THE NBA regular season is behind us and now the league’s 16 best teams go to battle for the NBA Championship.
During the grueling 82-game season we learned a few things:
- Stop writing off Lebron James. After a rough start in Cleveland, the King has the Cavs rolling at the right time of the year.
- The West is significantly better than the East – so much so that the third-ranked team in the East (Chicago), would qualify as the eighth-ranked in the West.
- We have two power-house contenders – The Hawks and the Warriors. Both teams topped 60 wins and were consistently the best teams in 2014/15.
- The MVP race between Stephen Curry of the Warriors, James Harden of the Rockets and, the punter’s smokey, Russell Westbrook of the Thunder, has been the most exciting in recent memory.
- We have one hell of a playoff series ahead of us.
Defending champions San Antonio Spurs ($5) finished sixth in the West and will take on the streaky L.A Clippers ($15). Top seeds Golden State Warriors ($3.50) have no easy first round task of taking out Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans ($201).
The East division hasn’t been as impressive, but the Hawks ($10) and the Cavaliers ($4) will be out to spoil the Wests’ party, and teams like the Bulls ($13) and Wizards ($67) are always tough to get past in the playoffs.
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Here’s the playoff picture for 2015:
Wizards vs. Raptors
Washington Wizards (46-36) vs. Toronto Raptors (49-33)
Wizards – $2.61
Raptors – $1.52
Even though their records are relatively similar, bookmakers are focusing on the home-ground advantage for the Raptors.
Both teams are capable on their day and the Raptors are coming off a last game win, but there is good value with the Wizards, which look the more settled team.
They don’t mind playing away from home and if they can snag an away win, we see them putting the sliding Raptors to bed.
Tip: Wizards to win ($2.61) at Sportsbet.com.au
Warriors vs. Pelicans
Golden State Warriors (67-15) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (45-37)
Warriors – $1.04
Pelicans – $13
There’s absolutely no value in taking the Warriors in this matchup as the $1.04 just isn’t worth the risk. Instead, take the Warriors to win the series 4-1 as we think the Pelicans can score a win at home with Anthony Davis at the helm.
We’re predicting the Warriors to make the NBA final and they should easily dispatch the eighth-seeded Pelicans here, and the bookmakers agree.
Look for the Splash Brothers to light up from outside the three-point line and simply out score the over-achieving Pelicans.
Tip: Warriors to win (4-1) at $3.40 with WilliamHill.com.au
Bulls vs. Bucks
Chicago Bulls (50-32) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (41-41)
Bulls – $1.18
Bucks – $5.15
It’s tough to say the Bulls limped into the finals, because their 50-32 record would say otherwise, but the health of Derrick Rose is their major problem.
Can they win with their star player not performing at his best? Rose has only just come back from a serious injury and won’t be a major force in these playoffs, but they come up against a Bucks team that really has no identity.
The Bucks finished the season with a .500 record but they shouldn’t be proud of the way they played this season. They looked capable in patches but their defense has been average and they’re facing one of the toughest defensive teams in the competition.
The Bulls are at a short price for a reason and we see them taking this out. Add them to your multi-bets.
Rockets vs. Mavericks
Houston Rockets (56-26) vs. Dallas Mavericks (50-32)
Rockets – $1.48
Mavericks – $2.73
This may be a 2 vs. 7 clash but the Houston Rockets shouldn’t overlook the Dallas Mavericks as they have recent playoff success and the Rockets don’t.
Led by MVP candidate James Harden, the Rockets have been high-flying this season but did show some frailty towards the end of the season.
The Mavericks have had plenty to deal with this season with the inclusion and exclusion of players, but they are playoff tough and should test the Rockets.
Expect plenty of points in this series.
Tip: Rockets to win ($1.48) at Sportsbet.com.au
Cavaliers vs. Celtics
Cleveland Cavaliers (53-29) vs. Boston Celtics (40-42)
Cavaliers – $1.02
Celtics – $19
As the market suggests, the series between these two teams shouldn’t last long, in fact, the Cavs’ might run away with this 4-0.
LeBron and the Cavaliers finished in second place in the East and the Celtics needed a miracle to just make the playoffs.
Without a natural leader in their team, we’re expecting the Celtics to struggle mightily against the Cavaliers and exit the playoffs without even being noticed.
For more value, look for the exact series score market. The Cavs’ will drop either none or one game, so bet accordingly.
Tip: Cavaliers to win (4-0) at $2.65 with CrownBet.com.au
Hawks vs. Nets
Atlanta Hawks (60-22) vs. Brooklyn Nets (38-44)
Hawks – $1.07
Nets – $10
There are 22 winning games separating these two teams and the only thing going in favour of the Nets is their playoff experience.
The Nets booted out the Houston Rockets last season but this year hasn’t been inspiring. They get into the playoffs with a losing record and now they go up against one of the hottest teams in the league.
The Hawks are deadly with the three-ball with Kyle Korver and they have a good post presence. They have looked like a genuine contender this season but they do lack playoff experience.
That shouldn’t count for much here, but it might later on in the playoff picture.
Tip: Hawks to win (4-0) at $3.80 with WilliamHill.com.au
Grizzles vs. Trail Blazers
Memphis Grizzles (55-27) vs. Trail Blazers (51-31)
Grizzles – $1.62
Trail Blazers – $2.37
The Portland Trail Blazers seemed to have lost their excitement in the second half of the season, but still managed a solid win/loss record.
Damien Lillard has made plenty of game-winning shots for Portland in the past but they face a gritty Grizzles side which will not roll over.
The Grizzles might be facing a couple of injuries entering the playoffs, but even with those injuries, they’re a very good team with Gasol leading the way.
This is a classic defense vs. offense series and as they say, “defense wins championships”, and we tend to agree in this circumstance.
Clippers vs. Spurs
L.A Clippers (56-26) vs. San Antonio Spurs (55-27)
Clippers – $2.30
Spurs – $1.65
An extremely tough series that pits the excitement of the Clippers against the experience of the San Antonio Spurs.
The defending champion Spurs ended the season with a loss to the Pelicans but prior to that loss they were on fire.
The experience of winning championships is something most of the Clippers team don’t have, but we have been waiting for the Clippers to take flight for a few seasons now, and it’s time.
In what should be an even series, take the $2.30 value with the Clippers.
Tip: Clippers to win ($2.30) at WilliamHill.com.au