Injuries have played a big part in the shortened NBA regular season and will continue to do so when the playoffs begin on Saturday.
Here’s a quick preview of the first-round series that just became crystalized on Thursday night, beginning with the Bulls-Sixers matchup that will tip the 2012 NBA postseason.
(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (8) Philadelphia 76ers
Series Odds: Bulls -1400; 76ers +1000
Title Odds: Bulls +275; 76ers +13500
Game 1: Saturday, April 28, 1:00 p.m. (ET)
Season Series: Bulls 2-1 SU and ATS; 'over’ 2-1
Chicago isn’t getting a lot of love from the oddsmakers after being the best team in the Eastern Conference. There could be some skepticism with Derrick Rose battling various injuries since mid-March. The star-less 76ers finished the season at 4-1 SU and ATS after sleepwalking for a couple of months, but this is a really tough first-round matchup for them.
(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) New York Knicks
Series Odds: Heat -900; Knicks +650
Title Odds: Heat +175; Knicks +4250
Game 1: Saturday, April 28, 3:30 p.m. (ET)
Season Series: Heat 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS; 'under' 3-0
The Heat were the solid preseason favorite to win the NBA title and is still tops despite being very vulnerable at times. The pressure will mount for them each series. The Knicks match up well in the frontcourt now that Amare Stoudemire (back) has returned. Carmelo Anthony is also very comfortable in the lead scoring role (29.8 PPG during April) and loves going against James.
(3) Indiana Pacers vs. (6) Orlando Magic
Series Odds: Pacers -900; Magic +650
Title Odds: Pacers +3550; Magic +12500
Game 1: Saturday, April 28, 7:00 p.m. (ET)
Season Series: Magic 3-1 SU and ATS; 'over’ 3-1
Indiana is the solid third seed in the East despite lacking a true star player. However, all five starters score in double-digits and reserves George Hill and Tyler Hansbrough are just under that mark. The Magic have to be demoralized after losing center Dwight Howard (back) for the season. They’re 4-8 SU and 5-7 ATS in the 12 April games he missed.
(4) Boston Celtics vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
Series Odds: Celtics -200; Hawks +160
Title Odds: Celtics +2250; Hawks +5850
Game 1: Sunday, April 29, 7:00 p.m. (ET)
Season Series: Celtics 2-1 SU and ATS; 'under’ 2-1
Boston is the higher seed due to winning the Atlantic Division, but Atlanta gets homecourt advantage with the better record. The Hawks are really hurting for big men with Al Horford (pectoral) out the first round and Zaza Pachulia (foot) likely to miss at least the start. Boston’s Ray Allen (foot) will play, but could be hampered.
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (8) Utah Jazz
Series Odds: Spurs -2000; Jazz +1200
Title Odds: Spurs +355; Jazz +20500
Game 1: Sunday, April 29, 1:00 p.m. (ET)
Season Series: Spurs 3-1 SU and 2-1-1 ATS; 'over’ 2-2
San Antonio snatched the top seed in the Western Conference from Oklahoma City with a 24-3 SU (20-4-3 ATS) mark since March 12. However, the Spurs have been knocked out in the first round two of the last three years. Utah is the biggest long shot to win the NBA title, but finished the season strong at 5-0 SU (3-2 ATS) and is a dangerous group.
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
Series Odds: Thunder -485; Mavericks +385
Title Odds: Thunder +285; Mavericks +3650
Game 1: Saturday, April 28, 9:30 p.m. (ET)
Season Series: Thunder 3-1 SU and 1-3 ATS; 'under’ 3-1
The Thunder have to be disappointed about losing homecourt advantage throughout the conference, but still have better title odds than the Spurs. Having James Harden (concussion) probable for the first round is great news. Defending champion Dallas is not likely to recreate its magic this year and would have rather faced the Lakers this round
(3) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (6) Denver Nuggets
Series Odds: Lakers -230; Nuggets +190
Title Odds: Lakers +1550; Nuggets +8250
Game 1: Sunday, April 29, 3:30 p.m. (ET)
Season Series: Lakers 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS; 'under’ 4-0
The Lakers don’t have any major injury news with Kobe Bryant back, but Metta World Peace will miss the first six games of this series after throwing the brutal elbow at Harden. Denver beat out Dallas for the sixth spot with a Thursday win and this is another team hot down the stretch at 6-1 SU and ATS in its last seven.
(4) Memphis Grizzlies (5) Los Angeles Clippers
Series Odds: Grizzlies -210; Clippers +170
Title Odds: Grizzlies +2850; Clippers +3550
Game 1: Sunday, April 29, 9:30 p.m. (ET)
Season Series: Clippers 2-1 SU and ATS; 'under’ 3-0
This matchup was known up a few days ago, but it took a Memphis win on Thursday to sew up the No. 4 seed and homecourt advantage. The Grizzlies have a 6-game winning streak and are 16-4 SU in their last 20, but strangely just 1-8 ATS in their last nine. The Clippers could get burned by the homecourt after going 16-17 SU away, compared to 24-9 SU at home.