Bob Duff | Fri 13/04/2018 - 15:19 EDT

NBA Playoffs First-Round Predictions: Is A New Order About to Emerge?

NBA Playoffs First-Round Predictions: Is A New Order About to Emerge?
They say to be the best, you must beat the best, and in the NBA playoffs, two proud past champions are teetering. In the West, the defending champion Golden State Warriors will start postseason play minus injured all-world guard Stephen Curry. In the East, the 2016 NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers haven't looked like themselves all season long. Are we about to see the crowning of new title holders?

Will New Blood Be Injected Into The NBA Finals?

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry is out with a torn MCL, and won’t be back until the second round of playoffs. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, well, to put it bluntly, they’re just not right. Cleveland’s defensive rating of 109.5 was 29th in the NBA, better than only the woeful 21-51 Phoenix Suns, who posted the league’s poorest record. 

In recent memory, the NBA Finals have been all about the Warriors and the Cavaliers, but you get the sense that this year, the baton will be passed, and that the team prepared to accept the challenge and run with it are the Houston Rockets. James Harden and Chris Paul are the leaders of a team that posted a league-best 65-17 mark and earned an NBA-best offensive rating of 112.2.

You Shouldn’t 86 the Sixers

sixers

The Toronto Raptors are the best team record-wise in the East, but they are also cursed with a history of playoff failure. This is the fourth time in five seasons that the Raps have captured the Atlantic Division title, but they’ve yet to reach an NBA Final and twice were shocked in stunning first-round upsets by lower-seeded teams. DeMar DeRozan and company still have much to prove before the basketball world will be sold on their status as legitimate contenders.

That being said, if you believe in the Raptors’ bad rap, then where should the smart money go? It’s difficult to buy into the Cavs, a fourth seed that has endured turmoil and change throughout the season. But what about the Philadelphia 76ers? A No. 3 seed that’s in the playoffs for the first time in six years, Philly’s 52-30 record is the best posted by the team since Allen Iverson led the Sixers to the NBA Finals in 2000-01. And the 76ers were among the top five in the NBA in both offensive (107.4) and defensive (102) rating.

Where To Place Your First-Round Wagers

rockets

Our NBA first-round picks, based on series odds offered by Bovada

Eastern Conference

Washington Wizards (+400) vs. Toronto Raptors (-600) – Recognizing their failures of past postseasons, the Raptors revamped their bench and redesigned their offense, going to a more ball-sharing style. It paid off handsomely. Only Houston owned a better offensive rating than Toronto (111) and the Raptors also posted the fifth-best defensive rating (103.4). The Wizards swept Toronto in the 2015 playoffs, but they’ll need an extraordinary performance from G John Wall to have any chance here. 

BABB Pick: Toronto Raptors (-600)

Miami Heat (+300) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (-400) – The Eagles. Villanova. Is it Philly’s year? Sixers fans like to think so. Yes, Philly is young, but the 76ers also come into the playoffs with 16 straight wins. SG Markelle Fultz has caught fire, PG Ben Simmons is also alight (15.8 points, 8.2 assists), and C Joel Embiid and his 22.9 points, 18.8 blocks and 11 rebounds will be back early in the series from an orbital bone injury. The Heat still have remnants of their glory days around, but won’t be able to keep pace with the Sixers. 

BABB Pick: Philadelphia 76ers (-400)

Milwaukee Bucks (+155) vs. Boston Celtics (-175) – At the start of the season, it was easy to like the Celtics as beasts of the East. Then G Gordon Hayward (ankle) was lost for the season in the opener and now, G Kyrie Irving (knee) is also done for the year. Despite their woes, the Celtics posted the NBA’s best defensive rating this season (101.5) and won 15 of their last 23 games. The Bucks have the best player in this series in G Giannis Antetokounmpo (26.7 PPG), but the Celtics are the better team.

BABB Pick: Boston Celtics (-175)

Indiana Pacers (+475) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (-750) – Perhaps the best news for the Cavs was the way that their deadline deals seemed to revitalize James. In his last 28 games, his averages were 29.9 points, 10.1 assists and 9.9 rebounds, a hair shy of a triple double. Indiana took three of four from Cleveland during the regular season, so G Victor Olapido (32.1 PPG) and his teammates have cause to believe that an upset is there for the taking. But a motivated James is a good way to put that notion to rest.

BABB Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers (-750)

Western Conference

San Antonio Spurs (+600) vs. Golden State Warriors (-1000) – This series is all about who’s not here. The Warriors go into battle minus Curry and his 26.4 points per game, but they still have Kevin Durant (26.4), Klay Thompson (20) and Draymond Green (11). But the Spurs are without SF Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps) and his 16.4 points per game, and they lack the depth to fill the void. Golden State beat San Antonio in three of four this season with Leonard in the lineup. 

BABB Pick: Golden State Warriors (-1000)

New Orleans Pelicans (+170) vs. Portland TrailBlazers (-200) – In fact a 3-6 match up, in reality the margin between these two teams is paper thin. Portland (49-33) won one more game than New Orleans (48-34). The TrailBlazers won 28 games at home, while the Pelicans won 24 both at home and away. But Portland was 5-7 down the stretch, while New Orleans closed with five straight wins. And Pelicans PF Anthony Davis torched the TrailBlazers for 27.1 points and 11 rebounds in head-to-head meetings.

BABB Pick: New Orleans Pelicans (+170)

Utah Jazz (+115) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (-135) – When the Thunder assembled a squad around Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, the thinking was that it would be a team built more for playoff success than regular-season glory, and so far, that’s how it’s played out. They assembled three winning streaks of six or more games and five losing streaks of three or more games. The Jazz are the better defensive team, but who will score for them beyond rookie G Donovan Mitchell (20.5 PPG)?

BABB Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder (-135)

Minnesota Timberwolves (+975) vs. Houston Rockets (-2100) – There is no bigger first-round mismatch than this one. When these two meet, it’s the Harlem Globetrotters vs. the Washington Generals, only not as close. Houston has won six in a row from Minnesota, 14 of 15 and 18 of 20. The Timberwolves have beaten the Rockets four times in their last 23 meetings. Now they are supposed to try and win four of seven from the NBA’s best club?

BABB Pick: Houston Rockets (-2100)

Category : Betting Picks

Tag : Anthony Davis , Ben Simmons , DeMar DeRozan , draymond green , james harden , Joel Embiid , John Wall , Kawhi Leonard , kevin durant , klay thompson , lebron james , Markelle Fultz , nba , Stephen Curry , Victor Olapido

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