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NBA Playoffs Betting News and Notes

NBA Playoffs Betting News and Notes

First Round Cheat Sheet

Eastern Conference

(1) Miami vs. (8) Milwaukee

-- Miami (66-16 SU, 46-36 ATS)
-- Milwaukee (38-44 SU, 37-55 ATS)
-- Heat won season series, 3-1
-- Heat covered two of four meetings
-- The 'under' cashed three times

(2) New York vs. (7) Boston

-- New York (54-28 SU, 46-34-2 ATS)
-- Boston (41-40 SU, 36-42-3 ATS)
-- Knicks won season series, 3-1
-- Knicks covered three times, including twice at Boston
-- The 'under' cashed three times

(3) Indiana vs. (6) Atlanta

-- Indiana (49-32 SU, 42-39 ATS)
-- Atlanta (44-38 SU, 37-43-2 ATS)
-- The two teams split four meetings
-- Home team won each time, while Pacers won last two matchups
-- The 'over' hit in final three meetings, including twice at Indiana

(4) Brooklyn vs. (5) Chicago

-- Brooklyn (49-33 SU, 39-40-3 ATS)
-- Chicago (45-37 SU, 36-46 ATS)
-- Bulls won season series, 3-1
-- Bulls covered three times, including twice at Brooklyn
-- The 'under' cashed in three of four meetings

Western Conference

(1) Oklahoma City vs. (8) Houston

-- Oklahoma City (60-22 SU, 49-31-2 ATS)
-- Houston (45-37 SU, 41-40-1 ATS)
-- Thunder won season series, 2-1
-- Thunder covered two of three meetings, including two blowouts at home
-- The 'over' went 3-0 in season series

(2) San Antonio vs. (7) L.A. Lakers

-- San Antonio (58-24 SU, 39-41-2 ATS)
-- Los Angeles (45-37 SU, 34-45-2 ATS)
-- Spurs won season series, 2-1
-- Lakers covered twice, including Sunday's must-win contest at home
-- The 'under' hit all three times

(3) Denver vs. (6) Golden State

-- Denver (57-25 SU, 49-32-1 ATS)
-- Golden State (47-35 SU, 42-39-1 ATS)
-- Nuggets won season series, 3-1
-- Nuggets cashed three times, including twice at home
-- The 'over' hit in three of four meetings

(4) L.A. Clippers vs. (5) Memphis

-- Los Angeles (56-26 SU, 45-37 ATS)
-- Memphis (56-26 SU, (46-34-2 ATS)
-- Clippers won season series, 3-1
-- Clippers covered three times, including twice in Memphis
-- The 'under' hit in final three matchups

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Making Money on Home Teams During the NBA Playoffs
Carlo Campanella

How important is home court advantage in the NBA? Well, the NBA Playoffs begin on April 20, but if they started today ALL 16 Playoff teams would own winning home records. In fact, even with the extremely long, 82 game Regular season basketball schedule where individual games aren't as important as in the 16 game NFL season, or as they are in the NBA Playoffs, but we still find 22 of the 30 NBA teams (73.3%) playing above the .500% win percentage on their home courts.

During the 2012 NBA Playoffs the home team posted a 58-26 SU record, or winning 70% of the Playoff games! These numbers show that it's tough to win on the road in NBA basketball, and even tougher to win on the road during the NBA Playoffs. I did some handicapping research and found 2 very profitable betting strategies that will build your bankroll during the NBA Playoffs. These betting strategies should be used as handicapping tools when you're analyzing the daily Playoff games.

The Basketball postseason lasts 2 months, so there are several betting strategies that can be wagered on several times during the NBA Playoffs. One of the most interesting situations comes "Playing on" Home Favorites after they lost a Playoff game as a Home Favorite. Handicapping basketball statistics and results tells us that it's tough to win on the road, so it must be extremely difficult to win back-to-back games on the road, especially during the Playoffs. That betting strategy would have been profitable during last year's NBA postseason when the L.A. Clippers faced Memphis. The Clippers opened the series by winning by a point, 99-98, at Memphis as point Dogs. However, professional bettors knew that it would be tough for the Clippers to win back-to-back road games, and it was, as the Clippers eventually lost Game #2, 105-98, as Memphis won and covered the 3 point spread.

Don't be scared away from backing larger home Favorites because they lost their previous Playoff game, as these "bigger Favorites" offer very profitable betting opportunities. Just as the Clippers upset Memphis, the Orlando Magic shocked Indiana in Game #1, 81-77, as 9 point Dogs. However, the shock didn't last long, as the classier Pacer team rebounded for the 15 point win, 93-78, in Game #2, easily covering the 9.5 point spread! A loss during the Playoffs can end a team's season, so a loss often "wakes" the better team up and they win the next game with authority.

Another betting strategy is to "Play on" Playoff Home Favorites after they won their previous game as a Road Favorite. If a team is favored to win on the road, and does win that Playoff game of the road, then they are clearly the better team. So it would reason that this better team will win again at home when they get home court advantage. This betting situation came up during last season's NBA Playoffs when Oklahoma City defeated an aging Lakers crew in L.A for Game #4, 103-100, as 2 point favorites. Professional bettors loaded up in Game #5, when Oklahoma City returned home as 7 point favorites. The Thunder dominated on their own court, beating the Lakers by 16 points, 106-90.

Astute basketball bettors should use these home team betting strategies when analyzing each day's Playoff games. As you can see, home court is an advantage during the NBA postseason and you should look for situations where the home team has added benefits, such as losing at home the night before, to wager on!

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NBA Playoff Notebook

Could Favored Heat Go 16-0 in Playoffs? History, Odds Say No

No team in the modern era has run through the playoffs without a loss. Michael Jordan's 1995-96 Bulls, who set the NBA record with 72 regular-season wins, were beaten three times on the way to the championship.

The best mark by a recent team was 15-1 by the 2000-01 Lakers of Shaq and Kobe. L.A. rolled through the Western Conference postseason at 11-0 but was upset at home in Game 1 of the NBA Finals by the 76ers in overtime. The Lakers won the next four rather easily and had to settle for being the only team to go unbeaten on the road in the postseason.

Thus the Miami Heat would put themselves in the record books this postseason by running the table, and they showed what they are capable of with a 27-game winning streak during the year. However, Miami is given just a +2500 shot on a yes-only prop at Bovada to go unbeaten in these playoffs.

The Heat are 5/8 favorites at the book to repeat as the NBA champions. They begin their best-of-7 opening round matchup against No. 8 Milwaukee as 11.5-point favorites. Miami won three of four regular-season meetings. Milwaukee ended the season losing five of six and the win was in a meaningless game at Oklahoma City in which the Thunder sat Kevin Durant.

No. 2 N.Y. Knicks versus No. 7 Boston: New York took three of four against Boston (3-1 ATS) and opened as a 7.5-point favorite for Game 1 Saturday. Knicks star Carmelo Anthony ended Durant's reign as the three-time scoring champion, but that's bad news for Knicks futures. The last team to win the title with a scoring champion was the 1999-2000 Lakers with Shaq. The Knicks are 16/1 to do so.

No. 3 Indiana versus No. 6 Atlanta: The Hawks slipped from No. 5 to No. 6 by losing their last two games. These teams split four regular-season meetings (2-2 ATS), each winning both at home. The Pacers are seven-point favorites for Game 1 Sunday and 25/1 to win the NBA title.

No. 4 Brooklyn versus No. 5 Chicago: Could Derrick Rose make his season debut in the playoffs for the Bulls? No one expects that, but the team hasn't ruled it out. Chicago won three of four meetings (3-1 ATS), but the Nets are five-point favorites for Game 1.

Not Much Confidence in Lakers

The Lakers didn't need to win their finale Wednesday against Houston to make the playoffs as it turned out, but it was a potentially big victory as it got L.A. the No. 7 seed and a better matchup on paper with No. 2 San Antonio instead of Oklahoma City. Still, the Lakers are 40/1 long shots to win the NBA title.

While Kobe Bryant is out for the playoffs, the Lakers hope Steve Nash will be ready for Game 1. He has missed eight straight with a hamstring injury. The Spurs got Manu Ginobili back for the first time Wednesday since March 29 but lost their third-straight game. The Spurs won two of three regular-season meetings (1-2 ATS), are nine-point favorites for the opener and 10/1 to win the West.

No. 1 Oklahoma City versus No. 8 Houston: James Harden faces the team that traded him on the eve of the season as Houston slipped to No. 8 by losing three of their final four. OKC won two of three meetings and didn't score less than 119 points in any game against one of the league's worst defenses. The Thunder are 4/1 to win the NBA title and 10-point Game 1 favorites.

No. 3 Denver versus No. 6 Golden State: The Nuggets, the NBA's highest-scoring team, bring a 23-game home winning streak into Game 1 and were an NBA-best 38-3 there this season. Denver won three of four meetings with the Warriors and is a 7.5-point favorite for Game 1.

No. 4 L.A. Clippers versus No. 5 Memphis: A rematch of last year's first-rounder when the Clippers beat the Grizzlies in seven games. L.A. is the hottest team in the West with a seven-game winning streak (5-2 ATS) and took three of four against Memphis. The Clips are 25/1 to win the West.

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Momentum gives these three NBA teams added playoff value
By Jason Logan

Momentum is worth its weight in gold come playoff time and often the hottest team – not the best team – makes a run at the title. With the NBA playoffs kicking off this weekend, we look at three teams that are peaking at the perfect time and providing added value in the NBA futures market.

Memphis Grizzlies (+2,500)

The Grizzlies were the sharp darling before the season started and haven’t strayed too far from their opening NBA title odds. Memphis is a winner in nine of its last 11 games, posting a 7-3-1 ATS mark in that span. The Grizzlies own the top-ranked defense in the league and unlike most teams at this time of the year, they are relatively healthy.

Brooklyn Nets (+5,000)

Jay-Z may not want to rush out and sell all his stock in the Nets just yet. Brooklyn is picking up speed heading into the postseason and will have home court in the opening round as the No. 4 seed in the East. The Nets have won seven of their last nine games (5-4 ATS) including key matchups with Indiana and Boston, thanks in part to the play of Deron Williams (averaging almost 25 points this month). The Nets opened at 30-1 to win the NBA title and were as big as 100-1 after a slow start to the season.

Los Angeles Clippers (+1,500)

The Clippers strut into playoffs having won seven straight games while boasting a 5-2 ATS count in that stretch. Los Angeles' win versus the Kings Wednesday secured the No. 4 spot in the West and holds down home court for the first round. The Clips, who opened at 15-1, are also healthy with Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups back in the lineup.

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NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Preview: Round 1
By Jason Logan

The Eastern Conference playoffs are a complicated sandwich of sorts. On top you have the Miami Heat and on the bottom the Milwaukee Bucks. But in between is one of the tightest and most competitive groups in years.

Teams seeded No. 2 through No. 7 have just as much of a chance to make the conference finals as the clubs ranked above or below them. The Knicks, Pacers, Nets, Bulls, Hawks and Celtics are all capable of beating each other on any given night. That parity should open up value in the series prices and Eastern Conference futures market.

No. 1 Miami Heat vs. No. 8 Milwaukee Bucks

Season series: Heat won 3-1 SU, 2-2 ATS, 1-3 O/U

Series prices: Miami -6,000, Milwaukee +4,000

Why bet Miami: Why not? The Heat are hands down the class of the NBA and have been waiting for this moment since hoisting last year’s Larry O’Brien Trophy. Miami continued to build on its NBA-best record despite resting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh over the final weeks of the schedule, and kept covering thanks to a deep and experienced bench.

Why bet the Bucks: Milwaukee has known its first-round opponent for some time now and has had plenty of tape to hammer out a game plan for the Heat. In their one win over Miami, the Bucks were able to force 22 turnovers. They rank second in the NBA in forcing turnovers (16.1) while the Heat coughed the ball up 14 times a night – fourth most in the league.

No. 2 New York Knicks vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics

Season series: Knicks won 3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS, 1-3 O/U

Series prices: New York -400, Boston +300

Why bet the Knicks: The Celtics were one of the few Eastern Conference playoff teams the Knicks beat up on, with N.Y. going 3-1 SU and ATS. New York defeated Boston by an average of more than 13 points in its three wins over the Celtics. The Knicks are also expected to have Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin back for the playoffs.

Why bet the Celtics: Boston has used a platoon of athletic guards – Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford – to replace Rajon Rondo, giving the Celtics scoring depth off the bench. Boston also heads into the postseason with a heavy heart following the bombings at the Boston Marathon. The Celtics could step up as inspiration for a city in need of some good news.

No. 3 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 6 Atlanta Hawks

Season series: Split 2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS, 3-1 O/U

Series prices: Indiana -600, Atlanta +400

Why bet the Pacers: Indiana earned the No. 3 seed in the East despite having its star forward Danny Granger for just five games all season. The Pacers are a tough out at home, where they went 30-10 SU (22-18 ATS). They rebound well and play tight defense – two key components for any successful postseason run.

Why bet the Hawks: Indiana limped into the postseason with just one win in its final six games. The Hawks, who are a tough road team - 23-18 ATS - could steal a game or two in Indianapolis. The teams split their four games SU and ATS this year but Atlanta has been the better wager, going 10-4 ATS in their last 14 head-to-heads.

No. 4 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 5 Chicago Bulls

Season series: Bulls won 3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS, 2-2 O/U

Series prices: Brooklyn -165, Chicago +145

Why bet the Nets: Brooklyn is peaking at the right time and a lot of that is due to Deron Williams. After playing much of the season injured, Williams is feeling good and was filling it up down the home stretch. The Nets were stellar in tight games this season, boasting a 9-4 SU record in games decided by three points or less and were 5-0 in overtime affairs.

Why bet the Bulls: Chicago has played its best ball against Eastern Conference playoff teams. The Bulls were 12-7 SU and 14-5 ATS versus teams seeded No. 2 through No. 7. The case isn’t completely closed on Derrick Rose’s possible return, but Chicago has managed to get along without him. The grimy Bulls are more than comfortable playing at the Nets’ slow-motion pace.

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NBA Western Conference Playoff Preview: Round 1
By Jason Logan

It was a wild ride in the Western Conference and the fun won’t end with the regular season. Oklahoma City edged out San Antonio for the top seed while the L.A. Lakers, expected to run the table in the conference, squeaked into the No. 7 spot on the final night of the season.

The L.A. Clippers, Denver and Memphis have all looked like title contenders at times this year and Golden State and Houston are as dangerous as any team with their high-powered offenses. Needless to say, there are more surprises in store for the West during the postseason.

No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 8 Houston Rockets

Season series: Thunder won 2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS, 3-0 O/U

Series prices: Oklahoma City -2,000, Houston +1,200

Why bet the Thunder: Oklahoma City lost just seven games at home and went 27-14 ATS as a host this season. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are a handful for Houston’s porous defense and combined to average just under 50 points in the three games with the Rockets. Houston’s up-and-down game leads to a league-high 16.4 turnovers a game.

Why bet the Rockets: Houston can explode offensively and finished second in the NBA with 106 points per game. The Thunder have struggled in close games, going just 3-6 SU in contests decided by three points or less. And don’t forget about former OKC guard James Harden, who averaged more than 29 points in the three games versus his former club, including a 46-point performance in their last meeting.

No. 2 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers

Season series: Spurs won 2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS, 0-3 O/U

Series prices: San Antonio -1,600, Los Angeles +1,000

Why bet the Spurs: San Antonio lost only six games at home all season while L.A. was terrible on the road, going 16-25 SU and 15-25-1 ATS. Spurs PG Tony Parker is going to be a handful for the Lakers’ unathletic duo of Steven Blake and Steve Nash, who is less than healthy. San Antonio shoots better than 79 percent from the foul line, L.A. shoots an NBA-worst 69.2 percent. No Kobe. Who makes the tough shots?

Why bet the Lakers: Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard is the best frontcourt tandem in the league and should push the Spurs around under the basket. Los Angeles was the second-best rebounding team in the NBA while San Antonio finished second last on the glass in the West. Lakers get Games 3, 4 and 6 at Staples Center, where they have lost just once since the All-Star break (13-1 SU, 7-6-1 ATS).

No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Golden State Warriors

Season series: Nuggets won 3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS, 3-1 O/U

Series prices: Denver -600, Golden State +400

Why bet the Nuggets: Denver was the best home team in the NBA, going 38-3 SU and 28-13 ATS inside the thin air of the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets dominate the boards, ranking tops in the league in rebounding, especially on the offensive glass. Denver is tough to game plan for with seven active players averaging nine or more points. The Nuggets rolled into the postseason, losing only two of their final 10 games.

Why bet the Warriors: Golden State can bust a game wide open with its 3-point threats, topping the NBA from distance at 40.3 percent. Stephen Curry has been insane since his All-Star snub, averaging 26 points since the break. Andrew Bogut is getting back into shape and could be a problem for Denver down low, especially if Kenneth Faried continues to miss time.

No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies

Season series: Clippers won 3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS, 1-3 O/U

Series prices: Los Angeles -185, Memphis +145

Why bet the Clippers: Los Angeles brings momentum into the postseason, having won seven straight to end the year (5-2 ATS). The Clippers have the mental edge over Memphis, having won the season series and eliminated the Grizzlies in last year’s playoffs. L.A.’s athletic frontcourt of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan made life tough for Memphis leading scorer Zach Randolph last spring. The Clips thrive on turnovers, leading the league in steals and forcing opponents to cough the ball up 16.1 times per game.

Why bet the Grizzlies: Memphis’ slowed-down pace could keep the Clippers’ fastbreak in check and limit turnovers. The Grizzlies were the best team in the West at limiting turnovers, coughing the ball up just 14 times a game. Memphis has excelled in tight games, going 4-1 in overtime and 6-4 in games decided by three points or less. The Clippers were 0-2 in OT and just 3-5 in games decided by three or less.

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NBA Playoff Primer                      
By Marc Lawrence

With help from our trusted well-oiled database, let's examine four time-tested proven theories that have lined our pocket during the opening round of playoffs.  All results are since 1991 unless noted otherwise.

Here's what the machine has to say...

No. 8 Seeds Are Behind The 8-Ball

For the most part, No. 8 seeds in the NBA playoffs are teams that likely scratched and clawed their way into the post-season.  Not good enough to be seriously considered threats against top-seeded opponents but just barely better than the dregs of the league.

Rest assured, their life expectancy is not long at all, as they've lost over 70% of time (45-114) in games against No. 1 seeds since 1996.   In fact, only the 1996 New York Knicks, the 2007 Golden State Warriors and last year's 2012 Philadelphia 76ers were good enough to pull the rug on top seeded foes and advance to Round Two of the playoff.

And you can virtually write them off in games against No. 1 seeds that are off back-to-back SU and ATS wins.  These guys scratch out of the match with alarming regularity, going 3-23 SU and 7-19 ATS, including 1-13 SU and 2-12 ATS whenever the 8-ballers are off a loss of 14 or more points in their last game.

Upset Losers Are Winners

No, it's not an oxymoron.  Instead, it's a powerful handicapping edge.  It occurs whenever a team was upset as a favorite in an opening round game and is at home in the game immediately thereafter.

That's confirmed by the fact that they are 56-35-4 ATS, a rock solid number.  If they were upset at home in this round and return home they improve to 52-14 SU and 39-24-3 ATS, including 24-1 SU and 18-6-1 ATS when squaring off against a No. 6 or lower seed.

Don't be afraid of these chalkbusters. That's because they don't lose their composure. Instead they almost always elect to dig down deep and respond with aplomb in games after being embarrassed.

Double-Digit Dogma

Surprisingly, in the right role, double-digit underdogs do well in opening round contests, especially when playing off a playoff loss. These overweight puppies are 28-16-2 ATS in this role, including 17-8-1 ATS versus a non-division foe.

And if these same guys are involved in a game with the Over/Under total set at 193 or higher they zoom to 15-3 ATS.

Granted, these dogs are not exactly pedigree puppies but the fact of the matter is they tend to come up big against disinterested favorites not capable of chopping heavy lumber.

And Down Goes Frazier

The psyche of teams that are not playing well comes immediately to the surface during the opening round of the NBA playoffs. That's evidenced by the fact that teams riding a three game-exact loss skein are wobbly and oftentimes one punch away from being counted out.

With glass-like jaws, these swirling teams are just 6-30 SU and 11-25 ATS away from home this round, including 1-10 SU and 2-9 ATS in lid-lifters.

Worst of all, road dogs of more than six points on a three game exact losing skid are 3-23 SU and 7-19 ATS on their way to the canvas.

Golden Trend

The Golden State Warriors are 12-1-1 ATS as dogs or favorites of less than 3 points in the first round of the playoffs, including 8-0 ATS when taking 8 or less points.

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Heat-Bucks Outlook
By Kevin Rogers

Skinny: The Heat cruised through to the best record in the regular season with a 66-16 mark, as Miami looks to defend its title. The question for the Heat at this point is not if they will make the Finals again, but in how many games? Miami takes on the only sub-.500 team in the playoffs as Milwaukee qualified with a 38-44 mark.

Since Super Bowl Sunday, Erik Spoelstra's team has lost just twice, while putting together a remarkable 27-game winning streak that stretched from February 3 through March 25. The two defeats in this stretch came to Chicago and New York, two teams the Heat can possibly face in the next two rounds. Miami is currently riding a nine-game hot streak, as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh have each sat out a handful of times in this stretch.
The Bucks are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2010, when Milwaukee was bounced in seven games by Atlanta. The task will be significantly tougher this time around, the Bucks stumbled down the stretch by losing 13 of their final 16 games. Due to the mediocrity in bottom of the conference, Milwaukee was able to clinch a playoff berth in spite of this awful stretch. The Bucks' defense allowed at least 100 points in 16 of the final 21 contests, but Milwaukee hit the 'under' in seven of its last nine road games.

Head-to-Head Matchups: Miami captured three of four meetings in the season series, including both at the American Airlines Arena. In late November, the Heat held off the Bucks in overtime, 113-106, as Milwaukee managed to cash as 9 ½-point underdogs. The game was set to finish 'under' the total, but a James layup in the final minute forced overtime, erasing a seven-point deficit with five minutes remaining in regulation. The Heat squandered an early 18-point advantage, but James, Wade, and Bosh combined to score 90 points.

The Bucks dealt the Heat a 19-point whipping on December 29 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, 104-85 as 4½-point home 'dogs. Miami played with no rest following a loss at Detroit, as its legs went out in a 35-14 fourth quarter surge by Milwaukee. The Bucks shot just 40% from the floor, but Brandon Jennings led Milwaukee with 25 points for their fourth win in the past six meetings with the Heat dating back to 2011.

Miami dominated Milwaukee in the final two meetings, including a 107-94 thumping of the Bucks in Wisconsin in mid-March. The Heat limited the Bucks to just 37% shooting, while taking a 16-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. In the last matchup of the season, Wade and Bosh sat out for Miami, but the Heat cruised to a 94-83 home triumph as 6½-point favorites. For the exception of 30 points by Jennings, not one other Buck scored in double-figures.

Betting Notes: The Heat lost just four times at home this season, while posting an 8-8 ATS record at the AAA since the All-Star break. Miami will likely be a double-digit favorite each time at home, as the Heat put together a 7-11 ATS record in that pointspread role. Since the start of February, Miami compiled a solid 9-4 ATS record as road 'chalk,' while winning 17 of its past 18 on the highway.

The Bucks were awful when receiving points at home this season, going 3-7 ATS in 10 opportunities. One of those covers came against the Heat in December, but the scheduling situation favored Milwaukee greatly. As a road 'dog, the Bucks were an average 10-10 ATS since the start of January, while losing nine of the last 10 straight-up away from Wisconsin.

Series Outlook: The Heat will advance to the second round, but will it be a sweep? Since the Big Three came together in 2010-11, Miami has not pulled off a four-game sweep in eight playoff series. This may be the time where the Heat won't mess around and let Brooklyn and Chicago slaughter each other in the 4/5 matchup. Miami moves to the second round with four wins in four games.

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Pacers-Hawks Outlook
By Brian Edwards

Skinny: Both teams limp into the postseason but it’s debatable if that matters. Indiana was basically locked into the No. 3 seed before it dropped five of its last six games. Atlanta tanked its last two games in order to fall to the sixth seed. The thinking had to be that there wasn’t much difference between the Nets and Pacers and in this scenario, the Hawks wouldn’t have to face mighty Miami in a potential second-round matchup. Remember, Atlanta hasn’t made the Eastern Conference finals in franchise history.

Indiana isn’t packing quite the punch it had when it led the Heat 2-1 and had an eight-point halftime lead in Game 4 of last season’s East semifinals. Danny Granger, who has averaged 18.2 points per game during his eight-year career, played only five games this year and remains out due to a knee injury.

However, Granger’s absence has allowed Paul George to become the focus of the offense. George responded with a career year, averaging 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Veteran power forward David West remains one of the league’s top weapons on the low post, averaging 17.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest. George Hill and Roy Hibbert are averaging 14.2 and 11.9 PPG, respectively.
Hibbert is fourth in the NBA in blocked shots, averaging 2.6 rejections per game. Lance Stephenson (8.8 PPG) and Gerald Green (7.0 PPG) provide the Pacers with athleticism off the bench.

Atlanta has been plagued by injuries all year long. Lou Williams, who was averaging 14.1 points and 3.6 assists per game, went down with an ACL tear before the All-Star break. Zaza Pachulia, the veteran big man whose bruising style is made for the postseason, is out for the year with an Achilles injury.

If the Hawks are going to have success in this series, they will need their horses to produce. I’m talking about Al Horford and Josh Smith. Horford enjoyed another banner campaign, averaging 17.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 seals and 1.0 blocked shots per game. Horford is extremely efficient, draining 54.3 percent of his shots from the field.

Smith is most likely making his final appearances in a Hawks uniform. The soon-to-be free agent has had a very solid nine-year run with his hometown organization, but it has been a tortured existence the last few years.

Smith has as much talent as any player in the league. There just aren’t many 6-10 guys that can jump out of the gym, run the floor, penetrate off the dribble and shoot.

On his best nights, Smith scores by getting to (or tearing down) the rim, dishes to open teammates for easy buckets, dominates the boards and saves his teammates on defense by altering shots and blocking others. He can pull down a rebound, dribble the length of the floor and dunk on anyone’s face – and make it look easy.

But on other nights, his shot selection and body language are awful. Going on 3-4 years now, the home crowd at Philips Arena groans every time he misses a jumper from beyond 18 feet out.

There have been feuds with former coach Mike Woodson and current head man Larry Drew. There have been multiple suspensions and trade rumors galore.

To his credit, though, Smith has never been in trouble with the law. I only point that out because it’s not as if Smith is J.R. Rider (or even Michael Vick). He is soft spoken and hides his frustrations with the home crowd (rather than flicking them off like Vick once did) if they even exist.

Smith has indicated that he wants a ‘max contract,’ but GM Danny Ferry isn’t going that route. Unless Smith is a monster in this series, there won’t be a long line of teams ready to pull that trigger, either.

Kyle Korver is second in the NBA in 3-point shooting and he has to rain 3’s for the Hawks to push the Pacers. Jeff Teague and Devin Harris must play well, too.

Head-to-Head Matchups: These teams split the season series with the home team winning outright in four meetings. Atlanta won an 89-86 decision but failed to cover the number as a four-point ‘chalk’ on Nov. 7. Horford scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Teague finished with 15 points, six boards, six assists and three steals. Hill and West scored 20 points apiece in the losing effort. The 175 combined points fell ‘under’ the 192-point total.

On Dec. 29 at Philips, the Hawks captured a 109-100 win as 2.5-point home favorites. The 209 combined points soared ‘over’ the 182-point tally. The catalysts for Atlanta were Williams and Pachulia, both of whom won’t be available in this series. Williams had 21 points and 12 assists, while Pachulia produced 17 points and 14 boards. West scored a game-high 29 points for the Pacers.

Indiana beat Atlanta 114-103 as a six-point home favorite on Feb. 5 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. George led seven players in double figures with 29 points. The 217 combined points coasted ‘over’ the 184-point total.

On March 24, the Pacers bested the Hawks 106-100 as 6.5-point home ‘chalk.’ Atlanta outscored Indy 31-15 in the final stanza to post the backdoor cover. The 206 combined points went ‘over’ the 194-point tally. Hibbert paced the winners with 17 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots.

The home team has won outright in nine of the last 10 head-to-head meetings.

Betting Notes: When listed as an underdog of six points or more this season, Atlanta has compiled a 5-5 spread record. As for the Pacers, they own a 15-15 spread record in 30 games as favorites of six points or more.

The ‘over’ is on a 6-2 run in Indiana’s last eight games. The ‘over’ is 4-1 in Atlanta’s last five outings. has the Pacers with 30/1 odds to win the NBA title. The Hawks have the second-longest odds at 250/1.

Series Outlook: took a poll of 10 of its writers/analysts and each predicted the Pacers to advance. Only one had the series going the seven-game distance.

With the exception of Horford and Teague, none of these Hawks are signed beyond this season. But they are all playing for their next contract(s) and this is the playoffs. Therefore, I expect Atlanta to give a quality effort and that should equate to a competitive series. I think the Pacers advance with a Game 6 victory at The Highlight Factory.

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Re: NBA Playoffs Betting News and Notes

Knicks-Celtics Outlook
By Tony Mejia

Skinny: These teams saw each other to open the preseason. They didn't care for each other very much then and certainly won't be holding back any venom now that only one of them can move forward.

If there's a bench-clearing affair to be seen in the first round, it's likely to come here. That Metta World Peace lurks in another potentially physical series out West has been taken into account in that opinion, but there isn't even half as much bad blood between long-time rivals like the Lakers and Spurs as there is here. One of the more memorable images of a season filled with them was Carmelo Anthony waiting around for Kevin Garnett outside where the team buses were parked following the first regular season meeting on Jan. 7. Anthony felt Garnett had crossed the line during in-game verbal jarring and originally went toward Boston's locker room before being restrained by security.

The situation blew over and the teams have faced each other three times since, but you just know the pressure of these playoffs are going to emotions simmering on high. It won't take much to reach full boil. Beyond Anthony and Garnett's beef, there are also known agitators Paul Pierce, Kenyon Martin, Jason Terry and J.R. Smith to watch in a series where head games will be as much of the equation as defensive adjustments.

In fact, Boston's best bet is actually to try and get inside Anthony's head in an effort to add to the enormous pressure he'll be under from long-suffering Knicks fans who expect to get out of the first round for the first time since 2000 and are relying on the franchise's first NBA scoring champion since 1985 (Bernard King) to deliver the goods.

Anthony says he's feeling no pressure, but this series requires him to put the Knicks on his back. The last few weeks have spoiled everyone. He averaged 36.9 points through eight April games to lock up the Atlantic Division and a No. 2 seed, shooting 54 percent from the field and 47 percent from 3-point range. After notching just four double-doubles in New York's first 70 games, Anthony put together six in his last 10 games, demonstrating a drive that has him entering this postseason in beast mode. If he's unable to meet newly inflated expectations, it will be labeled a choke job. Amar'e Stoudemire is unlikely to play in the series. The stage is Melo's alone. No excuses.

Boston coveted the spoiler role here, coasting down the stretch to wind up in seventh once it became apparent the Knicks would finish No. 2. Expectations plummeted when Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, but the Celtics can't afford to wallow given the limited shelf life of Garnett and Pierce. Jeff Green and Courtney Lee have picked up their level of play down the stretch, while Avery Bradley's defense has been effective in helping replace Rondo at the point. With Doc Rivers pushing buttons, the Celtics feel they have a fighting chance in the Eastern Conference's most compelling first-round series.

Head-to-Head Matchups: New York won three of four meetings with the Celtics, but Garnett and Chandler only played twice, missing both March matchups. Rondo was a part of the first Boston loss, Stoudemire also saw time and the teams that will take the court Saturday afternoon will be dramatically different. Chandler and Garnett will match up in the middle coming off plenty of rest. New York's center has played four times since March 14 and has sat since April 7. Garnett has played 70 minutes since March 22, storing energy once it was clear the Celtics would be a playoff team. How both fare and whether they can get back in rhythm while avoiding foul trouble is essential since they will be anchoring the defense and typically expertly patrol the paint.

At the point of attack, Avery Bradley's ability to pressure and harass could spell trouble for Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, especially with normal starter and deft ball-handler Pablo Prigioni out for Game 1 with an ankle injury. Mike Woodson is likely to find minutes for Iman Shumpert's energy and perimeter defense, while Chris Crawford's late surge could earn him more time. The unheralded rookie could be an x-factor to make Paul Pierce work on the defensive end with Jeff Green likely to be on Melo detail. The Celtics have done a great job forcing Anthony into tough shots in the four meetings, limiting him to sub-.500 shooting every time. He shot 35 percent (36-for-103) from the field, including 9-for-30 from 3-point range. J.R. Smith averaged 20 points per game and participated in all four meetings, but shot just 39 percent against Boston. He'll see plenty of Pierce and Lee.

Betting Notes: Boston swept the last playoff series between these teams in 2011, but with Stoudemire likely a scratch for the duration of it due to is ailing right knee, Anthony, Pierce and Garnett are the only players left from either roster. New York has won three playoff games since its 2000 Eastern Conference finals loss to Indiana, failing to advance to the second round in four appearances. Boston has gotten out of the first round five straight years, but have been the favorite in that opening series each time. The Celtics join No. 8 Milwaukee as the only playoff teams to have a negative scoring margin. The Knicks join only top-seeded Miami as Eastern Conference teams that averaged 100 or more points for the season. New York is sizzling against the number down the stretch, covering nine of their last 11.

Series Outlook: With TNT playing such a large role in playoff coverage, we'll be hearing a lot of "we know drama" tags. This series should fit that billing best of all. Having defeated the Celtics twice at TD Garden this season, the Knicks are confident they can make this series a brief one. Meanwhile, Pierce is the type that relishes Spike Lee's presence and antagonizes the New York crowd by blowing kisses after key buckets. Pushing the Heat the past few years have this Boston nucleus comfortable in an underdog role, so testing the Knicks' will and mental toughness will be key to their approach. If they force Anthony and Smith into sub-40 percent shooting like they did in the regular season and get contributions from the supporting cast, they can win this series. If Melo stays hot and keys a 3-point barrage that makes New York the East's most dangerous team not named the Heat, he'll lift a massive burden off his shoulders. However it goes, this is too juicy a matchup not to want it to go the distance.

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Re: NBA Playoffs Betting News and Notes

Nets-Bulls Outlook
By Tony Mejia

Skinny: Deron Williams' ankles throbbed, compromising their owner 's game, forcing him to be rightfully bypassed for the All-Star game in the same season where he became the face of Brooklyn's new franchise. He utilized the break to get right, grab another of cortisone shots and plasma therapy treatment. Since, he's been rejuvenated, averaging 22.9 points and reminding everyone why the Nets broke the bank to keep him from joining the Mavericks.

Now if we could only see the point guard who precociously took Utah to the 2007 Western Conference finals in his first postseason face off against the youngest MVP in NBA history, we'd really have something in this Nets-Bulls pairing.

Derrick Rose, however, remains a no-show despite having been cleared to return. He's practiced for weeks, can finally dunk off his left leg but still doesn't feel comfortable enough to return. Rose hasn't ruled it out, even though it seems far-fetched. Teammates have expressed nothing but support and would welcome him back in whatever role Tom Thibodeau carves out, but his availability will be a major question mark throughout the next few weeks. While the Bulls appear patient, fans in Rose's hometown of Chicago are growing antsy. An early deficit might elicit louder groans, especially since the Bulls have been held together by scotch tape down the stretch.

Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis) and Taj Gibson (knee) enter the postseason at less than 100 percent, so if Rose is to join the party, he's more liable to do it early as a show of solidarity.
Brooklyn will be counting on riding the momentum of bringing the playoffs to Barclays Center and snapping a five-year drought between postseason appearances to surge ahead early. That task would be made easier if Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace return to form, as the Nets had both sit for the better part of the last month.

Johnson has been banged up since the All-Star break, but offered a pair of promising performances before winding down. Wallace has admitted he's lost confidence in his offense and has cracked double-figures in scoring just three times in his last 27 games. With Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler among the top defensive wing combos taking the floor this weekend, Chicago has every reason to believe they can muck things up as it likes to and steal homecourt early.

Just think, if the Bulls get it done, they can buy Rose more time.

Head-to-Head Matchups: Williams and Brook Lopez combined for 58 points in the April 4 meeting, a game memorable for an intense fourth quarter that belied what you would've expected from beat-up second-place teams that had little hope of winning their division. Despite the absence of Noah and Gibson, the Bulls rallied from a 16-point first-half deficit behind big shots from Nate Robinson and 29 points and 18 rebounds from Carlos Boozer, holding on when a wide open Lopez jumper rimmed out at the buzzer.

Williams helped foul out Kirk Hinrich and had Robinson on the brink of disqualification en route to a 30-point night, so Thibodeau has undoubtedly had a few nights of light sleep hoping to devise ways to slow him down. Williams averaged 19.8 points and 6.8 assists in four games against Chicago. Lopez is another major threat, having averaged a team-high 22 points on 53 percent shooting over the four regular-season meetings, but the Bulls have to be encouraged by Noah averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds in five assists in two games he participated in, both victories.There is uncertainty over how long he'll be able to go due to aforementioned recurring foot pain, but his history suggests that if he's able to walk, he'll be out there.

Due to the uncertainty regarding the health of so many key figures, x-factors could play a major role on both sides. Robinson and Butler were terrific down the stretch, while Mohammed is also likely to be a factor inside for the Bulls. Marco Belinelli and Rip Hamilton will be vying for time behind Butler at the two. Standout rebounder Reggie Evans, Kris Humphries, C.J. Watson, Marshon Brooks and Keith Bogans will all be counted on heavily by Brooklyn coach P.J. Carlesimo and be especially vital if Johnson and Wallace fail to respond.

Betting Notes: Oddsmakers have clung tightly to a five-point margin in every encounter, favoring the home team each time. Therefore it should be no surprise the Nets opened as a 4.5-to-5-point favorite. The last three games resulted in totals that reached 182, 181 and 182, so it's clear that is where the Game 1 number was pulled from. The Bulls have won seven of the last 10 meetings between the teams.

Series Outlook: Because of the homecourt edge and the uncertainty surrounding Noah and Rose, the Nets are in the driver's seat to reach the Eastern Conference semis. Still, Chicago won't be lacking for confidence, having clawed their way to this position despite being short-handed the last few months. Odds are good that this will be a long series, creating a huge window for the speculation over Rose's potential return to continue. It may ultimately come down to whether Williams is unchallenged as the premier catalyst in the series, in which case Brooklyn should advance in seven.

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Re: NBA Playoffs Betting News and Notes

Clippers-Grizzlies Outlook
By Kevin Rogers

Skinny: In order to grab home-court advantage in the opening round, the Clippers needed to stave off the feisty Kings on the final day of the regular season. Los Angeles meets Memphis for the second consecutive postseason in the first round in the 4/5 matchup. However, the Grizzlies are looking for revenge after getting bounced by the Clippers in seven games last May, as Los Angeles stole the decisive contest at FedEx Forum, 82-72.

The Clips pretty much cruised to their first Pacific Division title in franchise history thanks in large part to a 17-game winning streak from Thanksgiving through the end of December. Vinny Del Negro's team stole the headlines from the rival Lakers for most of the season as the Clips put together a solid 32-9 record at Staples Center (34-9 including the two "road" victories over the Lakers). Los Angeles finished the regular season with seven consecutive wins, while covering five of their last seven home contests.

The Grizzlies owned the league's best defense this season by allowing 89.3 points per game, resulting in 50 'unders.' Memphis cashed the 'under' in 11 of 16 opportunities as an underdog, which will be its role in the first two games of this series. Lionel Hollins' club finished with the fifth seed in spite of winning nine of their final 11 games, while hitting the 'under' at a 9-1 clip down the stretch.
Head-to-Head Matchups: Los Angeles dominated the season series with three victories in four tries, which started on opening night at Staples Center. The Clips beat the Grizzlies, 101-92 to cash as four-point favorites, but needed a 28-15 run in the final quarter to put away the victory. L.A. torched the normally stifling Memphis defense with 51% shooting from the floor, including 29 points off the bench from Jamal Crawford.

Nearly 2½ months later when the two teams met up in Memphis, the Clippers took the court without star point guard Chris Paul. It didn't matter as Los Angeles cruised to a 99-73 road triumph as 4½-point underdogs, as the Clips limited the Grizzlies to just 30% shooting. Eric Bledsoe filled in for Paul with 14 points, while Crawford and Matt Barnes put in 16 points apiece off the bench.

The lone victory in the season series for the Grizzlies came at Staples Center in March, as Memphis beat up Los Angeles, 96-85 to cash outright as six-point 'dogs. The Clippers were limited to 33 points in the second half, as Marc Gasol, Tayshaun Prince, and Zach Randolph combined for 52 points. 'Under' bettors lucked out following a 106-point first half on a 185-point total, as the two teams contributed just 75 points after halftime.

The Clips captured the final meeting at FedEx Forum last Saturday, 91-87 as two-point 'dogs. L.A. rallied in the fourth quarter by outscoring Memphis, 23-14, while the game finished 'under' the total of 182 ½. The two teams combined to miss 14 free throws, as the Clips and Grizzlies put up just 76 points in the second half, which could be a good 'under' look following halftime in this series.

Betting Notes: Los Angeles put together a 25-16 ATS record at Staples Center, including an 11-7 ATS mark as a single-digit favorite. The Clips made money as a road 'dog, posting an 8-4 ATS ledger, while winning outright at New York, Indiana, San Antonio, and Houston (not to mention the two victories at Memphis).

The Grizzlies were an average squad when receiving points on the highway, going 7-7-1 ATS, but compiled a 5-10 SU record in these 15 contests. As a home favorite, Memphis went 21-18-1 ATS, while cashing the 'under' in 27 of 41 games at FedEx Forum.

Series Outlook: Memphis squandered a 27-point lead in the series opener last April to Los Angeles, while failing to close out the series finale at home. The Grizzlies definitely have revenge on their minds, but they won't have home-court advantage in this series. The Clips have the pressure on them after a strong regular season, but Memphis will advance in six games.

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