The 2015-16 NBA regular season has concluded and it was a historic season with the Golden State Warriors achieving a record breaking 73-9 record whilst the curtain closed on the illustrious career of Kobe Bryant. The NBA Playoffs are upon us, continue reading for our NBA Round 1 Preview and Betting Tips.
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Indiana Pacers (7) vs Toronto Raptors (2) (Sunday 2.30am AEST)
An intriguing first round battle has Paul George and the Indiana Pacers up against Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors. Last season the Raptors entered the playoffs with a lot of potential but it all went horrible wrong as they were swept in the opening round against the Washington Wizards. You can bet they will be using that horrible end to their season as motivation to come out with a quick start against the Pacers and look to take advantage of having home court advantage in this series. This has been their best season in franchise history as they put together a 56-26 record and clinched the second spot in the East.
These two sides are very even on the offensive end averaging the same amount of points, however the Raptors are the stronger side on the defensive side of the court as they are the third best defensive team in the league allowing just 98ppg. A lot of their playoffs hopes could rely on DeMarre Carrol returning to full health. The majority of the season he was out with knee injuries but if he is able to play a lot of minutes and at a high level he has the ability to shut down the opposition’s best scorer whilst still posing an offensive threat down the floor with a solid three point shot.
The Raptors beat the Pacers in three of their four meetings this season and we are leaning towards the Raptors to advance into the second round as they have a lot more depth, a lot of player’s who can score and play shutdown defence whilst they also have home court advantage at a venue they went 32-9 this season.
Houston Rockets (8) vs Golden State Warriors (1) (Sunday 5.30am AEST)
The Warriors have just completed the best regular season in NBA history by becoming the first team to ever win 73 games. The pressure was mounted on the side for the last two months as every match had a similar importance, as anything other than the record would have been deemed as a disappointment. However, the side can relax a little and switch their mindset to playoff mode as they are chasing back-to-back titles and facing off with their opponent from last year’s Western Conference finals.
Stephen Curry set a new NBA record of 402 threes and he did it shooting over 45% from behind the line. It is incredibly production as he has shown throughout the entire season he can make a shot from almost anywhere on the court. This makes him incredibly hard to defend against because as soon as he crosses half court he is a danger when he has the ball in his hands. To make matters worse for their opponents, he has Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green in the starting line up to pass to if he is double teamed and they can either drive to the basket or drain the three themselves.
The Warriors have the capability of blowing out a team and as for the Rockets, they have shown all season they are an inconsistent side that doesn’t offer much on the defensive end despite having Dwight Howard in the centre position as a shot blocker for the majority of the match. Whilst the Rockets will be relying heavily on James Harden to score a large amount of points and dictate the terms, the depth of the Warriors will allow them to sweep this series, especially considering they won’t be coming close to dropping a match on their home court.
Boston Celtics (5) vs Atlanta Hawks (4) (Sunday 9am AEST)
This will be an entertaining playoff series, as the Hawks will attempt to continue their recent run of form into the playoffs whilst the Celtics have been on a downward spiral. Since December 15th, the Hawks have been able to become the most suffocating defence in the league and have allowed just 97.8 points per 100 possessions. The frontcourt combination of Al Horford and Paul Millsap makes it incredibly hard for their opposition to find the rim without contest, as Millsap is the only player in the league to be in the top 10 in both steals and blocks. On the back of this defence, which leads to easy offence, the Hawks managed to win 15 of their last 22 games.
The Celtics will be relying heavily on Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley to get the advantage against their match ups as it will be their only chance of success. If they can shut down the Hawks three point shooting and clog the lane for Millsap and Horford it will take them in a huge step towards causing an upset. Isaiah Thomas will have a lot of the scoring load placed upon him whilst also needing to create opportunities for his teammates.
The Hawks have the advantage in the head-to-head this season winning 3 of the 4 games. They won both on their home court and split the pair at TD Garden. It will be a must for the Celtics to win the battle of the boards if they are to come out on top in this series as Amir Johnson will need to be battling for every rebound and create second chance points. We are predicting this to be an incredibly close battle with the home court advantage giving the Hawks the edge as this match goes down to game 7.
Dallas Mavericks (6) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (3) (Sunday 11.30am AEST)
The Thunder will enter their series against the Mavericks with a lot of confidence as they won all four matches in the head-to-head contests this season. Three of the four matches were relatively easy wins for the Thunder as they were also able to earn victory despite Russell Westbrook being ejected in the second quarter of one match with 0 points to his name.
The Mavericks suffered a lot of injuries over the last two to three weeks of the regular season but their back up players were able to step up in their absence and secure their place in the playoffs. The Mavericks have slowed down the tempo of their offence due to the injuries and they can’t afford to get into a scoring match with the Thunder otherwise the match will be taken away from them quite easily.
The Thunder had troubles in the fourth quarter of a lot of matches, as they would let big leads slip as they turned to isolation with Westbrook or Durant far too often. If they can avoid doing this, then they will be able to sweep the injury ravaged and age Mavericks.
Detroit Pistons (8) vs Cleveland Cavaliers (1) (Monday 5am AEDT)
Despite a controversial season the Cavaliers have been able to lock up the top spot of the Eastern Conference and history suggests that isn’t a good sign for a team playing Lebron James in the first round of the playoffs. James is 10-0 in the first round whilst the last three times he has been a part of a 4-0 sweep. As the superstar continues to age, it has become apparent that he generally cruises through the regular season and takes his game to another level in the playoffs. This is evident as James said he had entered “playoff mode” with 8 games remaining in the regular season and he was putting up monster numbers. The Cavaliers will need to avoid the injuries that ruined their shot at a championship last year.
Meanwhile the Pistons have had a successful season on the back of great work from Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. Their combination has been terrific all season long whilst the role players have been able to do their job. However, the Pistons don’t have the pieces to challenge the top team at the East and Lebron James will earn his fourth straight sweep in the first round of the playoffs.
Charlotte Hornets (6) vs Miami Heat (3) (Monday 7.30am AEDT)
The Heat has been able to overcome a lot this season to put themselves in a great position in the playoffs under the circumstances. They lost one of their best players Chris Bosh for the second season in a row due to a bleeding in his lung whilst Hassan Whiteside had his issues during the middle of the season. However, the acquisition of Joe Johnson along with the grown of Whiteside’s maturity has seen the Heat become a real contender in the East. Their defence has been great with Whiteside always forcing opponents to alter their shots as he is the leader in blocks this season.
The Hornets will need to be wary of Whiteside as he is an incredibly athletic big man and although he came off the bench for the majority of the season he was placed back into the starting line up for the last three games of the regular season. Cody Zeller will have his hands full keeping him off the glass on both ends of the floor whilst they will need to take advantage of his weaknesses – those being when he chases the blocks and finds himself out of position for defensive rebounds.
Kemba Walker has taken his game to antoher level this season and a lot of it can be credited to Nicolas Batum joining the team and playing a point forward role. It has take a lot of the burden off Walker to create plays for his team mates and the two should be able to combine to make a solid series out of this match up. Hover, Dwayne Wade will step up in the playoffs and lift his side to victory in seven.
Memphis Grizzlies (7) vs San Antonio Spurs (2) (Monday 10am AEDT)
The Memphis Grizzlies have done exceptionally well to even qualify for the playoffs considering the injuries the side has had this season. They lost Marc Gasol for the season whilst Zach Randolph has spent the majority of the year on the sidelines through injury. They have had the most players take the court for them this season than any other side, which is testament to them that they were still able to make an appearance in the playoffs.
Meanwhile the Spurs have been flying under the radar for the majority of the season thanks largely to the success of the Warriors as well as other stories catching the headlines such as Kobe Bryants retirement. The Spurs have lost just one game on their home court all season and we aren’t expecting them to falter against a side that is so undermanned.
Portland Trail Blazers (5) vs Los Angeles Clippers (4) (Monday 12.30pm AEDT)
The Clippers have played the majority of their season without their superstar Blake Griffin who suffered a quad injury and then was involved in the infamous scuffle with the equipment manager, which led to him breaking his hand whilst punching him in the face. However, Griffin has returned to action over the last two weeks and has slowly regained his feet and they will need him if they are going to advance further in the Western Conference.
In Griffin’s absence Chris Paul took his game to another level as his points and assists per game were increased whilst DeAndre Jordan took more of a load on the boards and on offence which could be essential to their success this season.
Meanwhile the Trail Blazers have exceeded all expectations placed on them at the beginning of the season as they were predicted to be a lottery team that struggles throughout the year. They lost four of their starting five players at the end of last year and their success can be placed on Damian Lillard as well as the development of players around him such as CJ McCollum. However, despite their successful season, the Trail Blazers won’t be able to advance into the second round but they will put up a bit of a challenge as the Clippers continue to find their way with Griffin back in the line up.
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Take note: Any of the tips in this article are simply the author’s opinion, so bet at your own risk and always gamble responsibly. Also be sure to check out the Before You Bet Twitter Page for all our thoughts in the lead up to bets! Happy punting!
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