NBA Playoff Game 1 Predictions
NBA Playoff Games Odds & Matchup Comparisons
By Dan Favale
Toronto Raptors (-6.5) vs. Indiana Pacers (+6.5)
Although the Toronto Raptos had one heck of a regular season, finishing second in the Eastern Conference, a heartbeat behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Indiana Pacers seem perfectly built for the playoffs. Their offense isn’t great, but the defense is superb. They struggle against isolations, which the Raptors turn to frequently. But they’re the second best at guarding against spot-up opportunities, according to Synergy Sports. That alone stands to gum up Toronto’s drive and kick heavy attack, making life extremely difficult to DeMar DeRozan, Cory Joseph and Kyle Lowry.
This is not to say the Raptors are going to lose. They have a fairly exclusive relationship with first-round exits, and the Pacers are not their ideal matchup. They are, however, still the superior team and should be able to carve out enough offense for a win. It just won’t be a decisive win.
The Pick: Pacers (+6.5)
Golden State Warriors (-13) vs. Houston Rockets (+13)
Huge spreads are always a danger in the postseason. The Golden State Warriors just aren’t most teams. They have been nigh unbeatable at home, and as their last two games of the regular season proved, they are fully engaged and committed to steamrolling opponents when the stakes are high.
It helps Golden State that the Houston Rockets have been a billboard for disappointment and inconsistency. On paper, they are better than their .500 record. But they have that record for a reason. They are much too reliant on James Harden isolations; he used more isolation possessions during the regular season than eight teams, according to Synergy Sports. That makes the Rockets easy to defend for swarming, switch-apt squads like that Warriors.
Troubling for the Rockets still, they don’t have the defense themselves to combat Golden State’s offense. They allowed the second-most three-pointers per game of any team during the regular season and subsequently hovered around the bottom 10 of deep-ball prevention.
Even last year’s version of the Rockets could barely muster competitive games against the Warriors. Golden State, at home, should be able to eat this year’s version for a midday snack.
The Pick: Warriors (-13)
Atlanta Hawks (-5.5) vs. Boston Celtics (+5.5)
This will be one of the most difficult series to predict throughout the first round of the playoffs. The Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics appear to be pretty evenly matched.
Since the postseason bracket was finalized, though, people have gravitated toward the Hawks. They have fielded the NBA’s best defense since Jan. 1, according to NBA.com, and are ideally structured to force the Celtics to depend on half-court offense, an area in which they struggle.
That Boston’s defense was a roller coaster ride to finish the season isn’t helping matters. The Celtics can lock down for quarters and games at a time, but it’s almost impossible to predict which version of them you’ll get to see.
Nevertheless, the Celtics remain underrated. They play fast and efficient, similar to the Warriors, only less so. That makes them a tough matchup for any team, regardless of where the game is taking place. There’s a pretty good chance they make an opening statement with a win in Atlanta. Even if they lose, it shouldn’t be by much.
The Pick: Celtics (+5.5)
Oklahoma City Thunder (-12) vs. Dallas Mavericks (+12)
Most expect the Oklahoma City Thunder to be a different animal in the playoffs, and that’s fair. It’s equally reasonable to look at the Dallas Mavericks’ roster and struggle to find any upside.
Chandler Parsons is done for the season, Deron Williams only just returned, Dirk Nowitzki started to look his age toward the end of the 2015-16 schedule and the offense has, out of necessity, become heavily dependent on the exploits of J.J. Barea and Raymond Felton. That’s hardly a sound model. And when you couple it with Oklahoma City playing at home, it’s easy to see this one getting out of hand rather quickly.
With that said, the Thunder have had problems closing out games and dispatching clearly inferior opponents all year. They are no lock to stage a blowout, even on their own turf. The Mavericks are well coached, with Rick Carlisle’s midgame adjustments being a huge boon for a roster pieced together with aging vets, injury prone talent and also-rans.
Dallas doesn’t have any business stealing Game 1, but it should be able to limit the bleeding. Betting on Oklahoma City winning this one by double digits just feels like a stretch until we’re absolutely certain that this team can reach into another, postseason friendly gear.
The Pick: Mavericks (+12)
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