If you were hoping for some drama in the openers of the NBA playoff series, you were pretty much out of luck other than perhaps the Hawks-Celtics result. The average margin of victory across the eight openers was 20.5 points. That's the most lopsided group of playoff openers in NBA history, passing 1995's 19.6. Sunday's action was almost unwatchable from a fan's standpoint but good viewing if you backed the favorites. The only close game -- and only underdog to cover -- was Detroit losing by just five to Cleveland. Otherwise, Miami crushed Charlotte (surprising), San Antonio embarrassed Memphis (not surprising) and the L.A. Clippers beat Portland by 20. It was only the fourth day in NBA playoff history where three games were decided by at least 20. It last happened May 8, 1999. Here's hoping Tuesday's Game 2s are a bit more interesting.
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Game 2: No. 5 Celtics at No. 4 Hawks (-6, 205.5)
Boston was able to make Game 1 interesting after being down 19 points but lost 102-101. To make things much worse, starting guard Avery Bradley, one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA (he finished sixth in the Defensive Player of the Year voting), went down with a severe hamstring strain and it's not expected he will be back for this series. Bradley heard a pop after landing awkwardly while defending a layup attempt by Hawks guard Jeff Teague with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. That's big. Bradley wasn't just the team's best defender but ranked first in minutes played during the regular season (33.4), and second in points (15.2) and 3-pointers made (1.9). Either Marcus Smart or Evan Turner is expected to move into the starting lineup but this also means one or both of rookies Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter will get more minutes. Rozier and Hunter combined for just 626 minutes played during the season and both spent time in the D-League. In addition, Boston big man Kelly Olynyk played only 12 minutes in Game 1 due to a sore right shoulder. He missed a month earlier this season with a problem in that shoulder. Olynyk didn't practice Monday and might sit Game 2.
It's the second year in a row the Hawks caught an injury break in the playoffs. Washington's John Wall fractured his left wrist and hand in Game 1 of the second round against Atlanta in 2015. Wall wouldn't get back until Game 5. If he was healthy, I think the Wizards win that series but they went out in six. The Hawks got 24 points and 12 rebounds in Game 1 from Al Horford, 23 points and 12 assists from Jeff Teague and 23 points and eight rebounds from Kent Bazemore. The Hawks were just 5-for-27 from 3-point range (Kyle Korver was 0-for-7) but outscored the Celtics by 16 points in the paint and by 11 at the free-throw line.
Series line: Hawks -350, Celtics +290
Key trends: The Hawks are 12-5 against the spread in their past 17 after a win. They are 8-3 ATS in their past 11 as a favorite of 5.0-10.5 points. The Celtics are 3-9 ATS in their past 12 road games and 2-8 ATS in their past 10 as a dog. The "over/under" has gone under in 10 of Atlanta's past 14 at home. The under is 9-4 in Boston's past 13 overall.
Early lean: Hawks and under.
Game 2: No. 7 Grizzlies at No. 2 Spurs (-18.5, 187)
I don't think you will see a bigger spread the rest of the playoffs than this one because obviously the next two games of this mismatch are in Memphis and I'm quite confident the Spurs end it there in four. Memphis just doesn't belong here with its current injury-decimated roster and that was clear in a 106-74 loss in San Antonio in Game 1. Kawhi Leonard had 20 points, four steals and three blocks. No Spurs starter played more than his 29 minutes, and you have to think Coach Gregg Popovich already is looking past Memphis and toward getting his guys as much rest as possible ahead of a likely semifinal round matchup against Oklahoma City. Leonard, incidentally, beat out Golden State's Draymond Green to win his second straight Defensive Player of the Year Award on Monday. He's the first small forward to win it back-to-back and first non-center to do it since Dennis Rodman in 1990 & '91. The Spurs had a defensive rating of 94.9 when Leonard was on the court during the regular season and 99.2 when he wasn't. I thought Green would win it but certainly can't argue with Leonard.
Here's the best way to summarize this series. In Game 1, the Spurs started two future Hall of Fame locks in Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, two more who might be headed there as well in LaMarcus Aldridge and Leonard, and Danny Green. Memphis' starters were 95-year-old Vince Carter, Jordan Farmer, Matt Barnes, Chris Andersen and Zach Randolph, who is the only legit starter among that group but had just six points on 3-for-13 shooting. It was the biggest margin of defeat for the Grizzlies in a playoff game.
Series line: This is such a given that there is no series line.
Key trends: The Spurs are 2-7 ATS in their past nine after a win. They are 1-6 ATS in their past seven after scoring at least 100 points in the previous game. The Grizzlies are 10-4 ATS in their past 14 after an ATS loss. The under is 5-2 in Memphis' past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 4-0 in San Antonio's past four.
Early lean: Love the under. But I'll take the points -- Spurs will probably get up huge again and pull guys, allowing Grizzlies to cover in garbage time.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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