It’s down to the wire in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Cleveland Cavaliers top the NBA odds list for winning the East, but if they get the wrong matchup in the first round, anything can happen.
Jason’s record as of Mar. 30: 64-61-5 ATS, 7-11 Totals, plus-1.15 units ML
It’s time once again to gaze into the crystal ball – the big orange one with the dimples – and see what might come to pass in the very near future. The NBA postseason is just around the corner; we’ve been previewing the playoff possibilities in both conferences, but with all the injuries and mayhem, the potential matchups keep changing.
So do the NBA odds. Let’s get right to it and project the Eastern Conference as it stands heading into Tuesday’s action. As before, this projection is based entirely on where the teams stand 1-8, ignoring games in hand and funky seeding rules and all that. And it’s based on the status of injured players and their expected recovery times as of right now. Basketball odds to win the East are from the futures market at Bovada as we go to press.
No. 1 Atlanta Hawks (13-5) vs. No. 8 Boston Celtics (75-1)
No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers (1-2) vs. No. 7 Miami Heat (40-1)
No. 3 Chicago Bulls (17-2) vs. No. 6 Milwaukee Bucks (100-1)
No. 4 Toronto Raptors (20-1) vs. No. 5 Washington Wizards (40-1)
Since we last checked in on the East, the Hawks (56-18 SU, 46-27-1 ATS) have clinched the top seed, while the Celtics (33-41 SU, 42-31-1 ATS) are hanging onto eighth place by a thread. This should be an interesting matchup; both teams are relatively healthy, and while we might be inclined to bet on Boston ATS in single-game situations, Atlanta should prevail straight-up.
The Cavaliers (48-27 SU, 37-38 ATS) have lost just four games this month as they cruise toward what could be a fifth straight NBA Finals appearance for LeBron James. One of those losses was to the Heat (34-39 SU, 33-36-4 ATS), but Kevin Love was out for Cleveland. He’d be in action if the playoffs started today. We’ll take the Cavs in what would have been a much better series with Chris Bosh involved.
Chicago (45-29 SU, 35-39 ATS) has moved up to third place and into a softer matchup with the struggling Bucks (36-38 SU, 41-32-1 ATS). The Bulls are 5-1 SU and ATS in their last six games; Nikola Mirotic is on a roll, and the lineup is just about full. Milwaukee has won just two of its last 10 games and could fall out of the playoffs entirely at this rate. Da Bulls.
That leaves a pair of messed-up teams in the Raptors (44-30 SU, 34-39-1 ATS) and the Wizards (41-33 SU, 28-45-1 ATS). The Raps wouldn’t have Kyle Lowry if the postseason started today, but they’re scuffling along, picking up back-to-back wins SU and ATS. Washington is 1-5 SU and 0-6 ATS in its last six, and seems to have even worse mental makeup than Toronto at this point, which is saying something. Go Raptors.
Our projected matchups have flip-flopped; now it’s Atlanta who gets a crack at the wayward Raptors, while the Cavs have to deal with the Bulls. Toronto had its moments against the Hawks earlier in the season, but even if Lowry is active in time for the Eastern semis, Atlanta should win this round easily. Derrick Rose could be back for the Bulls in early April, so don’t count them out, but we’ll have to take the Cavaliers in six or seven.
No. 1 Atlanta Hawks vs. No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers
Just like before, here were are with the top two seeds in the East. This is the third time we’ve arrived at this projection; the first time, we took the Hawks, but the way both teams have performed since, Cleveland was a fairly easy pick the second time around. We’re sticking with the Cavs for our NBA picks this time, too. Let’s hope everyone stays healthy so we can get one of those instant playoff classics.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Cavaliers