2015 NBA Playoffs Power Rankings

chris-paul-clippersThe NBA Playoffs are here and the second season is about to begin. This means an exciting time for NBA bettors who love the intense action and heightened stakes that the postseason brings. Assuming you are looking to do some betting on the 2015 NBA Playoffs, you might be wondering exactly which teams are for real at this point, and which ones are pretenders who merely had a good regular season. That said, let’s take a look at the power rankings for the opening round.

1. Golden State Warriors (67-15, West No. 1) – With Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, everybody knows that the Warriors can shoot the ball. But did you know that they also finished first in defense per 100 possessions? Pretty tough team to beat on either end of the floor.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (53-29, East No. 2) – The Cavs are in a very good position to win the East after finishing the regular season 34-9 over the final 43 contests. It’s not just LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, but also J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov who make this club extremely good.

3. LA Clippers (56-26, West No. 3) – If there’s one team that can compete with Golden State in terms of elite talent, it’s definitely the Clippers. But are Chris Paul and Blake Griffin finally ready to make a serious playoff run?

al-horford4. Atlanta Hawks (60-22, East No. 1) – On paper, Atlanta and their four All-Stars seem to be for real. But now’s their chance to prove it to those who question the East’s top seed.

5. San Antonio Spurs (55-27, West No. 6) – The Spurs certainly can’t be counted out since they’re the defending champions and still have their core intact. But they could easily be bounced by LA in the first round if another year of aging is too much.

6. Houston Rockets (55-27, West No. 2) – James Harden has done an outstanding job carrying the Rockets, in a season where Dwight only played 41 games. The question is, though, is there enough beyond Howard and Harden to constitute a championship run.

7. Chicago Bulls (50-32, East No. 3) – An improved Jimmy Butler and the addition of Pau Gasol did wonders for this team. However, injuries to Derrick Rose and a down (worn-out) year for Joakim Noah are concerns.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks8. Dallas Mavericks (50-32, West No. 7) – This is a team built for the playoffs, plain and simple, as the mid-season addition of Rajon Rondo alludes to. But a lack of depth and bad defense could make life miserable against Houston in the first round.

9. Washington Wizards (46-36, East No. 5) – The Wizards finally found some wins down the stretch, which could give them confidence. However, Washington must get over their tendency to disappear in some games.

10. Memphis Grizzlies (55-27, West No. 5) – Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph have dominated inside this season. But unfortunately, the Grizzlies are dealing with injuries to Mike Conley and Tony Allen at the wrong time of the season.

11. Toronto Raptors (49-33, East No. 4) – This team can definitely hurt you on the offensive end, with dangerous options in Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Lou Williams. Unfortunately, they hurt themselves on the defensive end.

damian-lillard-portland-trailblazers12. Portland Trail Blazers (51-31, West No. 4) – Limping into the playoffs on a four-game losing streak is never a good thing. It’s nice that Damian Lillard has remained healthy all season, but LaMarcus Aldridge is playing with a torn ligament in his hand while Nicolas Batum and Chris Kaman are also hurt.

13. New Orleans Pelicans (45-37, West No. 8) – The first round will give Anthony Davis a chance to showcase his immense talent on a bigger stage. Unfortunately, this team has to play the Warriors to open, which creates a grim proposition.

14. Milwaukee Bucks (41-41, East No. 6) – Milwaukee had an excellent turnaround from last year’s abomination. But a season-ending injury to Jabari Parker and a lack of experience all but guarantees this team won’t make much noise.

15. Boston Celtics (40-42, East No. 7) – Boston, like the Bucks, is a young team to watch in the upcoming years. And most didn’t even see the Celtics making the postseason this year after they got rid of Rondo and Jeff Green.

16. Brooklyn Nets (38-44, East No. 8) – It might be time to disassemble the expensive core of the Nets (when) if they lose to the Hawks.

Boston Celtics climb into Postseason Race – Even if they didn’t mean to

Danny AingeEarlier this season, the Boston Celtics dealt with all kinds of tanking allegations. Aside from trading star point guard Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks, Boston President Danny Ainge didn’t exactly made the type of offseason moves that indicated a serious postseason run. But here we are with only a handful of games left and the postseason is exactly where it looks like these young Celtics are headed.

Currently, Boston is 36-42 and sitting in the eighth and final playoff spot. Their record is identical to the seventh-seeded Brooklyn Nets and one game ahead of the chasing Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat (both 35-43). So looking at things now, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Celtics in the postseason. The question remains, though, what does Ainge think of his overachieving Celtics.

So far, he hasn’t exactly offered ringing endorsements over Boston’s run, which severely diminishes their chances of getting a high lottery pick. However, he does support his club as they battle for one of the Eastern Conference’s final two remaining playoff spots. Here’s a look at what Ainge told the Boston Globe:

“Hopefully we can get a little better [over the next few days] because I think that both players and coaches feel like there’s things we can do better, but especially with such a young team we need more practice time together to reach our full potential. That’s why being in the playoffs would be nice from that standpoint, having a couple of weeks of hard games to prepare for and focus. I think that’s even more valuable than what we’re going through right now, which is valuable. I’m excited about the last five games of the season, to see how it turns out. I’m excited we get a couple of days off to catch our breath and we get some practice time.

[con’d later] It’s hard to manage a bunch of different agendas at once and we’re just trying to get our players better. It’s been a very positive year whatever happens in these last five difficult games ahead of us. But I believe there’s been a lot that’s been accomplished. It’s a credit to the players and the coaches. You could be the greatest coach in the world but if you got players that don’t have character to understand where the team is at and what’s happening . . . It could be tough on any coach and I think it’s a credit to Brad [Stevens] and the players that they’re playing and developing a reputation of a team that shows up to play and they’re playing hard and they’re playing to win.”

isaiah-thomas-celticsAs Ainge alluded to, there’s plenty to like about this promising young team. Isaiah Thomas (19.7 PPG) has quite possibly become the NBA’s best bench player since coming over from Phoenix. Avery Bradley (11.4 PPG) has proven to be a very effective young point guard. Jared Sullinger (13.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG) is playing a nice low-post game for the Celtics. And Kelly Olynyk (10.4 PPG) is finally realizing his potential after a highly touted college career at Gonzaga.

In fact, just about everybody on the Celtics has made contributions this season, with nine players averaging at least 9.5 PPG. And this doesn’t even include sixth-overall pick Marcus Smart (7.6 PPG, 3.3 APG), who’s steadily seen his game improve over the year.

So while Ainge’s unannounced plans to tank for another high draft pick may not have worked out this season, there is more than enough to be excited about with this young and emerging team.

Hot Indiana Pacers now chasing No. 6 Playoff Seed

indiana-pacers-chasing-playoffsThe Indiana Pacers continued their rapid climb up the Eastern Conference standings after beating the Milwaukee Bucks by a score of 109-103 in overtime. And this was a huge win for the Pacers because they’re currently chasing Milwaukee for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

It certainty wasn’t an easy victory, though, given that this contest included 60 fouls, 35 turnovers and an overtime period. Furthermore, Indiana’s six-game streak of holding opponents to under 90 points was finally snapped. Nevertheless, the Pacers (30-34) will definitely take the victory, which gives them a seven-game winning streak and moves them to within three and a half games back of Milwaukee (34-31).

“That’s what most teams want, you don’t want to be playing your best basketball in the beginning,” said Solomon Hill when discussing how Indiana was 15 games under .500 a month ago. “You want to be playing your best basketball at the end.”

So what’s the driving force behind the Pacers’ incredible turnaround? Well, the most-obvious factor is the balance that Indiana has, with five players averaging double figures in points and a bench that’s deeper than the ocean. Given as well as everybody’s playing on this team from top to bottom, Indiana certainly won’t run out of players down the stretch.

indiana-pacers-chasing-playoffs-1But one factor that can’t be seen by the stats alone is how Indiana has exhibited a never-quit attitude all season long – even when they were mired in 12th place in the East with a 15-30 record.

“I still think morale was high even when we were losing,” said point guard Donald Sloan. “Guys’ heads were still up and maintaining and getting through it. It’s just a good group. I don’t think if you had different combinations or different guys in here it would be the same.”

Another aspect to consider here is how scrappy Indiana has been on the defensive end of the floor. The team almost changed to a zone midway through the season, amid struggles, but head coach Frank Vogel decided to stick with what the Pacers do best. And power forward David West is certainly a fan of this decision as he said:

“At times we were trying to maybe change sort of our defensive schemes that have worked for us over the last two to three years. Ultimately, we said, ‘Nah, we’re just going to stick with what we do. We got better at that and our defense started to pick up which has helped us win games. The message is always the same: Just stay steady, believe in one another and remain confident and see what happens.”

Riding the high of a seven-game win streak, it won’t be hard for Indiana to remain confident and stay steady moving forward. They have 18 games left in the regular season to catch Milwaukee, which would currently put them in a first-round matchup with the injury-riddled Chicago Bulls. However, if they can’t catch the Bucks, Indiana would have a less-favorable matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that’s been red-hot over the past 25 games.

In any case, just the fact that the Pacers have a strong shot at making the postseason seems like a miracle when considering their horrid start. So if you’re into Indiana Pacers betting, certainly keep their stellar play in mind when placing your wagers.

Anthony Davis keeping Pelicans in 2015 Playoff Race

anthony-davis-nba-best-playerThere’s no debate about what the most-competitive division is in the NBA right now. The Southwest Division in the Western Conference currently features the number two, four, six and seven playoff seeds. And the only team in the Southwest Division that’s not currently qualified for postseason? The New Orleans Pelicans at 33-28.

Assuming New Orleans were in the East, they’d be the number-six seed and comfortably ahead of seventh-seeded Miami (27-33). But they’re not and so they’re going to have to scrape to surpass Oklahoma City (34-8) for the West’s final spot. And if they do accomplish this feat, the team owes a huge debt to Anthony Davis.

The 21-year-old is currently averaging 24.2 PPG, 10.3 RPG and 2.8 BPG while shooting 54.5% from the field. People can debate back and forth about whether James Harden, Steph Curry or LeBron James are the league’s MVP right now. However, nobody is more important to their team than Davis.

Take last night for instance, where the 6’10” forward led his team past the Detroit Pistons by a score of 88-85. He played 42 minutes, scored 39 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked eight shots. The end of the game was just as significant as the numbers, where he scored two of New Orleans’ final three baskets and disrupted Reggie Jackson’s potential game-tying three. It’s pretty easy to do the math here; without Davis on the court, the Pelicans were definitely losers.

anthony-davis-vs-pistons“He had one of the most well-rounded games I have ever seen, defensively, offensively, hitting shots, (and) affecting the game in multiple ways,” Pistons veteran forward Anthony Tolliver said after the game. “He is a special player.”

The only chink in this special player’s armor right now is a recent injury that kept him sidelined for five games. In fact, Wednesday night’s contest against the Pistons was just his first game back since the injury. And it was obvious that rust wasn’t an issue as Davis completely dominated all facets of the game. If only he could shoot three-pointers too…

It’s doubtful that the Pelicans will also be expecting Davis to fill this duty too. However, they are certainly going to need all of his contributions down the stretch as the race for the eighth playoff seed heats up. There’s honestly not a player in the league who can impact the game on both ends of the floor as much as Davis. And at 21 with just two years of experience in the league, it’s hard to fathom how good he’ll eventually be.

But first thing’s first, and that will be guiding New Orleans to their first playoff appearance in years. The team’s next six contests are all winnable, with a tough home game against Memphis mixed in there. Then things really get tough with games @Phoenix, @Golden State, @LA Clippers and vs Houston. Obviously this stretch won’t be easy, but with Davis back and healthy again, the Pelicans shouldn’t fear their ability to compete with any team.