The NBA’s postseason is off to a dramatic start and that was culminated this weekend, with five Game 7s in the first round. In spite of the drama, this is still the NBA and the favorites still mostly held serve.
Indiana and Oklahoma City were pushed to the limit, having to win road Game 6s, but both did it, and then closed out at home. The Los Angeles Clippers were at the epicenter of a huge drama with Donald Sterling losing ownership for his racist remarks, but the Clips kept their focus and won a tough seven-game battle with the Golden State Warriors. The San Antonio Spurs were a 1-seed that lost two of the first three games and then had to win a Game 7 of their own.
The Brooklyn Nets were the lower seed, but were still favored to beat the Toronto Raptors. The Nets had to win a Game 6 at home and then pull off what seems almost impossible in the NBA sometimes and win a road Game 7. The Nets did it—ironically, they lost a home Game 7 a year ago in this same round.
In the end, the only true underdogs—both lower seeds and betting dogs to advance were the Washington Wizards and the Portland Trail Blazers, both out of the 4-5 matchups. As shockers go, that doesn’t really cut it.
Now we move into the conference semifinals. All four series listed below begin either tonight or tomorrow. Here’s the NBA playoff betting odds for the second round matchups, with a brief comment on each one, along with a likely ill-conceived, soon-to-fail prediction. The betting numbers reflect the payout on wagers in $100 increments.
Indiana (-175) Washington (+155): Is it just me or does that Washington line look tantalizingly easy to jump on? Almost too easy. The Pacers looked terrible against an Atlanta Hawks’ team that finished only 39-43 and probably would have been around 13th in the Western Conference if they had to play teams on that side of the NBA all year.
Roy Hibbert is doing nothing and appears to have completely lost confidence. If Indiana can’t muscle people down low with both Hibbert and David West, that what are they? A mediocre team, one comparable to Atlanta is what. The Indiana guards have never been a strong suit and unless they can pull Reggie Miller out of the TNT booth and put him on the floor that’s not going to change.
Washington has, at least right now, the superior inside personnel, with Nene Hilario, and the John Wall/Bradly Beal combo in the backcourt should have a big series. I know it looks too easy, and I know I should stick with my preseason pick of Indiana to win the NBA title, but I can’t do it. Wizards in six.
Miami (-500) Brooklyn (+390): Brooklyn swept all four regular season meetings with Miami, and we know this is the series that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were thirsting to play when they were traded out of Boston with their approval.
This is also the series where we find out if Miami really is in playoff gear or if their four-game sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats was just a fruit of getting an exceptionally easy first-round matchup and then Charlotte having Al Jefferson get banged up.
I think Miami gets tested, but when the Nets lost Brook Lopez early in the year, they lost their best method of matching up with the Heat in a postseason series—to bang them down low. Garnett will have a big game or two where he turns back the clock and that will stretch the series, but LeBron finishes it in six.
San Antonio (-330) Portland (+265): I understand why San Antonio is such a hefty favorite and just a couple weeks ago, I’d have found the price justified. But the Spurs just did not look against the Dallas Mavericks, and you have to wonder if the year-long problems they had against elite teams can be fixed in the playoffs. San Antonio is well-coached, deep and plays with consistency. That can pile you up a lot of wins in the regular season—62 of them to be exact—but it can leave you in trouble in the playoffs if you can’t elevate your game.
Do the Spurs still have the pieces necessary to elevate their game? Tim Duncan can’t do it each game anymore, not at this stage in his career. Tony Parker seems to be slowing down too. Manu Ginobli is wildly inconsistent. Maybe Kahwi Leonard. Maybe.
I’m still concerned with Portland’s defense, but their series win over the Houston Rockets was impressive. LaMarcus Aldridge is beyond impressive, he’s arguably the league’s third-best player behind LeBron and Durant.
Having said all that…I’m not ready to give up on San Antonio because of one questionable series nor overlook my issues with Portland over one good one. I find this series a lot more compelling than I would have two weeks ago, but I’m still taking San Antonio to again go the distance and again win a home Game 7.
Oklahoma City (-185) LA Clippers (+160): Easily the best of the second-round matchups. You have both a very even matchup, and two teams that can win the NBA championship. What I can’t figure out is how on earth the Thunder are considered a bigger favorite to win this series then the Pacers are to beat the Wizards.
If OkC plays like they did in Game 7 against Memphis, they’re going to drink champagne at the end of June. Not just that everything clicked in that game, but that Russell Westbrook distributed the basketball, getting 16 assists, and let Kevin Durant take the lead offensively.
The problem is, that’s just one game, and there’s too long of a pattern of Westbrook overshadowing Durant. The Thunder’s star appears to be too nice a guy to walk over to Westbrook and scream “Give me the bleepin’ ball!” And head coach Scott Drew is letting himself be controlled by his point guard.
If Westbrook keeps deferring this series, I’ll become a believer. Right now, I’ll take a true point guard in Chris Paul and a head coach who has real control of his team in Doc Rivers. The Clippers steal one of the first two on the road and then win each game in their building to end the series in six.