Magic v. Bobcats
When the favored team is up 3-0 and on the road in game 4, they typically suffer a let down and allow the underdog to capture a game (see Celtics v. Heat). After game 1, this is the best opportunity you will get to bet the Bobcats if you believe in them. They are +4 at home, in a close-out game.
Unfortunately, my belief in them is badly shaken. With Stephen Jackson badly hobbled, the Bobcats simply don’t have a scorer, and that’s had repercussions up and down the lineup. It is painful watching them try to put the ball in the basket right now. No bet.
Hawks v. Bucks
Let me start off this preview by saying my last bet on the Hawks was absolutely terrible. Not just because I lost it, but because I had absolutely no good reason to make it. I don’t believe in betting with no edge, and that was a quintessential no-edge bet. In the playoffs, I believe there are two ways to get edge. The first is from lack of information, where the betting public doesn’t understand how two teams match up against each other. The We Believe Warriors against the Mavericks was the all-time exemplar of that. The time to make these kind of bets is either on the series price (eg. Celtics -180 v. Heat), or on the first game of the series (eg. Bobcats +9.5, Blazers +8).
Once the series gets deeper, however, the informational edge tends to disappear. Now the best way to find edge is to wait for must-win situations for a team that you know SHOULD win. The classic case for this is when the best team in the series has the poorer seeding, and must win a game on the road at some point. If you knew that the Spurs were better than the Mavs, for instance (which I didn’t), then taking the Spurs with the points in game 2 would have been an excellent bet, regardless of outcome.
Game 4 is a game the Hawks would like to win, because they don’t want to return to Atlanta tied in the series, with a long series ahead of them. On the other hand, the smart money knows this and has moved the line from the +2 the Hawks were getting in Game 3, to -2 in this game. Also this is far from a must-win situation from the Hawks, as they retain home court advantage even if they lose. The freshly chastened and disciplined feltbot is laying off. No Bet.
Portland v. Phoenix
Wow, Brandon Roy returns, and Batum plays with one arm. Pretty dramatic developments. On the other hand, Phoenix having regained home-court in Game 3, had no reason to play hard in Game 4. So the Game 4 result can be partially discounted. What can we expect in Game 5?
Here is why I liked Portland before Game 1: I thought Marcus Camby would match up well with Amare Stoudemire. By and large, this has held true. Camby has made Stoudemire look mortal. No reason why that shouldn’t continue.
I also thought this series would be a coming-out party for Nicholas Batum, who is an emerging star in the mold of Danny Granger. Unfortunately, the party didn’t last beyond Game 1. Batum reaggravated his surgically repaired shoulder in Game 2 and has been a shadow of himself, when able to play at all.
And I thought the Suns would have no answer for Andre Miller. This I was wrong about, because after Miller’s dominating performance in Game 1, Suns coach Alvin Gentry switched the much bigger Grant Hill onto Miller, and succeeded in shutting him down. A great playoff adjustment, which caught Blazers’ coach Nate McMillan flat-footed. He should have responded by attacking Steve Nash and Jason Richardson mercilessly, but instead continued to force the ball into LaMarcus Aldridge, and the Suns’ double-teaming.
With Roy back on the court, McMillan instantly became a better coach. If the Suns persist in putting their best defender on Miller, then Roy should be able to light up Jason Richardson, or whoever guards him. That in turn relieves the double teaming on Aldridge. Even though Roy was tentative in Game 4, this showed immediate dividends for Aldridge, who had the best game of his career.
McMillan did make one very nice adjustment in game 3. I had been arguing that he should put Batum on J-Rich. He did me one better, and put him on Nash. (Did Gentry give him the idea?) This is the perfect spot for Batum, as it keeps his injured arm away from the banging in the paint. And his athleticism allows him to stay in front of Nash, and his long arms disrupt both Nash’s shot and the pick and roll.
Portland is +7. If they are indeed the best team in this series, as I half-expected before Game 1, then this would be a great game to bet them (see Hawks analysis above). On the other hand, this is not the same Portland team that began the series. Brandon Roy is trying to run on one leg. And Batum is trying to fly on one wing.
A lot of unquantifiables. But I like those points. Portland.