March Madness may be over, but the upcoming 2014 NBA playoffs are certain to feature their fair share of surprises.
With the regular season winding down and the 16 playoff teams solidified, here we'll break down the latest championship odds and highlight a pair of teams who are sure to overcome the odds this postseason and make a surprising run at the NBA crown.
|San Antonio Spurs||+300|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+400|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+900|
|Golden State Warriors||+2800|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+4000|
Dallas Mavericks (+6600)
The NBA playoffs are all about matchups, and if the Dallas Mavericks can secure the No. 7 seed and a first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder by beating the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, they'll be a dark-horse contender to watch out for in the Western Conference.
If Dallas loses on Wednesday, however, the team will fall to the eighth seed and be forced to take on the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in Round 1, a team they've gone 0-4 against this season.
However, a win over the Grizzlies would lock the Mavs into the No. 7 spot, meaning they would likely play the Thunder, who they've gone 2-1 against this season and match up well with.
What makes the Mavericks so dangerous in a series against the Thunder is that they can score the ball as well as any team in the league, averaging nearly 105 points per game during the regular season. And, as a team, the Mavs are second in the league in three-point percentage (behind only the Spurs), hitting threes at a clip of 38.6 percent.
Not to mention Dallas isn't short on playoff experience, as pointed out by ESPN Stats & Info:
The Mavericks have clinched a playoff berth for the 13th time in the last 14 seasons.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 13, 2014
It also doesn't hurt that Dallas possesses a bona fide superstar in Dirk Nowitzki, who has won an NBA title and NBA Finals MVP honors within the past three years.
With Nowitzki shooting 49.6 percent from the field (his best since 2010-11) and hitting 40 percent from beyond the arc, Dallas also has a go-to player who understands his strengths as well as how to exploit the defense in key situations.
When you combine that with Monta Ellis' athleticism and quickness on the perimeter, it's clear that Oklahoma City and others will struggle to contain the Mavs' potent attack over the course of a seven-game series.
Washington Wizards (+15000)
The Washington Wizards may be one of the most inexperienced teams making a run at the Larry O'Brien Trophy this spring, but they have come an awfully long way since drafting franchise point guard John Wall back in 2010.
The Wizards have even earned the respect of the back-to-back champion Miami Heat and head coach Erik Spoelstra, via WizardsXTRA on Twitter:
"They defend. The have the quickness and size. Wall's speed and relentlessness to attack the paint- Beal is a younger version of (Wade)"— WizardsXTRA (@WizardsXTRA) April 14, 2014
"The things about young teams, is that they change. They're a good team and we respect them."— WizardsXTRA (@WizardsXTRA) April 14, 2014
Led by their explosive backcourt, which also features second-year sharpshooter Bradley Beal, the Wiz can score in a variety of ways and don't rely on one superstar to carry the load. (Keep in mind that Washington has five players who are averaging 13 or more points per game this season.)
The Wizards have also had more success in 2013-14 thanks to an improved effort on the defensive end, where they rank 10th in terms of fewest points allowed per game (99.4) and sixth in opponents three-point percentage (.349).
Washington is also tied for ninth in the NBA in steals per game (8.2) and ranks fourth in the league in opponents turnovers per game (15.4). It's no secret that defense leads to offense, and that's been the case for the Wizards all year long.
But when the game slows down, Washington can also operate in the half-court setting, where Wall and veteran center Marcin Gortat can exploit opposing defenses in the pick-and-roll.
Depending on who the Wizards draw in the first round, this is a team capable of taking advantage of a lackluster Eastern Conference. The team's lack of postseason experience is the one big concern, but Golden State proved last season that it's possible to learn as you go.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com, unless otherwise noted.
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