Can Oklahoma City or the L.A. Clippers possibly stop what looks to be an epic Spurs-Warriors Western Conference Finals? We shall see. Here's a glance at the Mavericks-Thunder and Blazers-Clippers first-round series with BetOnline's NBA odds.
No. 6 Dallas Mavericks vs. No. 3 Oklahoma City Thunder
Game 1 of this series in OKC is the final game of the four openers on Saturday with a 9:30 p.m. ET tip on ESPN. The San Antonio Spurs await the winner. The Thunder are -4000 series favorites on NBA odds with the Mavericks at +1300. I will preview Game 1 in depth here at SBR so check that out.
Oklahoma City missed last year's playoffs because it lost a tiebreaker with the New Orleans Pelicans for the No. 8 seed. I doubt the Thunder would have done any better than the Pelicans did against the Warriors, who swept New Orleans. Of course OKC had Kevin Durant for only about a third of last season and he wouldn't have been available for the postseason. Prior to last year, the Thunder had won at least one playoff round in each of the past four seasons. In 2012, they swept the Mavericks in the first round. In 2011, Dallas won in five games on the way to the NBA title.
Durant averaged 27.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists combined in those two series, the only times the Thunder and Mavs have met in the playoffs. Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki averaged 29.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
It's the 15th time in the past 16 seasons in the playoffs for Nowitzki's Mavericks and it might be his last time with Dirk at 37. He'll still play next season, but the Mavs might actually be worse and some other teams below in the West better (Utah, New Orleans to name two). The Mavs were thought to be in rebuilding mode this season after losing out on DeAndre Jordan this past summer when he changed his mind about signing with Dallas and went back to the Los Angeles Clippers. Rick Carlisle deserves Coach of the Year consideration.
Last year, the Mavs went out in five games in the first round to Houston. They haven't advanced past the first round since 2011 on the way to that upset of the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. That was LeBron James' first season in Miami.
Key trends: The Mavericks are 1-5 ATS in their past six conference quarterfinals games. The 'over' is 6-2 in their past eight game in that round. The 'over' is 5-1 in OKC's past six conference quarterfinal games.
No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers vs. No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers
Game 1 of this series in L.A. is the final game of four openers on Sunday with a tipoff of 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT. The record-setting Golden State Warriors await the winner of this series, and this appears on paper to be easily the most evenly-matched of the four in the West. Sportsbooks agree as the Clippers are -315 series favorites on NBA picks and the Blazers +265. I will have an in-depth preview of Game 1 here at SBR.
Los Angeles has been locked into the No. 4 seed for weeks so really the only motivation down the stretch was to reincorporate Blake Griffin back into the lineup after he missed several months with his broken hand, quad injury and suspension. Did you know the Clippers have never made the Western Conference Finals? They looked to be going there in Game 6 of last season's conference semifinals against Houston up 3-2 in the series and with a 19-point third-quarter lead at home. But the Clippers coughed that up and lost and then also fell in Game 7. If Los Angeles has another playoff failure, this roster probably will look a lot different in 2016-17 and that means Griffin is likely traded.
Portland lost in five games in the first round of last year's playoff to Memphis and said goodbye to four starters off that team in the offseason. The Blazers were supposed to be lottery-bound, but Terry Stotts has done a tremendous job and might be the NBA Coach of the Year favorite. Plus point guard Damian Lillard upped his game to superstar status and fellow guard C.J. McCollum could win the NBA Most Improved Player Award.
Somehow, the Blazers and Clippers have never faced off in the playoffs.
Key trends: Portland has covered just eight of its past 28 conference quarterfinal games. The Clippers are only 5-14 ATS in their past 19 in the round. The 'under' is 5-2 in the Blazers' past seven first-round games. The 'over' is 12-5 in the Clippers' past 17 in the round.