We’ve survived one of the craziest first rounds in basketball betting history. The Eastern Conference Semifinals are next, and life’s looking pretty good right now for the defending champions.
<p><i>Jason’s record on his early <a href="/picks/nba/" title="Free NBA Picks & Betting Predictions Throughout the Playoffs!" target="_blank">NBA picks for 2013-14</a>, up to May 5 inclusive:</i></p> <p><i>109-95-2 ATS</i></p> <p><i>26-23-1 Totals</i></p> <p>Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Underdogs were the big story in the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, including in the Eastern Conference, where they defied the basketball odds at 14-8-1 ATS. But in the end, six of the eight teams that were favored to advance to the second round did so. Among the survivors: the Indiana Pacers (–600), who came back from a 3-2 deficit to eliminate the Atlanta Hawks in seven games, and the Brooklyn Nets (–130), who did the same thing against the Toronto Raptors.</p> <p>No rest for the wicked; the Conference Semifinals tip off Monday night with the Pacers facing the one Eastern underdog that made it past the first round. And if Indiana’s level of play against the Hawks is any indication, that dog is going to keep on barking.</p> <p style="text-align:center"><a target="_blank" title="Take a Look at the Western Conference Semi-Finals Update!" href="/picks/nba/western-conference-semi-finals-update/39316/"><em>Take a Look at the Western Conference Semi-Finals Update!</em></a></p> <p><b><a href="/picks/nba/nba-picks-wizards-vs-pacers-series-price-odds/39294/" title="NBA Picks: Wizards vs. Pacers Series Price Odds" target="_blank">No. 5 Washington Wizards vs. No. 1 Indiana Pacers</a><br /></b><span style="font-size:1em">As you might expect from a No. 5 seed, the Wizards weren’t all that big of a dog on <a href="http://www.sbrodds.com" title="Take a Look at Who is Favored on the NBA odds board!" target="_blank">the NBA odds board</a>, carrying a +165 series price into their battle with the Chicago Bulls. And many of my colleagues had Washington in this one, especially with Nene (16.6 PER) returning to action during the last week of the regular season. Nene had a brilliant series against the Bulls, who just couldn’t find an answer and may have simply been overworked at the end of a long, injury-plagued campaign. The Wiz took this one down 4-1 SU and ATS.</span></p> <p>After that strong showing, the Wizards see their second-round series odds shrink all the way to… +160. Apparently the NBA betting market still has faith in the No. 1 Pacers, who did manage to cover the spread in their last two wins over Atlanta. Credit head coach Frank Vogel for taking Evan Turner (9.7 PER) and Luis Scola (13.4 PER) out of the reserve mix and putting in Chris Copeland (17.6 PER), who was a combined plus-22 over the final three games.</p> <p>I’m still recommending the Wiz here. They looked very good against Chicago, they’ve had extra time to rest, and I’m not convinced Indiana has found the long-term winning formula just yet. Dysfunction at the junction~!</p> <p><b>NBA Pick:</b> Take the Wizards +160 at The Greek</p> <p> </p> <p><b><a href="/picks/nba/nba-picks-nets-vs-heat-series-price-odds/39314/" title="NBA Picks: Nets vs. Heat Series Price Odds" target="_blank">No. 6 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 2 Miami Heat</a><br /></b><span style="font-size:1em">There was only one series sweep in the first round, and that belonged to the two-time and defending NBA champions. The Heat (–2500) waved good-bye to the Charlotte Bobcats, taking advantage of Al Jefferson (22.6 PER) and his plantar fasciitis to rack up a 3-1 ATS profit. The Heat are favored at –500 against Brooklyn; by the time this series tips off on Tuesday, Miami will have had seven full days of rest and recuperation.</span></p> <p>That R&R is going to come in very handy against the Nets. These are two of the oldest teams in the league, and Brooklyn just barely made it through an incredibly physical series against Toronto. LeBron James (29.3 PER) has been somewhat limited in practice with a bruised quad, and Shane Battier (8.7 PER) has been fighting the flu after barely seeing the court in Round One. It’s otherwise all systems go for Round Two.</p> <p>The Nets did sweep the season series 4-0 SU and ATS, and there’s some merit to taking them as a live +350 dog, but I’m not buying it. Miami is firing on all cylinders now, and again, the Nets are making a very short turnaround in this series. Massaging the refs won’t get them anywhere this time.</p> <p><b>NBA Pick:</b> Take the Heat –500 at The Greek</p>