NBA Odds: Saturday, April 19, 2014 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 4/17/2014
Why does it feel like this is a season where neither top seed reaches the NBA Finals? As it happens, a Pacers-Spurs Finals -- which would be a ratings disaster -- is only a 13/2 favorite at Bovada. Heat-Spurs is 3/1 and Heat-Thunder 4/1. Yet Miami also looks as vulnerable as it has in the LeBron James Era. Here is a look at Saturday's opening NBA playoff games.
Nets at Raptors (-2, 194)
This is the lowest spread of any Game 1 this weekend. Brooklyn clearly tanked its final two games to get this matchup instead of facing Chicago in the first round. The Nets were routed by the Knicks and Cavaliers in their final two games, rarely playing their starters. It's an interesting strategy and means the Nets would likely get the Heat instead of the Pacers in Round 2. I understand that Brooklyn was 4-0 vs. the Heat this year, but you still have to want to face the Pacers. Presumably both these teams are as healthy as they can be, although the Nets' Shaun Livingston and Raptors' Amir Johnson are battling some injuries. They will play, I'm sure. These teams split four meetings. Three of the four were decided by four points or less. Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko played in only two of the four. Toronto leading scorer DeMar DeRozan missed one of the games.
Key trends: The Nets are 9-0 ATS in their past nine games against teams with a losing record. They are 1-6 ATS in their past seven road games. The "over" is 6-0 in Toronto's past six home games. The "under" is 4-1 in the past five meetings in Toronto.
Series price: Nets -120, Raptors +100
Early lean: Only Atlanta had a worse home record among playoff teams than Brooklyn. It's not that easy to just turn it back on. Take Toronto.
Warriors at Clippers (-7, 210.5)
This is my favorite series of the first round, although I sure wish Andrew Bogut was able to play because now I think the Warriors have no chance. That series line would look different if Bogut was healthy. It means Golden State will have to give heavy minutes to Draymond Green and Jermaine O'Neal. That should also mean the Clippers will be able to dominate in the paint with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and Chris Paul can attack the paint at will. Mark this down: Warriors coach Mark Jackson won't be back if Golden State loses this series as expected. He won't have trouble finding work (Knicks?). The teams split four meetings, with L.A. winning both at home by double digits. Bogut averaged 11.8 points and 10.8 rebounds in the four.
Key trends: The Warriors are 4-1 ATS in their past five against teams with a winning record. The Clippers are 0-5 ATS in their past five conference quarterfinals games. The over is 8-2 in the Clippers' past 10 overall. The home team is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 7-2 in the past nine.
Series price: Clippers -365, Warriors +305
Early lean: Clippers are team to beat in the West in my opinion. They cover this one in what should be well over the total.
Hawks at Pacers (-7.5, 186)
Has Indiana fixed itself? I pay no mind to Wednesday's win in Orlando, but Sunday's 102-97 victory over a Thunder team that was very much still trying was impressive. Atlanta enters playing much better of late, having won seven of its final 10 games. One of those was the likely low point of Indiana's season, a 107-88 home loss to Atlanta when the Pacers managed 23 first-half points, the fewest in franchise history, and were down 32 at the half, tied for the biggest halftime deficit in team history. Coach Frank Vogel benched all his starters for the next game. Could Pero Antic be the key to this series? Sounds ridiculous, but the Hawks won both games against Indiana this year in which he played. He averaged 17.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in the two. Indiana beat Atlanta in six games in last year's first-round matchup. The Pacers are better than that team and the Hawks not as good.
Key trends: Atlanta is 4-0 ATS in its past four road games. Indiana is 2-9 ATS in its past 11 home games. The under is 5-1 in the Hawks' past six. The over is 6-0-1 in Indiana's past seven.
Series price: Pacers -600, Hawks +450
Early lean: Now that the Pacers are actually in the playoffs and have that first seed, some of the pressure will be off. They win by double-digits.
Grizzlies at Thunder (-7, 192.5)
Apparently Memphis wanted to play Oklahoma City instead of San Antonio as the Grizzlies went all out to beat Dallas on Wednesday night and earn the No. 7 seed to avoid the Spurs. Makes some sense considering San Antonio was 4-0 vs. the Grizzlies this season and swept them in last year's playoffs. This is perhaps the most "opposite" matchup of the first round. The Grizzlies will plod along and play through their frontcourt advantage. They rank No. 3 in scoring defense. The Thunder will get out on the break if possible and are largely a perimeter team with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. OKC is No. 5 in scoring. The Thunder didn't look great down the stretch, losing at Indiana and New Orleans and then squeaking by visiting Detroit on Wednesday to avoid falling perhaps to the No. 3 seed. Oklahoma City was 3-1 vs. Memphis this year. Two of the games were played at OKC's pace -- i.e. both teams in the 100s -- and two in the Grizzlies' -- both teams at 90 or less. Memphis' lone win was 90-87 on Jan. 14 at home. That was Marc Gasol's return from nearly two months out due to injury. Westbrook missed it.
Key trends: Memphis is 1-8 ATS in its past nine road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The Grizzlies have covered once in their past 10 against Western Conference teams. OKC has covered eight of its past 12 at home.
Series price: Thunder -350, Grizzlies +290
Early lean: Memphis had to play two draining games this week just to make the playoffs. That will show Saturday. Take OKC and the over.
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