Form pretty much held up in the opening games of the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Home teams won six of eight games over the weekend and the pointspread did not come into play in any of the eight contests. Phoenix and Seattle barely covered the line in their wins while Detroit, Boston, Miami and Chicago each won at home by double digits. The only road teams to win their opening games were Houston and Denver.
The well publicized "zig zag" theory would have you play the loser of Game 1 in Game 2 and the loser of Game 2 in Game 3 etc. For many years blindly following this strategy produced handsome profits. But in recent years the theory has been barely breakeven. Still, it is a very sensible way to approach upcoming games.
Similarly, teams that drop their first two games on the road often make for good plays in Game 3. Here are some capsule comments on the first round series.
Nets vs Heat: Miami has now won all four meetings by a minimum of 16 points. Even the return of Richard Jefferson did not narrow the gap in Game 1 for the Nets. Still, New Jersey would be a play in Game 3 if down 0-2 or happen to win Game 2 and even the series at 1-1. Should Miami take a 3-0 lead into Game 4, then the Heat would be a good play to complete a sweep.
Sixers vs Pistons: Philadelphia was able to gain confidence by building a huge lead early in Game 1, but that confidence was shattered by Detroit’s impressive comeback 21-point win. Detroit may still be the team to beat in the East. The best spot to play Detroit would be Game 4 if up 2-1 or looking to complete a four game sweep. Bet UNDER in games played in Philly.
Pacers vs Celtics: Despite Boston’s rather easy win over the Pacers in Game 1, this series could still go the distance. The Pacers will be an excellent play in Game 3 whether down 2-0 or tied 1-1. Unless the Celtics are in position to sweep in Game 4, Indiana would be a solid play looking to take a 3-1 lead or pull even at 2-2.
Wizards vs Bulls: Game 1 was a toss up deep into the fourth quarter as both teams appear evenly matched. Washington has more options on offense but the Bulls are stronger defensively. The Wizards are in better position to advance to the next round on the basis of being much healthier. Bet Washington in both Games 3 and 4.
Grizzlies vs Suns: Phoenix won rather easy in Game 1, showing the difference in both teams. The Suns are favored to be up 2-0 heading to Memphis. The best play in this series might be to pass on Game 3 and bet on Phoenix in Game 4. That is unless the Suns are upset in Game 2 and the series is 1-1 returning to Memphis. Then the strategy would be to play Phoenix in Games 3 and 4.
Nuggets at Spurs: Denver’s upset in Game 1 signals that the Nuggets believe they can win this series. The Nuggets rallied just before the half and then won the decisive fourth quarter. The Spurs’ Tim Duncan is not 100 percent, but the Spurs managed to win 32 of their last 40. Their hope is to be at least tied at 1-1 returning home. If so, the Nuggets will be the play in Game 3 in a near pick ”˜em situation. Denver again makes for an attractive play in Game 4 even if in the unlikely position of going for the sweep.
Sonics vs. Kings: The winner of this series is likely to be a heavy underdog in Round 2 as both teams have significant weaknesses. As such, the zig zag theory may hold truest to form with these teams. Sacramento would be the play in Game 2. If the Kings pull the small upset, then play the Sonics at home in Game 3. Overall, the Sonics are the better team. However, in giving up a huge lead in Game 1, they showed their inability to close out. The OVER is also a preferred play in Sacramento, where both regular season games went easily over the total.
Rockets vs Mavs: This should be the most contentious of any first round series as each team was red hot down the stretch of the regular season. Houston’s upset in Game 1 makes Game2 critical for Dallas. The Mavericks would be a good play in Game 3 regardless if they are down 0-2 or tied 1-1. The loser of Game 3 would be a solid bet in Game 4 unless Houston is going for a sweep. In that situation the UNDER becomes playable as the Rockets’ strong defense would shut down a desperate Dallas offense.