NBA Playoffs Picks: Series Odds and Predictions
by Darin Zank - 4/15/2011
The NBA playoffs start Saturday, which gives us a little time yet to take a quick look at the first-round series, and maybe get down on some series betting. So here we go with some NBA Playoffs picks with series odds and some predictions for betting.
Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers (Game 1 Saturday, 1 p.m. EST, ESPN)
Chicago claimed the top spot not just in the Eas,t but throughout the playoffs by winning 28 of its last 32 games, including its last nine in a row. In the process they passed Boston, Miami, San Antonio, the Lakers and others in the standings. Indiana, meanwhile, finished eight games under .500, and 23 games behind the Bulls in the Central Division. The Bulls, 36-5 straight-up and 24-15 (excluding pushes) vs. the pointspreads at home, took the season series from the Pacers three games to one, winning by 19, 13 and 21 points, and losing in overtime.
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Pick: Bulls at -3,500 favorites to win this series, with the Pacers getting +1,800 to pull the upset. And while those are some tough odds to lay, there's no pick here other than Chicago, in a sweep.
Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers (Game 1 Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST, ABC)
Miami played through all the bull#$%& this season to win 58 games, and they ended on a 15-3 run. Philly, meanwhile, improved 14 wins over last year to finish at 41-41, but they lost 10 of their last 17. The Heat took the season series from the Sixers three games to none, the closest of which was a nine-point decision. Miami also tied with Dallas for the best road record in the league at 28-13.
Pick: Sportsbook.com is listing Miami as a -2,000 favorite to win this series, with Philly getting +1,200. And while Coach Collins has done a nice job with the Sixers, the Heat are the hotter and easily the better team. Miami will win this series, in five games.
Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks (Game 1 Sunday, 7 p.m. EST, TNT)
After leading the Eastern Conference for most of the season, Boston lost 11 of its last 21 games to fall to the three seed. But the Celtics entered the playoffs as the four seed last year, and got within about a minute of winning the NBA Championship. The Knicks, meanwhile, didn't exactly explode after getting 'Melo and Billups in that big deal back in February, but they did win seven in a row right near the end of the regular season to pass the Sixers and avoid the Heat. Boston and New York played twice after the Knicks' big trade, but bettors should probably ignore that last game, because both teams were already locked into their playoff seeds, and rested starters. In the other game back three weeks ago in NYC the Celtics rallied from 14 down at halftime to win, 96-86. The big question in this series may be how much the Big Shamrock can contribute minutes-wise for Boston.
Pick: Sportsbook.com is lining Boston as a -400 favorite to win this series, with New York getting +300. The Celtics pulled a neat trick in the playoffs last year, and they're clearly the better defensive team. But Boston stumbled through the late season, while New York looked like it might have found something. So we'll take the underdog here, and back the Knicks getting 3/1.
Orlando Magic vs. Atlanta Hawks (Game 1 Saturday, 7 p.m. EST, ESPN)
Orlando finished 5-4, but basically was locked into its playoff seeding. Atlanta lost its last six games in a row, although it was also pretty sure of where it would end up. So neither team enters the playoffs on a roll, or at least a positive one. The Magic crushed the Hawks in the conference semis last year, sweeping four games by an average of 25 points, and they finished eight games better in the standings this season. But the Hawks managed a small measure of revenge, taking this season's series three games to one.
Pick: Sportsbook.com is chalking Orlando at -400 to win this series, with Atlanta getting +300. And while the Hawks won the season series, they looked lousy down the stretch. And the Magic still have Superman. So we'll go with Orlando here, in six games.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies (Game 1 Sunday, 1 p.m. EST, TNT)
San Antonio owned the best record in the league almost all season, and appeared fairly impervious to any potential trouble from a first-round playoff opponent. Now we're not so sure. The Spurs stumbled without Tim Duncan a couple of weeks ago, and while he's back, it had to have shaken the team to play so poorly without one of their Big 3. And now they might have to play without the great Ginobili, who hurt his non-shooting elbow Wednesday night, and whose status for Sunday is uncertain. Memphis, meanwhile, won 46 games, with help from a late 9-2 run, and managed to go 15-10 after losing Rudy Gay. And the Grizz split the season series with the Spurs two games apiece.
Pick: BetUS is listing San Antonio as a -400 favorite to win this series, with Memphis getting +300. We don't like the vibe coming off the Spurs at the moment. And the Grizzlies don't seem to fear San Antonio, a divisional foe they're very familiar with. So while it doesn't happen very often, we'll go with the eight seed to beat a one seed here, and take Memphis getting 3/1.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. New Orleans Hornets (Game 1 Sunday, 3:30 p.m. EST, ABC)
Not too long ago LA looked like it was rolling toward another title, winning 17 of its first 18 games after the All-Star break. But as they seem apt to do every now and then the Lakers stumbled, lost five games in a row and blew a chance to steal the top seed in the West from the Spurs. And now they enter the playoffs with C Andrew Bynum again dealing with a knee injury. Fortunately for he and them, it looks like Bynum will be ready to go this weekend. New Orleans, meanwhile, finished 10 games above .500, but after losing leading scorer David West for the season to a knee injury three weeks ago they went 5-5.
Pick: Bookmaker is listing the Lakers as -2,100 favorites to win this series, with the Hornets getting +1,250, but there's just no way we can recommend taking anybody but LA here. In a sweep.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Portland Trail Blazers (Game 1 Saturday, 9:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)
Dallas tied the Lakers for the two spot in the West with 57 wins, but lost the head-to-head tiebreaker. So instead of getting shorthanded New Orleans, they get the trouble-making Trail Blazers. Portland won five of its last seven to squeeze into the six spot. These two teams split four games this season, games decided by eight, three, three and five points. And in the something's-got-to-give department, the Blazers went 30-11 at home this season while the Mavs went 28-13 on the road.
Pick: Sportsbook.com is listing Dallas as a -220 favorite to win this series, with Portland getting +180. This looks like a good, even matchup, more even than the price given at most sportsbooks. So with a contrarian eye on the odds we'll take the Blazers here.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets (Game 1 Sunday, 9:30 p.m. EST, TNT)
This might be the most interesting of the eight first-round series. OKC, with two-time scoring champ Kevin Durant, is an emerging threat, winning 55 games and the Northwest Division title this season. Denver, meanwhile, went 18-7 straight-up and a scorching 20-4-1 vs. the pointspread after trading Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. The Nuggets, however, are dealing with some injury issues, the most serious of which is Ty Lawson's sprained ankle. The Thunder played Denver twice after the Nuggs' big trade, and beat 'em both times. OKC also went 13-4 with Kendrick Perkins in the lineup.
Pick: Bookmaker is listing Oklahoma City as a -215 favorite to win this series, with Denver getting +185. The Nuggets have had a good run, and they are a much better defensive team since the trade. But we think they've been playing a bit over their heads during their post-trade run. The Thunder, meanwhile, are just a darn good team. So we'll go with OKC here, in six games.
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