The Eastern Conference playoffs in the NBA will include one series that figures to be lopsided and another series that appears likely to go at least six games if not the full seven.
Here’s a look at the 1-8 and 4-5 NBA series prices along with a prediction on who’ll advance.
(8) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (1) Miami Heat
Odds: Heat -20000
The long and short of this series is that Milwaukee didn’t even manage to win 40 games this season. That’s a baseline expectation for any playoff team, not necessarily the .500 mark, but the Bucks couldn’t even reach that modest mark. Milwaukee has been playing decidedly uninspired basketball for quite some time, drifting along under an interim coach – Jim Boylan – who does not seem to be ready to graduate to the permanent head coaching position for the club next season. This is not the kind of situation – unsettled, uneven, plodding along in mediocrity – that will enable a team to top the 67-15 Heat, who won 37 of their final 39 games and established themselves as the favorite for the 2013 NBA title. Miami has given its star players ample rest in recent weeks. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh have all had a chance to legitimately recharge their batteries and go after the brass ring once again. This series frankly has the feel of a scrimmage more than a legitimate competition between two postseason foes. The Eastern Conference lacked quality depth this season in the NBA, and you’re going to find out why in this series.
Pick: Miami In Four Games
(5) Chicago Bulls vs. (4) Brooklyn Nets
Odds: Nets -138
You could kick this NBA betting series around for quite some time and find it hard to arrive at a clear-cut conclusion. The Nets could win because the Bulls’ best interior defenders are simply not healthy. Chicago’s prowess on defense carried the team through many dark nights, and so big man Joakim Noah has to be physically right for the Bulls to do something special this spring. Maybe this will be the case, but recent weeks have not been all that encouraging in terms of pointing to a productive and high-impact postseason for the trash-talking quote machine with the swagger and attitude that make Chicago a supremely formidable defensive force. If Noah can’t go, and if teammate Taj Gibson – who fills the same role Noah does, only to a lesser extent – is unable to make much of a difference in this series, Brooklyn should thrive. Noah and Gibson need to be factors as rebounders, defenders, and shot-blocking threats in order for Chicago to make a deep run in the playoffs.
The question, though, is if Chicago can win this series – not a series against the Miami Heat, but merely this one – if Noah and Gibson are subpar? The answer just might be yes.
One of the players on the Bulls’ roster who comes up short in particularly big games against the likes of the Miami Heat and New York Knicks is Carlos Boozer, a competent and solid low-post player who turns soft against more formidable opponents. However, Brooklyn is not as rugged or as resilient as the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. Boozer tends to settle for jumpers against elite defensive teams, but he overpowered Brooklyn a few weeks ago in a game the Bulls managed to win in Brooklyn. Boozer has a good chance of playing well in this series, and if he does indeed deliver the goods, Chicago will be in good shape. Brooklyn lacks the toughness to beat a wounded bunch of Bulls.
Pick: Chicago In Seven Games