Every first round series is two games in, so let’s take a look at what’s happened so far in the NBA Playoffs and where things may be headed.
The Sixers, as anticipated, are not having much difficulty with the Wizards. They are up 2-0 and well on their way to the second round. Washington is 16-8 SU since April 12th, but they are the only team left in the 16-team field to have a negative efficiency rating and point differential for the year. They allowed the highest number of points per game in the regular season (118.5) and have given up 120 and 125 in the first two games vs. Philadelphia. After shooting an abysmal 2 of 22 from three-point range in Game 2, can they bounce back Saturday?
Philly could go from playing the 30th ranked team in scoring defense to the #1 scoring defense in the second round. That’s if the Knicks can get by the Hawks in the first round. That series is 1-1 and will resume Friday in Atlanta. The Hawks have won 11 straight at home (last loss was 4/15 to Milwaukee), but the Knicks are 10-1 ATS run against the Hawks the past three seasons. So something will have to give there. Both games in the series have gone Under. The Knicks are a league best 47-25-2 ATS this season including 9-2 ATS L11 as a road underdog.
Brooklyn and Milwaukee could be on a collision course in the other half of the bracket. Both are up 2-0 in their respective series and off blowout wins in Game 2. Of course, now each must get it done on the road. The Nets have -115 odds to sweep the Celtics while the Bucks are +200 to sweep the Heat and +175 to win in five games. It should be noted that the Nets have the shortest odds to win the NBA Finals, but I think the Bucks are a far better value in that regard. Milwaukee had the East’s top point differential and net efficiency rating.
One positive for the Celtics and Wizards is that home teams down 0-2 are 80-38-2 ATS in Game 3 including 29-6 ATS L35 in that spot (first half only).
Western Conference Odds
The biggest swing we’ve seen so far in terms of series odds is from Clippers-Mavs. The Clippers, initially -400 to win this series, are now down 0-2 and listed at +220. That’ll happen when you lose twice at home. Only 6.3% of teams that have fallen behind 0-2 in a best of seven series have gone on to advance. The Clippers are 6-2 ATS their last eight games in Dallas and still favored to win Game 3.
The Lakers had to win a play-in game just to be the 7-seed. Then they lost Game 1 to the Suns. But they are still the favorites to come out of the Western Conference. They are -300 to win this first round series after taking Game 2 and +333 to do so in six games. Chris Paul’s injury is a major concern for Phoenix, who is a significant underdog in Game 3 and likely will be in Game 4 as well.
I really like the Lakers’ path to the Western Conference Finals because I don’t think there’s a chance either Denver or Portland would beat them in the second round. Those teams have split the first two games of their series, which probably won’t be short. Right now, Portland is -155 to advance as they stole the home court advantage. But the Blazers have the worst defensive efficiency rating of any playoff team. Denver doesn’t have Jamal Murray (ACL) and Will Barton is out for Game 3 as well. The first two games both went Over.
It speaks volumes that I haven’t mentioned the top seeded Jazz yet, but that’s probably the way they like it. Their Game 2 win was my top play for the month in the NBA. Teams seeded 1-3 that lose Game 1 are now 26-16 ATS In Game 2 since 2005. PG Donovan Mitchell was back for Utah in Game 2 and they scored 141 points. The first two games of this series have gone Over as have four of the five meetings this season. Despite finishing with the best regular season record in the league, Utah has only the 5th best odds to win the NBA Finals