The Western Conference playoffs in the NBA will witness a pair of series made particularly intriguing by injuries that have been absorbed by higher-seeded teams. Will upsets follow?
Here’s a look at the 6-3 and 7-2 NBA series prices along with a prediction on who’ll advance.
(6) Golden State Warriors vs. (3) Denver Nuggets
Odds: Nuggets -430
This series could certainly become intriguing. Denver is newly vulnerable in ways it wasn’t a week ago. The Nuggets were steaming toward the playoffs with plenty of momentum, winning games against quality opponents such as the San Antonio Spurs even without a fully healthy Ty Lawson. It is Lawson who, from the point guard spot, drives Denver’s offense, enabling the Nuggets to get into the open court and run teams into the ground on the fast break. The ability of Denver to win when Lawson was less than 100 percent was a testament to the team’s prowess, as was the continuation of winning ways without scoring wing Danilo Gallinari, who is done for the season. Denver will also have to deal with the fact that forward Kenneth Faried is less than fully healthy after suffering an ankle sprain on April 14.
Yet, for all the ways in which the Nuggets could be taken in this series, one also has to appreciate the fact that they are in a better position to cope with their limitations. Indeed, while Denver has been severely tested at playoff time in each of the past few seasons, losing to Oklahoma City in round one in 2011 and then bowing to the Los Angeles Lakers last year, Golden State has not become accustomed to the playoff grind and its heightened level of competition. The Warriors haven’t made the playoffs since 2007, giving Denver a substantial advantage when this series begins. Maybe the dynamics will shift after Game 1, but the odds would have to favor the Nuggets, the team that has been here for several seasons and knows what to expect when the ball is tipped.
Pick: Denver In Six Games
(7) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (2) San Antonio Spurs
Odds: Spurs -850
The Spurs have not been healthy over the past month and a half, and you’ve seen why San Antonio just can’t be trusted to win in the playoffs. This was a brittle team in 2011, when it won the top seed in the Western Conference. San Antonio played eighth-seeded Memphis in the first round and looked slower than the Grizzlies. The Spurs just didn’t have the energy or the health needed to keep pace with a younger, hungrier opponent. One could very well see that scenario emerging once again in this series.
However, while the Spurs are creaky and certainly less than fully operational, one has to realize that the Lakers have suffered the far bigger and more consequential injury in this series. When Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon on April 12 against Golden State, he took the Lakers’ season down with him… not to the extent that the Lakers couldn’t make the playoffs (they obviously did), but to the extent that Los Angeles is now bereft of options on the perimeter. The Lakers cannot hope to compete with San Antonio at the three wing or backcourt positions on the floor. They are not going to have enough balance to win this NBA betting series. The Spurs will steadily exploit the Lakers and run them out of the building.
Pick: San Antonio In Five Games