Shock no bull

May 1, 2007 8:34 AM

One week into the NBA Playoffs has resulted in a pair of four game sweeps and several other series on the verge of producing upsets.

Chicago eliminated defending champion Miami in four straight games while Detroit dispatched Florida’s other NBA representative Orlando — also in four games. This sets up an Eastern Conference semifinals matchup of fifth seeded Chicago facing its long time nemesis top seeded Detroit in a series that gets underway this weekend.

More about this matchup later.

As shocking as the elimination of Miami may be, it pales in comparison to the potential for the NBA’s top overall seed Dallas -- one game away from being eliminated by Golden State, the team that qualified for the playoffs on the final night of the regular season. Yet Golden State takes a 3-1 lead to Dallas for Tuesday’s fifth game.

Golden State’s series lead is no fluke. If not for a second half ejection of Warriors star Baron Davis in Game 2, Golden State could have swept the Mavericks out of the playoffs. It’s premature to write off the Mavericks as we go to press. Phoenix overcame a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers last season.

Twice before in NBA playoff history an eighth seed has upset a one seed, but never since the opening round has been a best of 7 series.

By the time you are reading this column, Cleveland may have swept injury depleted Washington in 4. The teams played Game 4 in Washington on Monday night. Even if the Wizards were able to extend the series, the Cavaliers should wrap it up in Game 5. Teams leading 3-0 in a best of 7 are a perfect 80-for-80 in NBA playoff history.

New Jersey is one win away from upsetting third seeded Toronto, taking a 3-1 series lead into Tuesday’s Game 5 in Toronto. Similarly, second seeded Phoenix is up 3-1 against the Lakers heading into Wednesday’s Game 5 in Phoenix.

On Monday, Denver sought to square up their series against San Antonio at 2-2, as they hosted the Spurs. The Houston/Utah series had become a best of three series with the teams tied at two games apiece. Game 5 was played Monday in Houston. That series has been the only one to hold form with the home team winning and covering each of the four games. The final margin has been at least 8.

The zig-zag theory discussed last week has gotten off to a subpar start, going 10-12 ATS through Sunday. Should any of the remaining series go the full 7, the home team would be playable if laying no more than 5.

That is likely to be the case if the Houston/Utah series goes the distance and if Toronto is able to win two in a row against New Jersey. Dallas, Phoenix and San Antonio are each likely to be heavily favored in a Game 7 should those series be extended. Both Denver and Golden State would be the most attractive Game 7 road underdogs if getting at least 8.

If Washington upset Cleveland on Monday, the Cavs would be playable in Game 5 if laying less than double digits. That might not be the case. Cleveland was favored by a dozen or so points in both Games 1 and 2.

Should the Lakers upset Phoenix in Game 5 at Phoenix, then Los Angeles would be playable as a home underdog in Game 6 if getting 5. Toronto is playable at home Tuesday in Game 5 as a favorite of 4 points or less. Should there be a Game 6 in New Jersey, the Nets would be the play if laying the 4 or less they gave in both Games 3 and 4.

If top seeded Dallas wins Game 5 on Tuesday, then the Mavs would be playable if laying 4 or less back in Golden State for Game 6. That’s if the Mavs forced that sixth game with a double digit win in Game 5. If the Mavs struggled to win Game 5, Golden State would be the play to win in 6 if getting at least 5.

The only second round series already set is Detroit against Chicago. During the regular season the Bulls won 3-of-4. Both teams won once at home by exactly 2 points. The Bulls also won at home by 17 and 18 at Detroit. Three of the four games went OVER the total, all falling within a range of 188 to 195.

Detroit is likely to be around a 6 point favorite in game one which will be played either Saturday or Sunday depending on the results of other series. Given the familiarity of the two teams with one another taking the points with Chicago is an attractive option.

Detroit was less impressive in sweeping Orlando than was Chicago in sweeping Miami. Chicago is good enough, especially with ex-Piston Ben Wallace in the middle, to win at least one of the first two games in Detroit. That means you might consider part of your Game 1 play on Chicago to be on the money line in addition to taking the points

Should the Bulls pull the upset, then Detroit would be the play in Game 2. If Detroit wins Game 1, then a similar part pointspread, part money line strategy could be used in Game 2 regardless of whether the Pistons covered in Game 1. For the series Chicago is playable if you can get 2/1.