The long grind of the NBA schedule has finally reached a point where games actually matter. Most teams have somewhere near 26 games left in the season, and for the handful of top contenders, now is the time to start fine tuning and preparing for the playoffs. The Miami Heat may have taken the first half of the season slowly, but the competitive level in the league has reached a high point, especially since the all-star break. The MVP race is a full on sprint to the finish line between Kevin Durant and LeBron James, and the playoff positioning in both conferences will likely come down to the final few days of the regular season.
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With the playoffs looming, now might be the time to start looking at NBA futures and figure out which bets have the most value before the odds begin to change. Sportsbook.ag has a set of odds for the top 13 possible NBA Finals matchups, so let’s take a closer look at the possible paring with picks, predictions and analysis.
13) Pacers vs. Blazers: +2500
12) Heat vs. Blazers: +2000
The Portland Trail Blazers are a very good team this season and are currently sitting in the fifth sport in the Western Conference playoff standings. Portland, however, probably does not have enough depth and experience to make a Finals run in a deep Western Conference. What bettors must remember is that there is no parity in the NBA; the top teams are the squads that make, and win, NBA Finals, and unfortunately Portland is not an upper-echelon team.
Worth a bet? No, these two wagers are nothing but dead money.
11) Pacers vs. Rockets: +1700
10) Pacers vs. Warriors: +1700
9) Heat vs. Warriors: +1500
8) Heat vs. Rockets: +1500
Both the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors are legitimate threats to come out of the West. The Warriors have the experience from last year’s playoff run and the offensive firepower to play with any team in the league. And while Golden State might not be a favorite to advance to the Finals, one injury to an opposing squad could swing a series in its favor. Houston does not have the collective playoff experience as a group, but both James Harden and Dwight Howard have NBA Finals experience. Houston is another squad with talent and the right parts to come out of the West. The only question is which opponent do you prefer, Miami or Indiana?
Worth a bet? Yes, these wagers are excellent longshot opportunities.
7) Pacers vs. Clippers: +1200
6) Pacers vs. Spurs: +1000
5) Heat vs. Clippers: +1000
4) Heat vs. Spurs: +900
It’s never wise to write off the San Antonio Spurs simply because they are so well-coached and make all the right moves from a management standpoint. The trouble is that San Antonio has never made back-to-back trips to the Finals and might not have the firepower to sustain another deep playoff run. The Clippers, on the other hand, have been nothing but hype all season, and they still have the same problems that plagued their last two playoff runs—no inside presence late in games. Los Angeles simply relies on Chris Paul far too much at the end of games and does not play the right type of defense to stop the elite teams in the West.
Worth a bet? Maybe, but both the Spurs and Clippers are overrated.
3) Field (any other matchup): +800
There is zero value, and I mean absolute zero value in wagering on the field at +800. The main reason is because the Eastern Conference is so weak this season that it’s hard to image a matchup that does not include the Heat or Pacers. Also, every current playoff team in the West is included in the odds, except for the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns. But the NBA is not the NFL or NHL; seventh and eighth seeds simply do not make it to the Finals.
Worth a bet? No, the field is another dead-money wager.
2) Pacers vs. Thunder: +350
1) Heat vs. Thunder: +250
Either of these matchups is by far the best wagers to make. The Heat still have the best player in the NBA, so a Miami versus Oklahoma City Thunder is the mostly likely outcome, but there is definitely value on Indiana. The Pacers took Miami to seven games last season, and they had a 2-1 lead two seasons ago. If Andrew Bynum can add valuable minutes to the team in a backup role come playoff time then the Pacers just might be the way to go. Remember, Miami is coming off three consecutive NBA Finals appearances; no team has made four in a row since Los Angeles Lakers from 1981 to 1985.
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