NBA Playoffs 2012 Bracket: Latest Odds for First-Round Games
It took until the last day of the NBA season, but the matchups for all eight first-round playoff series are finally set.
While the perennial contenders are favored in most of the series, many elite teams—including the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Chicago Bulls—definitely have their work cut out for them once the postseason kicks off this weekend. And while the odds are long for the underdogs, that doesn't mean that we can't see an upset or two.
So, for entertainment purposes only, here are the odds for each first-round series in the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
No. 4 Memphis Grizzlies vs. No. 5 Los Angeles Clippers
Odds: Grizzlies 5/4
Season series: Los Angeles won 2-1
As Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix points out, Clippers-Grizzlies is going to be one of the more exciting series in the entire 2012 NBA playoffs. Blake Griffin will get all of the headlines, but don't sleep on a Grizzlies team that could very well make it to the Western Conference Finals if it catches a break here or there.
Whenever Los Angeles and Memphis squared off this season, the home team always won. So with Memphis having homecourt advantage in this seven-game set, the nod - however slightly - goes to them. Both teams are young, athletic squads who are pretty solid on the defensive end. It's hard to pick a winner, so for those of you are looking at this series for non-entertainment purposes, you might not want to put any action on this one.
No. 6 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 3 Los Angeles Lakers
Odds: Lakers 8/5
Season series: Lakers won 3-1
This series will be a lot close than it may look at first glance.
Los Angeles won three of its four matchups against Denver this year, but all four games were decided by nine points or less. This young Nuggets squad—a team that leads the NBA in both points and assists per game—will force the Lakers to run for 48 minutes. And unless someone steps up to be that complementary scorer to Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles will be hard pressed to out-gun Denver. For what it's worth, Bryant only averaged 17.7 PPG in the three games in which he faced the Nuggets this season.
The Lakers, of course, will be without the services of Metta World Peace for most—if not all—of the first round as a result of his elbow to James Harden's head this past weekend. While World Peace wasn't a vital cog in the Lakers' offense most nights, his absence on the defensive end could create room for the Denver wing players to operate.
No. 7 Dallas Mavericks vs. No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder
Odds: Thunder 5/2
Season series: Thunder won 3-1
We've seen this movie before, and it's a great one.
Last season, the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder battled it out on a great five-game series in the Western Conference Finals. While the showdown was minor obstacle for the Mavs on their way to the NBA title, it was almost a coming-of-age experience for Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder.
All eyes are focused on Oklahoma City as many are expecting the Thunder to finally make that next step. But don't count out a resilient Dallas team—when Dirk Nowitzki is on, he has the ability to win virtually an entire series with little help.
No. 8 Utah Jazz vs. No. 1 San Antonio Spurs
Odds: San Antonio - 5/1
Season series: Spurs won 3-1
Most of the Spurs-Jazz games this season have been relatively close. This series, however, will not be.
San Antonio has been absolutely on fire for the past month and a half, winning 20 of their last 22 games. And while Utah is a very explosive offensive team (99.7 PPG), they simply can't match the skill, depth and experience of the Spurs. In a loaded side of the bracket, it's no accident that San Antonio finished with the best record in the West two years in a row.
When the Memphis Grizzlies knocked off the Spurs in last year's playoffs, that was an upset that shocked many in the NBA world. If the Jazz were to win this series, it would be ten times as unlikely. Unfortunately for Utah fans, that won't happen.
No. 5 Boston Celtics vs. No. 4 Atlanta Hawks
Odds: Pick 'Em
Season series: Boston won 2-1
These two teams played a fantastic first-round series four years ago—if this one is half as entertaining as that seven-game battle was, then we're all in for a treat. Although Boston is the higher-seeded team, Atlanta gets homecourt advantage due to their better record.
This is probably the final season for the current iteration of the Celtics, so head coach Doc Rivers is sure to go all out against the Hawks, who benefited greatly from an easy schedule down the stretch. Both teams rank in the bottom third in the NBA in terms of rebounding (Atlanta: 23rd, Boston: 30th), so it's likely that the team who wins the battle of the boards will take the series.
On the injury front, Celtics guard Ray Allen is questionable for the start of the playoffs with bone spurs in his right ankle, while Paul Pierce is also suffering from a sprained left big toe. Hawks center Al Horford was aiming to return from his injury this weekend, he has been ruled out of the Celtics series with a torn pectoral muscle.
No. 6 Orlando Magic vs. No. 3 Indiana Pacers
Odds: Indiana - 3/1
Season series: Orlando won 3-1
Orlando is the lower seed in their first-round playoff series against Indiana, but they actually won three of their four meetings against the Pacers this year. Then again, Dwight Howard was in the building for those games, and the Magic will be without his services for the rest of the season.
The Pacers are one of the hottest teams in the NBA heading into the postseason, and are the prohibitive favorites against a struggling Orlando unit. The Magic have been absolutely dreadful defensively with Howard out of the lineup, and they'll have their work cut out for them with an Indiana team that averages nearly 98 points/game.
No. 7 New York Knicks vs. No. 2 Chicago Bulls
Odds: Miami 5/2
Season series: Miami won 3-0
For a first-round matchup, this is as good as it gets.
Miami swept their season series against New York this year, but the Knicks have morphed into a totally different team during Mike Woodson's tenure. Their newfound approach to defense will force LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to work for their shots, and the Knicks could easily steal one of the first two games down in South Beach.
Ultimately, the Heat are just too talented for New York to handle, especially on the defensive end. Other than Carmelo Anthony, the only Knick to score more than 16 points in a game this year vs. Miami was Bill Walker (21 points on 1/27).
No. 8 Philadelphia 76ers vs. No. 1 Chicago Bulls
Odds: Chicago 4/1
Season series: Chicago 2-1
76ers guard Evan Turner all but called out the Chicago Bulls on Twitter Wednesday night.
Someone needs to tell Turner that he needs to be more careful about what he wishes for.
Yes, the Sixers did beat the Bulls 98-82 back in February, and yes, they only lost by single digits in their other two meetings this season. But the fact remains that the Bulls are not only the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but also the best defensive team in the NBA. And even if All-World PG Derrick Rose isn't at full strength, Chicago is plenty deep enough to go toe-to-toe with Philadelphia's bench.
The 76ers are talented enough to possibly eke out a victory or two, but their odds of taking the series are extremely slim.