Three Underdogs Look For Hope In The NBA Playoffs

Las Vegas doesn’t anticipate in the three second-round series of the NBA Playoffs that are still yet to begin. Golden State, Cleveland and San Antonio are all (-400) betting favorites in their best-of-seven matchups against Utah, Toronto and Houston respectively.

Will the Jazz, Raptors or Rockets be able to offer any value for basketball bettors, be it in individual games on the more lucrative proposition of actually winning the series and reaching the conference finals. What follows is the positive case laid out for these three underdogs and where their opportunities may lie…

Utah: Any hope for the Jazz has to start with their advantage in rebounding. During the regular season, Utah was the third-best rebounding team in the league, while Golden State was tenth. The big question here lies in the health of Rudy Gobert. The forward that averaged 13 boards per game during the season was injured early in the first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers and even though Gobert has returned, he only played thirteen minutes in the Game 7 win on Sunday.

Utah might have been able to knock off the Clips and reward bettors who grabbed the (+180) series price at the outset with Gobert limited—but it’s much more difficult to imagine them even playing competitively with Golden State, much less actually winning four games in two weeks if Gobert isn’t healthy.

But if Gobert can go, if Derrick Favors keeps rebounding like he did on Sunday (11 boards) then Utah has a chance. You can make a good case that, outside of powerhouses Cleveland and San Antonio, the Jazz are the team best suited to match up with the Warriors. The theory would go that if Golden State’s outside shooting goes cold, Utah can can close out the defensive possession with the rebound better than other potential rivals.

Toronto: The Raptors played the Cavaliers in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals and were able to win two games. In a league where experience is a big deal and teams move along a natural progression, this is a bigger deal in the NBA than it is in other sports.

On a more immediate note, consider the following—Toronto is a significantly better defensive team than Cleveland—ranking eighth in the league, while the Cavs are in the lower half. The Raptors have the backcourt that can exploit Cleveland’s defensive vulnerability. DeMar DeRozan in particular, just took over the first-round series against Milwaukee after the Bucks grabbed a couple wins. And Toronto is more than capable of banging with Cleveland underneath, between Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka.

Houston: Any hope for an upset with any team usually has to begin by looking to see where contrasts with the favorite can be drawn. This one isn’t hard to find—the Rockets play at one of the fastest paces in the league, the Spurs one of the slowest.

From a pure statistical standpoint, Houston doesn’t match up well—Kawhi Leonard can cancel out James Harden and the Spurs have no obvious weaknesses. But if the Rockets can consistently force a pace that’s uncomfortable for San Antonio, the past statistical data can go out the window and Houston will have a real shot.

Will any of these three teams pull the big upset? Will they at least cover pointspreads? Or are we better off just giving the points? My ultimate conclusions are reserved for clients and I invite you to become one by signing up for my NBA Playoffs Package. This program runs through the end of the NBA Finals and includes nightly action on baseball as a complimentary bonus. Get on board with me for a profitable May.