Saturday, April 13, 2019
NBA Western Conference Playoffs Round One Preview
As promised, more than two hours before tip-off to the 2109 NBA playoffs, here is my western conference breakdown.
The L.A. Clippers are not one of the two lower seeds in the west with a chance to win the series. Look for lots of points in each game as both teams are among the top in three-point shooting this season, but don't look for close final scores. The season series was 3-1 in favor of Golden State. The one L.A. win was early in the season before they traded away their best player in Tobias Harris. Steph Curry also missed the game in the Golden State loss. I love the way Patrick Beverley plays the game but none of the L.A. veterans have the talent to compare to Golden State. The Clippers also have some young guns with skill but they don't have the experience to compete. Unless three of the five all-stars for the Warriors in Green, Cousins, Thompson, Curry, and Durant, for some reason miss multiple games in the series, this one is over before it gets started, Warriors in four.
San Antonio is one of the lower seeds with a chance. The talent edge is clearly with Denver here, but I have to give the other two categories I consider Important in this series to the Spurs. The Spurs coaching advantage is great and their edge in player playoff experience also results in a slight advantage over Denver. Unfortunately for Popovich, coaching doesn't physically score points like talent, and the experience edge probably isn't enough to lead them to four wins in the series. I do like Popovich to employ the Bill Belichick strategy and take away the opponents biggest threat, which in this case means doubling Nikola Jokic. San Antonio does have two quality players on their roster in DeRozan and Aldridge, but they lack an all-star caliber closer to win tight games. The regular season series was 2 - 2 with the home team winning each game. However, I look for the Nuggets to prevail in six with a stipulation; if the Spurs can somehow force a game seven, I like the experience to pull off the upset in a pressure-packed situation.
Oklahoma City, while being the lower seed is the favorite in Vegas odd maker's eye's and in mine making them my final lower seed with hopes of winning their series. The Nurkic injury plus McCollum battling health issues is a big factor for the Trail Blazers. On top of that, Portland managed to get swept in the first round of the playoffs by New Orleans last year which is not a good sign. I have routinely called out Westbrook for his lack of leadership and self-awareness but, I think Paul George is the leader of that team now. After two years to figure out chemistry, George could be the key to Thunder winning their first playoff series since Durant left. All four regular season games between these two were close, but in the end, each was won by the Thunder. I'll take Oklahoma City to win this series in 6.
To round out the West, Utah is my second team with not much hope. This is an offense versus defense match-up, and I like the offense to prevail. It's hard to play defense against a guy who is allowed to pick up the ball and step back to where ever he wants to shoot from without dribbling. On top of that, if the defender brings his hands out from behind his back, it’s an automatic foul resulting in free throws for an 88 percent shooter from the line. I look for Jazz and Gobert to get in foul trouble, especially in games played in Houston. The season series was 2 - 2 but both Jazz wins were early before the Rockets got their role players situation figured out and while Paul was struggling with injury. I say look for Houston to win all their home games, plus game six in Utah to close out the series.
If you are looking for betting angles, I won't be doing much with series prices because I think most of the numbers are pretty close to what they should be. That being said, I do believe you may be able to find a little value in San Antonio at +200 or better, Oklahoma City at -150 or less, Houston at -350 or less, and as I said yesterday, the best value I have found is Indiana +400 or more. Remember value doesn't necessarily mean I think they will win, just that it's worth a shot for that particular return on investment. As far as the rest go, if you can find a book that will let you parlay series bets on Golden State at -20,000 with Milwaukee -5000, Toronto -1200, and Philadelphia -750, go for it and count your profit, but if you can't parlay them, there just isn't much value there.
If you are just asking for who I honestly believe will win in each series, it’s a short boring conversation, Chalk (the better seed) with the exception of Oklahoma City.
(Follow me on twitter @Jake_Ruch for updates on when I post new articles on my blog and tweets on my real-time sports-related thoughts.)
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