NBA Playoffs Offer Attractive Choices in Opening Round

by Vegas Writer

Wednesday, Apr 12, 2023
As the play-in round continues, it's time to look at two Opening Round series that look attractive for those hoping to secure future plays.

Let's take a look at two of the series, with insight as to where my money would go:

Eastern Conference 4/5 Series
No. 4 Cavaliers (-200, DKS) over No. 5 Knicks

It’s been five long years since the Cleveland Cavaliers have tasted playoff basketball, but they’ll finally get a sample of it when they play host to the fifth-seeded New York Knicks in the opening round of this postseason.

The last time Cleveland won a playoff series was the 2017-18 season when it stunned the Boston Celtics 4-3 in the Eastern Conference Finals, and they have just as good a chance (if not better) of repeating that feat here against the Knicks.

Despite posting just 112.3 points per game this season (25th), the one thing the fourth-seeded Cavaliers have going for themselves is their defense, which is tops in the NBA in points allowed at 106.9 ppg, while letting the opposition connect on just 46.8% of its shot attempts (8th).

New York went through a postseason drought itself, missing the playoffs between the 2013-14 and 2019-20 seasons. It also missed out last year after getting bounced in the first round by the Atlanta Hawks in 2020-21.

Though they faced their share of some ups and downs, the Knicks still managed to put together an impressive season, posting a 47-35 record compared to last year’s mark of 37-45. Their main concern heading into this initial series, though, will be the absence of their leading scorer (25.1 ppg) and rebounder (10 rpg.) Julius Randle, who is out for possibly the next two weeks with a severely sprained ankle.

Though they lack depth, the Cavs are an explosive, young team with loads of potential moving forward, and with a poised Donovan Mitchell taking the lead role, they’ll ultimately out-duel New York in this series, and advance to the second round where they’ll face the winner of the Milwaukee/Play-in winner.

Western Conference 3/6 Series
No. 6 Warriors (-286, DKS) over No. 3 Kings

If there were a Cinderella in this year’s NBA season it would undoubtedly have to be the Sacramento Kings. Locked in as the three-seed in the Western Conference, the Kings went from a 30-52 record a year ago to 49-33 this season, while also capturing the Pacific Division title. As rewarding as that may be, they now have the unenviable task of facing the defending champion Golden State Warriors when the postseason officially gets underway this weekend.

Granted, Sacramento led the league in scoring at 121 points per game, but the playoffs are officiated differently, and physicality is almost rewarded, something they’re not accustomed to, having not played more than 82 games in a season for over a decade-and-a-half. In addition, the Kings rank a lowly 26th in scoring defense, allowing 118.2 ppg (26th) on a dismal 49.2% shooting (29th) and 37.4% from three-point territory (28th).

Golden State, on the other hand, has more championship rings in the past decade (4) than Sacramento has playoff appearances (1). And even though the Kings will have homecourt advantage here, they’ll still struggle to dispose of the defending champions who’ve won at least one road playoff tilt in 24 consecutive postseason series, and 20 or more playoff games in five of the last six seasons overall.

As good as Sacramento is playing, one cannot dismiss the fact that it hasn’t made a postseason appearance since 2006, and has only made the playoffs 28 times in its 74 years of existence. Experience is key when you reach postseason play, and the Kings simply don’t have it. This is precisely why the Warriors will advance to the second round by the time this series is in the books.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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