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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 8:14 PM

The focus was on the Eastern Conference on Day One of the NBA Playoffs. Sunday’s second day of action will put the spotlight squarely on the Western Conference, where top seed San Antonio, popular darkhorse Memphis, and powerful TV draw the Los Angeles Lakers are all in action. Let’s crunch the numbers from Sunday’s action and see how the day might play out…

If you’re new to the site, we use efficiency data (points scored and allowed per possessions) to outline team profiles in these initial series previews. Going forward, we’ll use the boxscore of the prior game to help preview the next game in each of the eight first round showdowns.

 

UTAH (8) VS. SAN ANTONIO (1)

Game One: Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET

Series Price: San Antonio -2200, Utah +1400

Game One Line: San Antonio by 10.5, total of 207

The Spurs are the single biggest favorite in the first round, projected to win this series more than 95% of the time it would be played in theory. They’re also the only double digit favorite in this first set of home games…though it’s possible one of the other powers may rise up to that level later this week if they prove to be dominant. Let’s also note that this is the only playoff total up over 200. We’re not expecting championship caliber defense in this series, which may not be very good news for the Spurs down the road when they find themselves bringing  a less than stellar defense to the floor.

 

Efficiency Rankings

Utah (7 on offense, 20 on defense, 3 in rebound rate)

San Antonio (1 on offense, 11 on defense, 6 in rebound rate)

You can see what we man about defenses here. Utah only ranks 20th, which is the worst of all 16 playoff teams. San Antonio ranks 11th, which isn’t what you’d like to see from a team talking championship. Both are much better when it comes to rebounding and offense, with the Spurs ranking best in the whole NBA in making the most out of their possessions.

Based on those numbers, is the high Spurs price justified? Utah does have a big frontline, which is how Memphis pulled off a first round shocker last year in this spot on the seeding ladder. The Jazz at least have a good chance to play better than market expectations given those stat rankings and their inside size. The problem is, San Antonio’s got a great bench…one that can build on comfortable leads in the fourth quarter. The “back door insurance” isn’t as available here as it normally is when you see a double digit spread.

 

DENVER (6) VS. LA LAKERS (3)

Game One: Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET

Series Price: Lakers -190, Denver +170

Game One Line: Lakers by 4.5, total of 201.5

The Lakers opened at numbers larger than those. It took awhile, but the market eventually started drifting toward Denver. It’s very easy to see “the best” of Denver pulling off an upset in this series. A guy like Metta World Peace is really missed in playoff style basketball because he does so much of the dirty work. Remember how much he was hustling last year vs. Dallas when the team as a whole was falling apart? Now it’s just the guys who were falling apart who are trying to win!

That said, Andrew Bynum looks to be a bigger force this year than he was last. And, Denver still hasn’t figured out who they should go to late in close games. That killed them last year vs. Oklahoma City in the first round. It could be the difference-maker in this series. JIM HURLEY is looking for a competitive series here at the start. This could be a matchup where it’s best to take the dog each game on the assumption that we’re mostly going to see nailbiters.

 

Efficiency Rankings

Denver (3 on offense, 19 on defense, 4 in rebound rate)

Lakers (10 on offense, 13 on defense, 2 in rebound rate)

Very even stats all things considered. Did you realize these teams rated so high in rebounding? Denver’s three rankings add up to 26, while the Lakers add up to 25. One team is better on offense, the other on defense (though the Lakers will be missing a very key defender). We’re not going to call for a series upset here in the NOTEBOOK. The stats you see above help explain why many in the media are doing that.

 

BOSTON (4) VS. ATLANTA (5) (but Atlanta has home court)

Game One: Sunday at 7:05 p.m. ET

Series Price: Boston -185, Atlanta +165

Game One Line: Atlanta by 1.5, total of 178.5

A weird situation all around as Boston gets the #4 seed as champions of the Atlantic Division, but they are treated as #5 in the brackets because the other side gets home court advantage. It wouldn’t be confusing if they just guaranteed division champs no worse than #5 rather than no worse than #4. The seed line is meaningless if the inferior seed gets home court!

What’s funny here is that Boston is a popular pick to win this series even without home court advantage. They opened as a much smaller series favorite and blew up through the course of Day One betting. The Celtics were one of the best teams in basketball after the All-Star Break. If they do dominate Atlanta in this series, we’re looking at a “big three” in the East instead of just a big two with Miami and New York.

 

Efficiency Rankings

Boston (24 on offense, 2 on defense, 28 in rebound rate)

Atlanta (14 on offense, 6 on defense, 20 in rebound rate)

Confusing stuff here because Boston is playing MUCH better of late than they were in the first half of the season. The offense is moving the ball much better and creating open looks on jumpers. Rebounding is still an issue, but the team isn’t as pathetic as that ranking makes it look. Part of the problem is that Boston races back on defense when a shot goes up rather than crashing the boards. You can’t grab offensive rebounds if there aren’t any bodies there!

In short, Boston isn’t as bad as those rankings…but those rankings are a reminder that you have to keep your heads on straight about this team’s title chances.

 

LA CLIPPERS (5) VS. MEMPHIS (4)

Game One: Sunday at 9:35 p.m. ET

Series Price: Memphis -200, Clippers +175

Game One Line: Memphis by 5.5, total of 184

This has been a very interesting series even before getting started. Memphis got a lot of love right out of the gate from Wise Guy bettors and the media. But, support became so one-sided that there was a “wait a second, is Memphis THAT much better?” backlash that has people remembering that Chris Paul is a god and Blake Griffin is a handful. The Memphis team we saw last year SHOULD be a big favorite over this Clippers team. Will that Grizzlies group show up again?

 

Efficiency Rankings

Clippers (4 on offense, 18 on defense, 6 in rebound rate)

Memphis (20 on offense, 7 on defense, 11 in rebound rate)

Notice how the Clippers win the composite fairly handily thanks to what Paul brings to their offense. Most handicappers are emphasizing the defensive edges for Memphis (rightly so), and the fact that Memphis played better ball down the stretch once they got healthy. It’s worth noting that Memphis and Boston were the darlings of the Wise Guys when the lines went up….that Memphis and Boston both looked like playoff threats down the stretch…and that Memphis and Boston both are much better than their full season stats would suggest.

We agree that Memphis was underpriced initially. Has the market moved too far?

JIM HURLEY is very excited about this Sunday card. He says it’s full of stunners, surprises, and possibly even the next NBA champion. You can purchase the Sunday slate a few hours before first tip right here at the website with your credit card. It’s easy to go day-by-day through the playoffs online. You get the most bang for your buck by signing up for the full playoff package. You can do that here or by calling the office at 1-800-323-4453.

That wraps up Sunday’s stat previews. Back with you Monday to preview this Game Two Tripleheader:

New York at Miami on TNT

Orlando at Indiana on NBA Network

Dallas at Oklahoma City on TNT

We won’t have a chance to talk much baseball in the NOTEBOOK during this stretch of intense basketball coverage. But, JIM HURLEY will still be picking Major League winners day in and day out. Be sure you check the ad boxes on the home page of this website for big news in both the baskets and the bases.

 

LET’S GO GET THE MONEY!

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