San Antonio Spurs 1.32 – Dallas Mavericks 3.40 (series tied 2-2)
The most troubling thing for the Spurs isn’t that they’ve been unable to dominate the Western Conference’s lowest seed, or put them away in four, or even to turn out the kind of efficient basketball which installed them as second favourites at 4.00 for the NBA title.
It’s that they’ve had to fight for every single minute and push themselves on almost every possession just to get to the point where it’s now effectively a best of three series with the Dallas Mavericks to reach the second round, starting with Game 5 on Wednesday.
For a roster whose best two players in the NBA Playoffs so far have been aged 38 and 36 respectively, the fatigue factor hurts when there’s still almost two months of this post-season remaining.
And while the track record of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili makes San Antonio 1.70 to win two in a row and advance, the energy of Dallas – and the struggles of Tony Parker - has caused them untold problems.
The Mavs are contending despite an excellent job in corralling Dirk Nowitzki who is putting up a mere 16.0 points per game. In the end, the German will surely need to break free to complete an upset although there’s best value in looking at Dallas on the handicap of +5.5 at 2.08, even if you have to fancy their rivals to take a 3-2 lead.
Houston Rockets 1.38 – Portland Trail Blazers 3.05 (Blazers lead 3-1)
It’s win or go on vacation time for Houston who have slumped in tandem with James Harden, whose off-key shooting and ever-woeful defence has come home to roost.
Portland has ridden LaMarcus Aldridge’s 35 points and 11 rebounds average and have shown a surprising amount of resilience with three of the four games so far decided in overtime.
With the Rockets throwing everything to survive, expect another close one with the Blazers at +2.5 on the handicap at 2.55.
Toronto Raptors 1.65 – Brooklyn Nets 2.25 (series tied 2-2)
Even with Toronto restoring home advantage with their 97-79 win in Game 4, Brooklyn remain 1.85 to take this series with their Canadian cousins 1.90.
But Toronto, who are -3.5 on the handicap at 1.96, are a scrappy unit who can wear the Nets down, as shown with their superiority in the fourth quarters of the past three clashes.
Best bet: Go over 202.5 points in San Antonio - Dallas at 2.45