Through Sunday, 59 Playoff games have been played representing more than half of the games that will be played before this season’s NBA Champion will be determined.
In looking at the statistics accumulated over those 59 games it is worth noting home teams are 41-18 Straight Up (69.5 percent) but a much more modest 32-26-1 ATS (55.2 percent). Favorites overall are 43-15 SU (74.1 percent) with one game closing as a Pick ‘em. Those 58 Favorites are 33-24-1 ATS (57.8 percent).
Totals results are fairly even with 28 games going OVER the Total and 31 staying UNDER. Of the three games that went into overtime two were UNDER the Total at the end of regulation. Those handicappers and bettors who track Totals on the basis of 48 minutes of play would thus show the Playoffs as having produced just 26 OVERs and 33 UNDERs.
It is quite possible all four Conference semifinals series will end by this coming weekend. In fact, two of the series could be completed by the time this edition of GamingToday hits the sportsbooks on Tuesday morning as both Boston and Cleveland took 3-0 leads into their Monday night games at Philadelphia and against Toronto respectively. On Tuesday, Golden State returns home leading New Orleans 3 -1 and Houston returns home with a 3-1 lead over Utah.
Thus it is extremely unlikely any of the four second-round series will go the full seven games, with a strong possibility that perhaps no more than one – and possibly none – will be extended to even six games.
Here are thoughts on how the four series may play out over the next few days and some early thoughts on what appear to be the likely matchups for the Conference Finals, the schedule for which has not yet been announced but could start sooner rather than later if series end in four or five games.
Toronto (1) vs. Cleveland (4): The prevailing thought headed into Monday’s Game 4 between these teams is “same old Raptors.” After the most successful regular season in franchise history, which earned them the top seed in the East, the Raptors blew a late double digit lead in the opening game of this series, losing at home in overtime.
Should Toronto have pulled the SU upset Monday night, Cleveland would be the play in Game 5 in Toronto on Wednesday. Cleveland is playable throughout the balance of the series with one exception. In the unlikely event the Raptors win three in a row to force a Game 7, Toronto would be the play to become the first team in NBA history to overcome an 0-3 deficit in a best of seven series. Such a situation, however, is extremely unlikely.
Boston (2) vs. Philadelphia (3): Boston coach Brad Stevens continues to cement his reputation as one of the NBA’s top coaches. The story of the Philadelphia 76ers has been well documented as their half decade or so of futility paid off with a 52-win season that earned them the number 3 seed. Philadelphia was a chic pick to win the Eastern Conference and after their five-game opening series win over Miami that optimism seemed well founded.
Should Philly force a Game 5 on Wednesday back in Boston, the Celtics would be the play if favored by no more than 3 points. But given the history of this series if there is a Game 5 the linesmaker may again install the 76ers as slight road favorites. Four of Boston’s six wins against Philly this season have been by double digits.
Houston (1) vs. Utah (5): It’s no surprise heading into Tuesday’s Game 5 back in Houston that the top seeded Rockets have a 3-1 lead over the Jazz. The surprise might be that Utah’s lone win occurred in Houston in Game 2 rather than back home in Games 3 or 4. The Rockets defeated Utah by double digits in all four regular season meetings and won the opener in this series by 14.
Should Utah pull the upset and force a Game 6 back home the play would be for Houston to wrap up the series with another comfortable road win.
Golden State (2) vs. New Orleans (6): This series has gone pretty much as expected with Steph Curry back, but for one slight aspect. The defending Champion Warriors take a 3-1 lead into Tuesday’s Game 5 back home after winning the first two games at home, losing Game 3 in New Orleans and then winning Game 4.
In betting Game 5 the preference might be to back New Orleans in the first half (at +6.5 to +7) rather than making a full game wager. Should there be a Game 6 back in New Orleans the play would be on Golden State to end the series on the road.
It certainly appears that the Conference Finals will match up Boston and Cleveland in the East and Houston versus Golden State in the West.
Based on the current odds to win their conferences both Boston and Houston will be underdogs to Cleveland and Golden State. If indeed both the Celtics and Rockets are plus prices for their series against the Cavs and Warriors, each would be worth a play to pull what would be considered upsets.
Basketball takes a great physical toll on its players with the stress placed on the body running up and down the court over a grueling 82-game regular season that is further burdensome when considering the added intensity of the playoffs.
In reaching three straight NBA Finals the Warriors have played a total of 62 post season games in those three seasons with Cleveland playing 59. The Celtics and Rockets are relatively fresher which, combined with their home court advantage achieved by virtue of better regular season records, gives both fundamental reasons to believe either, or both, can advance to the NBA Finals and thus make each supportable for play at underdog prices.
With all due respect to the New England Patriots and San Antonio Spurs of the past two decades, nothing lasts forever. Will this be the season either Cleveland or Golden State – or both – will not be in the NBA Finals? We should know within the next two to three weeks.