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NBA Playoff Betting

   by Bryan Leonard - 04/29/2012

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 Nuggets and Lakers are playing in the first round. We may think of them as uptempo offenses (Denver sure is), but notice the under is 21-6 in the last 27 meetings. Utah is playing San Antonio and the Jazz is 3-11-1 ATS in the last 15 meetings in San Antonio, plus the favorite is 21-7-1 ATS in the last 29 meetings.
Last year 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 early 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 to look at is health and matchups. This season the Celtics are playing the Hawks and have health concerns, with Ray Allen not playing much while dealing with bone spurs. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Allen is about "60 percent" to play after missing the past nine games with a sore right ankle. And Paul Pierce left last week's game against the Milwaukee Bucks with a sprained left big toe.
You can’t qualify a performance without a key player during the regular season when analyzing how they then matchup with a team in the postseason. Even teams change. Look at the Knicks. You can’t compare New York’s regular season meetings with many teams because they’ve dealt with key injuries to Amare Stoudamire and Jeremy Lin. In many ways, it isn’t even the same New York 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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