NHL Playoffs Vs. NBA Playoffs
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 4/20/2010
The NBA and NHL Playoffs both start in mid-April and end in early June. Sixteen teams make each postseason and all series are decided by a best-of-seven format. The similarities end there.
If you followed the first round of the NHL Playoffs you noticed that the lower-seeded road team went 5-3 in Game 1 of each series. If you followed that up by thinking, ‘hey it is one of those years, let’s see if the NBA lower-seeded road teams can have the same luck’, well then you are pretty far in the hole.
The NHL underdogs were 5-3 in their first games and that included four monster upsets with two No. 8 seeds toppling No. 1 seeds at a price over +250 and the No. 2 Chicago Blackhawks losing at home as well the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins losing at home.
Compare that to the NBA where not only did the higher-seeded team dominate at a clip of 7-1 SU but they also went 6-2 ATS and most of them were not even close. People have come to learn by now that upsets in playoff hockey are hardly that big of a deal. A handful of No. 1 seeds have fallen in the first round in the past few years.
In the NBA only three 8th-seeded teams have ever won a first-round series. The Denver Nuggets did in 1994 and the New York Knicks did it in 1999,but those were only best-of-five series. In 2007 the Golden State Warriors stunned the top-seed Dallas Mavericks in six games becoming the first 8th seeded team to win a best-of-seven series in NBA Playoff history.
A closer look at the playoff odds in each sport shows just how much further the gap in talent is in each sport. In the second game of the Eastern Conference’s 3rd-seeded Atlanta Hawks series, the Hawks are -370 at home against the Milwaukee Bucks. In the second game of the Western Conference’s 3rd-seeded Phoenix Suns series, the Suns are -490 at home against the Trail Blazers.
The NBA favorites generally receive money lines anywhere from -350 to -800. In contrast, in this season’s NHL Playoffs the biggest favorite in any game has been the Washington Capitals at -265 in a game they ended up losing in overtime.
There are many reasons for these differences. The most apparent is the fact that in the NBA Playoffs benches are shortened and no more than eight or nine players are used. In the NHL with line changes, penalties, and different units, depth is more of a factor. LeBron James might play 40 minutes one night but the most a Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin could play is around 19-20 minutes.
There is no such thing as parity in the NBA. There are only a few megastars and they are spread out over just five or six teams. You can make the case for literally any of the 16 teams in the NHL Playoffs to win the Stanley Cup. In the NBA it is tough to make the case for any more than six teams to make a run at the NBA Finals. There are likely to be at least a few sweeps in the NBA first round. There will be no sweeps in the NHL first round because after two games every series was tied 1-1.
When looking at the NHL Playoffs, throw the seeds out the window and focus on the teams and matchups. Do the opposite in the NBA, where the seeds are always expected to hold through all the way to the NBA Finals.
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