Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, April 26, 2019 at 11:00 AM
The first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs isn’t quite complete as we meet today in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping. Golden State plays the LA Clippers tonight in the sixth game of their series. San Antonio and Denver play their seventh game Saturday. But, the second round begins in the East Saturday…and I wanted to make sure all of you were ready to go for what’s shaping up as a tough handicapping challenge.
Once we’re in the second round, there are no more pretenders left in the brackets. Everyone from Indiana down in the East looked like they didn’t belong (Brooklyn, Orlando, Detroit, as well as the Pacers). All remaining matchups in both conferences will at least feature teams who deserve to play in the league’s final eight. They earned their way there.
What’s struck me most so far about these playoffs is how quickly things can turn when a team loses focus. We talked about THE MOTIVATION FACTOR a week ago. I’m frankly, SHOCKED that Golden State is still playing in the first round. This is the least “hungry” great team I’ve ever witnessed. For other teams, I’m worried about the following “intangibles” in the second round based on in-game dry spells I watched during the regular season.
Toronto: choke factor
Philadelphia: chemistry problems
Boston: arrogance from Kyrie Irving
Houston: overreliance on James Harden
Portland: overreliance on Damian Lillard
Denver: inexperience, lack of big game confidence
San Antonio: lack of crunch time confidence
Regarding Houston and Portland, I’m talking about how the rest of those rosters kind of disappear when the stars aren’t hitting their shots. There’s a “what do we do now?” funk that hits them in those instances. The deeper you get into the playoffs, the more likely those instances are to occur.
Handicappers should always remember that picking winners is part “spotting strengths” and part “spotting weaknesses.” I’ve talked about this often when reviewing my 100-unit, 200-unit, or 250-unit winners. You’ll never see a play that big that’s only about the strengths of the “bet on” team. Those extra units are driven by what’s likely to go wrong for the “bet against” team.
Maybe a college football defense is poor against the run…and is about to face an option attack. Maybe an NFL quarterback is turnover prone, and is about to face a lethal blitz. Maybe a great college basketball team that can’t make three pointers on the road is about to visit a great defense.
With that in mind, your homework today is to flesh out my list of “intangible” issues with analysis of real-world weaknesses. Using regular season stat rankings, and anything learned from the first round, evaluate the remaining teams in these areas:
*Defending the rim (two-point defense)
*Overall Defensive Efficiency (points allowed per possession)
*Turnover Avoidance on offense
*Three-point emphasis and production
I’ll give you a hint. Betting market are pretty sharp about knowing which teams are good in those areas. Those teams get respect. But, the markets don’t penalize weaknesses enough in my view. They don’t realize the negative playoff impact for teams who are mediocre (or worse) in any of those areas.
I can’t get any more specific than I already have. That wouldn’t be fair to my paying customers. I’m confident that those you do-it-yourselfers who do the homework will be aligned with many of my biggest selections the next few weeks.
If you’d like some additional help picking winners in basketball or baseball, KELSO STURGEON’S top plays can always be purchased at this website by credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office by calling my office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. Be sure you check on offers that include the NBA Playoffs and Major League Baseball.
It will probably be awhile before I can dig deep into baseball with our spring and summer once-a-week schedule. I’ll stay focused on the NBA Playoffs for the next few class sessions. If you’d like some tips for baseball, I’d suggest the following…
*With solid evidence that MLB is using the “juiced balls” from 2017 again, handicappers should focus on home runs. Look for offenses most likely to hit them. Look to bet against starting pitches and bullpens most likely to allow them. Be aware of ballpark factors that help or hinder home runs. That’s the coin of the realm right now. Turn those coins into cold, hard cash.
*Remember that starting pitchers don’t last as long as they used to. Evaluate middle relievers for every staff. We’re at a point where the first 3-4 innings are usually close…and it’s tough for anyone to score in the ninth inning off closers…so picking baseball winners means handicapping innings 5-7 (or, with certain teams, innings 4-8). Too many of you are still focusing on starting pitchers, or trying to ride a team on a hot streak. Look, losers take short cuts (and fail), winners do the work it takes to get the job done. Make me proud!
The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance and hard work. I’ll return next Friday with what will very likely be analysis from the first few second round games. I’m very interested to see how the East plays out. And, the West will be more wide open than the media expects if Golden State can’t ever lock in and play its best basketball.
Yes, the first round has been pretty boring. KELSO STURGEON believe things are about to get VERY interesting!