Saturday's NBA Stat Previews

STAT PREVIEWS FOR SATURDAY'S NBA PLAYOFF GRAND SLAM

The 2012 NBA Playoffs get under way Saturday with FOUR big games. Everyone who sat out Saturday will play Sunday in the final four first tips of the opening salvo. As promised we're here to preview Saturday action with the key indicator stats we've been trusting all year. We'll do the same in a day to get you ready for Sunday's action.

There's a lot to talk about, so let's jump right in. For you newcomers, we're focusing on offense and defensive efficiency, which is scoring adjusted for tempo (points scored and allowed per possession); as well as rebound rate. We're of the "defense and rebounding wins championships" school of handicapping here in the NOTEBOOK. That will become clear to you first-timers in short order.

 

PHILADELPHIA (8) VS. CHICAGO (1)
Game One: Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET
Series Price: Chicago -1600, Philadelphia +1100
Game One Line: Chicago by 8.5, total of 175.5

Chicago is a monster favorite here, in a series most pundits are expecting to give games at the most because Philadelphia closed the season so poorly. The Bulls will be favored to win every time they take the floor. If you focus only on games Philadelphia played this year vs. quality opposition, it could be argued that Chicago should be an even bigger favorite than the market is initially giving them credit for.

Efficiency Rankings
Philadelphia (17 on offense, 3 on defense, 17 in rebound rate)
Chicago (5 on offense, 1 on defense, 1 in rebound rate)

Chicago has prototypical championship caliber stats in terms of playoff basketball. We should point out that they got to play in the Eastern Conference, which has a lot more horrible teams. Miami had better stats than Dallas last year, but was exposed as a pretender in the finals. We're not saying Chicago is a pretender...but they're probably not quite as good as those stats would suggest. You can say the  same thing about Philadelphia, who truly abused the softest parts of their schedule this year. They struggle on offense and on the board vs. good teams. Obviously, Chicago is VERY good!

In terms of picking this series, we generally don't lay big numbers in the playoffs unless it's clear that the lesser team has thrown in the towel. We'll be working closely with our onsite sources to evaluate the Philadelphia mindset. If there's a point where they give up, we'll have to think about the Bulls (that will be more likely on the road at cheaper prices). We'll think about the Sixers as big dogs just because their defense deserves respect.

 

NEW YORK (7) VS. MIAMI (2)
Game One: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
Series Price: Miami -1200, New York +850
Game One Line: Miami by 8.5, total of 187

We were a bit surprised Miami opened as THIS big a betting favorite given how shaky they've been in recent weeks. Yes, they're the better team. And, yes, Amare Stoudemire might make the Knicks worse in terms of the playoffs because he's not in shape to defend or rebound. But, these two teams have been close to even in the second half of the season.

Efficiency Rankings
New York (19 on offense, 5 on defense, 16 in rebound rate)
Miami (6 on offense, 4 on defense, 6 in rebound rate)

New York has been better than that on offense in recent action, but worse on defense because the role players doing damage have been shooters rather than defenders. Miami has great profile numbers for a championship contender, even if they don't grade out as well as Chicago. The key to this series in our view will be how well New York shoots OVER Miami. The Heat's inside defense is too strong for Carmelo Anthony to win many games on his own. The Knicks will need ball movement that leads to three-pointers falling. Orlando has made that work vs. Miami when healthy. New York must do that, then go to Carmelo after the Heat have spread out to guard the arc.

Over a best of seven, the odds favor the team with the right profile rather than the team that needs treys. But, we HAVE seen three-heavy teams score first round upsets. And, last year Dallas obliterated the Lakers when everything clicked just right. We conceded Miami is the clear favorite. We think the market has overpriced their edge a touch and we'll be looking for value with the Knicks. Depending on how the market reacts, this could be a series where the road team generally offers the most percentage value.

 

ORLANDO (6) VS. INDIANA (3)
Game One: Saturday at 7:05 p.m. ET
Series Price: Indiana -700, Orlando +500
Game One Line: Indiana by 9, total of 191

Dwight Howard is out for the Magic, and the team hasn't brought much intensity to the floor in recent weeks. It's possible that this is going to be the most one-sided series in the first round just because Orlando doesn't show up! It's interesting that the Pacers drew a higher  early price as a home favorite in Game One than the other Eastern favorites, even though they were smaller to win the series. Doesn't make sense.

Efficiency Rankings
Orlando (14 on offense, 13 on defense, 12 in rebound rate)
Indiana (8 on offense, 10 on defense, 9 in rebound rate)

Indiana is a high energy team that does a lot of things well. They've played in the shadow of Chicago and Miami because they don't have a marquee superstar that commands attention. They certainly have a chance to be a force in later rounds. Orlando grades out as a slightly above average team when everyone's healthy. The team isn't at full strength, so you should see them as about 5-8 spots worse in all of those categories. Maybe it's 7-11 spots worse when you factor in schedule strength.

It's hard not to expect an Indiana rout. But, if the Magic DO get their heads on straight with Howard out of the way, they certainly have a chance to hang within inflated numbers. Information may turn out to be the key to these first three Eastern series because the big underdogs could lose big and ugly once they give up hope. If they don't give up hope, the market prices are too high. That's why it's great to have JIM HURLEY as YOUR source for the playoffs!

 

DALLAS (7) VS. OKLAHOMA CITY (2)
Game One: Saturday at 9:35 p.m. ET
Series Price: Oklahoma City -600, Dallas +450
Game One Line: Oklahoma City by 7.5, total of 194

Interesting that last year's Western Conference Finals is this year's first round yawner. Dallas has a losing record since the All-Star Break, and doesn't have the same dynamic supporting cast they had last year. Oklahoma City may or may not have improved since last year. It's hard to see that they've gotten any worse. Oklahoma City is the clear favorite. If they are truly revenge-minded (particularly Russell Westbrook), the market prices may be understating their edge.

Efficiency Rankings
Dallas (20 on offense, 8 on defense, 20 in rebound rate)
OKC (2 on offense, 9 on defense, 5 in rebound rate)

Dallas is still playing defense even though Tyson Chandler is gone. Remember that the East had easier schedules this year. Dallas and Oklahoma City rank second and third in the West in defensive efficiency behind Memphis. Unfortunately, that's where the similarities end this year. Oklahoma City is MUCH better on offense and on the boards. We'll be looking for ways to take advantage of that selection-wise on the road or any in bounce-back spot that comes up.

That wraps up Saturday's stat previews. JIM HURLEY'S official selections will go up a few hours before first tip on Saturday. You can purchase those right here at the website with your credit card, as well as our full postseason package. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with your tomorrow to preview Sunday's action. Then, starting Monday, we'll preview each upcoming game by looking at the most recent boxscore in that series. This approach has worked for us over the years. We feel it really keeps you in sync with what's happening on the floor.

If you're a baseball fan, be aware that JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK will still be aggressively pounding the bases every day even if our NOTEBOOK coverage is hoops heavy for the time being. Please check the ad boxes on the home page of this website for news about big play bombshells.

The battle for the NBA Championship officially gets underway Saturday. When championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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