NBA Picks: Eastern Conference Opening Rounds to Offer Bettors Value

Kevin Stott

Thursday, April 16, 2015 8:26 PM GMT

The NBA Playoffs tip off get underway on Saturday, so let’s take a quick look at the eight teams playing in Round 1 in the Eastern Conference, complete with Home and Away SU and ATS records, Head-to-Head Regular Season SU and ATS records, Game 1 and Series odds, some brief thoughts and some Game 1 and a series picks.

Introduction—Favorites Should Roll in Round 1 in Eastern Conference
The 2015 NBA Playoffs tip off this Saturday (April 18) and one thing to always look for when contemplating series’ and odds in this opening round is which teams may realistically be able to steal away the home court advantage from the higher seeded Home teams in Game 1 and Game 2 (Series format: 2-2-1-1-1-1). And here, I just can’t see any of the four lower seeds—the Wizards, Bucks, Celtics and Nets—going into Toronto, Chicago, Cleveland or Atlanta and winning one of those first eight games. If anyone could pull it off, maybe the red-hot Celtics could somehow upset the Cavaliers in Game 2 at the Quicken Loans Arena (Tuesday, TNT, 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT). Or, maybe the Wizards can find a way a snatch Game 2 north of the border at the Air Canada Centre that same night (Tuesday, NBA TV, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT), but, I really don’t see any of the visitors here going in and stealing a Game 1. This looks like a conference where the Hawks, Cavaliers, Bulls and Raptors could all easily roll through their Round 1 schedules, although it’s obvious the Toronto-Washington series could potentially provide the only real surprise “upset” in the Eastern Conference.

 

#1 Atlanta Hawks vs. #8 Brooklyn Nets
Atlanta Hawks SU Records—60-22 ~ Home: 35-6 ~ Away: 25-16 ~ Conference: 38-14

Brooklyn Nets SU Records—38-44 ~ Home: 19-22 ~ Away: 19-22 ~ Conference: 24-28

Atlanta Hawks ATS Records—51-31 ~ Home: 26-15-1 ~ Away: 25-16 ~ Totals: 42-39-1

Brooklyn Nets ATS Records—39-41-2 ~ Home: 16-23-2 ~ Away: 23-18 ~ Totals: 36-45-1

Atlanta Hawks PF-PA: 102.5-97.1

Brooklyn Nets PF-PA: 98.0-100.9

Regular Season Season Series: Hawks 4-0 SU, Hawks 3-1 ATS

Series Price: Hawks -1,500, Nets +800 (Sportsbook.ag)

Game #1 Odds: Hawks -9 (Sportsbook.ag)

(Best) Eastern Conference Odds: Hawks +350 (Bwin), Nets +10,000 (Sky Bet)

NBA Championship Odds: Hawks 12/1, Nets 200/1 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)

The Skinny: The Hawks and head coach Mike Budenholzer shocked the professional basketball world by compiling the best record in the Eastern Conference and the second-best overall mark in the NBA, so Atlanta GM Danny Ferry deserves a Whole Lotta Love for what he has done with this Southeast Division franchise. The Former New Jersey Nets snuck into the postseason Wednesday night thanks to the Indiana Pacers falling to the Grizzlies in their finale at the FedExForum in Memphis, but as the 4-0 SU Regular Season record reveals, the Hawks (L3, 5-5 L10) rolled Brooklyn and head coach Lionel Hollins. The Key Player to watch here will be Hawks’ SG Kyle Korver, as if he is on, Atlanta very well could blow out the Nets in four games and sweep the No. 8-seed. Jay-Z’s boys still have a very long way to go to become a respectable team in the NBA and Brooklyn is honestly extremely Lucky to even been participating in these coming NBA Playoffs with a 36-44 record. Think about it. The Hawks should roll through this series like a hot knife through butter, baby.

 

#2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #7 Boston Celtics
Cleveland Cavaliers SU Records—53-29 ~ Home: 31-10 ~ Away: 22-19 ~ Conference: 35-17

Boston Celtics SU Records—40-42 ~ Home: 21-20 ~ Away: 19-22 ~ Conference: 28-24

Cleveland Cavalier ATS Records—35-42-2 ~ Home: 17-23-1 ~ Away: 19-21-1 ~ Totals: 32-47-3

Boston Celtics ATS Records—49-32-1 ~ Home: 22-18-1 ~ Away: 27-14 ~ Totals: 43-39

Cleveland Cavaliers PF-PA: 103.1-98.7

Boston Celtics PF-PA: 101.4-101.2

Regular Season Season Series: Tied 2-2, Celtics 3-1 ATS

Series Price: Cavaliers -3,500, Celtics +1,500 (Sportsbook.ag)

Game #1 Odds: Cavaliers -11 (Sportsbook.ag)

(Best) Eastern Conference Odds: Cavaliers+350 (Bwin), Celtics +15,000 (Paddy Power)

NBA Championship Odds: Cavaliers 9/4, Celtics 200/1 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)

The Skinny: The Celtics really played the Cavaliers tough during the Regular Season and the way the C’s closed out the Regular Season—W6, 8-2 L10—and their sparking new head coach (Brad Stevens) likely makes them a real sexy pick here for Some Crazy Folks against the team (Cleveland) NBA odds makers have tabbed with their numbers to win the NBA Championship (+260, William Hill). But expect Cavaliers head coach David Blatt to have LeBron James and the rest of the NBA’s best Starting 5 primed to go, with the City itself foaming at the mouth for a championship after dealing with the Browns (NFL) and Indians (MLB) lack of real success and Their Boy LeBron Back In Town. Many are talking about Boston’s coach Stevens, the way the Celtics defend, their youth and momentum, but Logic says Boston won’t be able to stop King James—who will obviously be the most dominant player in this series—and who exactly is going to do all this scoring for the underdogs? Seriously? Larry Bird is gone, and with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and brilliant trade acquisition Timofey Mozgov, the Cavs have more than enough places to go for points and Cleveland aren’t going to let Boston rain on their parade in Round 1. This goes 4, maybe 5 and I am truly worried some of you may have dumped a little Russian vodka in your Shamrock Shakes last month. Are the Celtics going to try to hold Cleveland under 80 ppg? The truth is that Boston is a rebuilding, under .500 team which happened to squeak into the postseason with a nice little late run, but to expect the Celtics to make this a series, or even hang close in most of the games, seems a bit like Wishful Thinking. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) is giving Cleveland an 89% chance of winning the series.

 

#3 Chicago Bulls vs. #6 Milwaukee Bucks
Chicago Bulls SU Records—50-32 ~ Home: 27-14 ~ Away: 23-18 ~ Conference: 33-19

Milwaukee Bucks SU Records—41-41 ~ Home: 23-18 ~ Away: 18-23 ~ Conference: 30-22

Chicago Bulls ATS Records—39-43 ~ Home: 19-22 ~ Away: 20-21 ~ Totals: 41-39-2

Milwaukee Bucks ATS Records—39-41-2 ~ Home: 16-23-2 ~ Away: 23-18 ~ Totals: 37-45

Chicago Bulls PF-PA: 100.8-97.8

Milwaukee Bucks PF-PA: 97.8-97.3

Regular Season Season Series: Bulls 3-1 SU, Bulls 3-1 ATS

Series Price: Bulls -750, Bucks +500 (Sportsbook.ag)

Game #1 Odds: Bulls -8 (Sportsbook.ag)

(Best) Eastern Conference Odds: Bulls 6/1 (Totesport), Bucks +10,000 (Paddy Power)

NBA Championship Odds: Bulls 12/1, Nets 200/1 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)

The Skinny: The Bucks and new head coach Jason Kidd did themselves some a psychological favor by winning the last game of the four-game Regular Season series (95-91 in Milwaukee) to avoid The Sweep against Chicago. But with the Bulls (W4 7-3 L10) and head coach Tom Thibodeau getting PG Derrick Rose back for the postseason, this team is primed to make a run at an NBA title, with Rose, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich and Spanish-Montenegrin sensation Nikola Mirotic. On Wednesday evening, Chicago topped the Hawks at home in the Windy City (in the last 2 minutes) to get the #3 seed here in the Eastern Conference and win their 50th game of the NBA season—setting up for a potential meeting with LeBron and the Cavs up next in Round 2. Losing that game vs. Atlanta seems like it would have been smarter in my mind. But here, like with the aforementioned Atlanta and Cleveland series’, this series will be lucky to go 5 games and if the Bulls see the Hawks and Cavaliers go 2-0 in their first two Home games in Round 1, expect Chicago to emulate against their I-94 rivals and Little Brothers from Cheeseville. Note: The Bulls, tabbed at 18/1 and 16/1 odds (Boylesports) here at Sportsbook Review in the last week or so win the Eastern Conference, are now priced at (a high) of just 6/1 (Totesport), proving that there are indeed holes out there once in awhile and that checking all sources, thinking for yourself and taking notes is always a very Wise idea while placing NBA picks.

 

#4 Toronto Raptors vs. #5 Washington Wizards
Toronto Raptors SU Records—49-33 ~Home: 27-14 ~ Away: 22-19 ~ Conference: 33-19

Washington Wizards SU Records—46-36 ~ Home: 29-12 ~ Away: 17-24 ~ Conference: 30-22

Toronto Raptors ATS Records—37-44-1 ~ Home: 17-24 ~ Away: 20-20 ~ Totals: 44-37-1

Washington Wizards ATS Records—34-47-1 ~ Home: 17-23-1 ~ Away: 17-24 ~ Totals: 38-41-3

Toronto Raptors PF-PA: 104.0-100.9

Washington Wizards Nets PF-PA: 98.5-97.8

Regular Season Season Series: Raptors 3-0 SU, Raptors 2-1 ATS

Series Price: Raptors -190, Wizards +165 (Sportsbook.ag)

Game #1 Odds: Raptors -4; Total: 193½ (Sportsbook.ag)

(Best) Eastern Conference Odds: Raptors +1600 (Sportingbet), Wizards +2500 (Sky Bet)

NBA Championship Odds: Raptors 50/1, Wizards 60/1 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)

The Skinny: The Raptors swept the Former Bullets in the Regular Season (3-0), winning by margins of 19, 2 and 4 (OT), and although Washington (L2, 6-4 L10) and head coach Randy Wittman are as good as they have been in quite some time with C Marcin Gortat (11.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg), PF Nenê (11.2 ppg, 5.1. rpg) and PG John Wall (17.6 ppg, 9.8 apg, 1.8 spg), Toronto (7-3 L10) and Jonas Valanciunas (12.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.70 bpg) can hold Gortat in check while its dynamic athletic duo of Guards—DeMar DeRozan (19.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.3 apg) and Kyle Lowry (16.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 6.9 apg, 1.55 spg)—will try to help lead Toronto and head coach Dwane Casey into Round 2 and a potential meeting with the Hawks, a team which the Raptors will be able to eliminate. But first things first, and that means disposing of the Wizards here, and although it may take 5, 6 or maybe even 7 games to do so, this Series Price (-190) appears to hold the most perceived Value and is really the only bettable one of the four released this morning (Thursday) in this mediocre Eastern Conference.

 

Eastern Conference Round 1 Conclusions: Play the Favorites
All the favorites and higher seeds should roll here in Round 1 in the Eastern Conference, winning early in an effort to save energy for some potential very nasty Round 2 matchups (Cleveland-Chicago, Atlanta-Toronto). In my eyes, the Raptors are extremely Lucky that the Bulls ended up beating the Hawks on Wednesday at the United Center in Chicago, pushing the Atlantic Division champions down to the No. 4 seed, where they ended up in the ‘Top’ half of the conference bracket with the Hawks and Paul Millsap and not the Cavaliers and LeBron. (If both the Bulls and Raptors ended with 49-33 records, Toronto would have been the No. 3 seed by virtue of the Tiebreaker Rules and their Atlantic Division crown.) There is a difference, a massive big difference between those two teams (the Hawks and Cavaliers) and don’t let the records or team’s seedings or Voices On The Radio deceive you. Oddsmakers and sports gamblers are well aware that the Cavaliers are one of the best three teams in the league, and that the Hawks may actually be around the 7th, 8th or 9th best overall team in the NBA right now, despite their No.1 seeding here in the Eastern Conference where one .500 club (the Bucks) and two sub-.500 teams (Celtics, Nets) actually made these NBA Playoffs. Mercy.

EASTERN CONFERENCE ROUND 1 SERIES PICK: Raptors -190 (sportsbook.ag)

EASTERN CONFERENCE GAME 1 PICKS: Cavaliers -11, Raptors -4, Bulls -8 (sportsbook.ag)