Three playoff spots remain up for grabs as the 2013-14 NBA season comes to a close, and the differences between the two conferences couldn't be more glaring.
The East continues to be a mess, as even Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks have worked their way back into the postseason conversation. Out West, talented teams such as the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and even the Golden State Warriors are very much in danger of losing a spot.
Here's a look at the latest batch of odds for contenders and pretenders, followed by a breakdown of some of the bunch.
|San Antonio Spurs||3/1|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||4/1|
|Los Angeles Clippers||11/1|
|Golden State Warriors||50/1|
|New York Knicks||1000/1|
Note: Odds courtesy of Vegas Insider.
It's an even split at the top as far as odds go, but fans would be hard-pressed to figure out why.
Coming in fourth is the tumultuous Indiana Pacers, a team that can't get out of its own way as of late. As SportsCenter points out, recent games have not been kind to a team that was expected to contend:
This is a real score in the first half in Indiana: Hawks 49 Pacers 20— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 6, 2014
The final score wound up being 107-88, but that marks five losses in Indiana's last six games. As ESPN's Tom Haberstroh points out, nothing in the way of betting has gone the Pacers' way this year:
Just saw this mind-boggling stat: The Pacers are 4-25-1 against the spread over last 30 games. (via @JeffFogle)— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) April 7, 2014
Oklahoma City understands the Pacers' pain at the moment, as the Thunder have dropped two straight, the most recent being a 122-115 loss to Phoenix. Kevin Durant's 38 points simply weren't enough to hold off a hungry Suns team in the hunt for the No. 8 seed.
Bettors can rest easy and ride with the Thunder as a safe bet, though, as Durant has the tools to carry the team on his back in a series:
Kevin Durant now has 25+ Pts for 41st straight game, passing Michael Jordan's previous mark of 40 straight (1986-87). pic.twitter.com/4lNygdJOK1— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 7, 2014
But enough about the boring favorites out there. Let's take a look at some underdogs, starting with the good old Brooklyn Nets.
Not only have the Nets played themselves into the postseason thanks to a strong veteran core and just five losses since the beginning of March, Deron Williams and Co. also have a spectacular record against contenders—including the darling favored to win it all, the Miami Heat.
Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra is one aware of his team's woes against the under-the-radar Nets, per Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post:
Nets are next. Erik Spoelstra: "All we have to know about Brooklyn is we haven't beaten them this year -- including the preseason."— Jason Lieser (@PBPjasonlieser) April 6, 2014
Not a favorable enough payout if the Nets go all the way?
Take a gander at where the Toronto Raptors sit in the odds department at the moment—this despite sitting No. 3 overall in the East.
Toronto has also done very well against teams with better odds, including a recent win over—yes—the Pacers, despite missing two starters. As long as DeMar DeRozan continues to score at a high level and Kyle Lowry continues to dish more than seven assists per game, the Raptors can play with any team.
Things get a bit dicey as far as odds go after Toronto, but fans can be comfortable with both the risk and payoff if the Raptors get hot.
Overall, the usual suspects line the top of the odds with the playoffs on the horizon, but at least one favorite is a ticking time bomb to avoid. It seems this year more than ever is the time to roll with an underdog for massive gains.