NBA Odds: Sunday, April 17, 2016 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 4/15/2016
This is likely a franchise-altering postseason for the Los Angeles Clippers. The former laughingstock franchise is in the playoffs for the fifth year in a row but has never reached the Western Conference Finals in team history. The Clippers had that in their grasp last season in a potential series clinching Game 6 against Houston. But they gagged away a 19-point third-quarter lead and lost that game and Game 7. Another playoff disappointment and I believe this core has to be broken up. That probably means Blake Griffin is traded as the Clippers showed they could win without him for a large chunk of the regular season.
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No. 8 Pistons at No. 1 Cavaliers (-10.5, 201)
The Pistons are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and had a chance to perhaps avoid Cleveland in the first round. But Detroit lost at home to Miami on Tuesday to hand the No. 7 seed and an easier matchup against No. 2 Toronto to Indiana. The Pistons and Cavaliers closed the regular season against one another in Ohio on Wednesday and Detroit won 112-110 in overtime. Take absolutely nothing from that as Detroit sat its starters and the Cavaliers played just one starter: Tristan Thompson. He is the team's starting center going forward with Timofey Mozgov, who played so well in last year's playoffs, now relegated to a bench role. Plus Thompson allows the Cavs to go to more of a small-ball role, basically in preparation for the Warriors in June's NBA Finals. There are two injury concerns here. Detroit's Reggie Jackson missed the final two games with a strained abdominal muscle but there's no way he sits here. Cavs guard Iman Shumpert missed the final three games with a knee injury but I'm sure he's playing here. The Pistons won three of the four meetings during the season. So what? The Bulls used to beat LeBron James' teams in the regular season and then lose to them in the postseason. The only way the Pistons have a chance in this series is if Andre Drummond totally dominates down low and suddenly becomes a 75 percent free-throw shooter.
Key trends: The Pistons are 8-2 against the spread in the past 10 meetings in Cleveland. The "over/under" is 6-2 in the past eight there.
Early lean: Cavaliers and over.
No. 6 Hornets at No. 3 Heat (-4.5, 201.5)
Miami blew a 26-point lead in Boston on Wednesday and lost 98-88 yet still was a big winner as it came out on top of a four-way tiebreaker of teams at 48-34 and got the No. 3 seed by virtue of being a division champion (winning that tiebreaker over Atlanta). I haven't heard any recent updates on Chris Bosh potentially playing in the playoffs with his blood clot condition, but that would be a minor miracle. Too bad as a full-strength Heat team with the addition of Joe Johnson, who never played with Bosh, could win the East. When Charlotte made the playoffs two seasons ago, it was a pretty lousy offensive team but great on defense. Coach Steve Clifford remade the team a bit this season and it's now pretty solid offensively, relying a lot on the 3-pointer along with a Top 10 defense. Charlotte has gone 21-8 since the All-Star break, with only the Warriors and Spurs boasting more wins. Miami swept the Hornets in the first round two years ago but the Heat obviously had LeBron then. The Hornets and Heat split four regular-season meetings. Aside from the Warriors, Charlotte was the only other team to beat the Heat at home after the All-Star break, taking a 109-106 decision on March 17.
Key trends: The road team has covered seven of the past 11 meetings. The over is 8-0 in the past eight meetings in Miami.
Early lean: Heat and over.
No. 7 Grizzlies at No. 2 Spurs (-15.5, 189.5)
This appears to be the biggest Round 1 mismatch and in fact the Spurs are the biggest series favorites on the board at -10000. The Warriors are -9000 against the Rockets if wondering. San Antonio is also the largest Game 1 favorite. I fully expect a sweep here as Memphis is without stars Mike Conley and Marc Gasol due to injury and Tony Allen, one of the NBA's best perimeter defenders, is banged up. Because of so many injuries, Memphis used 28 players in the regular season, an NBA record. The Grizz, who lost 14 of their final 17, became the first team in league history to make the playoffs using at least 24 players during the season. Only New Orleans lost more total games to injury and the Pelicans finished well under .500. So kudos to Coach Dave Joerger for even getting this team to the playoffs -- he actually might be allowed to walk after the season if Minnesota wants to hire him as has been rumored. San Antonio had a chance to be the only team in league history to finish unbeaten at home but of course lost there last Sunday to the Warriors, which essentially allowed Golden State to set the NBA record with 73 wins. The Spurs had to settle for a record-tying 40-1 at home. They are in the playoffs for a 19th straight year, easily the longest active streak in the NBA. I'm presuming it's the final postseason for Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. San Antonio won the season series 4-0.
Key trends: The Grizzlies are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 7-3 in the Spurs' past 10.
Early lean: Spurs and under.
No. 5 Trail Blazers at No. 4 Clippers (-8, 209)
This is the only West series I much care about because I think it's the only one that has a chance to be competitive. The favorites in the other three West series all swept their opponents in the regular season. The Clippers won three of four against Portland but the most recent, on March 24 in Los Angeles, took a J.J. Redick buzzer-beater. I'm stunned that Portland made the playoffs after all it lost from last year's team. In fact, the Blazers are the first team in NBA history to make the playoffs despite returning only two or fewer players who logged at least 1,000 minutes with the team in the previous season. Those two are Damian Lillard and Chris Kaman. Lillard, who became a superstar this season, and backcourt mate C.J. McCollum, possibly the NBA's Most Improved Player Award winner, have to dominate here because the Blazers are completely overmatched in the frontcourt. But Lillard averaged only 18 points on 32 percent shooting vs. L.A. this season. That won't cut it. This is the first time these franchises have met in the playoffs.
Key trends: The Blazers are 1-5 ATS in their past six vs. the West. The Clippers are 5-1 ATS in their past six at home. The over is 8-1 in Portland's past nine on the road vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Clippers and over.
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