The Eastern Conference playoffs will be fiercely contested in the bottom half of the bracket. Ferocious defense should be expected when Indiana faces Atlanta and Boston visits the Knicks.
Here’s a look at the 3-6 and 2-7 NBA series prices along with a prediction on who’ll advance.
(6) Atlanta Hawks vs. (3) Indiana Pacers
Odds: Pacers -360
You could certainly play devil’s advocate in this series with respect to the favored Pacers. This series might not be as easy as it seems for the third seed. The Pacers haven’t been getting blown out with regularity in recent weeks, but they have fallen behind by at least 15 points in the middle sections of games, and they’ve been doing so far more often than they’d like to admit. Indiana fell behind Cleveland by 20 before rallying to beat the Cavaliers earlier this month. Indiana fell behind Brooklyn by almost 20 before creating a one-possession game and ultimately losing by a single-digit point spread. The Pacers are so up-and-down at this point that it’s hard to know what to expect from them at the offensive end of the floor. Rhythm, confidence, consistency – these and other desirable qualities are not in evidence for Indiana as the playoffs arrives. This is a team waiting to get picked off.
However, if you’re tempted to pick against the Pacers, consider their opponent first. One can’t stress enough that Atlanta’s problems in the postseason are – and have been – chronic. It’s not as though the Hawks have shown that they can fix a given set of issues in a season, only to have other problems unexpectedly sabotage their efforts. No, the Hawks are always bitten by their inadequate halfcourt offense. This is the ghost that just won’t leave their sight, because they refuse to do the kinds of things that will enable them to improve. The matchup doesn’t work for Atlanta, but the biggest reason why the Hawks won’t win this series is that they are their own worst enemy. You don’t need to trust Indiana, but you should definitely not trust Atlanta to win.
Pick: Indiana In Six Games
(7) Boston Celtics vs. (2) New York Knicks
Odds: Knicks -340
The two NBA betting playoff series matching a seventh seed against a second seed are eerily similar in this one respect: The seventh seeds in each conference will be playing without their best individual players. For the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference, that player is Kobe Bryant. For the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference, that man is Rajon Rondo. Yes, Boston has learned how to play without Rondo for a large chunk of the regular season, whereas the Lakers have not been given that kind of advance time. Boston does enjoy an advantage relative to the Lakers in that respect. However, whereas the San Antonio Spurs know that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili simply won’t be able to play near their peak in the first round of the playoffs, the New York Knicks – Boston’s opponent – will take the court with their best player, Carmelo Anthony, relatively intact. Anthony and teammate Raymond Felton should give the Knicks ample offensive maneuverability, something Boston – without Rondo – will find very hard to overcome. New York is not a shoo-in for this series but it’s really difficult to think that the Celtics can actually beat the Knicks four times. The likelier answer is two.
Pick: New York In Six Games