We were one Damian Lillard 3-pointer away from seeing all four of the first-round series in the Western Conference go the full seven games. But the top three seeds on the NBA odds board all survived to see the second round.
<p><i>Jason’s record on his early <a target="_blank" title="Free NBA Picks & Tips Throughout the 2014 Playoffs!" href="/picks/nba/">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>Okay, you can breathe now. The first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs has come to a close, and boy howdy, that was some exciting basketball. And goldarned weird, too. I’m pretty sure I saw more 4-point plays during the first round than I’ve seen in my entire life. Perhaps the dubious officiating we’ve seen thus far helps to explain how the underdogs went 19-7-1 ATS in the Western Conference, pushing three of the four series to the limit.</p> <p>It’s all flotsam under the bridge. As it was in the Eastern Conference, only one series underdog in the West advanced to the second round, and it was the No. 5 seed. The Portland Trail Blazers (+175) made it past the Houston Rockets 4-2 SU and 2-4 ATS, in a series that saw three games go to overtime and the Blazers win Game 6 99-98 on a last-second 3-pointer by Damian Lillard. They’ll be back in action on Tuesday; first, we’ve got a Conference Semifinals matchup that could be the best series of the entire playoffs. </p> <p style="text-align:center"><a target="_blank" title="Take a Look at the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals Update!" href="/picks/nba/eastern-conference-semi-finals-update/39315/"><em>Take a Look at the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals Update!</em></a></p> <p><b><a target="_blank" title="NBA Picks: Clippers vs. Thunder Series Price Odds" href="/picks/nba/nba-picks-clippers-vs-thunder-series-price-odds/39297/">No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder</a><br /></b><span style="font-size:1em">As if this playoffs weren’t already strange enough, the Clippers had to overcome not only the Golden State Warriors (+320), but also the furore surrounding the racist comments attributed to owner Donald Sterling. They lost the first game after the scandal broke, then rallied back once the NBA dropped the hammer on Sterling, taking the series 4-3 SU and 2-5 ATS. Will that be enough for the Clippers to put this scandal behind them? Nope. This is going to continue to be a front-page distraction as the league prepares to force Sterling to sell the team.</span></p> <p>Speaking of front pages, the Thunder had its own distraction to deal with when <i>The Oklahoman</i> decided to run a headline calling soon-to-be league MVP Kevin Durant “Mr. Unreliable” after the Memphis Grizzlies (+300) won Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead. That was the fourth straight overtime game in the series, by the way. Durant responded with 69 points in the last two games combined as the Zombie Sonics eliminated the Zombie Grizzlies 4-3 SU and 3-3-1 ATS.</p> <p>Oklahoma is a –185 favorite in the second round, which tips off Monday night, and I’m inclined to keep fading the Clippers while all this nonsense is happening around them. And you thought the Lakers were a circus.</p> <p><b>NBA Pick:</b> Take the Thunder –185 at The Greek</p> <p> </p> <p><b><a target="_blank" title="NBA Picks: Blazers vs. Spurs Playoff Series Price" href="/picks/nba/nba-picks-blazers-vs-spurs-playoff-series-price/39312/">No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers vs. No. 1 San Antonio Spurs</a><br /></b><span style="font-size:1em">Remember how the Spurs were a solid “on” pick after crushing <a target="_blank" title="Take a Gander at the NBA Betting Odds!" href="http://www.sbrodds.com">the NBA betting lines</a> in the last two months of the regular season? Yeah, they went 1-6 ATS in their first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks (+500). The only time San Antonio got to the pay window was when it mattered the most, in Game 7. Dallas otherwise did an incredible job of throwing defense at the Spurs.</span></p> <p>Can Portland do the same thing in the second round as a +260 dog? Both the Blazers and the Mavericks were mediocre on defense during the regular season; however, Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle has a reputation as one of the brightest minds in the game. Portland head coach Terry Stotts was an assistant under Carlisle when the Mavs won the NBA title in 2011, but Stotts is known more for his offensive chops, and now he has to deal with none other than three-time Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich. Tough gig.</p> <p><b>NBA Pick:</b> Take the Spurs –320 at The Greek</p>