If the famous Charles Barkley axiom is true, the NBA Playoffs have yet to begin. That’s because no road team was able to break through and steal a win yesterday, and a playoff series doesn’t truly begin until a home team loses a game.
So will the playoffs truly begin today? Atlanta, the Lakers, Houston and Milwaukee will all get their chance. I don’t see any of them being in a great position, but can any at least make it interesting? Let’s dig into some wagering opportunities today and build off yesterday’s winning start to the playoffs for thesportsgeek.com.
Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs -8.5 (Total: 190.5)
In my playoff preview, I had this series tabbed as my best value series if you want to take a flyer on the Lakers rebirth as an interior-dominant team. The series line still hovers around +600 and +700, and has some good value. But can they come out and win today in San Antonio on ABC?
Much of how this series unfolds is contingent upon the health and recovery of San Antonio’s star. Tony Parker is back and healthy and Manu Ginobili is listed as probable for today’s game. All of a sudden, Coach Popovich has his Big Three back intact for one (last?) more playoff run. They are the better team to be sure, but this series is more legitimate than some pundits are making it out to be.
Forget the Lakers struggles. Forget the Kobe injury. Look at the people they are putting on the floor. Dwight Howard and Pao Gasol. That’s one helluva start. Look at the Magic three years ago. Dwight took a team no more talented than this one to the NBA Finals. I’m not suggesting that can happen here, but I think somewhere amidst the Dwight-backlash, people forgot how dominant the big man can be. I expect him to have a really good series against the Spurs.
Of course, the Spurs have Popovich helming the bench. So Dwight better be ready to knock down some free throws. I expect him to be intentionally fouled (NBA, please fix this inane rule) on multiple possessions to not just force some hopeful misses, but also to readjust tempo and steal back momentum, should they need to.
I’m not quite ready to go “Lakers to Win”, but at +400, I’m tempted. San Antonio was just 12-10 down the stretch, and let’s be honest – we’ve seen the Spurs swoon in the Playoffs multiple times the past four years. This scenario is far more plausible that most people realize. However, I will take the Lakers with 8.5 points.
Free Pick: Los Angeles Lakers +8.5
Bonus Pick: There is NO way the Heat lose or that they lose the series. But they might be shaking off a little rust tonight and will get Milwaukee’s over-inflated delusion of hope tonight. I like this one to stay just under the massive 14.5 point spread. Miami has beaten everyone, but they have rarely blown them out this season. I’ll take that trend to continue today.
Free Pick: Milwaukee Bucks +14.5