Wednesday's NBA Playoff Tip Sheet

Wednesday's NBA Playoff Tip Sheet

Wednesday's Playoff Notes
By Chris David

**Philadelphia at Detroit**

Game 1 Recap: Philadelphia wasn’t given much of a chance by the bookmakers against Detroit in their first round battle, the young energetic squad opened up some eyes. Maurice Cheeks’ team outscored the Pistons by 17 points (52-35) in the second half en route to a shocking 90-86 victory. Detroit trailed 87-86 with 45 seconds on the clock and 88-86 with just under 11 ticks but couldn’t buy a bucket to win the game or send it to overtime.

The Sixers’ bench put up 22 points, including 11 from Reggie Evans, who also pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds. Point guard Andre Miller looked sharp, posting 20 points and six assists. The Pistons shot a dismal 39 percent (32-of-82) in Game 1 and only 29 percent in the second half. In the final 12 minutes, Flip Saunders’ club was a dreadful 4-of-17 form the floor. The backcourt of Richard Hamilton (13) and Chauncey Billups (14) combined for 27 points on 8-of-26 (30%) shooting.

Gambling Notes:

# Philadelphia didn’t need the points, but it was a 9 ½-point underdog against Detroit in Game 1. Gamblers who dared to back the Sixers on the money-line saw a positive return of plus-450 (Bet $100 to win $450).
# Including Sunday, Philadelphia is 4-2 straight up and 5-1 against the spread in its last six meetings with Detroit.
# The victory for the Sixers came after the team closed the season with four straight losses both SU and ATS.
# Detroit is 0-4 ATS in its last four playoff games at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
# The ‘under’ has gone 4-1 in the five meetings between the two teams this year.
# Despite Philadelphia’s win in Game 1, Detroit is still listed as a minus-500 (Bet $500 to win $100) favorite to win the best-of-seven series.

What to Expect: The idea of anybody running off 16 straight wins in the NBA is next to impossible. With that being said, teams are going to lose. How they bounce back off losses is how you should judge a team. Eight times this year Detroit has lost at home, including Sunday’s loss. In the previous seven setbacks at The Palace, the Pistons are a perfect 7-0 both SU and ATS. And get this -- they’ve won those seven encounters by an average of 19.3 PPG. Blowout seems likely as the young Sixers are probably pleased going home with the split.

**Atlanta at Boston**

Game 1 Recap: Wire-to-wire blowouts aren’t expected in the playoffs, but anything is possible when you have a clear-cut mismatch. The Celtics dominated the Hawks in all facets of the game on Sunday en route to an easy 23-point (104-81) victory in Game 1. The Celtics connected on 47 percent of their shots, including nine bombs from downtown. Meanwhile, the Hawks were an inconsistent 38 percent from the floor.

Ray Allen led six Boston players in double-figures with 18 points, while Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce chipped in 16 points each. The Celtics’ bench outscored the Hawks’ pine 36-22 in Game 1. Atlanta’s lone bright spot was rookie Al Horford, who notched a double-double (20 points, 10 rebounds) in his first playoff appearance.

Gambling Notes:

# Boston is now 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS versus Atlanta this year, with all four wins coming by at least 10 points.
# Total players have watched the ‘under’ go 4-0 in all four games. Surprisingly, books have kept the number the same as the Game 1 total of 190.
# The Celtics have been better with rest this year, going 10-2 SU and 8-4 ATS on two day rest.
# After losing three straight games to open up the second half of the regular season, the Celtics own an incredible 22-8 record ATS. One-unit players would be $1,320 (2200-800) if they played on Doc Rivers and company since their worst losing streak of the year. In case you’re interested, Boston is 26-4 SU over this span.
# Most books took down the best-of-seven series price with Boston too prohibitive of a favorite. Sportsbook.com has the Celtics listed as 7/5 (Bet $100 to win $140) to win the NBA Finals.

What to Expect: It’s very hard to make a case for Atlanta in this spot, especially because Boston sort of went through the motions in the second half and led by as many as 27 points. Yes the Hawks played poor, but it appears that they don’t have enough firepower on the outside to keep up with the Celtics. It was nice to see Atlanta get back to the playoffs for the first time in nine years, but this series has sweep written all over it. The Hawks can only hope to make one of the upcoming games close at home.

Los Angeles vs. Denver – Game 2

Game 1 Recap: The Nuggets showed everybody on Sunday why they’re not considered contenders, getting ripped 128-114 by the Lakers in Game 1. Los Angeles shot 50 percent from the floor, including 9-of-20 (45%) from 3-point land. The Lakers also had tremendous success getting to the foul line, knocking down 27-of-32 attempts. Denver’s defense remains the worst unit playing in the postseason, giving up 107 PPG. George Karl’s team had a rough day from the charity stripe, watching his squad connect on 62 percent (23-of-27) of their attempts.

The Lakers’ Pau Gasol dominated in Game 1 with 36 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists. Kobe Bryant added 32 points, but only shot 34 percent (9-of-26) from the floor. Fortunately, he drilled 13-of-14 shots from the free throw line. Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson both dropped 30 points apiece in a losing effort for the Nuggets, while Marcus Camby (4) and Kenyon Martin (5) struggled for a combined 9 points.

Gambling Notes:

# Los Angeles covered Game 1 as an 8 ½-point home favorite and also helped gamblers backing them in the second half as a six-point ‘chalk’. The club outscored the Nuggets 70-58 in the final 24 minutes.
# The Lakers have now won and covered all four of their meetings against Denver this year, winning by an average of 15.8 PPG.
# The combined 242 points easily jumped ‘over’ the closing total of 223 1/2 points. The first quarter (57.5) and first half (115) both went ‘under’ the total, but bettors saw the second half (113) cash rather easily.
# Most bookmakers have dropped the line for Game 2 by a point, with the Lakers now listed as 7 ½-point favorites. Meanwhile, the total has jumped to 230 points at most outfits.
# Gamblers looking for a split can back the Nuggets at a 3/1 price (Bet $100 to win $300) in Game 2.
# Both the Nuggets (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS) and Lakers (6-2 SU, 5-3 ATS) have played decent on two days of rest. Los Angeles does tend to step up its defense (97.8 PPG) in similar situations, which has helped the ‘under’ go 6-2.
# Keep in mind that Denver has dropped four straight playoff series by the count of 4-1. Expect them to get one game, but more than that may be a stretch.

What to Expect: If Denver is going to head back to Colorado with the series knotted at 1-1, then it’s going to have to play defense. George Karl already stated that the team will address defense first and when the club does put forth an effort it wins. The Nuggets are 18-6 SU and 17-7 ATS when they’ve held opponents under 100 points during the regular season. If you’re looking at Denver to keep it close, then perhaps the ‘under’ is worth a look as well – especially with an inflated line (230).

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NBA Gameday

The Celtics, Lakers, and Sixers will all be looking to extend series leads when they take to the floor for their respective Game 2's on Wednesday. Here is your NBA Gameday..

Philadelphia 76ers at Detroit Pistons

The Sixers finished 19 games behind the Pistons in the Eastern Conference standings during the regular season, so they weren't expected to put up much of a fight in this opening-round series. It seems, however, that no one relayed that fact to Philadelphia, as they came up with a big 90-86 road win over favored Detroit in Game 1 on Sunday.

Andre Miller led the way for the Sixers in the upset, scoring 20 points and picking up six assists. Willie Green was good for 17 points in the contest, while Andre Iguodala had 16 points and eight assists, and Samuel Dalembert grabbed 10 boards. Rasheed Wallace had a game-high 24 points in the loss for the Pistons, and he also had nine rebounds. Chauncey Billups tossed in 14 points on the night, while Richard Hamilton had 13 points.

The oddsmakers like Detroit's chances of shaking off that Game 1 upset with a big win Wednesday - the Pistons opened as 10-point favorites. The total opened at 178 points.

Atlanta Hawks at Boston Celtics

The Hawks finished 29 games behind the Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings during the regular season, so they weren't expected to put up much of a fight in this opening-round series. They, however, did not manage to pull off an upset in Game 1 - the Celtics pulled away early and cruised to an easy 104-81 home win on Sunday night.

Ray Allen picked up a team-high 18 points in the win for Boston, while Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were each good for 16 points. Rajon Rondo contributed 15 points and nine assists to the victory. Al Horford scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Hawks in his playoff debut, while Joe Johnson had 19 points and seven assists in the loss. Mike Bibby was held to just five points, and Josh Smith had only six points that day.

The Celtics are listed as big home favorites once again for Game 2, as the Hawks were set as 15-point underdogs on the opening line. The total for the contest opened at 190.

Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers

While there were 29 games between the No. 1 and No. 8 teams in the Eastern Conference standings, the first-place Lakers only finished seven games up on the eighth-place Nuggets in the Western Conference standings. Still, Los Angeles had little trouble knocking off Denver on Sunday afternoon, cruising to a 128-114 Game 1 victory.

Kobe Bryant scored 32 points for the Lakers in Game 1, but it was Pau Gasol that put up the game's best line - 36 points and 16 rebounds. Lamar Odom chipped in with 17 points and 14 rebounds for Los Angeles in the victory, and Luke Walton had 16 points. Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony each scored 30 points in the loss for the Nuggets, with Anthony also picking up 12 boards. Linas Kleiza contributed 23 points in the game.

The oddsmakers expect Game 2 to be a little closer, as the Lakers were opened as only 7.5-point favorites at home. After a high-scoring first game, the Game 2 total sits at 230

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EASTERN CONFERENCE

(7) Philadelphia (41-42, 43-37-3 ATS) at (2) Detroit (59-24, 45-37-1 ATS)


After pulling off a stunning upset win in Game 1, the 76ers now try to turn the trick again when they face the desperate Pistons in Game 2 at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Philadelphia rallied from a 15-point third-quarter deficit to post a 90-86 victory Sunday as a 9½-point road underdog. The Sixers, who outshot Detroit 43.2 percent to 39 percent, snapped a four-game SU and ATS losing skid in winning their first game since April 9, when they topped the Pistons 101-94 as a 4½-point home favorite.

Detroit, which had won and covered four straight since losing in Philadelphia, has now dropped five consecutive playoff games and is 0-6 ATS in its last six postseason contests (0-4 ATS at home) going back to last year’s Eastern Conference finals series against Cleveland. On the bright side, Flip Saunders’ team is still 9-3 in its last 12 overall (7-5 ATS) and 13-2 in its last 15 at home (10-5 ATS).

Philadelphia is now 3-2 SU and 4-1 ATS against the Pistons this season, including three consecutive wins and covers. The road team is now 8-2 ATS in the last 10 series battles, including 5-1 ATS in the last six, with the 76ers cashing in four straight trips to Motown. Finally, despite Sunday’s result, the favorite is still 12-6-1 ATS in the last 19 head-to-head battles.

Philadelphia is on ATS streaks of 10-3 on the road, 14-6-1 as a pup, 7-2 as a road ‘dog, 8-2 against the Central Division, 7-2 on Wednesdays and 4-1-1 when playing on two days’ rest. The only negative: The Sixers are still only 4-11-1 ATS in their last 16 games as a playoff underdog.

Detroit is on ATS runs of 5-2 at home and 6-3 against the Eastern Conference. On the downside, the Pistons are mired in pointspread slumps of 5-11-1 in the playoffs since the start of last year’s postseason, 5-16-1 as a playoff favorite (0-7 last seven as a playoff chalk), 1-3-1 in first-round playoff games, 2-7 against the Atlantic Division and 1-7 on Wednesdays.

Sunday’s game fell just short of the 179½-point posted total, so the under is now on streaks of 6-2 in series meetings in Detroit, 10-3 for the Pistons overall, 12-2 for the Pistons against the Eastern Conference and 6-1 for the Pistons as a favorite. Meanwhile, the over-under has alternated in the 76ers’ last eight contests, and the over is still 7-4-1 in Philly’s last 12 as a road ‘dog.

ATS ADVANTAGE: PHILADELPHIA


(8) Atlanta (37-46, 37-45-1 ATS) at (1) Boston (67-16, 53-28-2 ATS)

After easily taking care of business in a Game 1 rout on Sunday, the top-seeded Celtics once again hit the floor at the TD Banknorth Garden as a double-digit favorite to crush the Hawks in Game 2.

The Celtics showed why they’re such massive favorites to easily dispose of the Hawks in this best-of-7 series, cruising to a 104-81 victory as a 15-point home chalk on Sunday. Six players scored in double figures for Boston, which had a 47 percent to 38 percent edge in field-goal shooting, including going 9-for-16 from three-point land, while Atlanta missed 14 of its 17 long-range attempts.

Boston has won 12 of its last 13 games going back to the regular season, going 11-2 ATS. That includes an ongoing 5-0 SU and ATS winning streak.

The Hawks, who are back in the postseason for the first time since 1999, have now lost four straight games and six of their last eight, both SU and ATS. In fact, the winner has cashed in each of the team’s last 10 games.

Doc Rivers’ Celtics are 4-0 against Atlanta this year (3-1 ATS), easily winning all four games by double digits, with the three home wins coming by an average of 18.7 points per game. Still, the underdog is 7-4 ATS in the last 11 clashes.

Not only is Boston 36-6 at Banknorth Garden this season, but it is 26-15-1 ATS as a host, including seven straight spread-covers coming into this contest. Additionally, the Celtics are on ATS streaks of 20-6 overall, 9-2 as a favorite and 5-0 against Eastern Conference foes.

Atlanta is stuck in ATS ruts of 1-5 as an underdog, 0-4 against the Eastern Conference, 6-15 as a road ‘dog, 4-9 on Wednesday and 11-23 in road games against teams with a winning home mark.

Sunday’s game stayed under the total, making the under 4-0 in the four meetings this year and 7-1 in the last eight head-to-head clashes in Boston. Also, for the Celtics, the under is on runs of 8-3 overall, 11-3 against the Eastern Conference, 5-1 against the Southeast Division and 7-1 at home against teams with a losing road mark.

On the flip side, for the Hawks, the over is still on runs of 9-4 overall, 8-4 against the Eastern Conference, 7-4 on the road, 10-5 on the highway against teams with a winning home record, 4-0 on Wednesdays and 6-3 against the Atlantic Division.

ATS ADVANTAGE: BOSTON


WESTERN CONFERENCE

(8) Denver (50-33, 44-39 ATS) at (1) L.A. Lakers (58-25, 48-34-1 ATS)

The Lakers look to continue their season-long dominance of the Nuggets when these teams resume their best-of-7 Western Conference quarterfinal series at the Staple Center.

Los Angeles turned a narrow two-point halftime advantage into an easy 128-114 victory in Game 1, easily cashing as an 8½-point home favorite, improving to 5-0 SU and ATS against Denver this season. In his first playoff game with the Lakers (and his first-ever playoff victory) Pau Gasol went 14-for-20 from the field and finished with game-highs of 36 points and 16 rebounds, while Kobe Bryant chipped in 32 points despite missing 17 of 26 field-goal attempts.

The Lakers are on a 9-1 run dating to the regular season, but they’re just 5-5 ATS during this stretch. Also, they’re only 3-7 ATS in their last 10 home outings.

Denver, which had to win four of its last five regular-season games to get into the playoffs for the fifth straight year, got 30 points each from superstars Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony in Game 1. But it wasn’t enough for George Karl’s team to avoid its fifth consecutive SU and ATS playoff defeat (all as an underdog) going back to last year’s opening-round, five-game loss to the eventual champion Spurs.

The Lakers are now 7-4 SU and 9-2 ATS in the last 11 meetings with Denver dating back to 2005. What’s more, Los Angeles is on an 8-1 SU and ATS run against the Nuggets in the Staples Center, and the home team is 13-5 ATS in the last 18 series clashes.

Denver, which has failed to get out of the first round in each of its last four playoff appearances dating to 1994, is 19-7 ATS in its last 26 following a SU defeat and 4-1 ATS in its last five Wednesday contests. However, the Nuggets are 16-37-1 ATS in their last 54 games as an underdog of five to 10½ points.

The Lakers are on ATS streaks of 4-1 overall (all as a favorite) and 19-9 after a spread-cover. On the downside, Phil Jackson’s squad is only 2-6-1 ATS in its last nine as a playoff favorite and 5-11 ATS in its last 16 against winning teams.

Game 1 flew over the 224-point posted total, making the over 4-1 in the Lakers’ last five home games and 4-1 in the Lakers’ last five first-round playoff contests. However, for the Nuggets, the under is still on streaks of 5-1 overall, 14-4 as a playoff underdog, 5-3 on the highway and 16-5 in first-round playoff games. Also, the under is still 7-3 in the last 10 series meetings at Staples Center.

ATS ADVANTAGE: L.A. LAKERS

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NBA playoff notes: Rest, age and youth
By BRYAN LEONARD

During the regular season, handicappers carefully look at spots where teams are playing long road stretches and back to back spots. For instance: playing a game on Monday, then playing again Wednesday and Friday is far different from playing Sunday and Monday, then Wednesday and Thursday.

The latter is a four-games-in-five-nights stretch, one of the most difficult scheduling spots in the NBA. If all four of those games were on the road, which also happens, the spot has even greater difficulty.

Handicappers always take into account scheduling dynamics like that. However, the playoffs are different as teams rarely play back-to-back games in the playoffs anymore. This gives an advantage to veteran teams or ones that have important players with age or injuries concerns.

Look at the Spurs: an aging team that battled injuries to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Getting these guys rested and healthy for the playoffs was a huge priority the last two months. This is similar to just two seasons ago when Duncan battled various foot ailments. That season, San Antonio went 60-9 with at least one day of rest before a game, yet 3-10 in the second of back-to-back games. In those back-to-back spots, Duncan averaged just 14 points per game.

Back to the present, Duncan was the story in Game 1 against the Suns with 40 points and his first three-pointer of the season. Without it, they trail 0-1 and would already have lost home-court.

“It felt like a Finals game,” said Duncan. “But it's only the first game of the first series.”

With Game 2 not scheduled until Tuesday, Sunday and Monday provided some much-needed rest. “My legs were dead,” added Duncan.

Duncan played nearly 51 minutes in Game 1, 17 more than his average. Tony Parker played 51 minutes, 28 seconds before fouling out. Michael Finley logged more than 48 minutes, Ginobili 45.

Duncan and the Spurs took Sunday off to catch their breath, forgoing a practice session altogether. It probably was a wise move for the NBA's oldest team, coming off only the second double-overtime playoff game in franchise history.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, “That's enough to kill you if every game is like that.”

The same has been true of Shaquille O'Neal the last few years. When Shaq puts his mind and body to playing hard, he can be a dominant player, but he’s 36 and way past his prime. You may recall in the playoffs a few years ago that Shaq performed significantly better on two days rest than he did on one.

Granted, there will be no back-to-back spots in the playoffs, but with aging players like Shaq and others that have nagging injuries (like Duncan), the difference in one, two or three days rest can be very important.

Can the Suns win a big game? They have dropped 13 of their past 17 playoff games against the Spurs, many of them in similarly gut-wrenching fashion. On Saturday, they never trailed until the 2:36 mark of the fourth quarter, and squandered at least five decent chances to finish the Spurs off.

Another aging team that could always use extra time to rest is Detroit. Unlike the Spurs, they are coming off a shocking home loss to the young 76ers – a team that finished the regular season 40-42.

“We're going to be all right,” Chauncey Billups said. “We just have to continue to play to win. We can't get caught up in playing not to lose. We've been here before, man. We don't like to hang our hats on that but it's a fact. We know what it takes.”

Sounds good, but first they have to figure out a way to slow down Andre Miller.

The Pistons are 0-5 SU/ATS their last five playoff games, after losing four in a row to the Cavaliers last season in the Eastern Conference Finals.

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