The NBA’s version of the “Final Four” has been determined and the Conference Finals are underway. The winners of these two series will meet for the NBA Title next month.
Memphis/San Antonio: In the Western Conference San Antonio holds a 1-0 lead over Memphis after an impressive wire-to-wire win in the opening game at home on Sunday.
The Spurs led by 17 points at the end of the first quarter en route to a 105-83 win that served notice to the upstart Grizzlies that the Spurs are intent on making sure a repeat of two seasons ago does not occur. In the 2011 Playoffs eighth seeded Memphis knocked off top seeded San Antonio in six games.
From what was witnessed in the opening game of this series the Spurs remember that upset well. Sunday’s win marked the fifth time in five games this season the home team has won. The Spurs have covered three of the five meetings with each team covering once on the road in a game they lost straight up.
The Spurs present several challenges to the Grizzlies that Oklahoma City did not present, especially with the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook unavailable.
The Spurs have a huge edge in experience with four NBA Titles since 2000 led by future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan and Coach Gregg Popovich. Prior to the start of the Playoffs the Spurs were arguably the one team from the Western Conference with the best chance of blocking Memphis from making it to the NBA Finals.
Game 2 will be critical in that another solid win by the Spurs will make it very tough for the Grizzlies. Memphis would have to win four of the remaining five games against a very experienced and motivated foe.
San Antonio is favored by 5 points in Tuesday’s Game 2 and they are worthy of play. San Antonio’s balance, depth and multiple scoring options makes them the deserved favorite to win this series.
The loser of Tuesday’s game will be playable in Game 3, which will not be played until Saturday. The extended time off will be of greater benefit to the aging Spurs who are likely to be small underdogs in that game regardless of whether they are up 2-0 or if the series is tied at 1-1.
Memphis would be the play in Game 3 if down 2-0, even as a small favorite of perhaps 2 or 3 points. The Grizzlies would also be the play in Game 4 if seeking to even the series or facing elimination down 3-0.
San Antonio would be the Game 4 play if down 2-1. The expectation here is this series will return to San Antonio either tied at two games apiece or with the Spurs up 3-1.
The forecast is for the Spurs to win this series in either five or six games and face the winner of the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.
Despite the fact the first game of the series went OVER the total, the fundamentals suggest this should ultimately be a low scoring series, especially in the matchups played in Memphis. Thus, look UNDER before OVER in Games 3 and 4.
Indiana/Miami: In the Eastern Conference Finals, Miami is favored by 8 points in Wednesday’s home opener. Miami got by feisty Chicago in five games, winning four straight after being shocked at home in the opener by the Bulls.
Indiana, led by Lance Stephenson, got by New York in six games with a defense that frustrated the Knicks’ scorers and with a huge effort on the boards.
Miami will have to guard against the rust from inactivity that plagued them in that opening loss to Chicago. Miami will have been off a full week when they take the court against the Pacers. Indiana’s clincher against the Knicks was Saturday.
The Heat and Pacers met three times in the regular season with the home team winning and covering each game. The first two meetings were in Indiana and their most recent was in Miami. The three games were played roughly a month apart with the teams having last met in early March.
Miami is 8-1 in the Playoffs after sweeping Milwaukee in the opening series and then getting by Chicago in five games. Seven of Miami’s eight wins have been by double digits and the Heat are 6-3 ATS. Miami has been favored by at least 7 points in each Playoff game and by double digits in all five prior home games.
Indiana has been a much better team at home in the Playoffs than on the road. A perfect 6-0 both SU and ATS at home, the Pacers are just 2-4 both SU and ATS in their road Playoff games.
The point spreads in Indiana’s dozen Playoff games have ranged as high as 7 points. But the points have not mattered in any of those games!
Miami should be the play in both Games 1 and 2 as long as the line for Game 2 stays under double digits.
If as expected, Indiana returns home down two games to none the Pacers would be playable as long as they are not favored, which should be the case.
In the two regular season games at Indiana, Miami was favored by 2 points in each. The Pacers won those games (by 10 and 13 points). But these are the Playoffs.
Miami should win this series in five games. Indiana is talented enough and their solid inside game should enable them to win at least once, most likely in either Game 3 or 4.
Ultimately it appears likely we will see San Antonio and Miami meeting in the NBA Finals. And that would be a great matchup – one that will seriously challenge Miami’s attempt to win back-to-back Titles.
Both series will be revisited next week.
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]