The following should provide you with a little insight for the upcoming semifinals in the Eastern and Western Conference, as we’re down to the NBA’s Elite Eight. I am giving you predictions in each series.
Hope you enjoy the write-ups!!!
Western Conference
No. 1 OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (64-24 SU/4-2 playoffs, 54-34 ATS/3-3) vs.
No. 5 MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (60-28 SU, 4-2 playoffs, 53-35 ATS/5-1)
Season series: Grizzlies, 2-1 SU and 1-2 ATS. One of the few teams to win its season series against the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City, the Memphis Grizzlies took two of three thanks to a road win way back in November, a 107-97 victory on the Thunder’s home court. Oklahoma City got revenge in January in front of its home crowd, winning handsomely by 17. In March, the Grizzlies went to overtime to secure a 90-89 behind Marc Gasol’s tip-in at the overtime buzzer. These two have history, too, as they meet two seasons ago in the postseason, with the Thunder winning in seven. It’s no surprise referees called nine technical fouls in the three games this season.
Oklahoma City Backstory: Isn’t it clear what the storyline is with this team? All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook is done for the season, as he was lost to a knee injury that will keep him out for the rest of the playoffs, and now that the Thunder survived a scare against the Houston Rockets, one has to wonder how the Thunder will respond against a chief rival out of the Western Conference. Sure, there is Kevin Durant to contend with, but the Rockets proved there are ways to shut him down and frustrate the Thunder by double-, triple- and maybe even quadruple-teaming him at times.
Memphis Backstory: I told you two weeks ago the Grizzlies were the best series value I could find, and they looked solid against the Los Angeles Clippers. Now they seemingly ride into this series with a big ol’ chip on their shoulders, as they should, and just might be catching the Thunder at the right time. I love what I see from Zach Randolph, who might come out looking to make a statement against Kendrick Perkins, establishing whose boss. Both were ejected for an on-court fight, then ran to the back to finish the altercation. Personally, I believe Randolph has the edge, as he comes in after averaging 24.8 points during a four-game win streak, and certainly feels his team can get to the ship next month.
Key Trends (heading into the series): The road team has won four of the last seven meetings on the wood, but it’s even better at the window having covered six of those games. Memphis comes into this one having covered five in a row, 4 of 5 with a suitcase in hand and 4-1 against Northwest division teams. On the flipside, the Thunder have covered 22 of 32 against Southwest teams, but are mired in a 1-5 ATS slide at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Over/Under numbers (heading into the series): In this series, the Over has cashed out 20 of 28 times now. Memphis has gone Over in four straight on the road, and in 5 of 6 in intra-conference play, but it is also on a 21-7 Under run against teams out of the Northwest. The Thunder have stayed Under in 10 of 11 against the Southwest division and in 13 of 16 at home. They’re also 18-4 on the low against Western Conference teams.
Prediction: I’m sticking with my longshot Grizzlies in the playoffs, and think they’re in the right spot at the right time. I love the confidence they play with, and think they would love nothing more than to be the team to knock off the Thunder. I’m thinking Memphis in 7.
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No. 2 SAN ANTONIO SPURS (62-24 SU/4-0 playoffs, 45-41 ATS/4-0) vs.
No. 6 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (51-37 SU/4-2 playoffs, 49-39 ATS/6-0)
Season series: Tied 2-2 SU and Warriors 3-1 ATS. While the teams split the regular-season series, the most notable stat in this series is the Spurs winning an astounding 29 straight over the Warriors in San Antonio since 1997. Perspective: Tim Duncan was still playing at Wake Forest when that streak began. Even more perspective: if the Warriors want to win this series, that streak will have to come to an end. Interestingly, the Spurs shot just 41.7 percent and scored 10 fewer points than their season-average (103.6) against the Warriors during the regular season. Of course, in this volatile series, Golden State also shot a rather bleak 42.1 percent and scored nearly seven points less than its season average (99.9) per game.
San Antonio Backstory: If there is one edge the Spurs bring into this series, it’s the fact they  will have plenty of rested legs in aging stars Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Duncan after sweeping the rather dismal Los Angeles Lakers. If there is a downside for the Spurs, they’ll be facing a much different team than the Lakes, and guys like Ginobili, Parker and Duncan may feel their age once sizing up against the youthful and exuberant Warriors. Ginobili missed nine of San Antonio’s last 10 games due to a strained right hamstring. He turned around and averaged 11.3 points and 4.8 assists in just fewer than 20 minutes per game against the Lakers, but now he’ll be dealing with a faster and younger team – specifically Jarrett Jack, who started four of the six games against Denver and averaged 18.8 points, seven assists and 5.2 rebounds in the series.
Golden State Backstory: Anyone else with me in thinking Stephen Curry was the MVP of the first round? His 3-point prowess and rise to franchise-player status might have single-handedly willed the Warriors past an agile and physical Denver Nuggets team in six games. His relationship with coach Mark Jackson – who has played in some of the most fierce playoff series in modern-day history – has helped this team forget about Andrew Bogut’s left ankle and All-Star forward David Lee’s hip injury. The Warriors are playing with plenty of momentum, and I’m very interested in seeing how Bogut responds against Duncan.
Key Trends (heading into the series): Golden State is on a 6-0 ATS run in the postseason, as it covered every game versus Denver to improve to 16-5 overall dating back to the regular season. The Warriors have also covered 10 of 11 in Western Conference play and are on a perfect 5-0 road run. Meanwhile, the Spurs have failed to cover 7 of their last 10 at home and are mired in a 4-10 betting slide after a straight-up win.
Over/Under numbers (heading into the series): These two have stayed low in four of five meetings in San Antonio and 4 of the last five overall. Golden State has stayed Under in 6 of 7 against Southwest division teams, and 4 of 5 against winning teams. With the Spurs, they’ve gone Over in 4 of 5 at home, but have stayed low in 5 of 7 after winning on the wood.
Prediction: Call me crazy, but I like the underdog in this series, as I continue to marvel at how well Jackson is coaching and Curry is playing. The sharp-shooting guard drained 272 treys in the regular season, three more than Ray Allen’s record set in 2005-06, when he was in Seattle. Curry’s offensive surges from beyond the arc can take the wind out of any opponent, as we saw against Denver in the first round and certainly make the Warriors dangerous. I’m taking a shot here, and like the Warriors in 6.
Eastern Conference
No. 1 MIAMI HEAT (70-16 SU/4-0 playoffs, 49-37 ATS/3-1) vs.
No. 5 CHICAGO BULLS (49-40 SU/4-3 playoffs, 39-50 ATS/3-4)
Season series: Tied 2-2 SU and ATS. Both teams went 1-1 on their home floor, as the road team won the first two meetings, and the home team both got revenge toward the latter part of the season. Chicago struck first blood, winning in Miami 96-89 on Jan. 4. Miami got revenge on Feb. 21, winning in Chi-town by 21. But undoubtedly the ‘game heard round the world’ was on March 27, when the Heat’s 27-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt in a 101-97 loss in Chicago. Miami finished the regular-season series with a 105-93 win on April 14.
Miami Backstory: I don’t care what anyone says about a month and a half after the fact, the Heat will have a chip on their shoulders the entire time during this series, because of that March 27 loss at the United Center. I know for a fact through my friends in the media, LeBron James wanted that single-season record, and now he’ll do everything to make the Bulls pay. He knows Chicago is physical, and knows what the Bulls are capable of, but I know how good the Heat are right now. Miami looked fantastic against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, turning it up when it needed to, and sticking to the gameplan throughout.
Chicago Backstory: Where are Hawkeye and Trapper when you need them? The Bulls look much like a MASH unit coming into this series, with Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich’s status a question mark for Chicago, not to mention Derrick Rose still showing up in suit and tie. I can’t imagine who is going to have the task of covering King James… dare I say Jimmy Butler or Taj Gibson? The Bulls got through a seven-game series with the Brooklyn Nets, I’ll give them that; but this is a step up in class, and I’m not so sure Joakim Noah can continue these heroic efforts, especially in dealing with plantar fasciitis.
Key Trends (heading into the series): While the Bulls have lost 4 of 5 to the books when facing Southeast Division teams and the Heat are in on a 19-7 ATS run in the Eastern Conference semis, the straight-up winner in this series has covered seven straight meetings. Make note, also, the home team is on a 5-2 ATS run in this showdown.
Over/Under numbers (heading into the series): The Bulls closed out their series with Brooklyn going over in four straight, and have gone high 7 of 8 times when playing on just one day’s rest. Miami is on a 4-0 Under run and has stayed low in five straight against Central division teams. On the other hand, the Heat are in on an 11-4 Over run in the conference semis.
Prediction: I can’t imagine what that seven-game series did to the Bulls, but I don’t see them being able to carry the momentum over that quick against a well-rested Heat team. Take the defending champs here, as I like the Heat to win this series in 5.
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No. 2 NEW YORK KNICKS (53-34 SU/4-2 playoffs, 51-37 ATS/3-3) vs.
No. 3 INDIANA PACERS (53-34 SU/4-2 playoffs, 46-41 ATS/4-2)
Season series: Tied 2-2 SU and Knicks 3-1 ATS. The home team went 4-0 this regular season, with the Knicks winning the first meeting, the Pacers taking the next two, and New York closing things out last month with the win. If there is one game that stands out, it has to be te Feb. 20 meeting in Indianapolis, where the Knicks suffered their worst loss of the season, 125-91, in Indianapolis. That was just before what I like to believe was the best in-season acquisition for any team, as the Knicks signed Kenyon Martin shortly after that. The Knicks covered three of the four meetings, the lone loss coming in that blowout on Feb. 20.
to split the series and wrap up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 90-80 home victory April 14.  but was only 4 of 17 on 3-pointers (23.5 percent), while Paul George scored 20 a game for the Pacers.
New York Backstory: The Knicks are far different team than the one that shot just 37 percent from the field and 26 percent against the Pacers in the regular season. Carmelo Anthony averaged 22 points against Indiana, but he too has improved down the stretch, and I think has the potential to emerge as the MVP of the conference semifinals (I say Steph Curry was the MVP of the opening round). But the X-factor for this team in this series is going to be Tyson Chandler, who looked fully recovered from a bulging disk that kept him sidelined for much of the end of the regular season. I think he needs to step up to double-double status, and will need to challenge the Pacers’ Roy Hibbert, who averaged a mere 5.5 points and 6.3 rebounds against the Knicks.
Indiana Backstory: The Pacers finally found their road game in the opening round against Atlanta, as the home team was dominant over the first five games. Their Game 6 performance might have been what they needed, as they snapped a 13-game losing streak in Atlanta that dated back to December 2006, before heading to the Big Apple to open this series at Madison Square Garden. The biggest question mark will be to see how the team responds in the series-opener on Sunday, as the Pacers are looking at being on the road for six days.
Key Trends (heading into the series): While the home team has won five straight on the hardwood in this series, the Knicks come into this series having covered six of the last eight meetings. New York is also on ATS win streaks of 10-1 against winning teams, 5-1 against the Central Division, 17-6 in intra-conference play and 19-7 overall. On the flipside, the Pacers are mired in ATS slides of 8-21 against the Atlantic Division, 2-7 in the conference semis, 4-9 against intra-conference foes and 1-4 with a suitcase in hand.
Over/Under numbers (heading into the series): Beginning in this series, which begins in New York, the Under is on a 4-1 run when these two meet at Madison Square Garden. The Pacers have gone over in 8 of 11 and in 9 of 12 against Eastern Conference teams. On the other hand, the physical Knicks have stayed low in five straight at home and 6 of 7 overall.
Prediction: This is such an intriguing series, given the Pacers spent a good portion of the season being labeled as the team that could challenge the Miami Heat in the playoffs. But here we are in the conference semifinals, and for the past two months it’s been the Knicks who look like the biggest challenger. I like New York in 6.

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