What Sharps Think About the Second Round of NBA Playoffs

We're down to the final eight teams in the NBA Playoffs. Frankly, sharps see it more like the final four or five. There are three underdogs that aren't being given much of a chance to advance past the second round. Let's take a quick look at what sharps are thinking about each of the current matchups.

NEW ORLEANS VS. GOLDEN STATE

This was the first second round series to get started because both teams advanced quickly. New Orleans swept Portland. Golden State took five games to send San Antonio home. The market priced Golden State at -9 or -9.5 in Saturday's first game when everyone thought Steph Curry was going to play. The line fell to -7 when he was ruled out. Shouldn't have! Golden State started running away in the second quarter, coasting to a 123-101 victory.

The Wise Guys I've talked to don't see how New Orleans is going to win with a running style against the Warriors. It's one thing to run past Portland. That worked great. Run against Golden State and you just play to their strengths. That was obvious before halftime the other night.

Sharps will look for value on the Pelicans on a game-by-game basis, hoping the public overreacts to that opening blowout. But, to win the series? Sharps don't see this one getting close unless Golden State loses focus.


UTAH AT HOUSTON

Utah's great defense gives the Jazz a chance to compete with anybody. But, losing Ricky Rubio to a hamstring injury was bad luck at just the wrong time. Houston is terrific. Opponents must be at full strength to have any chance. Houston was -11.5 in the opener without Rubio in uniform for the Jazz. That tells you all you need to know right there.

Like Golden State, Houston has to avoid complacency or this series will be over quickly. That said, sharps will be looking to make value bets on Utah as an underdog (particularly at home) if the public drives the number too high.


PHILADELPHIA AT BOSTON

You don't often see the "road" team in a playoff series laying a price like -400 or -450. That's the case here because Philadelphia has been playing like a #1 seed the past several weeks, while Boston barely looks like a playoff team when Kyrie Irving is in street clothes. Philadelphia is already -3 on the road in Game One. That suggests anywhere from -8 to -10 at home depending on how these teams perform in the first two games.

Though sharps generally like underdogs, there are definitely groups who like the Sixers in Game One...and who will take them again later in the series. Quants keep getting math gradings to Philadelphia. There's not much of a case to make for Boston beyond "brilliant head coach" and "Philadelphia can't keep playing at this level."

I think the old school guys will take Boston at tall numbers on the road.


CLEVELAND AT TORONTO

This is a tricky one to handicap for sharps and the public. Cleveland and LeBron James obviously have a much better playoff history than Toronto. The Raptors are annual disappointments. Cleveland keeps winning even when you think the LeBron era is winding down.

Pure math makes Toronto a clear favorite. They have more scoring weapons, a better defense, and are the much fresher team. But, LeBron James is a one-man wrecking crew. And, all he has to do is carry his team to four victories while taking occasional games off.

I'd say it this way. Sharps "know" they're supposed to bet Toronto, but can't pull the trigger yet because of past history. Many are hoping Cleveland loses Game One so they can bet the Cavaliers (+) in the bounce back in Game Two. Toronto will get more sharp support later in the series if it can establish that its playoff choke jobs are a thing of the past.

Are sharps betting any futures prices? As we've talked about in the past, sharps generally don't bet futures because the return is so poor compared to just rolling over series bets.

*If you think Cleveland offers value against public expectations to win the Eastern Conference...it's better to bet the Cavs at the series price vs. Toronto, then roll over all the money you get back (if they pull the upset) at the series price in the East Finals against Philadelphia (or Boston).

*If you think Toronto has a shot to go all the way, knocking out the West champ in the finals...you should just bet Toronto to advance past Cleveland, then re-invest on Toronto at the series price over Philadelphia in the East Finals...then re-invest in Toronto over Golden State or Houston in the Championship series. That would return more than current futures prices on the Raptors.