The final night of the NBA season ended with a bang as the Golden State Warriors made history by breaking the Chicago Bulls hallowed 72-win record while Kobe Bryant said farewell to the league in the only way he could-with a 60-point explosion on 50 shots during 42 minutes of play. If the last night of the regular season was any indication of things to come, fans and bettors will be in for a treat during the 2016 playoffs.
However, now that the formalities of the regular season have been completed and the wheat separated from the chaff, let's take a closer look at the Western Conference portion of the first round of the NBA Playoffs, figure out the best way to bet and make a few predictions for each series.
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Golden State Warriors vs Houston Rockets
Series Price : Golden State N/A; Houston: +7100
Thoughts : The Houston Rockets snuck into the postseason during the last game of the season and will now have to face the 73-win Warriors as their reward. Steph Curry and company dispatched of the Rockets with ease during last season's Western Conference Finals and should be able to make easy work of a Houston squad who won 15 fewer games this year. Houston wasn't able to beat Golden State during the regular season, and with host of injuries, team dysfunction and a lack of an offensive system, things might not change during the first round. Expect the Warriors to cover Game 1 and win the series in four of five games.
Pick : Golden State is such a favorite here that the number is off the board, while Houston is receiving +7100. Even if you are a Houston fan, is there any points betting that line? Golden State in five.
San Antonio Spurs vs Memphis Grizzlies
Series price : San Antonio N/A; Memphis Grizzlies: +9500
Thoughts : during any other year 67 wins and one of the best seasons in NBA history would make San Antonio the No. 1 seed and prohibitive favorite to win the title. However, 2016 featured the greatest NBA regular season of all time, and the Spurs were once again relegated to second fiddle (do you realized 67-15 is the same record that Golden State finished with last season and caused everyone to go bananas over the team?). San Antonio is a huge favorite here, so much so that their line is also off the board. Memphis is typically a force during the postseason and a tough matchup for anyone, however, most of the team's core lineup will be on the sidelines with various injuries. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are out for the playoffs while defensive stopper Tony Allen is nursing a hamstring injury.
Pick : this is not the Memphis of old (who already upset San Antonio from the No. 7 seed many years ago). Expect San Antonio to make quick work of the Grizzlies and sweep this matchup.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs Dallas Mavericks
Series Price : Oklahoma City -1431; Dallas +600
Thoughts : Oklahoma may be the No. 3 seed in the West, but make no mistake about it, they are not in the same class as Golden State and San Antonio. OKC managed to grab 55 wins in a weaker-than-usual Western Conference, but the team struggled against the top contenders in the league and still seems to be figuring things out under new coach Billy Donovan. The Thunder also have Kevin Durant's impending free agency looming over the team (the rumor is he will leave if they do not make the NBA Finals). So 2016 is a must-win season.
Pick : OKC won all four meetings against Dallas, but this matchup should be a closer series than most people expect. However, the Thunder still have enough talent to win this matchup in six games.
Los Angeles Clippers vs Portland Trail Blazers
Series Price : Los Angeles -304; Portland +200
Thoughts: Los Angeles spent the season dealing with drama and dysfunction, but to the team's credit it managed to stay the course without Blake Griffin and still grab 53 wins. The Clippers managed to win 10 of their last 12 games and may be entering the postseason playing their best basketball. Portland, however, has been underrated all season, and with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the backcourt, this matchup looks to be the most closely contest first-round series in the west.
Pick : Expect Los Angeles to be challenged at points because when the Trail Blazers are on their game they are an excellent team. However, Los Angeles still has enough talent to win this series in six.
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Read more articles by George Monroy
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