Handicapping NBA Teams Off Consecutive Sweeps
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 5/11/2010
If it was possible to play your way into a No. 1 seed during the playoffs then the Orlando Magic would be doing just that. Entering the playoffs as the No. 2 seed, the defending Eastern Conference champions have played like a top seed.
The Magic swept Charlotte in the first round, winning games by an average of nine points per game and going 3-1 ATS. The big layoff they had to wait until the other first round series ended did not hurt them.
Against the third-seed Atlanta Hawks, anything but a pushover, Orlando overwhelmed the opposition once again, winning the series in four games, easily covering all four spreads and breaking an NBA series record for overall margin of victory. Overall they outscored Atlanta by 101 points.
This is the same Atlanta team who went 53-29 during the regular season and was 34-7 at home. Looking at the bigger scheme of things Orlando has now won 14 games in a row dating back to the regular season and they are on a 28-3 SU run.
With the back-to-back first and second round sweeps, Orlando now becomes only the third team ever to sweep the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs since the first round expanded to a best-of-seven series in 2003.
Surprisingly enough, winning the first two series in eight games has not been a great indicator of continued success for teams in the Conference Finals. The only other teams to accomplish this feat were both from the Eastern Conference and the Magic should remember one rather vividly.
The Cleveland Cavaliers steamrolled through Detroit and that same Atlanta team last season, winning eight straight and going 7-0-1 ATS. The very next round they ran into Orlando and were stunned and sent packing after six games.
The other time a team pulled off back-to-back sweeps to open the playoffs was in 2005 when the Miami Heat won eight straight. They swept New Jersey and Washington in two rounds but then ran into the Detroit Pistons and lost in a best-of-seven series.
In both cases the teams had to wait over a week to open their next round. That is already after a long delay between the first and second rounds. With the way the Cleveland and Boston series is going Orlando could be in for a long delay.
The oddsmakers may be aware of this and they are not exactly jumping on the Magic bandwagon. On BetUS Orlando have only the third best odds to win the NBA Championship. They are currently sitting at +225 behind the Cleveland Cavaliers (+220), who have not even advanced to the next round yet. The Los Angeles Lakers are the odds-on favorite at +175 despite having to go to six games with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round.
Whatever the reason, be it rest or overconfidence or not having the experience of bouncing back from a loss, teams going eight-for-eight to start the playoffs do not have a great track record.
Orlando will try to prove that wrong this year but it looks like it will be an uphill climb even for a team as hot as they are.
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