By Lenny Del Genio
In last week�s playoff report, which was written upon the completion of the first two games of each of the eight first round playoff series, we went on the record stating that this NBA postseason was essentially the Cavs and Lakers, and then 14 other evenly matched teams that won�t be around for the NBA Finals.
Fast forward to one week later (all series have now played minimum four games) and it�s no surprise (at least to us!) that the Cavs and Lakers are the only two teams to have advanced to the second round (as of Tuesday).
Both Cleveland and LA faced large pointspreads throughout their respective series, but it was the Cavaliers that were by far the more successful betting proposition. Not only did LeBron James and company sweep the Pistons right out of the postseason, but they covered every game as well, winning by an average of 15.5 points per game.
Contrast that with the Lakers, who needed five games to eliminate the Jazz (admittedly a much better #8 seed than Detroit) and won by an average of just 12 PPG. Still, according to Bodog, the Lakers remain the favorite to win the NBA Title at 5/7 odds compared to 11/10 for Cleveland.
The Cavaliers weren�t the only team to start the NBA Playoffs at 4-0 ATS. So too have the Denver Nuggets and the Philadelphia 76ers. Denver will almost certainly be joining Cleveland in the second round as they hold a 3-1 series edge over New Orleans following a record-setting 58-point outright road win in Game 4. The Nuggets also cashed as underdogs in a Game Three loss. Due to the massive blowout on Monday, Denver finds itself as a double-digit choice at the betting window for Wednesday�s Game Five.
Philadelphia, despite covering all of its games thus far, is knotted at two games apiece with the Orlando Magic and are rather fortunate to be in that position considering both of their SU wins came in last second fashion and by a combined four points. Maybe that�s why the oddsmakers have installed the Magic as 8.5-point chalk for Tuesday�s Game Five. Orlando�s 96-87 Game 2 victory is the only game in this series that has been decided by more than three points.
In last week�s report, we also mentioned to you that at least one six seed has upset a three seed in first round play five times since 2001. Orlando, the Eastern Conference�s #3 seed, is certainly in a dogfight (see above). However, they�re not in nearly as much trouble as their Western Conference counterpart, the San Antonio Spurs, who find themselves in a 3-1 hole to the Dallas Mavericks. None of the games in this series have been decided by fewer than eight points, with the SU winner beating the pointspread by an average of nearly 12 PPG. Fact is that San Antonio just isn�t very good without Manu Ginobili.
A truly wretched series to watch has been Atlanta vs. Miami. There is too much individual one-on-one stuff on offense for both sides. Trust us when we say that Cleveland is cheering mightily for the Hawks to advance (Atlanta regained the home court edge with a Game 4 road win). They don�t have Dwyane Wade and until yesterday (Monday), they had lost 12 straight road playoff games. (Cleveland, of course, was the NBA�s best home team at 40-2 straight up). In this series, the straight up winner has beaten the pointspread by an average of 17.75 points per game, which is a pretty astounding figure but not surprising considering that there have been no close games.
On the other hand, despite all the injuries, Boston vs. Chicago has been a joy to watch with three of the games decided by a combined eight points, two of which went to overtime. The lone exception was Boston�s road win in Game Three where the baby Bulls got caught reading too much of their own press. Take away that 107-86 blowout and the SU winner has beaten the pointspread by an average of just four points per game. So the oddsmakers are doing their job here as well. As critical a loss as Kevin Garnett was to the Celtics NBA Title hopes, the potential loss of Ben Gordon for Chicago could be more crushing.
If Boston vs. Chicago has been the best first round series, then Houston vs. Portland has certainly been the bridesmaid of this discussion. Interestingly, the road team has covered in all four games. We�re hoping for Portland to at least win SU in Tuesday�s Game Five and extend this series a bit. After the Rockets embarrassed the sportsbooks with a 27-point outright win as 5.5-point Game One underdogs, the SU winner has beaten the pointspread by an average of only 2.5 PPG in the last three games.
Here�s an interesting tidbit through the first four games of each series. Only three teams were an underdog in each of their first four games. One was Detroit, who went 0-4 ATS. The second is Philadelphia, who went 4-0 ATS. The other is the Utah Jazz, who went 3-2 ATS, but they are already home for the summer. Just a quick reminder that we have already cashed Philadelphia three times in their series.
We told you a week ago to disregard all the reports of home team dominance when wagering on the 1st Round. In the eight Game 1�s, four road underdogs won outright. We already told you that the road team has covered every game in the Houston/Portland series. With our guaranteed playoff selections, we are 6-1 ATS when wagering on underdogs and five of those wins have resulted in outright wins! The only one that didn�t (Philly in Game 4) lost at the gun via a three-pointer. None of the eight series have gone without a road team winning at least once.
All told, visitors are 8-8 straight up in the Eastern Conference Playoffs! Maybe everyone shouldn�t be so scared of going to Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland? Every series in the East has seen a 2-2 home/road split. At the window, road teams are 9-7 ATS, thanks to a 3-1 ATS mark by the visitors in the Chicago/Boston series.
In the Western Conference, home court advantage still does seem to matter. Road teams are just 4-13 straight up (includes all five Lakers/Jazz games) with exactly one road win being posted in all four series. However, thanks to Houston/Portland (three SU wins/ATS losses by hosts), visitors are 10-7 against the spread in those games. Dallas/San Antonio is the only 1st Round series in either conference to see the home team show a profit through four games (3-1 ATS).
We conclude with a discussion on totals. As you know from our previous article, eight of the first ten playoff games went Over (one push). As was predicted in that same writing, Under bettors have since cleaned up winning 17 of the last 23 games. Overall, our tally is at 18-14-1 in favor of the Under.