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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, April 12, 2019 at 12:00 AM

THE NBA PLAYOFFS - THE TWO-MONTH GRIND TOWARDS A CHAMPIONSHIP STARTS HERE WITH FOUR SERIES OPENING ON SATURDAY

Go ahead and raise your hand if you think the Golden State Warriors are NOT going to win the NBA championship.

Hmmm, the back-to-back defending champs - and winners of three of the last four NBA crowns - remain the odds-on betting favorites to win it all in June even though the Warriors have resembled a dysfunctional family for much of this 2018-19 campaign.

Now it's up to everyone else standing in G-State's way to take their best shot at Steve Kerr's club ... go ahead, see if you can knock 'em off!

The NBA Playoffs start here with four series getting underway Saturday and then four more series beginning Sunday. Here's the series that start Saturday - our quick-hitter previews with regular-season matchups are listed below.

Jim Hurley's Network of Handicappers and Bloggers can't wait to rev up this year's NBA Playoffs - as we said, they tip off Saturday / Sunday with all eight post-season series on tap and make sure you're cashin' all playoffs long plus get all the daily Major-League Baseball action too at 1-800-323-4453.

On Saturday, it's ...

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#6 BROOKLYN (42-40) at #3 PHILADELPHIA (51-31) - 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The hub-bub revolving around the start of this best-of-seven series - at least when it comes to Games 1 and 2 - is the availability of Philly C Joel Embiid (27.5 ppg / 13.6 rpg) who has missed five of his team's last seven games with lingering knee woes. Embiid's mobility - or lack thereof - is key here 'cause the Nets are a drive-and-slash team that could get discouraged if the big guy's swatting away some shots. Hey, don't sleep on Brooklyn's perimeter game as Coach of the Year candidate Kenny Atkinson's club sports four players with 100-+ triples including All-Star D'Angelo Russell (234 treys). If Brooklyn shows no stage fright here then this could be a go-the-distance series ... with or without Embiid missing a couple of games.
Series Price: Philadelphia - 690 / Brooklyn + 495

Here's the game-by-game history this season between the Nets and the 76ers. Note home teams in CAPS below:

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
11-4BROOKLYN+ 4Philadelphia122-97
11-25Philadelphia- 4.5BROOKLYN127-125
12-12Brooklyn+ 6PHILADELPHIA127-124
3-28PHILADELPHIA-7Brooklyn123-110

 

#7 ORLANDO (42-40) at #2 TORONTO (58-24) - 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
Here's what the favored Raptors have going for 'em in this series: The North-of-the-Border crew is ranked in the NBA's top 10 in both offense and defense, they sport the numero uno player on the floor in F Kawhi Leonard (26.6 ppg /7.3 rpg) and they realize that this Magic bunch is no pushover ... note Orlando split the season's series (see chart below) and garnered pointspread covers in three of the four meetings. Maybe Orlando - which ended the regular season on a sizzling 10-3 ATS (against the spread) run - can squeeze it down on "D" where the Magic ranks fifth in the league and get some 20-ppg showings from Aaron Gordon and/or Evan Fournier to supplement C Nikola Vucevic who must steer clear of foul woes to make this a loooong series.
Series Price: Toronto - 1140 / Orlando + 770

Here's the game-by-game history this season between the Magic and the Raptors. Note home teams in CAPS below:

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
11-20Toronto- 7ORLANDO93-91
12-28ORLANDO+ 4.5Toronto116-87
2-24Orlando+ 7TORONTO113-98
4-1TORONTO- 6.5Orlando121-109

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#8 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (48-34) at #1 GOLDEN STATE (57-25) - 8 p.m. ET, ABC
The oddsmakers have the high-octane Golden State Warriors as a 13-point betting favorite for Game 1 - and note that's higher than any of the four regular-season showdowns between these left coast teams (see chart below). The problem is the "Dubs" probably can name the score with the league's second-best offense (117.7 ppg) providing they care as the well-documented internal bickering this team experienced in 2018-19 may have chiseled away at team chemistry. Still, G Stephen Curry (27.3 ppg), Kevin Durant (26 ppg) and Klay Thompson (21.5 ppg) all could exceed their season scoring averages here against a Clippers club that ranks 25th in the NBA in defense ... maybe if gunner Lou Williams goes off for "40" then the Clips could nab a game or two.
Series Price: Golden State - 7420 / LA Clippers + 3920

Here's the game-by-game history this season between the Clippers and the Warriors. Note home teams in CAPS below:

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSERSCORE
11-12LA CLIPPERS+ 3.5Golden St.121-116 (ot)
12-23GOLDEN ST.- 10.5La Clippers129-127
1-18Golden St.- 7.5LA CLIPPERS112-94
4-7GOLDEN ST.- 11.5La Clippers131-104

 

#7 SAN ANTONIO (48-34) at #2 DENVER (54-28) - 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Go back the past 20 years or so and it's not often that the San Antonio Spurs are in a "house money" scenario come the playoffs. Hall of Fame head coach Gregg Popovich didn't exactly get the Spurs galloping to the regular-season finish line (see 2-6 ATS in last eight games) but there's a quiet confidence that this club can hang tough with a Nuggets team that sports two go-to scorers in C Nikola Jokic (20.1 ppg) and PG Jamal Murray (18.2 ppg) but nobody else really to fear. If the Spurs' one-two tandem of F LaMarcus Aldridge (21.3 ppg) and G DeMar DeRozan (21.2 ppg) can get a significant "third scorer" on their side here - perhaps three-point ace Bryn Forbes - than "Pops" may live again for another round.
Series Price: Denver - 245 / San Antonio + 195

Here's the game-by-game history this season between the Spurs and the Nuggets. Note home teams in CAPS below:

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
12-26SAN ANTONIO- 4Denver111-103
12-28DENVER- 4.5San Antonio102-99
3-4SAN ANTONIO- 1.5Denver104-103
4-3DENVER- 5San Antonio113-85

 

NOTE: Catch all our quick-hitter NBA Playoff previews with the four series that begin Sunday in tomorrow's Jim Sez.

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