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NBA Playoffs: The Scoop on Past Results

   by Bryan Leonard - 04/18/2011

The NBA playoffs are off and running. There are a lot of ways to analyze who has the edge, from matchups, key statistics (rebounding, turnovers), spread marks and even who’s hot and who’s not. One area that will also come up is how these playoff opponents did when they faced each other during the regular season.
I’m not a proponent of putting much stock in regular season meetings. This can get tricky for many reasons, one of which is situations. During the regular season, you find teams facing each other at the end of a long road trip. Of course the visiting team might not be up to their normal abilities if they’re facing a conference opponent at the end of a six-game road trip, for example. Another instance would be the second of a back to back situation, or if a team is playing its fourth game in five nights. Rested Team A may destroy Team B in that situation, but that doesn’t then give them an edge when the playoffs roll around.
Players don’t buy into this, either. I hear and read comments from players all the time where they talk about some regular season meeting three months ago and they brush it off with, “That game doesn’t mean anything as to how we’re going to approach this playoff game.” In addition, star players and even coaches are sometimes absent from regular season meetings.
The Celtics went 4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS against the Knicks during the regular season, including a game to end the regular season. However, you can’t read much into those games. The first two occurred very in the season, long before the Knicks traded everyone to acquire Carmelo Anthony. And the last one took place in the final regular season game with BOTH teams resting their best players.
What’s far more important too look at is health and matchups. In that series, Amar’e Stoudemire said his sprained ankle is “100 percent’’ and no longer an issue as the Knicks prepared for the Boston series. Stoudemire missed three games with a left-ankle sprain before playing 20 minutes in the regular-season finale in Boston. Stoudemire looked a little rusty in not getting lift on a blown, uncontested dunk. He shot just 6 of 15. “The ankle is 100 percent - no worries,’ Stoudemire said.
The Celtics have health concerns of their own, as they are waiting for a 350-pound, 39-year-old center named Shaq with one good leg to bail them out. They have appeared soft in the middle, with teams like the
Clippers, Heat, Grizzlies, Bulls and Hawks all thriving in the paint against the Celtics over the last month. DeAndre Jordan, Zaza Pachulia, John Wall, LeBron James, Darren Collison, Zach Randolph and Joel Anthony all finished at the rim without much fear of punishment.
A few years ago Shaq missed several games down the stretch. You can’t qualify a performance without a key player when analyzing how they then matchup with a team in the postseason. Even teams change. Look at the Denver Nuggets. You can’t compare how they played in December against the Thunde, because the team has undergone a remarkable transformation since trading Carmelo. In many ways, it isn’t even the same Denver team that stumbled through the first half of the season.
There’s no better example of this than a playoff series between the Jazz and Kings a few years ago. During that regular season, the Kings went 4-0 Su/ATS against the Jazz, blasting them by frightful scores of 113-80, 114-90, 107-81, and 117-109. The two then met in the first round of the playoffs, and the Kings were 12 and 11 point favorites in the first two games, inflated numbers based largely on those four regular season meetings. Yet, the veteran Jazz, with Karl Malone and John Stockton, played extremely well in the playoffs, going 3-1 ATS. Sacramento won Game 1 89-86 then Utah won Game 2 on the road 93-86 as a +11 dog! Sacramento won three games in that series by 3, 3 and 5 points – so much for their regular season dominance!

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