The NBA regular season comes to an end this weekend and in what has become a recent annual tradition the Playoffs get underway this weekend with four games on Saturday and four more on Sunday as all 16 Playoff teams will see action.
Although 15 of the 16 Playoff teams have been determined as we go to press, none of the opening round matchups has been determined. That’s how close some of the teams are to one another when it comes to seeding.
About the only thing known for sure is that the San Antonio Spurs will own the top overall seed with the best record in the NBA. The Spurs were 62-18 through this past Sunday with games at Houston on Monday and hosting the LA Lakers on Wednesday.
In fact, there is a real good chance the top three records in the league will belong to Western Conference teams. Barring a major upset along the way, the Western Conference winner will enjoy the home court edge in the NBA Finals, be it against Miami, Indiana or one of the teams seeded three through eight in the East.
Miami and Indiana are still determining the top seed in the East with Indiana needing only to defeat Orlando on Wednesday to win that battle. The Pacers could also earn the No. 1 seed if Miami lost on Monday at Washington or loses Wednesday night at home to lowly Philadelphia.
Chicago and Toronto are tied for the third and fourth seeds with two games remaining. Brooklyn is pretty much set as the fifth seed while Washington leads Charlotte by a game for the sixth seed with both teams having two games still to play. The only certainty in the East is Atlanta will be seeded eighth and will face either Miami or Indiana in the opening round of the Playoffs.
Heading into Monday it was still possible for a total of four teams to finish with identical records of 49-33 but only three of those teams will make the Playoffs. Tie breaker scenarios already have Golden State and Dallas in the Playoffs with Memphis and Phoenix battling for the eighth and final seed. That final seed could have been decided Monday night when Phoenix hosted the Grizzlies.
Without knowing any of the first round matchups it is not possible to make forecasts as to how the opening round, or the entire Playoffs, may unfold.
But there are some guidelines that can be used in assessing teams’ chances of advancing past the first round and perhaps making a deep Playoffs run.
The ability to play on the road and having a solid defense are two important keys to postseason success.
San Antonio has the NBA’s best road record and by a fairly nice margin. Through Sunday the Spurs were 30-10 on the road this season with the second best team, Oklahoma City, five games weaker at 25-15. All eight of the Western Conference Playoff teams will have had winning road records albeit Houston and Phoenix stood just 21-19 with each having one game remaining.
The Eastern Conference team with the best road record will be no better than 23-18 away from home. With one road game remaining both Miami and Toronto were 22-18. At least six Western Playoff teams will have at least 23 road wins.
Using average points allowed as a decent indicator of defense only two Eastern teams can be considered to be elite. Allowing just 92.4 points per game, the Indiana Pacers, despite their recent struggles, are one of those two teams but they are not the top team.
Miami actually ranks third in the East, allowing an average of 97.2 points per game. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the team that ranks fourth in the East in average points allowed as the Charlotte Bobcats hold that distinction, ranking just behind Miami in allowing just 97.3 ppg.
The team that leads the East in this category is Chicago. The Bulls allow an average of just 91.8 points per game, best in all of the NBA.
The top team in the West has an edge of nearly three full points per game over the West’s second best defensive team yet may not even make the Playoffs.
Allowing just 94.5 points per game Memphis needs things to fall right in order to claim the final Playoff spot. A win at Phoenix on Monday will have clinched that final spot for the Grizzlies but the Suns were 3 point home favorites in that game.
The second best defensive team in the West is San Antonio. The Spurs are allowing just 97.4 ppg, which could make for a defensive oriented series should the Spurs and Grizzlies meet in the opening round.
Yet, as if to illustrate the dangers of relying on just a single statistic to base a wagering decision upon, the Grizzlies and Spurs met four times during the regular season. The Spurs won all four meetings and went 3-1 ATS in the sweep but the Totals results will surprise you. All four games between the Spurs and Grizzlies went OVER the Total!
Golden State is the third stingiest team in the West (99.0 ppg) followed by Oklahoma City (99.7). Those are the only four Western teams allowing under 100 ppg on average.
In looking to play the first couple of games of a Playoff series, home teams have had great success over the years, both SU and ATS. Some handicappers and bettors will either blindly play the home teams in the first game of a series or will stay away from the game if they have concerns.
Should the home team fall in the first game bettors will be very enthusiastic about backing the home team in the series’ second game as the hosts will be seeking to avoid an 0-2 deficit heading to the road for game three. Of course, you will be paying an added price in line inflation in order to back that home team in game two. But quality home teams, often those considered as legitimate Title contenders, are able to shake off that opening game loss and respond with a big effort in Game 2.
If the home team is successful in the opening game of the series the line is often adjusted downward for game two with the thinking being the road team will give a much better effort and the bettors seeking to play the road team to even the series (or at least cover as an underdog) will be getting a shorter price than in Game 1.
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]