2013 NBA Playoffs Betting – Second Round Matchup Analysis

tony-parkerThe first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs won’t exactly go down in history. Seven of the first round series ended after six games or less. And the only series that did go the distance – Bulls vs. Nets – was loaded with injuries, thus preventing a great matchup between two full-strength teams.

Fans will no doubt be hoping for some closer series in the second round of the playoffs, though we’re sure some of the matchups look prime for more blowouts. Assuming you’re betting on the 2013 NBA Playoffs, hopefully you’ll be on the right side of these potential blowouts. With that said, let’s take a closer look at all of the second round series.

Eastern Conference

Dwyane Wade JaVale McGee#1 Seed Miami Heat vs. #5 Seed Chicago Bulls – The Bulls overcame a rash of injuries to pull out an emotional Game 7 win over the favored New Jersey Nets. Unfortunately, Chicago also comes out of this series with a large number of bumps and bruises. Kirk Hinrich is day-to-day with a calf injury while Luol Deng is coming off a major illness.

Miami, meanwhile, is entering this matchup relatively healthy. Dwayne Wade (knee) is slightly banged-up, but participating in full-contact practices. Seeing as how the Heat already have the three best players in this series with Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Chicago doesn’t stand a chance. However, Joakim Noah and the Bulls might pull out one game in a gutsy performance.

Prediction: Miami wins the series 4-1

paul-george-pacers#2 New York Knicks vs. #3 Seed Indiana Pacers – The Knicks look to continue their success after winning the club’s first playoff series in 13 years. However, they face a very tough matchup in the defensive-minded Indiana Pacers. This pairing is so tough, in fact, that all of the experts are divided on who’ll take the series.

New York didn’t exactly look dominant in beating the Boston Celtics four games to two. But they do have a lot of offensive weapons in Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Amar’e Stoudemire, Raymon Felton and Tyson Chandler. Expect Indiana to limit some of these weapons, while scoring plenty of points themselves with Paul George, David West and George Hill. But in the end, home court advantage may be the deciding factor for New York.

Prediction: New York wins the series 4-3

Western Conference

zach-randolph#1 Seed Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #5 Seed Memphis Grizzlies – Don’t expect Oklahoma City to use not having Russell Westbrook as an excuse. They still feature one of the league’s best scorers in Kevin Durant along with solid players in Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin. However, the Thunder were built heavy at the top and don’t have a lot of firepower beyond these three.

Along with Indiana, Memphis is one of the league’s top two defensive teams. Marc Gasol and his Defensive Player of the Year award are a testament to the Grizzlies strong D. Overall, you can expect a pretty low-scoring series where Memphis comes out on top, thanks to the Westbrook season-ending injury.

Prediction: Memphis wins the series 4-2

stephen-curry#2 Seed San Antonio Spurs vs. #6 Seed Golden State Warriors – Golden State pulled off the biggest upset of the playoffs when they defeated Denver 4-2, despite David Lee getting injured. They did it with exceptionally hot shooting and will be hoping the momentum caries over against the Spurs.

San Antonio comes into this series relatively fresh after destroying the Lakers in four games. However, they do have some minor injuries issues to key contributors Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw. However, the trio of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili should have no trouble leading the Spurs to victory. Expect Stephen Curry and Lee (if he plays much) to help Golden State pull out at least one win though.

Prediction: San Antonio wins the series 4-1

Lakers finish One of Most Disastrous Seasons in NBA History

lakers-disaster-seasonComing into the 2012-2013 NBA season, expectations were high for the Los Angeles Lakers. Many people, including ourselves, had L.A. contending for the title this year. And why not since they added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to an already strong cast that featured Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Antwan Jamison.

But after being swept by the San Antonio Spurs in a highly noncompetitive series, those lofty preseason expectations seem light-years away. The closest that the Lakers managed to get during this matchup was a 9-point loss in Game 2. And the blowout playoff losses seemed like the perfect way to cap what’s been one of the most disappointing and worst seasons for a team in NBA history.

Sure Kobe Bryant’s torn Achilles at the end of the regular season limited this club’s ability to compete with the Spurs. But that only explains the playoffs, and not the drastically underachieving team that finally secured a playoff spot in the last week of the season.

pau-gasol-steve-nashPeople were quick to dismiss awful preseason performances that saw the Lakers go winless. However, panic quickly set in after a 1-4 start that led to the firing of head coach Mike Brown. By late January, the team was 17-25 and in serious danger of missing the playoffs.

If there’s any silver lining to this season, it’s that L.A. did rally to go 28-12 over the second half and grab the Western Conference’s seventh seed. However, this is of little solace to Lakers fans who thought that the team stood a good chance of grabbing the 17th NBA Championship in franchise history.

So where did everything go wrong? Well for starters, Mike Brown’s decision to implement the Princeton offense was never popular from the get-go. Skepticism was warranted too as the team made a large number of turnovers in the early going.

dwight-howardCompounding problems was the fact that Howard missed most of the preseason and never got into the new offense. Additionally, Nash would miss most of December and January with a broken leg, thus adding to the team chemistry issues.

When Mike D’Antoni entered the picture as the Lakers’ new coach, things only got more complicated. Now the team was learning a more uptempo offense, with Howard and Gasol struggling to find their place. Gasol especially suffered and even lost his spot in the starting lineup to unheralded Earl Clark for a short while. The 7-footer also missed 33 games during the year in one of his most injury-plagued seasons ever.

kobe-bryantSo based on the injuries and lack of team chemistry, it’s a bit easier to see why Los Angeles had such a disastrous year. But management is not going to be accepting excuses this offseason, and some major changes are definitely expected.

Howard could re-sign with the Lakers next year after averaging 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG and 2.45 BPG. He’d likely earn $117.9 million over five years with L.A., as opposed to an $87.6 million, four-year deal with any other team. However, nothing is guaranteed since the talented shot-blocker is intent on testing free agency waters.

The Lakers also have plenty of payroll issues to deal with next season because Bryant is due $30 million, Gasol is set to receive $19 million, Nash would earn $9 million and World Peace is due $7.7 million – all before Howard is even signed. Based on these huge contracts, it’s a good bet that one of these stars will have to go.

Bryant appears to be the only certainty out of the five stars as he’s the face of the franchise and leading scorer. The Lakers would no doubt like to have Howard back too – if possible – so this leaves Gasol, Nash and World Peace left to discuss.

Gasol had some strong games to close out the year after tallying several triple-doubles. Plus he finally looked more comfortable in D’Antoni’s offense at the end. However, the Spaniard also has a player option for the $19 million and could be released. World Peace is in the same player option boat, but could stay on due to the fact that he’s only set to earn $7.7 million.

Considering all of this, it’s possible that we’ll be seeing a different Lakers team take the floor next year. And the big question is if they can put together a lineup that not only stays healthy, but also plays well together.

Are the L.A. Lakers even a Playoff Team?

Before the 2012-2013 NBA season opened, Metta World Peace made a bold prediction that the L.A. Lakers could go 73-9, thus beating the Chicago Bulls’ regular season record of 72-10. And while most people thought this was a difficult goal to reach, it didn’t seem impossible given that the Lakers added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to go along with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Antawn Jamison and World Peace.

But here we are now 26 games into the regular season, and the Lakers have already missed out on this goal. In fact, L.A. is just 12-14 and sitting 12th in the Western Conference standings. Taking this into account, it’s worth asking whether or not the Lakers are even a playoff team by looking at their promising and not-so promising points.

The Good: A Big Missing Piece

We’re not going to argue that Los Angeles hasn’t underachieved because they’ve had Bryant, Howard and World Peace for the entire year. Gasol has also played in most of the team’s games, which, given these four stars, SHOULD be enough to be among the playoff teams.

However, one integral part has been missing from this club all year and that’s PG Steve Nash. He’s been out since October 31st with a leg fracture and hasn’t been there to orchestrate the offense. In his absence, L.A. has been trying to get by with a trio of Chris Duhon, Darius Morris and Steve Blake. The result: 12.8 PPG and 9.7 APG among three players.

While this is okay, Nash figures to do this – or more – by himself after returning from injury. Going further, the Lakers’ overall flow on offense should be much better with Nash back in the lineup.

The Bad: Gasol and Howard are struggling Together

In theory, the ‘Twin Towers’ setup always seems great because you’ve got two big men dominating the paint. But as history has often shown us, two excellent big men can hamper each other’s production. Such seems to be the case with Howard and Gasol since these two don’t work well off each other.

The thinking before the season was that Pau could play more forward while Howard would man the paint. However, Gasol has never been comfortable in the forward role and is shooting a dismal 41.4% – down from a career average of 51.8%. Now 41.4% might work if you’re a 6’2″ runner and gunner; but not when you’re a 7’0″ forward-center.

Howard is not innocent in the matter either because, while he’s shooting 57.6% from the field and averaging 18.1 PPG, there have been plenty of times where he’s completely disappeared on offense. That said, the Lakers have been transitioning to a gameplan where the two natural centers play in separate units, rather than together.

The Good: Stats are looking Nice

Another indication that L.A. could grab a playoff spot in the West involves their strong statistical performance. Despite being a sub-.500 team, the Lakers are sixth in points per game with a 102.08 average. Their defense hasn’t been quite as good since they’ve allowed 99.32 PPG, which ranks 21st in the league.

However, this is still a +2.76 differential, thus indicating the tide could later turn. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams that have had a positive point differential are over 95% likely to make the playoffs. So this definitely bodes well for the Lakers’ postseason hopes.

The Bad: The West is Deep

We expect L.A. to improve as the season keeps moving along. But even with improvement, it’ll be no cakewalk to make the playoffs with how many solid teams are in the Western Conference – especially after starting 12-14.

Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Memphis and the L.A. Clippers are locks to make the playoffs with their talent and strong starts. That leaves four spots open, which are currently occupied by the youthful, but talented Golden State, Denver, Minnesota and Houston. Let’s also throw in the fact that Utah, Dallas and Portland are all ahead of the Lakers and figure to compete for playoff spots. Including the Lakers, this makes eight legitimate contenders for four postseason spots.

The Verdict?

Overall, the L.A. Lakers are easily more talented than every team chasing what we suspect are the last four playoff spots. And given that they’re playing without Steve Nash and are the only non-playoff team with a positive point differential, we believe the Lakers will get it together and at least make the playoffs.

One more point worth mentioning is that L.A. is only 1 1/2 games behind both Minnesota and Houston (currently seventh and eighth). Given that we’re only a quarter of the way through the season, expect the Lakers to make up this ground and grab anywhere from a fourth to eighth seed.