I wasn’t really planning on writing an NBA Playoff preview this post-season. As most of you know, I’ve already put all my eggs in the Miami Heat’s basket (although I found tempting value in both the Lakers at +1000 and the Mavericks at +3500). But when the Knights of the Roundball Table suggested we host a Holding Court, Vol. 3: Playoff Edition, how could I resist the urge to show that I know way more, or considerably less, about hoops than my fellow web-dwellers.
So here goes nothing…
76ers (+900) vs. Bulls (-1400)
I was about to say that it’s hard to imagine the Bulls not advancing in this series. Then Derrick Rose tore his ACL in Game One. Most of us predicted a Bulls-Heat Eastern Conference Finals before the season (that almost wasn’t) even began. The early round match-ups were merely a formality. Not so much anymore. The Bulls are good enough to beat Philly without their MVP point guard, but they won’t get far past that without him. Despite Rose’s season-ending injury, I’ll still take the Bulls in seven… not that that makes Bulls fans feel any better.
According to this line, Las Vegas isn’t as high on New York as everyone else. And by everyone else, I mean everyone outside of the SportsChump household. I’ve actually had knowledgeable sports fans tell me the Knicks will win this series outright. Naturally, I put them in time out. Admittedly this is not a first-round matchup the Heat wanted, but the Knicks are more of an inconvenience than any real threat, as witnessed by their 30-point blowout in Game One. It was good to see an old school, physical, Heat-Knicks battle early but New York will have to bring out shotguns to stop Miami and the last time I checked, the commissioner frowns upon such behavior. New York’s got talent but Miami’s ceiling is simply that much higher. And no, a healthy Jeremy Lin would not have made a difference. Heat in Five.
Magic (+700) vs. Pacers (-1000)
This line goes to show just how far the mighty have fallen. I know I sound like a broken record but Orlando was in the Finals only three years ago. Now they’re in complete disarray. Listing them as seven-to-one dogs to win this series, a number I actually found a little skewed, shows how much confidence Las Vegas has in them. If I had to choose one long underdog to bet in the opening round, it’d be Orlando. It’s perfectly conceivable that, with Dwight Howard out, the remaining Magic players band together to play for their coach but I’m not entirely convinced they have the talent, or the togetherness, to take down the Pacers, which means Stan Van Gundy is about ten days away from being officially unemployed. As much as I hate to say it, Indy takes this series in seven.
This should be another highly contested series. One of these days, Hawks brass will realize that they have assembled a very good team… just not a great one. And they definitely won’t be able to contend without a healthy Al Horford. The boys in green are going to try to make one last run at a title with their core intact. Ray Allen’s health is an issue though; they’ll need his perimeter game to make a deep run. The Celtics know Atlanta will be a tough out and do not want this series to run long any longer than it has to, but they might not have a choice in the matter. I’ll take Boston in Six.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m as impressed with the Thunder as the next guy but I’m not ready to crown them just yet, and neither is Las Vegas according to this line. This is a first-round match-up neither team wanted. While the Thunder may be looking to exact some revenge from losing to Dallas last year, and even though this is not the same Dallas team, I still wouldn’t count them out. I look for a highly contested series. I’ll begrudgingly take the Thunder in Seven, signifying a changing of the guard in the league… but I wouldn’t bet the house on it.
A one seed for the surprising Spurs means they won’t have to face either Dallas, Oklahoma City or the Lakers until the Western Conference Finals. That’s not to say the winner of the Clippers/Grizzlies matchup won’t give them fits. But the Jazz won’t. No disrespect to Utah but the Spurs will want to rest their stars and get this series over with as quickly as possible to rest up for the second round. Give me the Spurs in five.
Wow, does Las Vegas know something I don’t? Did Kobe Bryant just come down with the flu? Has he been kidnapped by aliens? Are Dan Issel and Alex English coming out of retirement? Or is the city just still giddy about landing Peyton Manning? I wouldn’t have made this series nearly this close. In fact, if I had to place one wager on any opening round series, it would be the Lakers at -210. I normally don’t bet favorites but this one seems like money in the bank. I’ll give George Karl the coaching respect he deserves and give Denver one game in this series but that’s as far as I’ll go before cashing my winning ticket. Lakers in Five.