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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, April 7, 2018 at 12:19 PM

THE NBA REPORT - THE PLAYOFFS BEGIN NEXT WEEKEND AND WE BREAK DOWN THE POST-SEASON FAVORITES, SLEEPERS AND LONG SHOTS

You tell us: Is there a major sports league that can truly drag through the regular season more than the NBA? C'mon, there's a batch of teams that continue to "rest" starters / star players all the time and so the NBA has become increasingly tough to handicap during its 82-game per-team regular season but the playoffs - ahh, the playoffs - that's a whole different story.

The NBA post-season is a blast - it's basically a two-month sprint to the finish line with lots of great action - and it's always entertaining, always profitable for Jim Hurley's Network clients.

Just make sure you let Jim Hurley's Network of Handicappers and Bloggers continue to bash the books with basketball winners after a brilliant NCAA Tournament. So, cash in big with all our NBA winners plus there's daily/nightly Major-League Baseball winners too -- check it out right here online or 1-800-323-4453 and keep piling up the profits this spring!

And, speaking of the upcoming NBA Playoffs, there's plenty to say regarding what's straight ahead and so - in keeping with our annual Jim Sez feature at this time of the year - here's the breakdown of Favorites, Sleepers and Long-Shots:

THE FAVORITES

GOLDEN STATE (57-22) - Sure, the Warriors entered this final regular-season weekend a full seven games back of the Western Conference-leading Houston Rockets but the current odds list G-State as the 6-to-5 betting favs to win it all even though the Bay Area bunch will be without star G Stephen Curry for the first round (and maybe even longer). You might have caught Warriors' head coach Steve Kerr blasting his team's effort following a 126-106 loss in Indiana this past Thursday night - now we wonder if that got their attention for the long haul that's ahead.

HOUSTON (64-15) - The runaway winner of the NBA's best regular-season mark never has hit a dip all year long and you wonder if having that extra home game come playoff time is gonna be the diff if/when the Rockets square off with the above-mentioned Warriors. Houston - currently listed at 8-to-5 to win it all -- has the league's slam-dunk MVP in G James Harden but it's the overall depth and the fact there's five other players averaging in double digits that makes this Mike D'Antoni-coached team the biggest threat to Golden State for this year's crown.

CLEVELAND (49-31) --  Gotta keep LeBron James and his new-look team listed among the NBA's Favorites … at last glance the Cavs were priced at 15-to-2 to win it all and the defending three-time Eastern Conference champions really may be just rounding into post-season shape here with Cleveland sporting a five-game winning streak prior to getting beat by a deuce in Philadelphia on Friday night.

TORONTO (57-22) - The North-of-the-Border crew will enter the playoffs as the numero uno seed in the Eastern Conference but, let's face it, the Raptors' recent playoff history is a bit sketchy and they need the dynamic duo back court of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to put up 50-or-more points between 'em on a nightly basis. Tell us right now that Toronto will be able to count on more than 15 ppg from Serge Ibaka and we'll tell you whether this is the year Toronto jets into the NBA Finals.

 

THE SLEEPERS

PHILADELPHIA (49-30) - The Sixers have been steamrolling their way right through the latter part of this here-and-now regular season (see 13 wins in a row) and so you do wonder if the current 25-to-1 price on 'em here is a bit of a bargain. The "Trust the Process" organization is keeping fingers crossed that big man Joel Embiid will be A-OK after his most recent injury (orbital surgery) and Philly doesn't quite know what G Marquelle Fultz will give 'em come playoff time but the 76ers are the most interesting "sleeper", for sure.

OKLAHOMA CITY (45-34) - It has not always been a smooth ride for this Thunder bunch that threw together reigning league MVP Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony all together and told them to "make it work". The reality is this trio has staggered badly for much of the '17-'18 campaign and now is listed as a 50-to-1 price to win it all. Can Billy Donovan's crew cobble together a series win or two? Perhaps, but it's more likely this is a one-and-done deal - either one series win and then sent packing or one series played and then exit stage left.

PORTLAND (48-31) - Here's another "sleeper" that has a key injury to deal with as the Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard (ankle) is a bit wobbly these days and there's no way this team can make any sort of "tourney run" with a less-than-100 percent Lillard. Still, the Blazers play sound defense and Lillard sidekick C.J. McCollum is always quite capable of going off. P.S., Portland's priced at 50-to-1 to win it all.

BOSTON (54-25) - Once upon a time the Celtics were considered the class of the Eastern Conference but the season-ending knee injury to G Kyrie Irving likely dashed any/all hopes of winning the NBA title. Irving's status was updated this past Thursday and the news hit the Beantowners like a Rocky Marciano punch to the gut. How about the fact Boston dropped all the way down to a 55-to-1 shot after the Irving news broke!


THE LONG SHOTS

SAN ANTONIO (45-34) - There's still a chance that the Spurs won't make it to the post-season for the first time in 22 years but Gregg Popovich's crew is on the inside-looking-out right at this minute even though San Ant seemingly can't win on the road anymore. Right now the Spurs are priced at 100-to-1.

UTAH (46-33) - At 125-to-1 to win its first-ever NBA crown, the Jazz are way back in the pack but do keep in mind this is the league's second-best scoring defense and rookie G Donovan Mitchell has yet to strut his stuff in a post-season.

WASHINGTON (42-38) - The Wizards are finally "whole" again with PG John Wall back (although he will miss some of these late-year games to rest) but this squad has scuffled all year long and the 125-to-1 price to win to all might actually be a bit kind.

INDIANA (47-33) - The Pacers have been one of the NBA's real feel-good stories but the oddsmakers have 'em at 250-to-1 to win it all and beating some combo of Toronto/Cleveland/Philadelphia is a pure pipe dream.

MILWAUKEE (42-37) - The Bucks can pile up the points with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton good for nearly 50 ppg most nights but can they stop anyone? No wonder the price tag is 300-to-1 to win it all.

MIAMI (43-37) - The Heat's at 400-to-1 and King James and an in-his-prime Dwyane Wade ain't walking through that door anytime soon!

MINNESOTA (45-35) - Don't know about you, but these Timberwolves simply lose too many close call games and thus a 400-to-1 price with chances that Minny won't even make the playoffs despite Friday night's rollicking 113-96 win at the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers.

NEW ORLEANS (45-34) - Hats off to the Pelicans for making a playoff run without DeMarcus Cousins but do you want 'em at 500-to-1? Still, we better see Anthony Davis among the top three in this year's MVP race.

DENVER (44-35) and LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (42-37) - Both are 1,000-to-1 to win it all and both were in must-win modes these last few days of the regular season.

NOTE: Cash in with all the NBA winners as we head towards the playoffs and get all the NBA/MLB updates right here at Jim Sez all month long!

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