The NBA Playoffs Have Arrived

THE NBA PLAYOFFS HAVE ARRIVED!

WE BREAK DOWN THE FOUR SERIES THAT START SATURDAY

Enough of that wacky 66-game lockout-shortened NBA Regular Season already ... bring on the NBA Playoffs!
It all gets started this weekend with four post-season series on tap on this final Saturday in April (see quick-hitter previews below) and than four more best-of-seven series to start on Sunday and here's the up-to-date Odds to Win it All (note that all figures below are based on $100 per-play wagers):

TEAM ODDS TO WIN IT ALL
Miami Even
Chicago + 200
Oklahoma City + 240
San Antonio + 250
LA Lakers + 700
Boston + 1000
LA Clippers + 1250
Memphis + 1250
New York + 1250
Dallas + 2000
Indiana + 2000
Atlanta + 4000
Denver + 4000
Orlando + 7000
Philadelphia + 7000
Utah + 7000

Now here's a look at the NBA Playoff series that begin here on Saturday ...

EASTERN CONFERENCE -

#8 PHILADELPHIA (35-31) vs. #1 CHICAGO (50-16) - Game 1, 1:05 p.m. ET
You gotta hand it to the Bulls who copped the top seed in the East despite the fact last year's MVP Derrick Rose played in only 39 games while Luol Deng missed a dozen tilts and yet Tom Thibodeau's team led the league in defense (allowed 88.2 ppg) and have that assassin three-point shooter Kyle Korver ready/willing/able to get hot at a moment's notice.

If the heavy-duty dog 76ers are gonna make this a series at all than both Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala (they combine for 27.3 ppg) must have their really hot stretches ... or else.

One key in this series is the Bulls clean up lots of "garbage" with Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer scoring the ball off the offensive glass and so keep a close eye on that offensive reb stat line as the Bulls will do major damage if getting lots of gimme putbacks here - anything in the neighborhood of double-digit offensive boards is significant.

#7 NEW YORK (36-30) vs. #2 MIAMI (46-20) - Game 1, 3:35 p.m. ET
No doubt about it: The Knicks seemed to take some sense of genuine feeling of success playing the Heat "close" in their three meetings this year but do we need to remind New York that it lost these games by 10, 14 and 8 points?

Maybe Miami - which ranked fourth in the NBA in scoring defense - knows it can always "lock down" on Carmelo Anthony if need be but will there be any chemistry issues here for a Heat team that saw G Dwyane Wade miss 17 games?

Gotta believe that Miami will do its best to keep the ball moving and away from Knicks C Tyson Chandler who deserves this year's NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

We know, we know that the Heat has an awful bench but odds are LeBron James (27.1 ppg), Wade and Chris Bosh will play 38-to-42 minutes per here and hope to close out the Knicks in four or five games - if NY is gonna bang out a couple of wins than Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire must "play nice" together in the paint.

#6 ORLANDO (37-29) vs. #3 INDIANA (42-24) - Game 1, 7:05 p.m. ET
Lots of sizzle went out of this series a couple of weeks back when it was announced that Magic C Dwight Howard (back) would not play any more this 2011-12 campaign but might the Pacers be asleep at the wheel thinking this will now be a walkover?

Indiana is a real blue-collar team that relies on still-underrated star F Danny Granger (18.7 ppg) to bring home the bacon but Frank Vogel's squad does have three other players averaging 12-or-more points a game and inside force Roy Hibbert (12.8 ppg) could have a proverbial field day without Howard smacking away his shot attempts.

The Pacers won't be shy about driving the ball inside the paint against a Magic club that allows a better-than-you-think 93.4 ppg but the whole key here is simple:

Can Orlando get multiple perimeter shooters hot at the same time as three-point star Ryan Anderson (166 triples) will face special coverage and so J.J. Redick and Jason Richardson (214 treys between 'em) must be heard from here for Stan Van Gundy's gang.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#7 DALLAS (36-30) vs. #2 OKLAHOMA CITY (47-19) - Game 1, 9:35 p.m. ET
Is this the passing-of-the-torch time in NBA-land? Last year the Dallas Mavericks beat Okie City in a rugged Western Conference Finals but now the Thunder is looking for major post-season revenge and league scoring leader Kevin Durant (28 ppg) is far from a one-man band even if star Sixth Man James Harden may miss some time with that recent Ron Artest-inflicted concussion.

The Thunder is younger/stronger/quicker and so a push-the-pace game favors them even though Dallas scores lots of points on its secondary break with big man Dirk Nowitzki following down the floor and getting those top-of-the-key looks. Simply put, the Thunder will do everything in its power to make Nowitzki lag behind and not quite sure the defending champs have enough firepower to win this series - or even make it a competitive series - if Nowitzki is not getting 25-or-so shots per outing.

One X-factor to watch for here:

Okie City blew double-digit leads in two of the games against Dallas last year in the playoffs and so expect Scotty Brooks' second-seeded club to tighten up the screws on "D" and take better care of the ball - are you listening, PG Russell Westbrook?

NOTE: Catch more NBA Playoff Previews in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.

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