Heat-Nets, Spurs-Blazers Begin Their Series’ Tonight

Pierce and LeBron

Paul Pierce and LeBron James face off again the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

With no Lakers, no Celtics and no Knicks, you’d have to think the National Basketball Association wasn’t expecting all that much in terms of viewers and great series’. While the ratings are OK, the play and the drama on the court was outstanding. Now the NBA has two goals for the conference semi-finals as they got underway last night.

First, they hope and pray that they won’t have to deal with any off court issues as they did in Los Angeles. Secondly, they will be hoping for four exciting series that can match the earlier round. Personally, I think they are going to get just that.

Brooklyn (+7) at Miami - You’ve no doubt heard this stat already in the last 48 hours but here it is again; the last 25 times a team has gone 4-0 or better against a defending champion in the regular season they’ve also gone on to eliminate them from the playoffs. Therefore, all signs point to the Nets ending any chance of a Miami three-peat.

I let you know if I agree later, but it’s a hard stat to ignore. The Nets did in fact beat Miami in all four games they played this past season. Three of the four wins were by one point each and the other was a nine point win. What’s clear is that the Brooklyn Nets have found a strategy that at the very least gives the Miami Heat serious trouble.

What concerns me if I’m Brooklyn though is that Deron Williams wasn’t exactly great in the series against the Raptors and he has to be better against Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers.

The concern here is that Miami might be too rusty while the Nets are still in rhythm. I really like Brooklyn getting the seven points tonight and I like them to win outright as well.

Keep an eye on… Other than scoring where Miami holds an advantage of five more than they give vs Brooklyn, who gives up one more than they score, the stats between these two are eerily similar. Rebounding, free throw percentage and field goal percentages are almost identical. The same goes for steals and three-pointers per game.

Series Prediction: Miami in Six

Lillard

The Blazers must get consistent play at both ends from Damian Lillard in this series.

Portland (+6.5) at San Antonio - I really thought the San Antonio Spurs were done. Everything pointed to a Dallas win in game seven but the Spurs took the drama out quickly and sent the Mavericks packing. The problem I face is just what should I expect from them with a very hot Portland team to deal with.

The Spurs will rely on balance in the name of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and the rest of the team. The Blazers will be a bit more isolated in their scoring with Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge doing the bulk of the work. In their two wins over San Antonio, Aldridge led the Blazers in scoring while in their two losses, he scored just 14 points and missed the other loss with a groin strain.

I expect another long, hard-fought series here that will go at least six games. In the opener, I like the Blazers getting the points but I like the Spurs to win a close game.

Keep an eye on… While the discrepancy between these two teams is a little greater than it was in the series above, the numbers are still pretty close. In terms of wagering, the teams are 5-5 straight up and 5-5 against the spread in their last ten against each other. The one advantage to consider is that the Spurs give up about almost six points less per game.

Series Prediction: Spurs in Seven

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