The Cleveland Cavaliers (yay!) and the San Antonio Spurs (boo!) have made it to the second round of the NBA playoffs in the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively. Barring any unforeseen event, the Spurs are just waiting for the Oklahoma Thunder to dispose of the Dallas Mavericks, which could happen this Monday. The Thunder are sports betting favorites (-1800) against the Mavs (+1150) and lead the series 3-1. Only 9 teams have come back from a 1-3 disadvantage and won a playoff series, but Dallas should be more concerned about winning quarters – especially the first.
The Thunder have crushed the Mavs in the first quarters in three of the first four games, all but rendering the remaining three periods rather meaningless – in basketball, it’s usually the other way around. Additionally, David Lee has joined Chandler Parsons, Deron Williams, and Jeremy Evans on the injured list, and will miss the rest of the series – on the bright side, chances are he will not be missing much. Pretty much almost every Dallas player is playing through injuries, whether they are officially listed or not, including team benchmark Dirk Nowitzki. While the Mavs could still postpone the inevitable a bit further, you can put your online betting money on the Oklahoma City Thunder scoring their first playoff series win under head coach Billy Donovan.
As for the Cavaliers next opponent, it’s a tossup between the Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics. The Hawks are favored -290 versus the Celtics at +245 with the series tied at two wins apiece, but after the former squandered a 2-0 lead – and career-making performance from Pull Millsap – the series is there for the taken for either team. The odds looked grim for a while there for Boston, but basketball is not just about numbers but also about having basketball-sized stones, which the Celtics have plenty of. Now the series goes back to Atlanta but Boston has all the momentum.
So far, only home teams have won games in this series, so the first thing Boston has to take care of lies within their own camp. Obviously, more often than not all teams have some sort of advantage playing in their own turf, but when the Celtics go on the road it’s like watching Michael Jordan trying to play baseball – and that goes all the way back to the regular season. The thing is, in the post-season you have to win away games, especially when your opponent has home field advantage. Additionally, Boston needs to stick with the small-ball lineup and improve free-throw shooting consistency. Easier said than done? Maybe, but so was turning around a losing series.