Things got off to a shocking start as the Bulls upset the defending World Champion Celtics in overtime as 8.5-point pups. Saturday night was heaven for underdog bettors as Dallas overcame a sluggish start to beat the Spurs, 105-97, when getting four points from the oddsmakers and then Houston absolutely waxed a Portland team that was very strong at home during the regular season, beating the Blazers by 27 points!
Joining the fray on Sunday was the Philadelphia 76ers, a 10-point underdog that won outright. Even an 18-point deficit late in the 2nd half couldn�t deter Philly, as a last second basket by Andre Iguodala gave the Sixers a 100-98 victory.
What is going on here, you ask? Well, it�s pretty simple. Other than the Cavs and Lakers, the two top seeds that comprised half of the four Game One favorites that covered, the talent disparity between the remaining 14 teams simply is not that great. Boston took a major hit when Kevin Garnett was lost for the postseason. Orlando relies far too much on three-point shooting and thus cannot be trusted to constantly cash for NBA bettors. San Antonio is old and without Manu Ginobili. Portland is too young.
Therefore, we�re going to propose that you�re going to see more underdog success in Round One, with the exception of the Cavs/Pistons and Lakers/Jazz series. Chicago covered again in Game 2, this time falling three points short as nine-point pups. Dallas was not nearly as fortunate, getting blown out in San Antonio in Game 2 of its series. This makes followers of the famed Zig-Zag theory 1-1 ATS entering Tuesday�s action where Orlando, Portland and Utah would be the plays. Interestingly, Chicago�s ATS win/SU loss on Monday marked the first time in 10 playoff games so far where the SU winner was NOT also the ATS winner of the game.
We don�t need to tell totals players what is going on in the world of Over/Unders in the NBA Playoffs. Through the first ten games, the Over is a very profitable 8-1-1 (counting Mavs/Spurs Game 2 as a �push�). The only game to go Under the total so far was Game One of Heat/Hawks as Miami managed only a paltry 64 points and were out of the game by halftime.
The oddsmakers have yet to adjust, installing totals for Game 2 that aren�t much different than what we saw in the eight Game 1�s. In fact, only one Game 2 total is off by more than a point from what we saw in a Game 1. Interestingly, that would be in the Heat/Hawks series where the number has opened 2.5 points lower than where we saw it close for Game 1. If the games continue to go Over, look for spots to grab some value in Game 3 action with the Under.
How rare are 1st Round upsets? Well, they don�t happen much, but they do happen. Last year saw the eight higher seeds all advance for the first time since 2004. In 2007, three lower seeds advanced to the second round, most notably the Golden State Warriors, an 8-seed that �shocked� top-seeded Dallas. 2006 saw just one lower first round seed advance (the Clippers!) and in 2005 it was two.
The top two seeds always seem like a safe bet as only Dallas in �07 has not made it to at least the second round this decade. At least one six seed has advanced five times since 2001, which has to put both Orlando and San Antonio on upset alert.
We�ll be back closer to the end of opening round action to see if these trends continue.