Bettin’ on B’ball by Andy Iskoe |
Early in the week all eight opening round series have Game 1 in the books.
Form generally held in the opening games over the weekend with six of the eight home teams winning. The only road teams to snare a rare opening road win were Utah and Philadelphia.
While Utah’s win at Houston was not a major surprise, the 76ers’ upset of Detroit was. Not only were the Pistons nearly double-digit favorites, but they also got out to a 15-point lead, one that is usually insurmountable in playoff basketball.
But Philly’s comeback was not the only comeback of the weekend. In winning their opening game at home over Phoenix, the San Antonio Spurs also overcame a double-digit deficit to defeat the Suns in double overtime. If the Suns wind up being eliminated by the Spurs, they can look back on Game 1 as the most likely reason.
In addition to the Spurs, five other home teams held serve, four of which were decided by double digits. Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando and New Orleans each had those comfortable wins. Cleveland got by Washington by 7 in a series that figures to be not just extremely competitive but played with great intensity as a result of the trash talking done by several Washington players.
As the teams prepare to play the second games of their respective series, here’s a look at how each might unfold:
Boston v Atlanta: The top-seeded Celtics won 29 more regular season games than the Hawks. The class and talent difference was evident in Boston’s 104-81 opening game win. The Celtics should sweep the Hawks in four games and be well rested for their next opponent. Atlanta’s best chance for a cover should come in Game 3 when they return home. Preferred play: The under. All four meetings have gone below the total.
Detroit v Philadelphia: The Sixers win should grab the Pistons’ collective attention to ensure a more fully focused effort for Game 2 in which Detroit is a solid 10- point favorite. Detroit should win this series but it likely will be in 6. Preferred play: The Pistons in Game 2. Sit out Game 3. Take Game 3 loser with the points in Game 4.
Orlando v Toronto: Orlando should advance to the second round in probably 5 The Magic match up well against the Raptors, who lost 16 of their final 25 regular season games – worst stretch among playoff teams. Preferred play: Sit out Game 2. Take Orlando in Games 3 and 4, which should be close to pick’ems.
Cleveland v Washington: Several Washington players vowed that the Cavs will not eliminate the Wizards for a third straight season. Easier said than done. Preferred play: Take the Wizards in Games 3 and 4. Look for Washington to walk the walk after talking the talk and winning this series in 6.
LA Lakers v Denver: The top- seeded Lakers won seven more games than did eighth- seeded Denver during the regular season, including a sweep of the teams’ three meetings plus Game 1 of this series. The three wins at home have been by 28, 17 and 14. The Lakers have a significant coaching edge and are solid 8-point favorites in Game 2. Preferred play: Take LA to earn a 2-0 straight up and ATS lead. It’s most favorable to play Denver in Game 3. Back the Lakers in Game 4 for either a sweep or a 3-1 lead.
New Orleans v Dallas: New Orleans played a strong fourth quarter and ended up with a come from behind double-digit win to make it 5-for-5 for the home team this season in their meetings The over is 4-1. New Orleans is favored by 3½ points in Tuesday’s Game 2. Preferred play: Dallas in Game 3 whether down 0-2 or tied 1-1. Dallas again in Game 4, then New Orleans at home in Game 5.
San Antonio v Phoenix: The bad beat for Phoenix in Game 1 came for totals players with the score 93-93 at the end of regulation. The final score after two overtime periods exceeded 193. All four regular season games went under by margins of 8½, 37, 21½ and 21 points! Preferred play: Take under for the duration of the series. Play Game 2 loser in Game 3 in a series that could go 7.
Houston v Utah: After winning just 17 road games during the regular season Utah took charge from the outset in Game 1. That makes a Houston win in Game 2 imperative if the Rockets are to have a chance to win this series. Utah was almost unbeatable at home this season, with a league best 37-4 home record. One of the four home losses was to Houston on the season’s third night. Preferred play: Houston in Game 2. Utah in both Game 3 and 4 back home. Take under 183 or higher. Utah should advance in no more than 6.
Let’s enjoy what promises to be one of the most competitive playoff seasons in years.