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Playoff Journal, May 18

   by Larry Ness - 05/18/2014

FIVE of the eight first-round series went the full seven games (a record since those series were expanded to the best-of-seven) but none of teh four second round series made it past six games. The Heat and Spurs dispatched of the Nets and Blazers, respectively, in five games. The Pacers and Thunder needed six games to put away the Wizards and Clippers, respectively.

Home teams have struggled mightily in the 2014 playoffs but still, the two conference finals each feature the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. Home teams are just barely winning half their games, checking in at 38-34 (.528). I don't remember a postseason when they've struggled this much (I'll look into it).

From a betting perspective, home teams have been HUGE 'money-burners,' going 27-42-3 ATS, which is a woeful 39.1 percent, leaving bettors minus-19.2 net games if playing exclusively on home teams. The 2014 playoffs have also been good to "over players," although SIX of the last seven games have gone under the total. Still, as the conference finals get underway, there have been 42 overs and 30 unders through 72 games, a 58.3% win rate favoring the over.

I've noted each postseason in recent years that playing the "Zig-Zag" theory has been like 'kissing your sister" for quite awhile now.. "Zig-Zaggers" opened strong this postseason but on the eve of the conference finals, check in at 32-25-3 ATS. That's 56.1 percent or plus-4.5 net games. Let's see how it plays out these last three series.

The Eastern Conference finals is a rematch from last year, when the Heat ousted the Pacers in seven games. The Pacers and Heat spent the entire regular season hearing about a rematch, with the Pacers almost KNOWING that if they were to have any chance of dethroning the two-time defending champs, they'd have to earn the home court edge by finishing the regular season with the East's best record. While it wasn't always 'pretty,' the Pacers did just that,

Indiana finished two games better than Miami, due in large part to an NBA-best 35-6 home record plus a defense which finished second in points allowed (92.3 per) and first in opponents FG percentage (42.0%). Indiana has struggled in TY's postseason, needing seven games to get past the 38-44 Hawks and six games to slip by the Wizards, a franchise that hasn't gotten past the second round of the postseason since the 1970s!

However, in the end, these two Eastern Conference heavyweights will meet in the most intriguing 'fight' of the year, this afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. There is the possibility of a head-to-head matchup between the league's "undisputed" best player (LBJ) and the NBA's next young superstar, Paul George. There are battle lines drawn between Miami's perimeter shooters and Indiana's tough inside guys. I noted Indiana's top-ranked defense (42%) and add here that Miami was the NBA's best shooting team (50.1%). This is truly strength vs strength.

Indiana has the home court edge but is a shockingly poor 3-4 SU at home in the 2014 playoffs, so it's no surprise the two-time defending champs are favored in this series. However, at about 4-to-1, Miami may be more of a favorite than many thought. Game 1 is at 3:30 ET on ABC and the Heat are favored by 2 1/2 points (total is 181 1/2).

Join me tomorrow, when Monday's Playoff Journal recaps Game 1 of Miami/Indiana and offers a preview of the Western Conference finals between Oklahoma City and San Antonio.

Good luck...Larry

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