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NBA Play-off Games Preview 14.04.2019

The play-offs are finally here! The start was given yesterday night with 2 East and 2 West series Games 1. We’ll watch the other 4 pairs tonight, including 2 early games for us, based in Europe.

 

Boston Celtics - Indiana Pacers (Games starts at 18.00 UK Time)

Celtics were pre-season favs to win the East. Hence their Nr. 4 seed could be regarded at least slightly disappointing. Yet it’s all about winning in the play-offs, so let’s put the regular season in the history books already. And winning in NBA post-season requires winning some games on the road. That was Boston weak point last year, where they went just 1-7 on the road in the play-offs. Kyrie and his troops will surely need to do much better than this, as Bucks, Raptors and Sixers are stronger now, and all of these teams will get the home court advantage in a potential series vs. Boston. Boston will be without their key bench player Marcus Smart in this series (at least).

Pacers’ 5th spot in the East is a great achievement, even more so after their star player Victor Oladipo’s season was cut short at mid-point with a long-term injury. Indiana lost only one place after that unfortunate moment though. Pacers relied on their stingy defense (top 3 in the league) and on balanced offense. Bogdanovic has taken the bulk of the shots after Victor’s injury and has been very efficient, both from long range and from the paint. Indy will need to be at their 100 % defensively in every game of the series, if they are to have a chance at eliminating Celtics though.

Prediction: Boston dominated the regular season series with 3-1 wins. Pacers won’t go down without a fight, but Celtics should be able to prevent because of their deeper roster and pure individual talent. Boston in 6 games sounds logical here. When it comes to Game 1 though, I feel Pacers +8 offers a touch of value. Indiana will give their all and are more than able to keep the game close.

 

 

Portland Trail Blazers - Oklahoma City Thunder (Games starts at 20.30 UK Time)

This series have the potential to prove the most interesting of all first round ones. Blazers should be seen as fair favs, being the third seed and having the home court. There are some problems here though. First, injuries. Starting center Nurkic is out for the season. Portland signed Enes Kanter to fill the gap, but the Turk doesn’t have the same defensive presence. The team’s second scorer McCollum returned in the roster, but still seem to feel the effect of his nagging injury. Second, Thunder clean swept Blazers 4-0 through the season. The only other team in the first round to do so is Sixers vs. Pistons.

Thunder also have injury issues of their own. Their MVP this season, Paul George, is nursing a sore shoulder. He proved he can play and do his thing through the pain. Thunder fans just hope his situation doesn’t get worse.

It will be Damien Lillard vs. Russell Westbrook in the end though. Both players are elite point guards, both always play as they have something to prove to the world. Taking away any change in the health status in both camps, the series will probably go to the team with the more efficient guard – it’s like a coin toss really.

Prediction: Why not trying the better odds here and take Thunder to win the series at around 2.40? When it comes to Game 1, maybe the OVER 223-4 points offers the best value. 3 of 4 regular season games went over this total, and we got also Nurkic’s absence, both guards showing off, etc.

 

Houston Rockets - Utah Jazz

This is a classic NBA series, at least on paper. One all-offense team versus a defense-first team. Both teams enter the play-offs in their best form and without major injuries, so it will be a fun to watch.

Jazz was one of the few teams that contained Rockets offensively through the season. The series ended even, 2-2. Yet it’s unwritten rule that the team with the biggest star has a serious advantage in a play-off series. No matter who defends Harden, The Beard will be able to make a lot of damage and he’ll be awarded a lot of calls. Jazz have advantage at the center position with Gobert vs. Capella, but it’s not something that could possibly turn to be the deciding factor.

Prediction: Rockets will probably prevail here (in 6?) and Jazz will gather some valuable play-off experience for the future. Let’s leave Game 1 alone though. The default spread is (- 6.5 – 7.00) for Rockets for cover, which is about right.

 

Milwaukee Bucks - Detroit Pistons

This will undoubtedly be the most lopsided series of all. Bucks swept Pistons 4-0 through the season and the Motor City team will need a miracle to pull even a single win now. Maybe the road games will provide some better opportunities to back Bucks to cover a reasonable spread; the home games better be left alone.

 

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