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Post Season NBA and Earlier Meetings

   by Jim Feist - 04/30/2013


As the NBA playoffs roll on, handicappers should take careful note of how teams did against each other during the regular season. Examine head to head matchups individually and as a group. Does one team dominate another? If so, are the reasons for this, or was it merely a fluke during the long grind of the 66-game schedule?
The Heat opened their title defense against the Bucks and when you look at the three regular season meetings there was one close game in overtime, and two blowout wins by each team. The conclusion would be an evenly matched series based on that, but we all know it was the biggest mismatch on the NBA playoff calendar.
Yes, the Bucks did blow out Miami back in December, 104-85, but that was more of a fluke. Miami was playing its fourth game in five nights and looked out of gas, losing the turnover battle 20-5. It was the Bucks' first sellout of the season. Milwaukee, meanwhile, had two full days off and it was the Bucks' first sellout of the season, who outscored Miami 35-14 in the fourth. Be careful about reading too much into the earlier meetings and look carefully as to reasons and situations.
On the other hand, Chicago and Brooklyn played four close regular season meetings decided by 1, 4, 11 and 2 points. That's an average of 4.2 points per game difference, then the two split the first two playoff games, so the regular season meetings reflected a fairly even matchup.
A year ago the Lakers and Thunder met in a highly anticipated playoff playoff battle with Kobe Bryant squaring off against Kevin Durant. Yet, it turned out to be a rout as Oklahoma City won in 5 games, including a pair of blowouts. And the only game LA won was 99-96 at home.
Notice that during the regular season the Thunder handled the Lakers very well. The Lakers won a double overtime game, but the Thunder won the first two meetings easily, by 15 and 9 points. And it would have been an impressive 3-game sweep until LA outscoring Oklahoma City 30-14 in the fourth quarter to force overtime. That regular season dominance foreshadowed their one-sided playoff matchup.
So how did the up and coming Clippers fair against the Thunder this season? The first meeting LA lost in overtime at OKC, 117-111, then they lost at home, 109-97 and 108-104. The Thunder owned the Clippers going 3-0 SU/ATS, and if you like to play totals all three games sailed over.
Sometimes a team is missing key players for one or two of the meetings, which can explain why one team did poorly. Or, maybe the losing team played in difficult back-to-back spots. Other times, you may find that a team matches up well against an opponent. If a weaker rebounding team like the Knicks are playing Chicago, examine each regular season battle to see what was more important: Defense? Offense? Or rebounding?
Think back three years ago when LeBron was in Cleveland. The Cavs and Celtics split their season series 2-2, with the Celtics winning in Cleveland on opening night, the Cavs knocking off the Celtics by 20 in Boston in late February, then by 11 at home in mid-March, then losing 117-113 on Easter Sunday after the Cavs effortlessly wiped out a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
It was after that last meeting that LeBron proclaimed his dislike for the Celtics afterward: "We don't like them, and they don't like us." All of which sets the stage for a physical series with emotions likely running high.
Another angle is when one team dominates another during the regular season, then the two meet in the playoffs. The public perception is that the team that dominated during the season will easily rout the opponent, but this is not always the case. You may have heard professional bettors speak of the "GAD" theory, or "Go Against the Dominant team" during the postseason. It's not as simple as betting against the favored team that dominated during the regular season, but it's something to keep in mind as the playoffs commence.
For instance, a few years ago the Sacramento Kings swept the Utah Jazz during the regular season, going 4-0 straight up and against the spread. The Kings didn't just win – they rolled! Sacramento won those four regular season meetings by some frightful scores: 113-80, 114-90, 107-81 and 117-109. Utah was no pushover, though, with Stockton and Malone, plus hard driving coach Jerry Sloan. In their first round playoff battle, Utah went 3-0 against the spread in the first three games, even winning Game 2 at Sacramento, 93-86 as an 11-point dog.
The Kings were 12, 11 and 4-point favorites in those first three games, yet failed to cover winning 89-86 in Game 1, losing Game 2, and winning 90-87 in Game 3. During the four regular season meetings, the Kings were 10 and 8 point favorites at Sacramento – but now in the playoffs, they were bumped up to 12 and 11 point chalk – clearly public perception had something to do with that based on the regular season dominance. Utah didn't give in, even using their 0-4 regular season as a motivating factor.
Two years ago the Dallas Mavericks had a remarkable run to the championship, beating Miami in six games after losing two of the first three. Few recall that during the regular season the Mavericks matched up well, sweeping the Heat, 106-95 and 98-96, 2-0 SU/ATS.
Examine regular season meetings carefully. Be careful of regular season dominance, and take note of injuries, rebounding edges, free throw attempts or when a big dog played the favorite evenly (or better) all season. The real story -- and edges against the oddsmakers – can be found in the details.

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