The first round of the NBA Playoffs gets underway on Saturday, with the higher seeds having home advantage in the first two games in the best-of-seven series. Familiarity traditionally breeds contempt for visitors as we begin the journey to the Finals.
Over the past six years there have been 90 post-season series, comprising a total of 494 games. The home teams have won 336 of those - a hit rate of 68%. In the first round of the Eastern Conference the overall win-loss record for the hosts is 97-36 (72.9%), while in the West it is 89-42 (67.9%).
Last season was fairly typical, with just four series out of 15 going in favour of the lower seed. But somewhere, lurking among the eight teams battling against the odds, there is an upset waiting to happen.
Here’s a look at the series which get under way on Saturday.
Denver v Golden State
If any team can profit from starting at home it’s surely Denver, who were a league-best 38-3 at the Pepsi Center during the regular season. The Nuggets have battled through injuries to go 8-2 over their last ten and their campaign also included a 3-1 record over Golden State. This is the Warriors' first post-season trip since 2007 and although they’ve had some success limiting Denver’s shooting this term, they might not have quite enough.
Series odds: Denver 1.21, Golden State 4.25
Prediction: Nuggets to win 4-2
Brooklyn v Chicago
Brooklyn won just once against Chicago this season and despite a promising start, they’ve never really convinced. The Bulls have worked miracles without Derrick Rose and go into the post-season with nothing to lose. Last year, they were number one seeds in the East but crashed out at this stage. Their defence might just cut down the Nets.
Series odds: Brooklyn 1.62, Chicago 2.25
Forecast: Bulls to win 4-3
San Antonio v LA Lakers
The Lakers are running on emotion after sneaking into the play-offs on the final night, despite the absence of Kobe Bryant. They’re a team in form with little pressure on their shoulders. The Spurs took the season series 2-1 and although Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol could prove a tough match for Tim Duncan, Tony Parker should carry them through. But having got this far, the Lakers won’t be pushovers.
Series odds: San Antonio 1.16, LA Lakers 5.00
Forecast: Spurs to win 4-3
Miami v Milwaukee
The team with the league’s best record goes up against the only play-off performers with a losing mark in the regular season. Miami have won three out of four against the Bucks this term but the Heat have taken the victory in 37 of their last 39 games. If Milwaukee advanced into the Conference semi-finals, it would rank among the greatest surprises of all time.
Series odds: Miami 1.01, Milwaukee 20.00
Forecast: Heat to win 4-0
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