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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 7:00 AM

As promised, I’m back to talk about handicapping the NBA Playoffs. The next several weeks will be very lucrative for serious handicappers who have been studying the players, teams, and head coaches all season (and for multiple seasons). But, even if you’re just now getting into the NBA after enjoying March Madness, there are ways to position yourself for success.

We start with my classic fundamentals:

 

PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS

The NBA Playoffs are heavily influenced by this element. In a best-of-seven series, the best talent usually wins out. That’s always been true. It may be blinding some former players who are TV analysts to some complex new realities. But, the basic issue is sound.

Complicating the issue is the fact that one-dimensional three-point shooters are now GAMEBREAKERS …particularly on teams like the San Antonio Spurs who use great team-wide ball movement to get everyone open looks. The only tweak you need to make in this category is to remember to look at three-point shooting to see which teams can break a game or a series wide open by making their long range shots. San Antonio was basically unstoppable after the first round last year. A few teams have a chance to reach that level here in 2015.

Your homework:

*List the key offensive stars for each team

*List the potential defensive gamebreakers for each team

*Be aware of which teams can use three-point shooting to break things open.

The narrative will open itself up to you once you’ve done this work. You’ll quickly see which teams are best positioned to shine this week and over the next few months…and which really aren’t well-suited at all to playoff style basketball (more of an issue in the East).

 

THE MOTIVATION FACTOR

Normally, you’d think that all teams are motivated once the playoffs start. How could you NOT be? The whole point of the regular season was to reach the playoffs. Well, this actually becomes a huge issue as you get deeper into a series.

*Some favorites are prone to play a flat game after they get a series lead

*Some underdogs are prone to throw in the towel after they fall behind

Some of my biggest playoff picks ever (meaning, 100-unit, 200-unit, and even 250-unit plays) have involved the latter dynamic. Once a mediocre or otherwise outmatched NBA team decides it has no chance in a series, things can get very ugly quickly. If you don’t have the weapons and YOU’VE GIVEN UP HOPE, oddsmakers can’t make the line high enough to reflect the blowout that’s about to happen. I’m talking 20, even 30-point victories. So, THE MOTIVATION FACTOR is actually one of the most important elements of postseason handicapping even if you assume that everybody starts out at equal motivation. That changes quickly.

And, frankly…this year…I’m not convinced that all 16 teams are particularly motivated about what’s ahead. I don’t want to get too specific because I need to protect this weekend’s picks. See if you can find teams who may have already mentally thrown in the towel on their championship hopes. I personally believe there’s at least one in each conference.

Your homework:

*Look for clues about motivation “at the starting line”

*Watch all the games closely to see if you can tell when a team has tossed the towel

*See if you can spot when series favorites might lose focus right after a win

History shows that your best underdog picks in the NBA Playoffs will involve going against a favorite that may lack motivation in a particular game because they’ve gotten too comfortable…and that your best favorite picks will involve exploiting disheartened dogs who have given up hope. I’m telling you now…double digit covers will be common!

We’ll go in depth in future coursework, regarding the specifics of matchup handicapping, what key statistics to look at, the value of home court if that becomes relevant. For now, you know what you need to do to get up to speed before Saturday’s first tip.

If you’d like some help finding the best NBA Playoff picks every day, you can purchase my BEST BETS right here at this very website with your major credit card. Questions about extended service can be answered personally by one of my representatives in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure you evaluate my longterm packages in both basketball and baseball that offer the most bang for your buck.

I’ll be back with you early next week to talk more specifically about the 2014-15 NBA postseason. Perhaps an important storyline or two will break in everybody’s openers Saturday and Sunday. As always, I plan to read and react on the fly so I can keep the coursework as relevant to real world handicapping as is possible.

Thanks very much for your attendance and hard work. The Dean of Sports Handicapping is very excited about the winning potential at our fingertips in the coming NBA Playoffs. You should be as well. See you again on Monday.

 

Be sure to follow:

Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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