After a first round of thrills and spills, the NBA Playoffs move onto the Conference semi-finals, starting on Monday. And nothing has yet happened to blow up the theory that this is the most open title race in over a decade, despite the survival of the top two seeds in both the East and West.
The Miami Heat, the only side to sweep their opening series, remain 2.45 favourites to claim a third Championship in succession but injury-hit Charlotte failed to give them a proper test.
While the struggles of the Indiana Pacers have seen them drift out to 5.00 to take the Eastern crown with the Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards both at 10.00.
Even with the Portland Trail Blazers upsetting the seedings to ditch Houston, the top three of the Western Conference have all survived although the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers all required seven games to advance.
The Spurs are 3.80 second favourites to win the title and 2.20 to storm the West with OKC at 2.80 and the Clippers at 4.25 to claim the Conference.
With question marks surrounding all three, could a cheeky punt on Portland at 11.00 come up trumps? Right now, anything is possible.
Indiana Pacers 1.53 – Washington Wizards 2.50, Game 1
Washington are 2.52 to out-run the Pacers and make it all the way through to the East Finals. If it’s the same Indiana team that toiled against lowly Atlanta for six games, the Wizards will surely prevail. If it’s the Game 7 edition, then maybe the number one seeds have a shot at redemption.
The Pacers desperately need the old All Star-level Roy Hibbert as a counter-point to Marcin Gortat and Nene. They also need to limit the Wizards trio of outside shooters in the same way that the Hawks’ gunners were denied on Saturday.
That’s a big if, considering Indiana’s sole consistency has been their inconsistency. A vibrant Washington team – available at +2.5 on the handicap at 2.18 in Game 1 - will pose them problems but the Pacers may have now passed through the eye of the storm.
Prediction: Indiana to win the series 4-2 (5.00)
Oklahoma City Thunder 1.40 – LA Clippers 2.95, Game 1
The Clippers are 2.40 to oust the Thunder and for all the emotional energy expended in dealing with the banning of owner Donald Sterling, and the physical toil required to edge out Golden State, LA still looks in good shape.
While there are question marks over Chris Paul’s fitness, the All Star has kept on plugging. Hence, my pre-playoffs forecast that the Clippers are the dark horse for the title still stands.
Oklahoma City were almost sucker punched by Memphis and Kevin Durant apart, there isn’t the same dazzle that their Finals squad of 2012 possessed. LA is great value at -3.5 in Game 1’s handicap at 3.95 and 3.05 to win at least two of the opening three games of this series.
Prediction: LA Clippers to win the series 4-3 (7.50)
Best bet: Go under 180.5 total points in Indiana-Washington at 2.20