NBA Betting: Eastern Conference Playoffs
I see Boston winning this series
The NBA Playoffs commence on Sunday (AEST), with the Bulls, Heat and Thunder kicking off what Matt Reid sees as an exciting and unpredictable two months of sensational basketball.
Legitimately five teams are serious title contenders, while many others outside of this are good chances of making some noise.
There are very enticing NBA Championship prices on offer, and taking a look through each Conference to see which teams are most likely to make a run will help identify these.
In order of playoff seed:
Chicago Bulls (Title Odds 5.4)
A tremendous effort by the Bulls to earn the number one seed in the East, with last year's MVP Derrick Rose playing only half their games. They will take care of a slumping Sixers team in round one and face the Hawks or Celtics in round two. They can't win the title without a fit and firing Rose and there are a few questions about whether that will happen. Their price is a little short at the moment. If you fancy them, back them later in the Playoffs.
Miami Heat (3.3)
You always knew that an athlete like Lebron James wouldn't be effected by the compressed regular season and he ensured their high playoff seeding. The Heat though has run into the Eastern Conference draw that no team wanted. New York - Miami was the match-up everyone wanted to see and thankfully the stars have aligned. Madison Square Garden will be pumping throughout the playoffs and Carmelo Anthony is back to his best. If Miami manage to get through that series it will not be easy. Indiana, who have been sensational in the last month, will then wait. The Heat are title favourites but don't deserve to be. They are far too short and in my opinion a lay at the current price.
Indiana Pacers (42)
The Pacers have been as good as anyone in the NBA throughout April. They surged up the standings and now run into the Orlando Magic in round one. Of all the playoff match-ups in round one, this is the most likely to be a sweep, which means their price is at a minimum a good back to lay price. The Pacers don't have a closer, which will hurt them as the playoffs go on, but their depth at every position will be sure to trouble both the Heat and Bulls.
Boston Celtics (28)
Boston get the number-four seed by way of winning their division, but won't have home-court advantage for their series against Atlanta, as the Hawks had a superior record. The Hawks have traditionally been a tough match-up for the Celtics with their youth and athleticism, but Al Horford's injury, and a few other personnel moves, means Atlanta aren't as athletic, and as such I see Boston winning this series. I think the price on offer for Boston is good value. Garnett looks healthy, Pierce has been a top-15 player the last couple of months and Rondo is one of the best Point Guards in the league. You know that nobody wants to play them and they will be a tough cover for whoever they face.
Atlanta Hawks (120)
The Hawks have been in this position the last few years: they have enough talent to make and win a playoff series, but not enough to progress past round two. Josh Smith is the key to the Hawks getting past Boston as the Celtics don't have anyone even remotely athletic as him, and he will be a nightmare to match up with. If you rate the Hawks to beat the Celtics perhaps back them at 160's and lay later on, otherwise invest elsewhere.
Orlando Magic (140)
Without Dwight Howard the Magic doesn't stand a chance of making a post-season run. If their shooters get hot they might pinch a game or two off the Pacers, but I can't see even that happening. If you have the balance to risk a decent liability, lay them for all you can.
New York Knicks (50)
The hardest team to predict and subsequently one of the hardest to bet on. With Amare Stoudemire returning from injury and Carmelo Anthony in form they are going to create a lot of problems, particularly at MSG. Tyson Chandler has been enormous for them and probably will win Defensive Player of the Year. He knows how to beat the Heat (having done it with the Mavs last year) and hides the deficiencies of many of his team mates, who are poor defenders. Given that punters have installed Miami the 3.3 title favourites, the odds currently on offer for the Knicks are unders as they will need to knock the Heat off to progress just past the first round. I think the Knicks are worth the gamble. If they steal an early game in Miami and take home-court advantage, the Heat will not want to enter MSG facing an uphill battle.
Philadelphia 76ers (170)
The Sixers started the season in a blaze of glory and at one stage looked like winning the Atlantic Division. Their play has dropped off the last couple of months and they were lucky to even make the playoffs in the end. They are a jump shooting team without an inside presence and I can't see them making it past the Bulls. Hopefully they can make a splash in Free Agency and could be one to look for in 2013 Championship betting.