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Sportsbook.ag Sunday NBA Playoffs Preview

ATLANTA HAWKS (44-38) at INDIANA PACERS (49-32)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Indiana -7 & 185.5

Atlanta travels to Indiana on Sunday afternoon for Game 1 of their first round playoff series with the Pacers, who were 30-11 at home during the regular season.

Despite Indiana's excellent SU record at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the team was just 22-19 ATS at home. The Hawks were 19-22 SU, but 23-18 ATS (56%), on thee road this season. The home team won all four games in the season series with each team going 2-2 ATS against one another. The Pacers won the last meeting at home on March 25 by a 100-94 score behind 17 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks from C Roy Hibbert. Both teams have had their share of injuries this season, but it appears that both of Atlanta's top two players -- C Al Horford (shoulder) and PF Josh Smith (knee) -- will start in Saturday's game. The Hawks enter the playoffs having lost five of its final seven games SU and posting a 2-8 ATS mark in its final 10 contests. The Pacers also fizzled down the stretch with six straight ATS defeats to end the season, winning just one of those games outright, a 5-point win over lowly Cleveland.

The success of the Hawks this series is going to come down to the play of C Al Horford in the post. Horford missed three of the final five games for Atlanta with a shoulder injury, but in the two games he did play, he averaged 17.0 PPG (53% FG), 13.0 RPG and 4.5 APG. PF Josh Smith will also need to play at a high level if the Hawks are going to win this series. Smith averaged 19.3 PPG (60% FG) and 7.0 RPG over the final three regular-season games. His numbers would have been better, but he only played 13 minutes on Tuesday against the Raptors. PG Jeff Teague has a very crucial matchup with George Hill in this series and Teague will need to hang with him if the Hawks will stick around in the series. Teague averaged 9.0 APG and just 1.5 TOPG over his past four games. If he can take care of the ball like that, then the Hawks will be a tough team to beat.

Pacers SF Paul George is going to have to play better for the Pacers if they are going to advance in the Eastern Conference. George missed the last game with a strained abdomen, and scored just 11.5 PPG on 28.6% shooting in his prior four games. He averaged 17.4 PPG on 41.9% shooting from the field during the regular season, and was especially strong against the Hawks with 18.3 PPG (45% FG), 6.8 RPG and 4.5 APG in the four meetings. Luckily for the Pacers, their frontcourt of PF David West and C Roy Hibbert has been playing really well to end the season. West also sat out the final game (rest), but had averaged 17.5 PPG (61% FG) and 9.0 RPG in his past four contests. West torched the Hawks this season for 21.3 PPG (53% FG) and 5.7 RPG in the three games he played (sat one out with injury). Hibbert, who struggled all season, finished the year strong with 18 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks on April 12 against the Nets and 25 points and 10 rebounds on April 6 against the Wizards. Hibbert has been inconsistent this season, but he rebounded and defended well down the stretch, and as long as he is doing that he can really help Indiana in a number of ways.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS (45-37) at SAN ANTONIO SPURS (58-24)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: San Antonio -9 & 189.5

After relinquishing the No. 1 seed with a late-season slide, the Spurs try to regroup when they open the postseason on Sunday against the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers.

Los Angeles enters the playoffs on a hot streak, winning eight of its final nine games (5-3-1 ATS), including five straight victories to earn the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. San Antonio lost seven of its final 10 regular-season games, and was an atrocious 2-12 ATS in its final 14 contests with seven straight ATS defeats. Its season-ending, three-game skid began with a 91-86 loss on the road against the Lakers, who avoided a season sweep at the hands of the Spurs with that win. But the two San Antonio victories over L.A. came by just two points (84-82) on Nov. 13 and by three points on Jan. 9, by a score of 108-105. Although the Lakers are a respectable 5-5 SU in their past 10 road games, they were pretty awful away from home all season with marks of 16-25 SU and 15-26 ATS (37%). The Spurs were just 1-7 ATS in their final eight home games to finish the season with a 19-20-2 ATS record at AT&T Center, but they only lost six games straight-up at home, going 35-6 (85%) this season.

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Los Angeles has played very well on both ends of the court during its five-game win streak, scoring 105.0 PPG on 46% FG, while allowing just 99.8 PPG on 43% shooting. During the regular season, the Lakers scored 102.2 PPG (6th in NBA) on 45.8% FG (10th in league) despite a subpar 35.5% threes (19th in NBA). The defense has struggled for most of the season though, allowing 101.0 PPG (9th-worst in NBA) on 45.3% FG (14th in league) and 35.7% threes (also 14th in NBA). Without SG Kobe Bryant (27.3 PPG) in the lineup, C Dwight Howard (17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 2.4 BPG) and PF Pau Gasol (13.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 4.1 APG) have been carrying this team on their large shoulders. Howard has averaged 22.5 PPG on 63% FG and 13.0 RPG in his past four games, including 16 points and 18 boards on Wednesday's 99-95 overtime win over Houston. Gasol was even better in that victory, recording a triple-double of 17 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists. That increased his April numbers to 17.5 PPG (51% FG), 12.1 RPG and 6.6 APG in eight games this month. Howard has also thrived against the Spurs this season, tallying 13 points and 15 boards in the Nov. 13 home loss, and then producing 26 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks in Sunday's win. Gasol has shot horribly in this series, making 3-of-10 shots in the November meeting, and producing an abysmal 3-for-17 night on Sunday, but he has pulled down 13.0 RPG in the two games versus the Spurs. SF Metta World Peace (12.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG) is slowly regaining his form after being out with a torn meniscus. He's made just 35% FG for 7.0 PPG in 21.2 MPG in the past five games, but had his highest-scoring output since returning with 12 points on Wednesday. With SG Steve Nash (12.7 PPG, 6.7 APG) having missed eight straight games with a hamstring injury, and listed as questionable for the series opener, PG Steve Blake (7.3 PPG, 3.8 APG) could once again start in his place. Blake has been on a scoring surge over his past three contests with 20.3 PPG (13-of-14 FT) and 5.3 APG. He contributed 24 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and just one turnover in the win over Houston. PF Antawn Jamison (9.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG) has 15.5 PPG and 5.0 RPG in his past two games, but SG Jodie Meeks (7.9 PPG) has been ice-cold in the past four contests, scoring just 5.8 PPG on 7-of-27 shooting (26%). Both players will need to look for their offense in this series, especially with Bryant sidelined and Nash questionable.

San Antonio is a great offensive team, scoring 103.0 PPG (4th in NBA) on 48.1% FG (2nd in league) and 37.6% threes (4th in NBA). The club leads the NBA in assists (25.1 APG) and ranks second in Ast/TO ratio (1.78). Defensively, the Spurs are also pretty strong, giving up only 96.6 PPG (11th in NBA) on 44.2% FG (8th in league) and 35.3% threes (12th in NBA). Their 8.5 steals per game rank 6th-best in the league. The team continues to be led by PG Tony Parker (20.3 PPG, 7.6 APG) and PF Tim Duncan (17.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.7 BPG). Parker has been bothered with neck and ankle injuries this month, and has shot horribly in his past two games, making just 4-of-20 shots, but has made up for it with 16 assists and just six turnovers. Parker has also struggled a bit versus L.A. this season with 15.7 PPG on 43% FG, but has also notched 7.0 APG. Duncan has a well-rounded stat line of 16.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 4.3 APG and 3.7 BPG in three meetings with the Lakers this season, which includes 23 points, 10 boards, four assists and two blocks in Sunday's loss. Duncan also contributed a double-double in the regular-season finale versus Minnesota with 17 points and 14 rebounds. SG Manu Ginobili (11.9 PPG, 4.6 APG) finally returned to the court on Wednesday for the first time since March 29, but he was understandably rusty and scored just two points on 1-of-4 shooting (0-for-2 threes) in 12 minutes of action. Ginobili has also shot horribly against L.A. this season, making just 32% FG leading to 11.0 PPG. SF Kawhi Leonard (11.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG) has been bothered by a knee injury, which is why he's produced just 6.0 PPG and 5.0 RPG in the past two games. He's also been subpar against the great size of the Lakers this season with 8.7 PPG and 4.7 RPG. C Tiago Splitter (10.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG) will be tasked with stopping Howard down low, but despite Howard's presence in the paint, he's still averaged a double-double against L.A. this season with 11.3 PPG and 11.0 RPG in the three games.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS (38-44) at MIAMI HEAT (66-16)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Miami -13.5 & 199

Slumping Milwaukee travels to heavily-favored Miami, who it beat just once in four attempts this season, when the teams open their first-round playoff series on Sunday night.

The Bucks enter this series with a 4-12 SU mark (6-10 ATS) in their past 16 games, while the top-seeded Heat won each of their final eight games of the regular season, going 7-1 ATS. Miami had a magical season, at one point winning 27 straight games, but a new season starts on Sunday. The club was 3-1 SU against Milwaukee this season, but just 2-2 ATS. In the past two games played between the two, however, the Heat won and covered with a 13-point road win on March 15 and 94-83 home victory on April 9. The Bucks were a winning wager on the road this season at 21-20 ATS, but were only 17-24 SU, including nine losses in their final 10 away games. Miami was an impressive 37-4 SU at American Airlines Arena, but just 22-19 ATS in home games.

Milwaukee enters the playoffs on a very bad skid, losing seven of its final nine games, with their only three wins coming over Toronto and at Oklahoma City which was resting all of its star players in a meaningless game. The Bucks are going to be relying heavily on the scoring of SG Monta Ellis who will be matched up with Dwyane Wade over the course of the series. Ellis has put up some big numbers lately. He scored 38 points against the Nuggets on Monday, and on April 12 he had 27 points, 17 assists and eight rebounds in a loss to the Hawks. Ellis is playing well offensively, but his offense is not coming in the flow of a winning team. PG Brandon Jennings will be rusty entering the series after missing two of the final five games and playing only 19.3 MPG in the three games he did suit up for. The health of C Larry Sanders is a major concern for the Bucks too. Sanders missed the past four games for Milwaukee and the club will need his shot-blocking (2.8 BPG) to have any chance at stopping Miami's star players at the rim.

Miami ended the regular season with an amazing 37-2 SU record in its final 39 games. SF LeBron James has been dominant all season and is heading towards another MVP Award after averaging 26.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.3 APG and 1.7 SPG. In the season series with Milwaukee, James was pretty much unstoppable with 27.5 PPG, 7.3 APG and 8.3 RPG in the four meetings. PF Chris Bosh will provide the Heat with the most effective inside scorer in the series, and he too is coming off of a very efficient regular season in which he averaged 16.6 PPG (54% FG), 6.8 RPG and 1.4 BPG. SG Dwyane Wade's matchup with Monta Ellis will be key in this series, but if Wade plays anything like he did the second half of the season, then he should be able to win the matchup easily. Wade averaged 21.2 PPG (52% FG), 5.1 APG and 5.0 RPG for the season and dropped 24.0 PPG (51% FG), 5.7 APG and 5.3 RPG in three games versus Milwaukee. Wade's health is always a concern for Miami, but he appears to be 100 percent after scoring 21 points to go along with 10 assists against Orlando on Wednesday.

HOUSTON ROCKETS (45-37) at OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (60-22)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Oklahoma City -10 & 213

Oklahoma City begins its defense of the Western Conference title when it hosts Houston for Game 1 of their first-round series on Sunday night.

The Rockets lost four of their final six games (1-5 ATS), capped off by a 99-95 overtime loss at the L.A. Lakers on Wednesday, to fall to the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. The Thunder finished the season strong, winning 10 of their final 13 games (8-5 ATS) to earn the top seed in the conference. Although Oklahoma City crushed the Rockets in the first two meetings this season, winning 120-98 at home on Nov. 28 and 124-94 at Toyota Center on Dec. 29, Houston got the last laugh with a 122-119 victory on Feb. 20. The Rockets struggled all season on the road though, producing a 16-25 SU record (17-23-1 ATS, 43%) while allowing 103.9 PPG to host teams. The Thunder scored a hefty 108.5 PPG at home this season, tallying a 34-7 SU record (27-14 ATS, 66%) at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Houston's offense has been outstanding all season with 106.0 PPG (2nd in NBA) on 46.1% FG and 36.6% three-pointers (both 9th-best in league), knocking down 10.6 threes per game (2nd in NBA). Defensively, this team really struggles to stop opponents, allowing 102.5 PPG (3rd-worst in league) on 45.4% FG (14th-worst in NBA) and 36.7% threes (9th-worst in league). The Rockets generate 8.3 SPG (9th in NBA), but have the fifth-worst Ast/TO ratio in the league (1.47), as they commit a NBA-worst 15.8 TOPG. They do hit the glass pretty well though, with a +1.8 RPG margin (11th in league). SG James Harden (25.9 PPG, 5.8 APG) continues to carry the offense, and finished the season with 27.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 5.2 APG in his final five games. He pumped in 29.3 PPG (44% FG) and 4.0 RPG in three meetings with the Thunder this season. Harden had a great 2012 postseason when he played with Oklahoma City, scoring 16.3 PPG on 41% threes with 5.1 RPG and 3.4 APG. SF Chandler Parsons (15.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.5 APG) appears to be over his calf injury that kept him out of action at the end of last week. He's logged 42.5 MPG in the past two contests, producing a healthy 23.5 PPG on 58% FG (4-of-11 threes) with 5.0 APG and 4.0 RPG. He hasn't been particularly sharp in two games versus Oklahoma City though, scoring just 13.5 PPG on 39% FG with 5.0 RPG and 4.5 APG. PG Jeremy Lin (13.4 PPG, 6.1 APG) will be making his postseason debut on Sunday, as he was unable to play for New York in the 2012 playoffs because of an injury. Lin's confidence should be pretty high after putting together a strong month of April with 17.3 PPG (44% FG, 36% threes), 6.9 APG and a 2.70 Ast/TO ratio. He'll have his hands full with Russell Westbrook, but Lin's offense has been strong in the season series with the Thunder where he has 14.0 PPG (49% FG) and 7.3 APG. C Omer Asik (10.1 PPG, 11.7 RPG) has averaged a double-double versus Oklahoma City with exactly 10.0 PPG and 10.0 RPG, and he's been a rebounding machine all month with 12.4 RPG in nine April games.

Like Houston, Oklahoma City possesses an outstanding offense, scoring 105.7 PPG (3rd in NBA) on a remarkable shooting accuracy of 48.1% FG (3rd in league) and 37.7% threes (also 3rd in NBA). The Thunder also have a strong defense that surrenders 96.5 PPG (10th in league) allowing a paltry 42.5% FG clip (2nd-best in NBA) and 34.6% threes (6th-best in league). And also similar to the Rockets, Oklahoma City commits a ton of turnovers (14.6 TOPG, 5th-most in NBA), but does a nice job of cleaning the glass with a +2.9 RPG margin (5th-best in league). SF Kevin Durant (28.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.6 APG) has been outstanding in his playoff career with 28.1 PPG (47% FG), 7.7 RPG and 3.2 APG over 43 career postseason games. He enters his fourth playoff season red-hot, averaging 26.1 PPG (57% FG, 53% threes), 7.9 RPG and 6.4 APG in seven April games. He also had his way against Houston this season with 26.3 PPG (47% FG), 7.0 RPG and 5.7 APG. PG Russell Westbrook (23.2 PPG, 7.4 APG, 5.2 RPG) has been even better in the season series with 23.3 PPG, 8.3 APG and 7.7 RPG in the three meetings. Even with logging a mere seven minutes in a meaningless regular-season finale against the Bucks, Westbrook still averaged 23.6 PPG, 6.0 APG and 4.9 RPG in April. PF Serge Ibaka (13.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.03 BPG) has been very consistent all month, scoring in double-figures in the first seven games of April before logging just eight minutes on Wednesday. He's been outstanding versus the Rockets this season with 16.0 PPG (65% FG), 8.7 RPG and 4.0 blocks per contest. SG Kevin Martin (14.0 PPG) has been dealing with a minor back injury, but he's probable to play against his former team on Sunday. He didn't shoot very well against Houston this season (41.5% FG), but still scored 17.0 PPG in the three meetings. Martin hasn't played since April 11, but he was certainly on the mark that night, scoring 23 points in just 19 minutes, hitting 8-of-10 shots and 4-of-5 threes.

  
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