The NBA playoffs are finally here! After an unbelievable finish to the regular season, the playoff seeds are set, and the action gets kicked off tonight as four series play their first games. The Western Conference finished as close as I have ever seen it as only two games separate the three seed Portland Trailblazers and the eight seed Minnesota Timberwolves.
I have never seen so much parity, and all of these first-round matchups should be exciting.
The Blazers came out on top of this logjam of a Western Conference, as they finished at 49-33, good for the number three seed. They will host the New Orleans Pelicans, who themselves are feeling fairly fortunate that they won’t be forced to play either the Golden State Warriors or the Houston Rockets in the first round.
The Blazers are -5.5-point home favorites tonight in game one. The game total over-under is set at 218 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 PM PST from the Moda Center in Portland.
The Portland Trailblazers caught fire in med-February and went from a team that was at risk of missing the playoffs to one that seemed to be a lock for a top-four seed. They ran off a 16-3 record over the course of six weeks and separated themselves from the pack. Then as the season winded to a close Portland fell apart down the stretch and lost four out of its last five games.
They managed to hold on to that coveted three seed, but just barely. The Blazers finished just one game ahead of this Pelicans team, and that is the difference between having this as a home series or having to play that extra game in New Orleans.
Basically, the entire conference outside of the Warriors and Rockets up top, have similar stories. Portland is the much higher seed and will have home-court advantage, but I am not sure they are really the much better team in this series. We will find out if the Pelicans can steal away home-court advantage tonight in game one.
The Pelicans had a very different finish to the season than the Blazers did. They finished the season hot, having won five straight games. They needed every one of those wins as had they dropped one they could find themselves playing the Rockets in the first round. Instead, they have a very winnable series on their hands against an evenly matched Blazers team.
The Pelicans have seen Anthony Davis really emerge as a superstar this year. Not that he wasn’t on NBA fan’s radar before, but what Davis has done since DeMarcus Cousins went down with injury has been borderline historic. Davis increased his points, rebounds, steals, blocks, and assists in the second half of the year. He likely won’t win the MVP as that is going to go to a long deserving James Harden, but he will absolutely get some votes and has established himself as the best big man in the game.
I tend to always lean towards the home team in game one of a series. The series don’t generally heat up until games three or four, and the home team generally handles business on their floor to start out these seven games series. But something about this one has me thinking that might not be the case.
Portland is quite lucky to be in the spot they are and could very easily have slipped to as far as the eight seed in the season’s last couple of days. They sputtered to the finish line, and that is not the way you want to hit the playoffs.
The Pelicans, on the other hand, roared to a finish and are playing their best basketball right now. I love what Anthony Davis is doing, and I love the fact the Pelicans have Rajon Rondo running the point. Rondo has all kinds of playoff experience and knows what it takes to win a ring. He has had flashes of brilliance this year.
He has had twelve or more assists in a game fifteen times this season, including a twenty-five dime game against the Brooklyn Nets in December. The Pelicans will need Rondo in his top form today if they want a chance to knock off Portland at home tonight and take control of the series.
This is a tough game and a tough number. I expect the Blazers will win tonight, but I see this game coming down to the final few possessions. Really the only advantage I see the Blazers have in this series is home court advantage. Now, that is a big advantage, but had the season lasted just three or four games longer we could have easily seen these seeds flip-flop and it would be New Orleans that would be in the driver’s seat.
Right now, the number is at New Orleans +5.5 at -115. Which means the books adjusted that juice up as the early money is coming in on them. That tells me that this number could easily move up to six or even six and a half before game time.
So, while I will lock it in right now at New Orleans +5.5, I am also going to monitor this number and see if I can get that extra half of a point or point. As it stands now, give me the New Orleans at +5.5 points in game one!