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NBA Playoff Journal, April 21

   by Larry Ness - 04/21/2014

The 2014 playoffs opened on Saturday and visiting teams had their way, winning THREE of the four contests (also 3-1 ATS), as only the Thunder (-8) were able to win (and cover) at home, beating the Grizzlies 100-86 . Visiting teams again were money makers on Sunday, cashing THREE of four ‘tickets,’ although home teams did manage to go 2-2 SU. Again, just one home team won and covered and that was the two-time defending champion Heat, who beat the Bobcats 99-88, just barely “getting the cash” as a 10-point choice. The Spurs rallied to beat the Mavs 90-85, but as 9 1/2-point favorites, never came close to covering.

With home teams ‘limping’ along at 3-5 SU and 2-6 ATS, the next three days we’ll see EIGHT Game 2s contested, with FIVE of the eight higher seeded teams finding themselves in 0-1 ‘holes.’ That leads us to review the Zig-Zag Theory which simply says, “wager on the losing team of a playoff series in the ensuing game of that series.” The back-to-back-to-back nature of the NBA playoffs embodies the quick-revenge angle of the Zig-Zag Theory. Generally speaking, a team off a playoff loss is more determined in its following game and more willing to (or forced to) make adjustments. In contrast, a team off a playoff win can fall prey to a false sense of satisfaction or accomplishment, thereby leaving themselves open to a let down.

That’s the theory but as I’ve charted in my Playoff Journals in recent years, the Zig-Zag Theory has become ‘Fool’s Gold.’ Zig-Zaggers (as I like to call them) went 37-32 last season, or plus-1.7 net games (hardly worth the effort). I’ll borrow the following stats from the last edition of this year’s Gold Sheet, which is as good a source as any, for pointspread histories.The Zig-Zag Theory is 556-513-25 over the last 17 years, 43 games over .500. However, if all games were played at minus-$1.10, one would be down 8.1 net games in that span.

Looking back over 30 years, the Gold Sheet reports that the record stands at 966-830-37, which is 136 games over .500. That is plus-53.0 net games but on a per year average, it comes to 1.8 net games. That brings us right back to last year, when it was 37-32 or plus-1.7 net games! Kind of like a cat or dog chasing its tail, isn’t it?

Monday’s two games are on TNT, the Grizzlies at the Thunder at 8:05 ET (OKC is minus-7 with a total of 189 1/2) and the Warriors at the Clippers at 10:35 ET (LA is minus-8 with a total of 212. Game 1 of Memphis/Oklahoma City saw the Thunder push the ball, score transition baskets at will and lead by 25 points. Then Memphis slowed things in the third quarter, picked its spots to run, used post players Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to dominate inside and outscored Oklahoma City by 18 points to get back in it. What will we see tonight?

In tonight’s second game at Staples Center, the Clippers are insisting they just weren't themselves in losing their series opener. They chalk it up to being too amped, which led to mistakes on both ends. Game 2 will be a test for both young teams. The Clippers don't have a history of playoff success (have lost FOUR times in six postseason appearance since moving West in the first round!) while the Warriors have had little success since winning an NBA championship in 1975 (this marks the franchise’s 1st back-to-back playoff appearance since ‘91 & ‘92). Since Chris Paul arrived in Los Angeles three years ago, the Clippers had never lost the opening game of a first-round series. Will they unravel or will they bounce back under first-year coach Doc Rivers?

I’ll close by checking in on where we stand after eight games for over/under bettors. The three lowest closing totals of the first two days have all gone over. The Wizards/Bulls closed 178 1/2 with Washington winning 102-93, the Hawks/Pacers closed 186 1/2 with Atlanta winning 101-93 and the Bobcats/Heat closed 186 (opened 189 1/2) with Miami winning 99-88. Also, the two-highest closing totals both went over, Warriors/Clippers at 211 (Golden St won 109-105) and Blazers/Rockets at 215 1/2 (Portland won 122-120 in OT, a game which was tied at 106 in regulation). That’s 5 overs and three unders Y-T-D.

Good luck...Larry

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