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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, May 4, 2015 at 2:00 PM

As I was watching NBA Playoff action the past few days…it struck me that I need to make it a point of emphasis here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping that the playoffs are DIFFERENT than the regular season. There are some skill sets in the postseason that become much more prominent when high stakes pressure is involved.

This has been most clear with the Washington Wizards so far. Paul Pierce is still a GAMEBREAKER in the postseason! Because he’s old, he has to pace himself through the regular season. Now…with everything on the line…you really see his experience and clutch shooting ability come through. Pierce in particularly, and Washington as a whole, is clearly much better “right now” than they were during the bulk of the regular season. The playoffs are different than the regular season…and that helps emphasize what Washington does best when its key players are healthy.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Atlanta Hawks look to be a much worse playoff team than a regular season team. They never really impressed in their 4-2 series win over Brooklyn. A true #1 seed should have a much easier time of it against the #8 team in the East! And, they sure fell apart in the second half this past Sunday vs. Washington? While the Wizards were working for good looks from their best weapons, Atlanta kept launching up prayers from behind the arc (38 in total, well above their regular season average).

Credit where it’s due…Atlanta was legitimately a great regular season team as they installed San Antonio’s system in a weaker conference. But, it looks now like they were also abusing a very soft schedule of opponents who were either pacing themselves for the long haul, or outright tanking for the draft. I don’t want to say Atlanta was a pretender. Just a great regular season team who isn’t anything special in the playoffs once everyone else is also at peak intensity.

Now, this isn’t to say that Atlanta has no chance to rally and beat Washington. Game One was a tough fatigue spot for the Hawks against the very rested Wizards. My point today is that you have to handicap each game in this series based on PLAYOFF skill sets rather than regular season skill sets. Atlanta gets no bonus points for being dominant a couple of months ago. Washington deserves credit for what it’s shown in crunch time execution (on both sides of the floor) so far vs. Toronto and Atlanta.

Other issues in play this week:

*Handicappers must determine how good Cleveland is without Kevin Love in terms of what matters most in the PLAYOFFS.

*Handicappers must determine how much the LA Clippers will be affected by an injury to Chris Paul in terms of PLAYOFF basketball.

*Handicappers must determine if Golden State is really championship material, or if they’ve just had a relatively easy draw thus far. I do like this Warriors team very much. But, I’m seeing too many lackadaisical moments even when they’re winning and covering. This team can’t assume going forward that they’re immune to the injury bug. So many ankles are getting sprained right now…is Steph Curry going to dodge all of those bullets? Can Golden State thrive in PLAYOFF basketball once they start facing some adversity?

I’ve already discussed at length the fundamentals for handicapping postseason basketball. Today’s lesson is to focus on what you’re seeing with your own eyes RIGHT NOW rather than relying too heavily on what you thought you learned during the regular season. Which teams have a meaningful edge in PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS in a playoff context? How will THE MOTIVATION FACTOR shade the situation (particularly when trailers start to realize they may not have a chance in the series)? Are oddsmakers adjusting prices properly to account for the current realities?

If you’d like some help navigating these very tricky waters, you can purchase my personal NBA Playoff selections (and baseball) right here at this very website. Questions about extended service can be answered personally by one of my representatives in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155. Call during normal business hours Monday through Friday.

I’m already hearing some pundits suggest that the playoffs are basically over. Golden State looks to be in dominant shape in the West because of Paul’s hamstring injury. Nobody from the weaker East can match up (allegedly) now that the powers have lost a step (Atlanta is mortal, while Cleveland will have to play without Kevin Love). That may be true. If it is…there’s still a lot of money to be made placing smart bets! I personally don’t think we’re quite there yet. There are stories yet to be told on the road to the 2015 championship. KELSO STURGEON plans to take full advantage of what the market hasn’t figured out yet.

Thanks for your attendance. Our next get-together will be a week from today with a “read and react” discussion of the first four games in each second round series. The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your hard work and devotion to becoming a winning handicapper!


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Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

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