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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 1:00 PM

The legal betting markets don’t think Dallas has much of a chance to take out San Antonio. And, they’re also skeptical about the hopes of Memphis and shorthanded Golden State in their battles with Oklahoma City and the LA Clippers respectively. The most competitive Western series in the view of the markets will be the last one to get underway late Sunday when #5 seed Portland visits #4 seed Houston.

Is this destined to be a classic? Potentially launching a Cinderella into the second round of the Western brackets? Or, are the Power Ratings right…that this round’s winner will just be a stepping stone for San Antonio before the “real” playoffs get started for this section of the bracket in the Western finals? Let’s run some numbers!

 

Offensive Efficiency

Portland: 108.3 per 100 possessions (ranked #5 in the NBA)

Houston: 108.6 per 100 possessions (ranked #4 in the NBA)

Many fans and bettors may not realize that these two teams are very similar offensively. Houston plays a bit faster, and launches more treys. But, Portland is also a trey-heavy team…and players at a faster pace than league average. The end results is almost exactly the same once you adjust for possessions. Only three-tenths of a point per 100 possessions separates the two. Don’t be lured into the media trap of this being a matchup of the “great” Houston offense against the “untrustworthy” Portland offense. The teams are virtually dead even on this side of the floor.   

 

Defensive Efficiency

Portland: 104.7 per 100 possessions (ranked #16 in the NBA)

Houston: 103.1 per 100 possessions (ranked #12 in the NBA)

Houston is the better team because they have the better defense. That’s thanks to Dwight Howard manning the paint and defending the rim. There are definitely some poor defenders on Houston as well (we’re looking at you James Harden!). But, on the whole, the Rockets are still slightly above average…and therefore better than the average unit from Portland.

 

Pace Ranking

Portland: #10

Houston: #5

This has the potential to be a very entertaining series to watch because we have fast-paced teams who are both better on offense than they are on defense. If things slow down in crunch time, that may be slightly more in the comfort zone of the Blazers. But, it’s not like Houston doesn’t have good halfcourt options. They can also throw the ball to Harden and let him try to draw fouls. Will Portland go to the “hack-a-Dwight” late in close games? That could greatly increase the number of possessions in a way that inflates scoring even more.

 

Against the Spread

Portland: 44-38

Houston: 40-40-2

Portland caught oddsmakers with their points down early in the season. They stormed out of the gate while many superior teams were pacing themselves. That helped the Blazers earn a profitable won-lost mark against expectations…though that profit settled in at just a few wins over break-even after you account for the vigorish. Houston lost four units for backers after you count the 10% vigorish on losses.

 

Las Vegas Line:

Houston by 5, total of 215

Home court advantage is usually worth about 4 points in the NBA Playoffs. Sometimes it’s only three points in tight geographic matchups…or when the series favorite is so good that they’re immune to “road court disadvantage.” Here, we’re expecting to see a swing of as many as 9-10 points from site to site. Don’t be surprised if Portland is -4 or -5 when they get to play at home…particularly in their home opener. Hey…how about that high total?! What is this…1984? Again, this could be the most entertaining of the first round matchups even if it ultimately isn’t one of the most important.

JIM HURLEY will have a huge Day Two PARLAY available here at the website Sunday morning before first tip. You can always purchase NETWORK’S top plays online with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155.

Our next report will be Sunday morning to go over the Baltimore Orioles/Boston Red Sox prime time game on ESPN. Sunday’s will be reserved for those end-of-week bankroll bonanzas. Basketball coverage resumes on Monday. We’ll talk about all eight opening round series before teams take the floor for their third game. We already covered Memphis/Oklahoma City yesterday. Here’s the schedule for the rest of the week:

 

Monday: Golden State at LA Clippers Game Two

Tuesday: Washington at Chicago Game Two

Wednesday: Dallas at San Antonio Game Two

Thursday: Indiana at Atlanta Game Three

Friday: Toronto at Brooklyn Game Three

Saturday: Miami at Charlotte Game Three

 

The race for the NBA Championship is under way. When championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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