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Playoff Outlook - Western Conference First Round


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Eastern Conference

2020 Western Conference
Early Playoff Predictions

We’ve put together a hypothetical scenario if the NBA Playoffs started today and who we would be betting on in the first few games of each series.

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These predictions are based on current records and standings as of the Covid-19 shutdown on March 11th. If the NBA were to cancel the rest of the regular season and seed teams for a playoff format this is how it would look in hte West.

Enjoy and stay safe!

#1 L.A. Lakers vs. #8 Memphis Grizzlies

Regular season meetings

  • Feb, 29 - Los Angeles -11 at Memphis - Grizz win 105-88 - Grizz Cover - Under 228.5
  • Feb. 21 - Los Angeles -10.5 vs. Memphis - Lakers win 117-105 - Lakers Cover - Under 234
  • Nov. 23 - Los Angeles -8 at Memphis - Lakers win 109-108 - Grizz Cover - Under 225.5
  • Oct. 29 - Los Angeles -11.5 vs. Memphis - Lakers win 120-91 - Lakers Cover - Under 215
Series Preview: If the Playoffs started today the Lakers would host the young Grizzlies in the opening round and make quick work of Memphis in a four-game series. The Lakers have been the second-best team in the league behind Milwaukee with the second-best player this season in LeBron James behind Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Lakers are a top 5 team in both offensive and defensive efficiency ratings, 2nd in average point differential at +7.4PPG. The Lakers beat Memphis 3 of four meetings this season by an average of +6.3PPG. L.A. won big in both home meetings by 29 (early in the season) and 12 in late February.

The games in Memphis were much more interesting as the Lakers won by 1-point and lost by 17 most recently on Feb 29th. One interesting number that stands out to us is the Lakers 3-point shooting percentage which was below 30% in the season series. Memphis is a bottom 10 team in the league in 3-point percentage defense which doesn’t explain the Lakers poor perimeter shooting in the four meetings this season.

Memphis has a bright future with Ja Morant and a solid young roster but a team that is in the bottom half of the league in both O.E.F.F. and D.E.F.F. is not going to win a game against this Lakers team which was red hot going into the time off with an 11-2 SU record. The Lakers will be double-digit favorites at home and potentially on the road as Memphis was just 18-15 SU at home this season with the 18th average differential at +0.6PPG. We’ll plan to bet Memphis is Game 3 if they are getting 10 or more points.

Clippers vs. Mavericks Prediction: Los Angeles 4-0

#2 L.A. Clippers vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks

Regular season meetings

  • Jan. 21 - Los Angeles +2.5 at Dallas - Clippers win 110-107 - Clippers Cover - Under 231.5
  • Nov. 26 - Los Angeles -1.5 at Dallas - Clippers win 114-99 - Clippers Cover - Under 225.5
Series Preview: This is going to be a fun first round matchup with the young guns in Dallas of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis going up against vets Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. The difference is the Clippers have a long list of talent after the Big Two and the Mavericks just can’t match that depth. In my opinion the Clippers are the best team in the NBA and their ability to defend the perimeter with multiple players is their greatest attribute. Size in the post could pose a problem as they advance. In any case, the Clippers will win this series, but the Mavericks are a dangerous team with a pair of young superstars in Porzingis and Doncic. Dallas is a few pieces away from being a contender in the West, but it won’t happen this year.

These two teams met twice this season with the Clippers winning both games in Dallas. In breaking down the games the Clippers held the Mavs to just 28.4% shooting from beyond the arc which is significantly lower than their 36.9% season average (8th best in NBA). The Clippers are the 2nd best team in the NBA defending the 3-point line, allowing just 34.1% on the season. Los Angeles won without Paul George in the 3-point win and had him in the lineup when they won by 15. Both Luka and Porzingis played in both losses. The Clippers outrebounded the Mavs by an average of 9 per game which is a considerable margin considering the Mavs are 6th in the NBA in total rebounds (Clippers 4th). Dallas was the 3rd best team in the NBA in not turning the ball over at 12.8 TO’s per game but the Clippers forced them into an average of 16.5 per game in the two meetings this season.

On a neutral court we would have the Clippers favored by -4.5-points so at home we expect L.A. to be laying an inflated number in Game #1 of -8.5-points, minus 8-points in Game #2 and then a slight favorite in Dallas in Games #3 and #4. We would back the Mavs in Game #1 as an inflated Dog and in Game #3 at home where they had the 8th best average point differential in the NBA at +6PPG. The Clippers move on in five games.

Clippers vs. Mavericks Prediction: Los Angeles 4-1

#3 Denver Nuggets vs. #6 Houston Rockets

Regular season meetings

  • Jan. 26 - Houston -2.5 at Denver - Nuggets win 117-110 - Nuggets Cover - Over 226
  • Jan. 22 - Houston -10.5 vs. Denver - Rockets win 121-105 - Rockets Cover - Under 227
  • Dec. 31 - Houston -6 vs. Denver - Rockets win 130-104 - Rockets Cover - Under 227
  • Nov. 20 - Houston +1 at Denver - Nuggets win 105-95 - Nuggets Cover - Over 226
Series Preview: These two teams were projected by some experts to come out of the West this season, but we don’t see that happening considering they have to go through Los Angeles to get there. With that said the Rockets clearly have the star power with Harden and Westbrook and either can carry a team through a seven-round series. The Nuggets aren’t star driven but have put together a roster that is solid and deep enough to give anyone in the NBA a run for their money. This shapes up to be a very good series as suggested by the regular season meetings which were split 2-2 with the home team winning all four games.

The Nuggets won at home by 10 or less points in both, while the Rockets won by 16 and 26 in Houston. Each team held the other under their season scoring averages with the Rockets shooting better overall and from beyond the arc than their season average. That could be a deciding factor in this series as the Nuggets are the 8th best team in defending the 3-pointer but didn’t do it well against Houston this season. When it comes to efficiency ratings these two teams are similar with Houston averaging 1.138 points per possession offensively and allowing 1.102PPP defensively. Denver isn’t as good offensively, averaging 1.125PPP but does hold a slight advantage defensively allowing 1.095 points per possession.

We project this as a seven-game series with the Rockets coming out on top as the Nuggets don’t have a game finisher or options like Houston does. Denver as a low favorite in Game #1 would be a solid option but then we’re probably betting Houston in the next two games as a dog in Game #2 and a home favorite less than 7-points in Game #3.

Nuggets vs. Rockets Prediction: Houston 4-3

#4 Utah Jazz vs. #5 Oklahoma City Thunder

Regular season meetings

  • Dec. 9 - Oklahoma City +8.5 at Utah - Jazz win 104-90 - Jazz Cover - Under 206.5
  • Oct. 23 - Oklahoma City +9 at Utah - Jazz win 100-95 - Thunder Cover - Under 221
Series Preview: These are two very even teams on paper and this should be a slugfest first round series with the Thunder advancing, narrowly! The two regular season meetings between these teams doesn’t tell us much as they were both played early in the season with each team winning one game apiece. The Thunder are one of the better stories of the NBA this season as not many experts felt they’d be as good as they are with the trade of Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul and draft picks.

Last year on March 11th the Thunder were 41-26 SU with Triple-double machine Russell Westbrook and this year on essentially the same date they are 40-24 SU. There seems to be some internal issues going on with Jazz and their All-Star players Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Since the All-Star break the Jazz have not been nearly as good defensively allowing 1.156 points per possession compared to the 1.094PPP they allow on the year. Both teams are top 11 in the league in defensive efficiency and top 14 in offensive efficiency with an average point differential of +3.1PPG (Utah) and +2.5PPG (OKC).

Looking at the series the team that moves on will be the team that wins on the road, and once again, the road statistics for both teams are very even when it comes to differentials, efficiency numbers, wins and losses. Because of the rumors we hear regarding Utah’s locker room we like Oklahoma City in a seven-game series. We predict the home teams will be favored by 4-5-points in most games and would bet the home team in the first four games of the series.

Jazz vs. Thunder Prediction: Oklahoma City 4-3

So, there you have it, the first round of the NBA Playoffs if it were to happen today and who to bet in the first few games of each series.

Stay tuned for our hypothetical round two synapses coming in the ensuing weeks.

  
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