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NBA Playoff Betting Preview

NBA PLAYOFF PREVIEW:

The second-season, the “real” season, is finally ready to commence tomorrow afternoon with four series tipping off tomorrow and the remaining four series jumping it up on Sunday. What better way to gear up for the next two months of one of the most promising an intriguing NBA Playoffs in years than with a great look at some of the best values in the first round, as well as to win each conference and take home to trophy.

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FIRST ROUND SERIES PRICES:

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Atlanta Hawks vs. No. 8 Brooklyn Nets
Series odds: Hawks -1300, Nets +800
No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics
Series odds: Cavs -4700, Celtics +2200
No. 3 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 6 Milwaukee Bucks
Series odds: Bulls -700, Bucks +525
No. 4 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 5 Washington Wizards
Series odds: Raptors -180, Wizards +160

Western Conference

No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 8 New Orleans Pelicans
Series odds: Warriors -4700, Pelicans +2200
No. 2 Houston Rockets vs. No. 7 Dallas Mavericks
Series odds: Rockets -270, Mavericks +230
No. 3 L.A. Clippers vs. No. 6 San Antonio Spurs
Series odds: Spurs -170, Clippers +150
No. 4 Portland Trail Blazers vs. No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies
Series odds:  Grizzlies -175, Blazers +155
Best Bets:

Let’s first off eliminate the Warriors and Cavaliers. Will both win their respective series? With almost no doubt. But you’d have to mortgage your house to make a modest return on either. You never know what could happen in sports (Gasp! LeBron gets hurt) so I am not a big fan of any wager this ridiculous. So let’s instead focus on a few with better value.

Houston Rockets (-270) – Two and a half to one isn’t a bad price for a team that should win in six. Dallas is just not the same team since Rondo joined up, and for the worse. Meanwhile, Houston has Dwight Howard back and even with the injury to Patrick Beverly, it is hard to see James Harden’s dream season coming to a close at the hands of Dallas. Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitski have conjured some Spring magic before, but I don’t think this is the year.

Washington Wizards (+160) – If you want an underdog in a series, the Wizards may not be a bad play. Kyle Lowry has been battling a bad back for Toronto and they need him to have a good series to beat the Wizards. The Wiz had a disappointing regular season but are still the slightly more talented team on paper. I don’t have a great feel they will actually WIN the series, but if you are looking for plus-money and a possibility, they are one of only two on the board I can see happening. The other???

Los Angeles Clippers (+150) – It is very possible the Spurs will wind up regretting dropping form the #2 to the #6 seed on the final night of the regular season. The Clippers in the first round are a nightmare matchup. They are a veteran team with a ton of athleticism and talent and two finally-healthy stars. There have been rumblings of discontent in the Clips locker room, but don’t let that be a factor in your decision. This series is a lot closer than the Spurs bandwagoneers would have you believe. Don’t be the least be the least bit surprised to see Chris Paul and Blake Griffin ride home court advantage to an epic Game Seven vanquishing of the Champs.

 

Conference Odds – Best Values:

Cleveland Cavaliers (-200) – These aren’t very great odds, but is anyone even close to ready to beat Cleveland? Atlanta without Sefalosha? The walking wounded corpses of Chicago? The Raptors/Wizards winner? (that last one made me laugh). The truth is, the Cavaliers are going to the Finals. I don’t think they’d make it through the West, but they are going to walk through the Junior Varsity through the end of May.

Houston Rockets (+800) – This is a pretty nice value for the #2 seed. Granted the difference between two and six in the West is a single game, but I like the value of Houston for two reasons; one, they have the most stress-free first round series of any of the contenders to Golden State. Secondly, they get the winner of the Clippers and Spurs who will absolutely battle for six or seven hard-fought games. That should give Houston a few days to rest and get healthty, especially Dwight Howard. I wouldn’t pick Houston TODAY over either the Spurs or Clippers, but two weeks from now… and if they can get to the Western Conference Finals, we are now in a great hedging situation with 8/1 money.

Los Angeles Clippers (+1600) – This is a team that is loaded with unrealized potential. Despite the glut of talent, they have yet to advance past the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. I know, I just wrote how tired the winner of the Clips vs. Spurs will be before Houston, but they are also 16/1 odds for a team with as much talent as ANY team in the NBA. It’s a pretty nice value.

 

NBA CHAMPS:

Cleveland Cavaliers (+220) –  Assuming the Cavs are in the Finals – and I am having a tough time constructing scenarios barring disastrous injuries where they are not – they immediately become a great NBA Finals value at more than 2/1. They won’t be prohibitive underdogs against any opponent, even Golden State, should they survive the West. They should also be a lot more rested than their opponent who will have to have survived a ridiculous gauntet in the NHL Playoffs-like Western Conference.

From a wagering perspective, you can get decent value on either of my above Western Conference picks, but the safest plus-money play is the Cavaliers. There is a decent chance that for conservative money-managing bettors that a Cavaliers wager now can lock in guaranteed profits in the Finals, as their opponent will likely be a very, very slight favorite at best. It’s a chance to lock in some easy profits as long as the Cavs get through the East.

Good luck everyone – and enjoy one of the best two months in sports, and one of the most exciting and wide open NBA playoffs in recent memories!