Playoff Friday Tip Sheet

Playoff Friday Tip Sheet

Playoff Friday Tip Sheet
By Josh Jacobs

I hope you’re strapped into you most comfortable seat because this rollercoaster ride through the playoffs is just getting started.

Friday will usher in some important Game 3 scenarios, with two Western Conference teams holding 2-0 leads, while Detroit and Philadelphia are making things interesting with a knotted up series (1-1).

Moving right along, the big question that is being raised by bettors all across the country is, “can be finally bank on some consistent earnings by taking ‘dogs?”

Of coarse this is the million dollar question, but it doesn’t hurt to take a look at Friday’s matchups in hopes of unveiling a pattern or trend that can increase our playoff bankroll by taking underdogs.

Since the first round began on Apr. 19, favorites have gone on an 11-5 against the spread frenzy. About the only trend that seems to be following a consistent path are total plays, with the ‘over’ now standing at 9-7.

Detroit at Philadelphia (Series tied at 1-1)

If recent history has anything to say about ‘dogs cashing then we have to look at Game 1 of the Philly-Detroit contest.

Most books had closed the 76ers as 9½-point underdogs and backers couldn’t have been more obliged to print out tickets. With Andre Miller knocking down 20 points and Willie Green adding 17, Philadelphia closed out the contest with a 90-86 win (forget the spread, an outright win paid dividends).

A follow up in Game 2 added to the already dominant favorite cashing in for yet another go around. The Pistons slammed home 42 of their 105 total points in the paint, with Antonio McDyess improving second chance scoring with five offensive rebounds. Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and McDyess all chipped in for 16 points apiece (46% of the teams offensive production).

In the end, Detroit easily covered the 10½-point spread with the ‘over’ also breezing by the 193 set total. It was the fourth time the ‘over’ raked up money in the last 10 head-to-head meetings.

In both contest, the team who shot the worst from the field ended up on the losing side. It was the Pistons who shot a deplorable 39 percent in the losing effort on Apr. 20 (versus Philadelphia’s 43.2%), followed by the Sixers’ field goal percentage of 39.5 percent in the defeat on Wednesday.

Facts and Thoughts: Philadelphia enters Friday’s contest with a degrading 1-3 SU and ATS record versus Detroit in the last four at home. For the Sixers, point guard Miller holds the key to providing tempo and creating openings against the No. 1 defensive unit in the league (90.1 PPG allowed during the season). When Miller has scored 20 points or more in the last 12, his team has gone 9-3. Most books have opened the 76ers as much as four-point underdogs. Philly has excelled with a 6-1 ATS record in the last seven games when installed as a home ‘dog of ½-point to 4½-points.

New Orleans at Dallas (Hornets lead 2-0)

It was on Tuesday that the Hornets pummeled the Mavericks 127-103.

Two things happened; the ‘over’ is now 4-0 in the last four head-to-head meetings and New Orleans is 5-3 ATS in the last eight clashes with Dallas. Installed as a five-point favorite by most books, the Mavericks must improve their defensive effort for the all important home court win.

Dallas has been responsible for giving up 115.5 PPG in its last two defeats during round one of the playoffs. Where’s the ‘D’ that was responsible for smothering opponents for 95.9 PPG allowed this season? Sixteen of the Mavs’ 31 losses have come when teams have scored 100 points or more.     

In Game 2 on Tuesday, Dallas reached the climax of its lapse on defense when New Orleans closed out the contest by shooting an unconscious 60.8 percent from the field (48-of-79) and an off the charts 55.6 percent from beyond the arc (10-for-18). The Mavs own 47.1 shooting percentage wasn’t the main concern, but giving up 29 fast break points was.

The moral of this story is New Orleans’ ability to run-and-gun on Dallas’ immobilized defense. And let’s not forget that the Mavs have turned the ball over 14½ times in the postseason, while the Hornets are protecting the rock, averaging only seven turnovers per game.

Then there’s Hornets’ All-Star Chris Paul. The six-foot point guard out of Wake Forest has averaged 35.5 PPG with 13.5 APG in these two playoff wins thus far. Shooting 64 percent from the field and playing hard ‘D’ down the stretch with seven steals in the last two games, Paul has been a double edged sword.

Facts and Thoughts: For those total players looking for an ‘under’ to eventually hit, it’s been a long wait. With the total set from anywhere in the neighborhood of 192 to 194, books are trying to adjust for the continued success of the ‘over’. As of late Wednesday, has set the total at 196½. With Dallas scoring 97.1 PPG on the road and a flourishing 103.7 PPG at home, it’s becoming difficult to call an ‘under’ play at any given moment. Mix in the incredible shooting percentage awarded to the Hornets and the ‘over’ seems to be another logical pick.

San Antonio at Phoenix (Spurs lead 2-0)

Is Phoenix a carbon copy of Denver in the defensive department? It sure seems that way with this squad sacrificing 109.5 PPG in the last two losses to the Spurs. Remember, San Antonio capped off the season as the 28th worst scoring team in the Association (95.4 PPG).

After a double-overtime loss last week by the score of 117-115, Phoenix entered Game 2 with one major weakness, fatigue. The Suns showed a lack of energy in the third quarter by scoring just 11 points, while the Spurs poured it on with 27.

Fast break scoring was once again another telltale sign of the imbalance in transitional defense. While Phoenix is well known for its track and field pace, it was the Spurs who ran up and down the court for 23 fast break points. The Suns where held to a lonely four points in transition, a major problem for a team who prides themselves with speed.

Points in the paint have been another thorn in Phoenix’s side. Between both Game 1 and 2, the Suns where at the mercy of surrendering a combined 128 points in the paint.

If Phoenix has any chance at getting even, stopping Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili must be prime objectives. Parker has walked all over the ‘D’ with a combined 58 points, as Ginobili has scored 24 points in Game 1 and 29 in Game 2. His 46 percent shooting from the field and 30 percent (3-for-11) from three-point range haven’t been brilliance in the making but points at the bottom of the bucket are what counts.

Facts and Thoughts: Most books have opened the Suns as 6½-point home favorites, with a total circulating around 193. The ‘over’ has been the play to follow with a 2-0 record in postseason play. San Antonio brings with it a 5-0 record on the ‘over’ in its last five and the Suns have posted a 6-1 performance on the ‘over’ in the last seven when favored at home by five-10½-points. Phoenix has plenty of fuel still left in the tank and with a 30-11 home record during the season, we can’t call them out of the race just yet. The Suns’ Shaquille O’Neal has done his part, averaging 15 points (19 points and 14 rebounds in Game 2), but it’s the run-and-gun game plan that hasn’t lived up to Phoenix’s expectations.

There’s no doubt that the momentum will be high for the hometown Suns as a bit of desperation sinks in. This writer can foresee Phoenix giving San Antonio a run for its money but to cover almost seven points could be asking too much.

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(2) Detroit (60-24, 46-37-1 ATS) at (7) Philadelphia (41-43, 43-38-3 ATS)

The Pistons, who bounced back in Game 2 after a stunning Game 1 upset loss at home, will try to regain home-court advantage when they travel to the Wachovia Center for Game 3 against the 76ers.

Detroit, which blew a 15-point, third-quarter lead to Philadelphia in Game 1, posted a resounding 105-88 victory Wednesday night to square the best-of-7 series and easily cover as a 10½-point home chalk. The Pistons moved to 5-1 SU and ATS in their last six starts, and the straight-up winner has cashed in each of Detroit’s last 10 games. The Sixers, on the other hand, dropped to 1-5 SU and ATS in their last six outings.

Despite the blowout loss on Wednesday, Philly is still 4-2 ATS against the Pistons this season (3-3 SU), including 3-1 SU and ATS in the last four clashes. The favorite in this series is on a 13-6-1 ATS roll, and the road team – again, despite Wednesday’s outcome – is 8-3 ATS in the last 11 matchups. Finally, while Detroit is 2-5 ATS in the last seven meetings overall, it is 4-1 ATS in its last five trips to the Wachovia Center.

Wednesday’s victory snapped an 0-5 SU and 0-6 ATS slide in the postseason for the Pistons. Additionally, Detroit is still in the midst of negative ATS trends of 6-11-1 in the playoffs since the start of the 2007 postseason, 6-16-1 as a playoff chalk (1-7 the last eight as a playoff favorite), 3-7 against the Atlantic Division, 4-10 as a road favorite and 2-7 overall on the highway.

On the positive side, Flip Saunders’ team is 10-3 SU in its last 13 overall (8-5 ATS) and has positive pointspread trends of 5-1 as a chalk, 5-1 on one day of rest, 15-6 as a road favorite of less than five points and 15-6-3 in first-round playoff games.

Philadelphia remains on positive ATS runs of 14-7-1 as a pup, 8-3 against the Central Division, 6-1 as a home ‘dog of less than five and 10-4-1 after a SU loss. However, the Sixers are just 4-12-1 ATS in their last 16 playoff games as an underdog, 5-11-3 ATS in their last 19 in conference quarterfinal games, 3-7 ATS in their last 10 when catching less than five points and 1-4 ATS in their past five at home.

Although Wednesday’s meeting sailed over the 178½-point posted price, the under for Detroit is still on streaks of 10-4 overall, 9-3 as a favorite, 12-3 against the East, 4-0 as a road chalk and 6-1 on the highway. Philadelphia, meanwhile, has seen the over-under alternate in its last nine contests overall, and the under is 4-1 in its last five at home, but the over is 11-5-1 in the 76ers’ last 17 games on Friday.



(2) New Orleans (58-26, 51-31-2 ATS) at (7) Dallas (51-33, 35-45-4 ATS)

The Hornets, who continued to prove their worth as one of the best bets in the league by winning and covering in Games 1 and 2 at home, head west to the American Airlines Center for Game 3 against the Mavericks, who are in a must-win situation.

New Orleans followed up a 104-92 Game 1 win over the Mavs by running Dallas out of the gym Tuesday night in a 127-103 rout laying 3½ points. The Hornets are 3-1 SU and ATS in their last four starts going back to the regular season, and the straight-up winner has gotten the cash in eight of New Orleans’ last nine contest. Dallas, meanwhile, is 1-6 ATS in its last six starts (3-4 SU).

With New Orleans’ win Tuesday, the home team is now 6-0 SU and ATS this season in this series, and the favorite is 6-1 ATS in the last seven clashes overall (5-0 ATS in the past five). Finally, Dallas is 4-1 ATS in its last five battles with the Hornets at the American Airlines Center.

The Hornets, who sported the league’s third-best ATS mark in the regular season, are on a multitude of positive pointspread streaks, including 40-19-1 overall, 36-16-1 on two days’ rest, 6-1 in conference quarterfinal games, 9-3 against the Western Conference, 20-9 as an underdog and 31-15-2 as a visitor. On the downside, they are on ATS slides of 3-7-1 as a playoff underdog, 2-5 as a road pup of any price, 1-5 as a road ‘dog of five to 10½ points and 2-5-1 after a pointspread win.

Despite winning and covering against New Orleans at home in the regular-season finale nine days ago, Dallas is still on negative pointspread runs of 1-5 on two days’ rest, 2-9 following a non-cover, 4-10 against winning teams, 2-6 at home and 0-6 in first-round playoff games. On the positive side, the Mavericks are 37-17-1 in their last 55 against Southwest Division rivals and 4-1-2 ATS in their last seven on Friday.

The “over” trends run particularly heavy for New Orleans, including 4-0 overall, 7-1 as a road ‘dog of any price, 5-1 catching 5 to 10½ points on the road, 26-8 on two days’ rest and 8-3-1 in Friday contests. For Dallas, the over is on streaks of a 4-1 overall, 4-0 on two days’ rest and 5-1 against the Southwest Division, but the under is on runs of 9-3 for the Mavs as a favorite, 8-2 for the Mavs as a playoff favorite and 6-2 for the Mavs at home.

Finally, the under is 11-4-1 in the last 16 clashes between these rivals and is 7-1 the last eight contests in Dallas, but the over has cashed in four straight matchups, including the first two games of this series.


(3) San Antonio (58-26, 38-44-2) at (6) Phoenix (55-29, 40-41-3 ATS)

The defending NBA champion Spurs carry a 2-0 series lead into U.S. Airways Center, where the Suns must find a way to win Game 3 or face the all-but-certain prospect of being knocked out of the playoffs by San Antonio for the second straight year.

For the second straight game in this best-of-7 series, Phoenix got out to a great start in building a 14-point lead on Tuesday, but San Antonio outscored the Suns 27-11 in the third quarter and held on down the stretch for a 102-96 win as a 1½-point favorite. The Spurs have won four in a row (2-2 ATS), though they are still just 3-6 ATS in their last nine overall. Meanwhile, the Suns, who have dropped two straight Western Conference games for the first time since March 7, have alternated spread-covers over the last six games, including cashing in Game 1 in San Antonio.

Phoenix is 4-2 ATS this season in the heated rivalry against San Antonio, and the underdog has taken the cash in five of the six meetings. Meanwhile, San Antonio, which took out Phoenix in last year’s conference semis by winning the series 4-2 (3-2-1 ATS), is 9-4-1 ATS in its last 14 visits to the U.S. Airways Center.

The Spurs are in the midst of ATS funks of 1-4 against the Pacific Division, 2-7 on two days’ rest, 3-8 as an underdog, 4-12 as a road pup and 0-4 on the highway. One positive for San Antonio is its 5-1 ATS run in first-round playoff games.

The Suns are on positive pointspread trends of 8-2 at home, 12-5-1 against the Western Conference, 6-0 after a non-cover, 6-1 on two days’ rest, 4-1 after a SU loss, 7-2 as a home favorite and 10-4-1 overall as a chalk.

The under cashed in all four regular-season meetings between these squads, but the over took the money in the first two in this playoff series, with Tuesday’s clash eclipsing the 191-point posted price.

For Phoenix, the over is on runs of 4-0 in conference quarterfinal games, 4-1 on two days’ rest, 10-4 as a playoff favorite and 11-5 as a home chalk. For San Antonio, the over streaks are 5-0 overall, 5-0 against the West, 4-0 following a SU win, 6-1 against the Pacific Division (including a current 4-0 run) and 7-2 with the Spurs catching points in the playoffs.



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NBA Western Conference teams consistently playing 'over'

There’s a lot to like about the Western Conference. But if you’re into tough defense, you should look somewhere else.

Among playoff teams like Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix, New Orleans and Dallas, there are plenty of highlight jams, lobs, lay-ins, fade-aways and floaters to go around. Any semblance of defensive sensibility is less common than a plate of grits on the West Coast.

And that style of play isn’t just creating exciting games in the Western playoffs, it’s also creating an opportunity for bettors to capitalize on a noteworthy trend.

Prior to Thursday's games, the over/under in Western Conference postseason play is 5-3. Take away the slow-paced temp of the Houston-Utah series and that number is a nearly perfect 5-1 to the over. Two of those series' (New Orleans-Dallas and San Antonio-Phoenix) have played over every game.

But is this a trend you should risk your money on? Covers Expert Bryan Leonard doesn’t necessarily think so.

“The Western Conference is known as a more open court fast-breaking conference. It's hard for some of these teams like Denver to change their stripes to adjust to the playoffs, which is one reason why Phoenix made the trade for Shaq.

“But it's too early to tell if the linesmakers have missed the boat based on such a small sample size. We will see if the trend continues but I wouldn't read too much into it.”

That may be true, but there is one series that over bettors should keep a close eye on.

The New Orleans-Dallas series played over in both the first two games and in spite of the fact that these are two of the best defensive teams in the league, this is one series which could continue to be played at a high-scoring pace.

Covers Expert Ted Sevransky says the betting marketplace “has not priced the totals correctly” in these matchups.

“The biggest issue here, in my opinion,” says Sevransky, “is the difficulty that Dallas has had containing Chris Paul, both in half-court sets and in transition. Each of the four meetings since the Mavs acquired Jason Kidd has been totaled at 192. All four games have gone over the total.

“Kidd can't stay in front of Paul in half-court sets, giving the Hornets plenty of easy buckets from Paul's 'drive and dish' chances in the paint.”

Dallas Morning News columnist Randy Galloway made a similar assessment in an article published on Wednesday. He took the analysis further and wrote that the Mavs have “no starting-five matchup advantage thus far. (The Mavs are) losing at every position on the floor.”

Dalls certainly seems to be at a loss about how to stop the New Orleans scoring machine and because of that, bettors can almost taste another over. The Game 3 total has already been bumped up three points beyond the Game 2 number and it could get even higher before Friday’s tip-off. However, Sevransky warns that certain factors could send scoring in the opposite direction in Dallas.

“The Hornets shot 61 percent from the floor in Game 2, hitting from all over the court. Meanwhile, the Mavs have made 63 free throws in the first two games, an extraordinarily high number, getting the benefit of the doubt on numerous whistles and taking advantage of those opportunities for scoring without the clock moving.

“A crew of officials who will let these teams bang a little bit could send this series in the completely opposite direction, totals wise, in the next few games.”

The total for Game 3 of the New Orleans-Dallas series is currently set at 195½ and hasn't moved since it opened Wednesday afternoon. The Mavericks are listed as 5-point favorites in that series.

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Total goes through the roof in Lakers-Nuggets series

After Wednesday night’s Wild West shootout in L.A., you have to wonder how two teams could possibly pack any more offense into a basketball game.

Kobe Bryant was playing out of his mind, Allan Iverson also had a monster game, and both teams were running the floor like there was a bomb in the building.

Hey, when Luke Walton gets 18 points off the bench, you know the offense is rolling.

But in spite of all that scoring, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets still played under the total, if you can believe that.

Had the total remained steady after Game 1, then Wednesday's contest would have resulted in another win for over bets, but oddsmakers made a massive adjustment and bumped the Game 2 total a full five points from the Game 1 total, up to 230, meaning the 122-107 final landed one point under.

That's something you don't see every day. Even a veteran oddsmaker like Randy Scott of had to admit that five points is a significant move for a total in a playoff series.

“Yes, big adjustments were made after the total absolutely sailed over in Game 1,” said Scott. “It is unusual to see such a big increase in total points from one game to the next, but there wasn't much to debate. It was clear this series was going to be a high-scoring affair.”

You can probably expect more of the same in Game 3, in terms of offense. Denver actually made a concerted effort to play defense on Wednesday, but nothing seemed to work. Neither Kenyon Martin nor Linas Kleiza could handle Kobe one-on-one and switching to a zone didn’t do much good either as Kobe just distributed the ball to open teammates.

But even still, the Lakers shot well above their average from the field (50.5 percent) and from distance (42.9 percent) and they still didn't manage to push the final score over the total. It probably wouldn't be wise to expect another show like that in Denver on Saturday, where the Nuggets usually put on a much better performance.

With the new higher totals in this series, it makes it very difficult the teams to play over. It’s hard to imagine a game with a higher pace or better shooting than Game 2 – and if that one couldn’t top 230 points, it’s not likely any subsequent games will.

This not the first time the Nuggets have seen totals like these. In fact, Denver was saddled with totals of 229 or higher on seven occasions in the last three weeks of the season. The over/under was 3-4 in those games.

For Los Angeles, however, the Game 2 total was the second-highest they’d seen all season. The only higher total was a March. 23 meeting with Golden State that totaled at 233. That game, like Wednesday’s game, finished under the number.

Although the value was clearly on the over in the first game of the series, it appears that as oddsmakers try to protect themselves from a flood of over bets, bettors may have to look at the under in Game 3 and beyond of totals remain this high.

Oddsmakers have set the Game 3 total at 230. Denver is a 1-point favorite.

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