There is a reason teams fight for home-court advantage all season in the NBA.
Per NBA.com, teams with home-court advantage won just under 77 percent of playoff series from 1999 to 2008. Since 2008, the numbers for lower seeds haven't improved much.
The team with home court has still won 71 percent of the playoff series played. Those are daunting numbers, but there are a few teams in this postseason who have a great shot at joining select company.
A higher seed doesn't guarantee home-court advantage. A team with a better record may be seeded lower than another team if that team is a division winner.
Fortunately, we don't have to worry about this year. The Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies did finish with identical 56-26 records, but the Grizzlies won the season series 3-1 to earn the advantage in their first-round series.
The Grizzlies are obviously one of the teams I spotlight here, but there are two others that have a great shot at winning their first-round series without home-court advantage.
The odds for winning the NBA championship will genuinely be in favor of the team with home-court advantage throughout the postseason. This year is no exception to that rule as the Miami Heat are the runaway pick for odds makers.
Here's a look at the postseason odds per Bovada:
- Miami Heat - 5/8
- Oklahoma City Thunder - 17/4
- San Antonio Spurs - 10/1
- New York Knicks - 16/1
- Denver Nuggets - 25/1
- Indiana Pacers - 25/1
- Los Angeles Clippers - 25/1
- Los Angeles Lakers - 40/1
- Memphis Grizzlies - 40/1
- Brooklyn Nets - 60/1
- Chicago Bulls - 60/1
- Boston Celtics - 66/1
- Golden State Warriors - 100/1
- Houston Rockets - 100/1
- Atlanta Hawks - 150/1
- Milwaukee Bucks - 500/1
Now here's a look at the three lower seeds I believe have the best shot at winning their first-round series.
Even if Derrick Rose doesn't return for the postseason, the Bulls could be considered favorites over the Brooklyn Nets.
Regular-season games don't tell the full story, but you can't ignore the fact that the Bulls took three of four from the Nets during the first 82 games.
The Bulls' tough, hard-nosed defensive approach would make for a tough draw for any team. But the Nets struggled against most of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
They were only 13-14 against Eastern Conference playoff teams this season. I predict the Bulls will knock off the Nets in the first round.
The Grizz have a shot against the Clippers because of their stingy defense. But ultimately I think Chris Paul will be the difference, much like he was in their playoff series in 2012.
He averaged 20 points, 7.2 assists and 5.7 rebounds in the series.
Memphis is missing that go to scorer on the perimeter. In the playoffs, you need a player who can get his own shot when things break down. That's what Paul offers the Clippers and the Grizzlies don't have an answer for him.
I wouldn't count them out totally, but I favor the Clippers in this matchup.
Los Angeles Lakers
Some may call me crazy for this, but I believe the Lakers may actually be a better team without Kobe Bryant.
That's not a swipe at Kobe. He's one of the greatest of all time, but his natural way was smothering the performance of his bigs.
The way the Lakers are playing now is the way they should have been playing all season: inside-out.
I'm not jumping on the bandwagon here, I've been saying this since the preseason. The Lakers best and most efficient attack is inside. As great as it was to watch Kobe being Kobe, he was taking too many shots. I also say that in an article advising the Lakers hold on to Pau Gasol.
While scoring was never an issue for the Lakers, the lack of touches took the steam out of the bigs on the defensive end.
Anyone wonder why you're seeing such a spirited effort from Gasol and Dwight Howard defensively now?
It's because they know they're getting the ball on the other end. Big men with offensive games defend better when they get touches.
As the Lakers head into their first-round series with the San Antonio Spurs, they hold a decided advantage on the inside. Even with an aging, but still effective Tim Duncan, the Lakers should dominate in the paint.
Teams will have to shoot the ball well from the outside to beat the Lakers, if they don't, its a good chance they won't win. The Spurs have the shooters to pull it off, but when you live by the three, you die by the three.
I got the Lakers in six games.
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