04/30/2012 06:30 PM
Playoff Cheat Sheet
April 27, 2012
Editor’s Note: Our friends at ASA finished the regular season with a solid winning percentage (55%). Don’t miss out on their daily winners throughout the postseason. Click to win!
San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz
The Spurs won three of the four meetings this year. Utah won the most recent meeting on Apr. 9, though Duncan, Parker, and Ginoblili all sat out that game for San Antonio. That was the only meeting that Utah was able to hold the high-octane Spurs below 100 points (San Antonio averaged 108 points in the three victories). The Spurs have the best record in the NBA and have the top-rated offensive team based on offensive efficiency. They are HOT too. They've won 10 straight and are 21-2 since March 21st. During the recent 10-game win streak, San Antonio has averaged 114.7 points per game and hasn't scored fewer than 105 points. They are extremely deep with Manu Ginobli coming off the bench and nobody averaging over 30 minutes played per game except for Tony Parker. Unlike previous years, the Spurs like to run on offense as evidenced by ranking 7th in pace of play. This isn't a good matchup for the Jazz, who snuck in as the No. 8 seed in the West. They haven't had the luxury of resting players like San Antonio has. They are a relatively young team led by forwards Al Jefferson (19.4 PPG) and Paul Milsap (16.6 PPG). Offensively the Jazz can put up points, as they ranked 4th in points per game this season and 6th in offensive efficiency. But defensively they rank just 20th in points allowed and 19th in defensive efficiency. They were the third best rebounding team in the league (SA was 9th), so if they can control the boards and manage to knock down some three pointers (where they ranked 27th this season), they could compete.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks
Oklahoma City took three of four from Dallas this season (2-2 ATS), including the most recent two games. And outside of a 206-point total on Dec. 29, this has been a relatively low-scoring series with no other games topping 187 points (3-1 UNDER). OKC is led by two of the best young players in the game, Kevin Durant (28.0 PPG) and Russell Westbrook (23.5 PPG) with a strong contribution from James Harden (16.8 PPG) off the bench. Harden has been cleared to play after being diagnosed with a concussion last Sunday. The Thunder are ranked 2nd in offensive efficiency and they like to push the pace with the 3rd most possessions per game. They rank 17th in points allowed and 10th in defensive efficiency and are led by the top shot-blocker in the league Serge Ibaka (3.7-bpg). They were in line for the #1 seed but sputtered to a 7-7 finish (5-9 ATS) which is disheartening for Thunder fans. The defending NBA champion Mavericks barely make it into the playoffs this year as a #7 seed. They are a year older and not as deep as there were last year. The free agent signing of Lamar Odom didn't work out as he was ruled unavailable for the remainder of the season. They struggled offensively and were average defensively. They ranked 19th in points per game and 22nd in offensive efficiency. Defensively they were 12th in points allowed and 8th in defensive efficiency. On paper, they don't match up well against the younger and more vibrant OKC Thunder team, but anything can happen with veteran Dirk Nowitzki leading the charge.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets
The Lakers took three of four against Denver this season (2-2 ATS), including the most recent meeting on Apr. 13 (103-97). Los Angeles held the high-scoring Denver offense to just 93.5 points per game in the four games (10.6 points below Denver's season average). That resulted in all four meetings remaining UNDER the total. However, now Los Angeles will be without its top defender for six games as Metta World Peace serves his suspension for elbowing James Harden last weekend. That's terrible news for the Lakers as Denver likes to use a smaller lineup and World Peace could serve as the power forward in a smaller lineup defensively. Now the high-octane Nuggets could have a big advantage and tire out a thin Lakers lineup. Denver is the league’s highest scoring team and ranks 3rd in offensive efficiency. They have five players averaging double-figures and they are very difficult to key on player. However, they counter with a terrible defense. The Nuggets are 29th in points allowed and 21st in defensive efficiency (worst defensive team in the playoffs). The Lakers are playing well offensively with the emergence of Andrew Bynum. They are 15th in points per game and 10th in offensive efficiency. They were 15th in points allowed and 13th in defensive efficiency, but as stated before, they'll miss World Peace on the defensive end. The Lakers have the slight edge because they have Kobe Bryant and they've "been there before." But Denver, winners of four straight and 11 of the last 15, is the hotter team and we wouldn't be surprised to see an upset here.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Memphis is hot entering the playoffs and is the trendy longshot because of its upset of the Spurs as the eighth seed a season ago. The Clippers took two of three in the season series, but Memphis won the latest matchup on April 9th, the first meeting with forward Zach Randolph back from injury. The Grizzlies really took off once Randolph got settled back in the lineup from injury. They've now won six straight games and 16 of the last 20 overall. This is a stronger defensive team than a year ago. Memphis ranks 5th in points allowed and 7th in defensive efficiency. They have arguably the best on-ball defender in the league in Tony Allen and two other dynamic defensive athletes in forward Rudy Gay and center Marc Gasol. For the season, Memphis ranked 20th in points per game and 19th in offensive efficiency, but they are much better with Randolph in the lineup. The Clippers recovered from a mid-season slump to secure the #5 seed in the West. They've been extremely inconsistent all season long and a strong 13-2 run was marred by a 1-3 finish to the season. LAC ranked 14th in points per game but a strong 4th in offensive efficiency, thanks mostly to PG Chris Paul, who brought balance and leadership to this young lineup. They have one of the top young stars in Blake Griffin (20.7 PPG and 10.9 RPG) but still struggle a bit defensively. They rank 13th in points allowed and 18th in defensive efficiency.
Chicago Bulls vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Chicago is 2-1 both SU and ATS in the season series and was favored in all three games. The most recent meeting on Mar. 17 resulted in a Bulls (-4) 89-80 win. The Bulls won without Rose in that game and a big reason was the +14 rebound margin for Chicago. Rebounding will be a key factor in this series as the Bulls hold a huge advantage over the 76ers in this category. Chicago is 1st in offensive and defensive rebounding while the Sixers are 22nd in ‘O’ rebs and 16th in ‘D’ rebounding. Both are very good defensively overall as the Bulls rank 1st in defensive efficiency with the 76ers close behind in 3rd. Offensively the Bulls are much better ranking 5th in offensive efficiency, 76ers are 18th. In the three meetings this season the ‘over’ is 2-1 with total points scored of 180, 187 and 169. Don’t expect Philly to score from beyond the arc as they were just 8 of 35 from the 3-point line in the three meetings this season. Chicago has the 4th best home differential rating in the NBA at +8.1 ppg but the 76ers were the 6th best road differential team in the league at +1.4 ppg. It appears the 76ers played much better down the stretch of the regular season on the road by going 6-3 SU their last nine away but in reality only one of those wins came against a team with a winning record. Chicago won 8 of their last eleven at home and five of those victories came by double digits. In the end Chicago wins this series and does it in 5 games.
Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks
Miami won all three meetings this season by an average of 10.7 points per game (2-1 ATS). New York failed to score more than 89 points in each of the meetings. All three meetings finished UNDER the total at an average of 185.3 points per game. In fact, the last five meetings dating back to last season have all finished UNDER the total. Miami won the latest meeting on April 15th by eight points. The Big Three scored 73 of the 93 Heat points. Carmelo kept the Knicks close with 42 points, but JR Smith was the only other Knick to score double digits with 16 points. Despite the Knicks seemingly having a size advantage inside (with Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire), Miami was able to out-rebound them in all three meetings this season. Miami was strong on the boards all season, ranking 6th in the NBA in rebound differential. They have a strong edge there as New York ranks 16th. The Heat also have a slight advantage on offense as they were 7th in points per game & offensive efficiency this season. The Knicks ranked 11th and 17th in points per game and offensive efficiency, respectively. These two ranked 4th (Miami) and 5th (New York) in defensive efficiency, though the Knicks allowed 2.2 more points per game. One conceivably big advantage working in the Knicks' favor is that Miami was awful at defending the three, ranking 26th this season. New York has the top three point shooter in the NBA in Steve Novak (47% this season!) and a number of streaky shooters that have shown the ability to catch fire from beyond the arc (JR Smith, Baron Davis, Anthony). Miami only had five home losses this season and boasted the 2nd best home differential rating this season at +10.9 points per game. But New York enters as the hotter team, on a 9-3 SU & ATS run to end the season while the Heat sputtered to an 11-9 SU and 9-11 ATS finish in the final 20 games.
Indiana Pacers vs. Orlando Magic
Orlando was 3-1 in the season series, including a win in the most recent meeting back on Mar. 11. The road team won three of the four meetings and Indiana was 0-2 at home. However, all of this seems irrelevant now that Orlando will be without center Dwight Howard. Orlando was 4-9 SU and 5-8 ATS without Howard this season. The Magic ranked 7th in points per game allowed, however they are much worse without Howard. In 13 games without their star center, the Magic surrendered 98.4 points per game. That's 6.3 more points per game than the 53 games with Howard. Overall, Orlando is rated 13th in defensive efficiency. But that numbers also drops considerably with Howard not playing. Orlando isn't going to outscore many teams either sans Howard. Orlando is 15th in offensive efficiency and 21st in points per game. Indiana features a lineup with four players averaging double figures, led by Danny Granger (18.7 PPG). The Pacers ranked 13th in the league at 97.7 PPG and 7th in offensive efficiency. Defensively they were 9th in points allowed and defensive efficiency. They are hot entering this series as well, winning 12 of the final 15 games with a 9-6 mark ATS. Most people expect the Pacers to win this series easily now that Orlando is without its best player.
Boston Celtics vs. Atlanta Hawks
Boston won two of the three meetings this season, all coming on Mar. 19 and after. It was an extremely close series as the margin of victory never exceeded five points. All three were also very low-scoring affairs, combining to average just 172.7 points. Even with one of the games finishing in overtime (2-1 UNDER). Technically Atlanta will be the #5 seed but will have home-court advantage in this series. Atlanta has done a great job without their top rebounder and inside presence Al Horford, as he has missed most of the season with an injury (Horford is not expected to play in this series). Atlanta has the edge offensively here, as the Hawks ranked 16th in offensive efficiency compared to 24th for the Celtics. Boston, however, has the defensive edge. The Celtics allowed just 89.3 points per game this season and ranked first in defensive efficiency. The Hawks weren't far behind, surrendering 93.2 points per game and ranking 6th in defensive efficiency. Boston is looking to make one final run with their Big Three +1 (Garnett, Allen, Pierce and Rondo) and they are the hotter team right now. The Celts have won 14 of the last 19 games and are 13-4-2 ATS over that stretch. Look for this to be a low-scoring, possession by possession grind out series.