Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 at 12:00 PM
Is anybody ready to win the NBA Championship? Milwaukee is unblemished, but they’ve only played one game…and it came against a Detroit team that was nowhere near playoff caliber over the past few weeks. For other media-hyped contenders…
*Golden State is bothered my chemistry issues and arrogance. It’s like they already started partying at their championship parade before bothering to win a series. The Warriors still have the best collection of talent in the league, even after the injury to DeMarcus Cousins. No longer hungry, are they going to play to that potential? Particularly when faced with tougher opposition than the Clippers?
*Toronto was caught napping in its series opener with Orlando. If there’s ever a team that shouldn’t be caught napping in playoff openers any more, it’s Toronto! The Raptors did bounce back strong in Game Two. They’ll need to bring peak intensity all the time beginning in the next round.
*Philadelphia is in the same boat as Toronto…good enough to play with anybody when things are clicking, but prone to losing focus. There will probably be chemistry issues here as well when the going gets tough. Too many people want the ball. Jimmy Butler deferred in a blowout. Will he in crunch time of a big game?
*Oklahoma City, everyone’s favorite “darkhorse” in the West is down 0-2 to Portland already. The Thunder were a series favorite despite not having home court advantage. Now, a turnover-prone offense with just a couple of shooters will have to win four of its next five games to play another round.
We’ll see about Houston. Like Milwaukee, they’ve only played one game. The Rockets’ talent is a bit too top heavy for a surefire playoff run. That said, they should have a chip on their shoulder after last year. Many other teams misplaced their chips while coasting half-speed through the regular season.
How should handicappers react to all of this early inconsistency? JIM HURLEY says you should focus on the weaknesses being exposed. That will help you pick winners in later rounds when X’s and O’s are so important. Here are a few weaknesses you should have noticed already…
*Golden State: turnovers (!), a tendency to relax on defense when not intimidated, and a tendency to launch too many lazy three’s because they’ve always made those in the past.
*Toronto: a tendency for other players to sit back and let Kawhi Leonard carry the team. Maybe he’s good enough to take the Raptors all the way. But, he’s more likely to wear down from having to play hero on both sides of the floor. An inability to draw fouls is already an issue vs. Orlando (too many jump shots!), and rebounding has been a disappointment.
*Philadelphia: Joel Embiid is out of shape. He’ll eventually face a team that can do a better job of guarding him! We already talked about chemistry issues. This team is fairly likely to implode when pressured. Guarding the arc has been an issue vs. the Nets too.
Time will tell about whether or not inexperience will be an issue for the Bucks. If it’s not, Milwaukee is the class of the East as long as the Greek Freak is healthy. Houston wore down late in the playoffs a year ago (tired legs showed up most dramatically in the area of three-point shooting). JIM HURLEY will let this group prove itself.
It is worth remembering that no team is as good as it looks during the best of times, nor as bad as it looks during the worst of times. Be sure you focus on what’s “typical” rather than hoping any team can stay hot from long range or keep getting breaks from the officials. We’ve already seen victories of 20 points or more by Milwaukee, Houston, Toronto, Portland, and Philadelphia. Boston led Indiana by more than 20 before garbage time made the final score closer. We’ve also seen double digit covers by underdogs like the LA Clippers, Brooklyn, Orlando, and San Antonio. Volatility is the key word so far.
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While volatility can be a hassle…remember that team inconsistency is a bettor’s best friend. Oddsmakers struggles to post strong numbers in this environment. If every team played the same all the time point spreads would be perfect and there would be no reason to bet. When final scores are missing the spread by THIS MUCH on a nightly basis, the door is open for smart handicapping to find BIG, JUICY WINNERS!
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