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NBA Playoffs: Be Cautious of Blowouts
by Jim Feist - 05/11/2015
The NBA playoffs are in full swing, which means overall the better teams are battling each other. This is different from the regular season when many nights great teams are playing bad teams and bad teams are playing worse one. Astute sports bettors should pay very careful attention to blowouts.
For instance, after losing Game 1 at the Clippers last month, 107-92, a very different defending champion Spurs team showed up on the road in Game 2, a 111-107 victory as a dog. Two games back-to-back, both at the Staples Center and both featuring the same team, but very different results.
A year ago after losing Game 4 at the Warriors, 118-97, those same Clippers put their game faces on at home the next game, winning and covering, 113-103. After losing Game 1 at the Lakers three years ago, 103-88, the Nuggets covered in a close one in Game 2, 104-100, by changing strategy and going uptempo in the second half. They got beat on the glass in the first game, but showcased more low post hustle in Game 2 where they outrebounded the taller Lakers.
Overall, blowouts are less expected this time of the year. Oddsmakers are anticipating that the majority of teams want to be here and will play all out for 48 minutes keeping things relatively close.
Players have pride and want to give a better effort that next game, especially after getting embarrassed on national TV the previous game with the whole country watching, especially the deeper you go in the postseason. Tim Duncan was the hero in against the Clippers last month in Game 2, exploding for 28 points and 12 rebounds.
Other times coaches will make adjustments, or motivation can spur a team in a bounce-back role, as well as the fact that they simply had a bad game. Two years ago the Hawks/Pacers series was a good example. Indiana destroyed Atlanta in the first two games, 107-90 and 113-98, only to get blown out in Game 3, a 90-69 Hawks rout. What happened in Game 2 meant nothing in predicting Game 3. It wasn’t just home court that turned the trick but some subtle changes. The Hawks changed up their lineup -- inserting 7-footer Johan Petro at center and bringing 3-point specialist Kyle Korver off the bench -- after getting manhandled on the road. With more favorable matchups and a lot more energy, Atlanta looked like a different team.
Playoff teams have some talent or star players, which also makes closer, more competitive games likely, especially as the playoffs move along. Still, one-sided games can happen for a variety of reasons. A few years ago the Spurs positively trashed the Kings in Game 1, 122-88. The stats on the game were frightening, with San Antonio shooting 57% and holding the Kings to 39%, while winning the battle of the boards 51-32.
However, a funny thing happened in Game 2: the Kings showed up. They showed up with a vengeance, too, taking the Spurs to overtime before a wild 128-119 loss, though the angry dog still covered. Public perception can be such that many were thinking the Spurs were going to destroy the Kings even worse in Game 2. However, the veteran Kings were embarrassed and angry. A very different team showed up for Game 2, one that was motivated by the blowout.
The point is, don't easily dismiss teams that get routed. If they have talent, are well coached, or have strong leadership, they can bounce back and look like a very different team the next game. Another factor to consider is defense. Many teams that make the postseason know how to play defense and in a blowout loss, perhaps a team simply had a bad defensive game. Or, the opponent was doing something that they couldn't adjust to. Though after watching game films, adjustments are made, which is why they can look very different.
Even handicappers have to learn not to over-analyze certain situations. The important point is not too read too much into a single, one-sided game. The playoffs only increase competitive fire and passion with teams facing each other over and over again, making adjustments and revenge spots even more acute.
One season the Celtics danced all over the Pacers in a 102-82 Game 1 rout. Boston players made foolish comments after the game about how they were already thinking about advancing to the next round! In Game 2, a very different Indiana team showed up in an 82-79 win as a road underdog. They eventually won the series, too. Every dog can have his day in the NBA playoffs, so be careful: one-sided blowouts can be very different the next encounter.