Extended rest relief for Heat

May 17, 2005 6:48 AM

The second round of the NBA playoffs continues this week with three of the four series tied at two games apiece and effectively becoming best of three series.

Miami, the lone team to advance to the conference finals, will get more than a week of rest before taking on either Detroit or Indiana for the right to advance to the NBA finals.

The lengthy absence Miami will experience raises the question of rest versus rust. Will the prolonged period of inactivity benefit the Heat by giving them fresh legs following the extended period of rest? Or will that lengthy lack of playoff intensity competition result in a rusty performance once the conference finals begin?

Probably both factors come into play but the rest clearly outweighs the rust factor considering Miami’s Shaquille O’Neal missed both Games 3 and 4 of the series against Washington. The Big Aristotle needs to be healthy as possible for the Heat to get by their next opponent and the extra several days of rest will help.

Miami will likely be rooting the Indiana/Detroit series to go the full seven and continue the physical style of play. The hope is that the Pacers and Pistons are so fatigued that any Miami rust in Game 1 will be offset by freshness. The conference finals could get underway next weekend if the current series end in six games.

Of the three series that are tied, the biggest surprise is Seattle-San Antonio. The Spurs were impressive in winning the first two games at home by 22 and 17 points. But after giving up a late lead in Game 3’s one point loss at Seattle, the Spurs were uncharacteristically sloppy in losing Game 4 by a dozen.

Seattle is now a perfect 5-0 on its home court and would be the play in Game 6 back home seeking to either avoid elimination or to close out the Spurs. San Antonio is a hefty 10 point choice to win Game 5 at home Tuesday. San Antonio would appear to be the right side in that contest, bouncing back after the two road losses. But Seattle will be attractive in Game 6 and if the series does go the full seven, the better play in the series finale might be "under."

The fact that the Phoenix/Dallas series is tied after four should surprise absolutely nobody. These two teams are evenly matched. The road team has won five of seven meetings this season, including the playoffs. Although three of the four games have been decided by double digits, neither team has been able to string together consecutive wins. That would point to Phoenix winning Game 5 back at home where they have opened as 6½ point favorites.

That spread might be offset by the great success enjoyed by the road team. Dallas is clearly capable of staying under the number. Phoenix is likely to again be without key contributor Joe Johnson. The strategy will be to back the straight up loser of Game 5 in Game 6. Should the series go the full seven, Phoenix has shown an ability to come up big in key games at home. We might see a blowout win in the series clincher.

The Indiana/Detroit series has seen several one sided contests between these two familiar rivals. It’s no surprise that all eight meetings this season as seen the straight up winner cover the pointspread. Detroit opened as a nine point home favorite in Tuesday’s Game 5. The early action backed Indiana, with the Pistons now favored by 8½. As was thought at the start of this series, despite having the weaker personnel, Indiana is a very well coached. Rick Carlisle could be expected to get the maximum from his team.

This should remain a physical series and even at the low posted total of 171. The "under" is the preferred play. As the series gets extended, the defensive intensity and deliberate play will increase. We might see repeats of Games 3 and 4 in which just 153 and 165 points were scored. The best strategy might be to play "under" in Game 5 rather than either side. Then we would back the straight up loser of Game 5 in Game 6, seeking to force a deciding contest.

In a Game 7, Detroit’s experience should be pivotal. The Pistons would be worth a play if laying seven points or less. The "under" would also figure provided the line is no lower than 170.

 

Throughout the regular season, comments were made lauding the efforts of the linesmaker in balancing pointspread results. Nothing has changed in the nearly 60 playoff games that have been played through Sunday.

The Home team has a pointspread record this season of 631-630-28. Home favorites are 12 games above .500 but showing a net loss of 32.5 units. Home underdogs are seven games under .500 with a net loss of 24.1 units. The "over / under" is 639-639-11.

Despite the oft heard wails of gloom and doom by Sports Book directors, these pointspread results show that the linesmaker has done an amazing job at making NBA wagering a 50/50 proposition. At 11-10 odds, the house is greatly favored and make selective handicapping a must if success is the players’ goal.