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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, May 14, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Bookmakers are mostly nice guys-good family men-but business is business and, as usual, they will give you all the barbed wire you can eat. If you would like a piece of the Miami Heat to win the NBA championship they will require you to lay $6 to win $1. I will have to pass because, as noted in the space over the past month, my money is down on the San Antonio Spurs at 7-1 to go the distance.

The Spurs, who open their Western Conference best-of-seven semifinals series against the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday night, are now 5-2 and with the elimination of the Chicago Bulls now have home court advantage throughout the playoffs. San Antonio is even-money to win the West, where the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder also remain alive with a shot to win the grand prize.

While bookmakers are hanging up tough numbers, they also on occasion contradict themselves. For instance, while Miami is 1-6 to win it all, the Heat is just the 11-10 favorites to win the NBA Eastern Conference championship. The Spurs are 5-2 to win the west.

Current Odds To Win NBA Championship

Team Opening Odds Current Odds
Miami Heat 2-1 11-10
San Antonio Spurs 15-1 5-2
Oklahoma City Thunder 7-1 7-2
Boston Celtics 8-1 12-1
Los Angeles Lakers 7-1 15-1
Indiana Pacers 100-1 35-1
Los Angeles Clippers 75-1 60-1
Philadelphia 76ers 60-1 75-1

Handicapping the NBA playoffs has as usual been a challenge but the winners are still there for those who put in the time and do the tedious work that gets it done, and that brings me to the energy element of analysis.

Hidden Factor Will Impact Chances To Win

Every single NBA team played its guts out during the compressed and shortened regular season and it is safe to say few teams have made it this far into the playoffs without paying a price for it. No team is operating on a full tank of gas.

When the Los Angeles Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs meet Tuesday night, Los Angeles will be coming off an exhausting seven-game series with the Memphis Grizzlies-a series that ended Sunday-while the Spurs swept the Utah Jazz 4-0 in the opening round, winning by scores of 106-91, 114-83, 102-90 and 87-81, and hardly working up a sweat in the process.

This means San Antonio has been resting for eight days and will have close to a full tank of gas when they take the court against the Clippers who are coming off two days' rest.

There is a reason the Spurs are an 11-point favorite. Whether they cover is the only question to be answered.

The Los Angeles Lakers are in the same boat on Wednesday night when they open at Oklahoma City. The Lakers are coming off a brutally tough seven-game series with the Denver Nuggets that ended Saturday. This means L.A. will be playing off three days' rest while the Thunder, who swept Dallas 4-0 in the opening round, have been resting for the past 11 days.

Handicapping Hint Of The Day

Baseball will remain forever a statistical driven sport and it is a fact most of the winners will come from accumulated data. A team's past performance tells the story of its chances to winning today, but that data are not always obvious. Bettors need to dig beyond the obvious.

There is no great example of that than tonight's Atlanta Braves game against the Cincinnati Reds. If one looks at the data available to everyone, it would be easy to conclude this game is dead-even, even though the Braves are a -137 favorite.

On the mound for Cincinnati will be right-hander Homer Bailey who is 1-3 with an earned run average (ERA) of 4.93. He will be facing Atlanta right-hander Randall Delgado (2-3, 4.54). Since pitching is 90% of the game, a strong case can be made this one is as even as a game can be.

But when one digs a little deeper, the odds shift dramatically and point to the Braves as the winner. While Delgado has an ERA of 4.54, in his last two games that figure is 1.98 and teams have hit just .191 against him.

Dig deep. That is where one will find the edges.

Rangers Simply Best Team

The Texas Rangers need no introduction to baseball fans and bettors. They have won the American League pennant the past two seasons, only to lose last season in the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals four games to three, and the season before to the San Francisco Giants, 4-1.

Those are the only two times the Rangers have been to the World Series since the old Washington Senators franchise was moved to Texas in 1971 but there is little doubt that this season they are by far the best team in Major League Baseball.

They stand 23-12 and standout in the only two areas that count, leading baseball in hitting with a team batting average of .296 and leading the American League in pitching with a staff that has a collective ERA of 3.23.

While much has been made of the fact outfielder Josh Hamilton is tearing up baseball with his hitting (he is hitting .403 and has 18 home runs), this is no one-punch team. Five other teammates also are hitting .310 or better.

Texas is now the 5-2 favorite to win its third straight American League pennant and is the 5-1 favorite to win the World Series. The numbers tell it all and it is going to take a miracle on the part of another team to derail the Rangers and I just don't see that team anywhere out there at this writing.

The bottom line for bettors: one knows he has an edge going into almost every single game. Just pay attention and pick your spots.

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