tuesday’s Game 5. Much as James is the key to Cleveland’s success Derrick Rose is vital for Chicago’s chances. Rose has been inconsistent in the Playoffs but generally has been more good than bad. Prior to the start of this series the Bulls were given an excellent chance to win and were attractively priced at roughly plus 200 to do so. Chicago is worth consideration as a 5 point road underdog in Game 5 and would be worth a play back home in Game 6, especially if they are trailing in the series 3 games to 2. If there is a Game 7 back in Cleveland it will be tough for the Bulls to pull off the upset but a road win in Game 7 is not unprecedented. If you played the Bulls in the series you might consider a hedge playing Cleveland on the Money Line in Game 7.
Golden State vs. Memphis: This has turned into perhaps the most intriguing and interesting series of the Playoffs, exceeding that of the opening round series between the Clippers and Spurs. Memphis entered Monday night’s Game 4 with a chance to take a 3 games to 1 lead over Golden State, the team that was the best team in the regular season, winning 67 games. It was thought by many that the Grizzlies could give the Warriors a true test with their emphasis on defense but it hinged upon the health of both Tony Allen and Mike Conley. Conley showed his mettle in leading Memphis to wins in Games 2 and 3 after sitting out the opening game. The Warriors were favored by 5 points to even the series. Regardless of the result the Warriors would be the play back home in Game 5 to either take a 3 games to 2 lead or to stave off elimination. If Memphis heads to Golden State up 3 games to 1 and loses Game 5, the play would be on Memphis to wrap up the series back home in Game 6. If there is a Game 7, Golden State would be playable if laying less than 6 points while the Grizzlies would be playable if getting more than 8 points.
Houston vs. LA Clippers: The Rockets may have done all but raise the white flag with their ugly performance Sunday night in Game 4, losing 128-95. The loss put Houston in a true “must win” situation as they return home for Tuesday’s fifth game trailing 3 games to 1. The Clippers are playing with great poise and confidence, attributes that are clearly lacking with the Rockets. Although Houston might rise up and force a Game 6 with a win Tuesday night the Clippers would be solid favorites to wrap up the series back home.
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]