The 2015 NBA Playoffs have basically gone chalk with the top two seeds in both the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference slated to face one another in a best-of-seven clash to determine which two teams will advance to this season's NBA Finals.
BetOnline has set the series price betting odds for both of these matchups prior to Game 1 in the West on Tuesday night and Game 1 in the East this Wednesday. The following is a handicapping breakdown of each series along with a free pick on which two teams I have advancing to the Finals.
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No. 2 Houston Rockets vs. No. 1 Golden State Warriors
The Rockets come into their first trip to the Western Conference Finals since 1997 as heavy +590 underdogs in the series price, and they are also 10-point underdogs for Tuesday's Game 1. The good news for Houston fans is that it is already playing with house money after becoming just the ninth team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series. After eliminating rival Dallas in five games in the opening round, the Rockets pulled off three straight double-digit victories as underdogs against Los Angeles to eliminate the Clippers in seven games to earn a spot in this series.
This amazing run followed three losses to the Clippers by a combined 74 points in the first four games of that conference semifinal matchup. This Jekyll-and-Hyde behavior has made it tough to bet on this team in the postseason. Before covering against the spread in their last three games, the Rockets went a costly 1-5 ATS in their previous six playoff games. The total stayed "under" the closing 219.5-point line in Sunday's 133-100 series-clinching victory after going "over" in nine of Houston's first 11 playoff games.
Golden State earned the top seed in the West with a NBA-best record of 67-15, and it played the role perfectly in the opening round of the postseason by sweeping New Orleans four games to none. Next up on the slate was Memphis in the other conference semifinal showdown, but that best-of-seven series did not start as planned with SU losses in two of the first three games as a favorite in all three contests.
The Warriors were quickly able to regain that championship form with three convincing double-digit victories to send the Grizzlies packing in six games. In another bumpy ride for bettors, they are now 5-2 ATS in their last seven games after failing to cover in nine of their 11 previous outings dating back to April 2 of the regular season. The total has stayed under in seven of their first 10 playoff games.
Golden State has been opened as a prohibitive -765 favorite to win this series. I would be a bit leery to carry this much risk with a bet on the Warriors to advance to the NBA Finals, but I would not bet against them in this situation. It remains to be seen how much energy the Rockets had to spend to get past the Clippers, but my guess is that it was enough for the tank to finally run dry against Golden State.
Series Prediction - Warriors in Six
No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 1 Atlanta Hawks
As soon as LeBron James decided to return to his home state of Ohio to rejoin his old team, Cleveland was instilled as the favorite to win the Eastern Conference this season. The Cavaliers may have finished a full seven games in back of Atlanta in the final regular-season standings, but they come into this series as -205 favorites to prove that all the oddmakers knew what they were talking about.
Cleveland made short work of Boston in the opening round with a 4-0 SU (3-1 ATS) series win. Next up was a best-of-seven set against Central Division rival
Chicago in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. That series was too close to call through the first four games, but the Cavaliers made a strong statement by
taking the next two games to oust the Bulls in six. This time around, Cleveland proved costly to bet on with a 2-4 record ATS in those six games. The total
has stayed under in six of its 10 postseason games.
The Hawks earned that top seed with a SU record of 60-22, but they have been anything but dominant in their run to the conference finals. They had Brooklyn on the ropes early with a 2-0 series lead before needing six games to advance. Against Southeast Division rival Washington, they lost two of the first three games before reeling off three victories to end that series in six games as well.
Atlanta failed to cover in its first four games against the Nets, but since that point it has gone 5-3 ATS in its last eight games. The total has stayed under in seven of its 12 playoff games. The Hawks' betting odds for this series are set at +175 as underdogs. However, they will host Game 1 of this series on Wednesday night as slight one-point favorites.
James took control of the series against Chicago, but injury concerns still plague the Cavaliers with Kevin Love done for the season and Kyrie Irving still hampered by a bad knee. He is listed as "probable" for Game 1, but you have to believe that he is going to remain far less than 100 percent for this entire series. Based on what I saw from the Hawks in their first two series, I still think they will struggle to win more than two games against Cleveland even though the Cavs are not at full strength.
Series Prediction - Cavaliers in Six
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