This weekend marks the start of the NBA playoffs as eight teams from each conference now have their sights set on earning a shot at playing for this year’s World Championship. The following is a brief look at each of the best-of-seven first rounds matchups. The current odds for a team’s chances to win the conference are courtesy of Sportsinteraction.com
No.1 Chicago Bulls (+175) vs. No.8 Indiana Pacers (+10000)
Chicago has staked its claim as the team to beat in the East with 20 wins in its last 22 games. The Bulls come into this series with the best scoring differential in the NBA. Indiana has also played well down the stretch with five wins in its last seven games. The Pacers are ranked 11th in the NBA in scoring with an average of 100.1 points a game. The Bulls won the season series 3-1 both straight-up and against the spread. They wrap this series up in five games.
No.2 Miami Heat (+175) vs. No.7 Philadelphia 76ers (+8000)
Miami could be peaking at just the right time with 12 of their last 13 games. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are each averaging around 26 points a game and Chris Bosh rounds out the Big Three with 18.7 points and 8.3 rebounds. Give credit to first year coach Doug Collins, who guided Philadelphia back to the postseason after it won just 27 games in 2010.
The Heat swept the season series 3-0 SU and were 2-1 ATS. Give the Sixers one win at home as this series is over in five games.
No.3 Boston Celtics (+225) vs. No.6 New York Knicks (+2500)
Boston has not played its best ball lately with seven losses in 12 games, but is still the best defensive team in the league; giving up 91 points a game. New York is second in the league in scoring with 106.6 points a game, but giving up 105.7 points. The Celtics went 4-0 against the Knicks this season including a 96-96 victory as a 1 ½-point road favorite on March 21. This one goes the distance, but Boston prevails in seven games.
No.4 Orlando Magic (+900) vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks (+5000)
Orlando still has Dwight Howard, who is playing at a very high level with 23 points and 14.1 rebounds a game. They also have a defense that is holding opponents to 94 points a game, which is fifth-best in the NBA. Atlanta is ranked 26th in the NBA in scoring with 95.1 points a game, but giving up just 95.8 points, which is ranked ninth. The Hawks won three of four games during the regular season including an 85-82 victory as a 3 ½-point home underdog on March 30. This is another series that goes down to the wire, but the Magic win in seven.
No.1 San Antonio Spurs (+200) vs. No.8 Memphis Grizzlies (+10000)
San Antonio finished with the second-best record in the NBA at 61-21 but struggled a bit down the stretch with six losses in its last 10 games. The Spurs tied Chicago for the best home record in the league at 36-5. Memphis had an overall record of 46-36, but went just 16-25 on the road this season. These two teams split the season series 2-2 SU, but the Spurs were 0-4 ATS. The Grizzlies prove to be tougher than expected, but go down in six.
No.2 Los Angeles Lakers (-118) vs. No.7 New Orleans Hornets (+10000)
Los Angeles snapped a five-game losing streak with victories over San Antonio and Sacramento to finish the season 57-25. Kobe Bryant remains a strong candidate for MVP by averaging 25.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.7 assists a game this year. New Orleans lost its leading scorer David West with a torn ACL on March 24 and finished the season 4-5 without him. The Lakers swept the season series 4-0 SU and went 3-1 ATS. Get out the brooms again as LA warms up for another title run with four-game sweep.
No.3 Dallas Mavericks (+700) vs. No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers (+3300)
Dallas won four straight games down the stretch to finish 57-25 on the year, but now it is up to Dirk Nowitzki and Co. to prove it can win a few series in the postseason, which has not always been the case in the past. Portland was 48-34 overall this season but struggled on the road with an 18-23 record. The season series was tied at two games apiece, but the Trail Blazers were 3-1 ATS. This series has upset written all over it, but Dallas finds a way to advance past the first round with a win in Game 7.
No.4 Oklahoma City Thunder (+800) vs. No.5 Denver Nuggets (+1800)
Oklahoma City won seven of 10 down the stretch to wind up 55-27 on the year. Kevin Durant led the NBA in scoring with 27.7 points a game and Russell Westbrook added 21.9 points a game to form one of the highest scoring duos in the league. Denver finished the year 50-32 and was the highest scoring team in the NBA with 107.5 points a game. The Thunder went 3-1 both SU and ATS against the Nuggets this season including two wins in the month of April. The success continues as Oklahoma City takes this series in six games.
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.