NBA Playoffs Betting: Lessons Learned in 2014
by Trevor Whenham - 5/8/2014
As we move into the heart of the second round of the NBA playoffs, here are seven things that have stood out so far and a few lessons that have been learned.
This is that parity we have heard about: It seemed like that gap between the best and the rest wasn't as big as in past years. Sure, the Heat had an obvious edge on whoever they played in the first round, but that was really the only series that seemed lopsided before the first round started. That seeming parity certainly turned out to be the case as the first round played out. Incredibly, five of the eight series went all the way to seven games. A sixth ended in six games - and on the last shot of the game, for that matter. It will be very interesting to see if the second round is as hard-fought and tight as the first was. Early indications are that it could be.
Maybe the regular season does matter: In five of the eight first-round matchups one team had won a majority of the meetings between the squads in the regular season. Those teams were an impressive 4-1 in the first round. It's easy to dismiss the results of the regular season - as people are definitely doing after Brooklyn won all four against Miami in the regular season - but this is a compelling trend. But does it have legs? Well, last year in the playoffs the team that won the season series had a 7-3 record in their playoff series.
Scorers aren't necessarily survivors: Only five of the Top-15 scorers in the regular season have survived the first round and are still alive. That means that having a workhorse at the head of your offense doesn't necessarily gain you any success. Five is actually a key number here - there were also five of the Top-15 scorers knocked out in the first round, and five more that didn't even make the playoffs.
Helping doesn't help, either: Things are even more bleak for the top men in assists in the regular season. You'd think that a team that had a point guard who can create opportunities for others at a rate well above average would be in good position to succeed. This year, though, that hasn't necessarily been the case. Just two of the Top-10 players in the regular season assists rankings are still playing - Chris Paul and John Wall. In fact, five of the Top 10 didn't even make the playoffs at all.
The Blazers are fearless: There are more talented teams out there than Portland, and there are certainly more experienced ones. What Portland has proven already, though, is that there are none that are any more fearless than they are. That Damian Lillard series clincher was one of the more incredible things I have witnessed, but it seemed fitting for the team. There were several times in the first round that it seemed like the tide had turned and Houston had gained the advantage for good, but Portland just kept finding a way to succeed. Their series opener against the Spurs in the second round was an absolute disaster, but given what we have seen so far it is far too soon to count them out entirely. However this run ends, though, you sure get the feeling that this is a team that is just learning lessons now that they will apply in the years to come. If Portland was a stock, I would be buying and holding for the long term.
The Pacers are a complete mess - but a reasonably functional one: The drama in Indiana is ridiculous. Hibbert has been terrible. Turner is impossibly bad. Players are sniping at each other as management questions them openly. Bynum has left the team. The coaches seem clueless. It should have been a recipe for total disaster. They won a tough opening-round series, though, and bounced back from a rough loss in their second-round opener to win their second game while playing the closest to Pacers basketball we have seen in months. It seems almost impossible, but a team this insanely out of control could easily make the conference final - where they would get stomped in four games by Miami.
Washington betting studs, Spurs betting duds:
Of the surviving teams in the playoffs, the Wizards have been kindest to bettors so far. Washington sits at 6-1 ATS so far in these playoffs. The only
spread they didn't cover was a three-point loss to Chicago as 2.5-point favorites. They are exceeding the hopes and expectations of the public. On the
other hand, the Spurs, who were a Top-5 ATS team during the regular season, have been a betting disaster in the playoffs. They are just 2-6 ATS. That's
actually a big improvement from where they were, though - they failed to cover their first six playoff spreads despite winning three of the games.
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