As we went to press Tuesday two of the eight opening round NBA playoff series ended in a sweep with the higher seeded team accomplishing the feat. And both were in the Eastern Conference.
Top seeded Milwaukee easily defeated eighth seeded Detroit, winning all four games by double digit margins that ranged between 16 and 35 points and covering in each. The Bucks were only mildly challenged for a half in Monday night’s elimination game, actually trailing the host Pistons by six points before outscoring Detroit 71-43 in the second half.
Ironically, the Bucks will face the other Eastern team to accomplish the four-game sweep as Boston eliminated Indiana. Boston’s sweep was not nearly as impressive as Milwaukee’s as the Celtics’ four wins over the Pacers were by 10 points or less.
Thus the Bucks will face the fourth-seeded Celtics in a series scheduled to begin on Saturday. By having the best record in the NBA Milwaukee will enjoy the home-court advantage for as long as it remains in the playoffs.
Five of the other six series are one game away from ending on either Tuesday or Wednesday. Hosts Portland, Toronto and Philadelphia, each leading 3-1, may have already eliminated Oklahoma City, Orlando and Brooklyn by the time you are reading this on Wednesday. And on Wednesday night Golden State hosts the L.A. Clippers and Houston hosts Utah with the Warriors and Jazz also leading 3-1.
Only the series between Denver and San Antonio is assured of going at least six games as heading into Tuesday night’s game in Denver the Nuggets and Spurs were tied 2-2.
Here are some thoughts as to how the Denver-San Antonio opening-round series may play out plus an early look at known, likely or potential second-round matchups.
Nuggets vs. Spurs: This is now a best-of-three series. Denver-San Antonio has unfolded as the perfect ‘zig-zag’ series with the loser of the previous game both winning and covering in the next.
If this pattern continues, the Spurs would have pulled the upset Tuesday night in Denver, setting up the chance to win the series back in San Antonio on Thursday. A Denver win will have given the Nuggets their first lead in the series, up 3-2.
I will be looking to back the Game 5 winner to end the series on Thursday. Should the Game 5 loser force a Game 7 with a win I will be looking to back Denver to win the series back home on Saturday, likely having to lay around -6.
Bucks vs. Celtics: Boston’s recent playoff experience and its current momentum of having won eight of nine games in April (6-2-1 ATS) suggests Milwaukee will be given a test unlike they faced against Detroit.
The Bucks have been the most consistent team in the NBA all season and deserve to represent the East in the NBA Finals. My early thoughts are that series will go at least six games.
My approach early in the series will be to back Boston to win at least one of the first two games in Milwaukee, splitting my play in Game 1 between taking the points and playing the Celtics on the money line. A Game 1 win by the Celtics will have me on Milwaukee in Game 2. But if the Bucks win Game 1, my Game 2 play will be similar how I played Game 1.
In potential second-round matchups that figure to be competitively priced, I will look to back the winner of the series between Portland and Oklahoma City to get past the winner of the Denver/San Antonio series. Most likely Portland gets by OKC and, if so, should be favored over San Antonio and close to a pick ‘em vs. Denver.
I like what I’ve seen from Portland for much of the season and would not be surprised if they give either Golden State or Houston a competitive series. The Blazers split their four regular season games with the Warriors and took two of three from the Rockets.
I will also look to take Houston at an underdog price to upset the Warriors, although that price might not be as attractive as one might hope.
Houston did win three of four regular season meetings with Golden State and took the eventual champions to seven games last season. If James Harden plays as he’s played all season and if Chris Paul can stay healthy for the entire series an upset might be a surprise but not a shock.
Because of the uncertainty of the schedule and the fact no betting lines are yet available, we’ll take the week off from offering specific picks. We’ll have selections next week once we have the schedule for the second round set and we know who’s playing who.
Last week: 2-0