Saturday, May 18, 2013

NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Finals Preview

Series Price: San Antonio -140 / Memphis +120 (via Bookmaker)

As far as Game 1 assignments are concerned, expect to see Conley on Parker in what will be the most intriguing matchup of the series in my opinion. Parker is arguably the best European guard to put on an NBA uniform while Mike Conley has established himself as an upper-echelon NBA point guard throughout these playoffs. The key will be to keep Parker out of the paint as much as possible and make him settle for jumpers (granted that is much easier said than done).

It looks like Tim Duncan will be guarding Marc Gasol on the outside while Tiago Splitter will do his best to hang with Zach Randolph down low. Z-Bo carried his team offensively during Game 5 of the Conference Semis, putting up 28 points (on just 17 shots) and grabbing 14 boards. Randolph's recent offensive surge can be directly attributed to his ability to get to the foul line. Randolph scored 41 points on a combined 40 field goal attempts and attempted just 12 free throws during the first three games. Contrastingly, Z-Bo put up 51 points on just 34 shots and got to the line 24 times in Games 4 and 5. Clearly Z-Bo's offensive productivity hinges on his ability to get to the charity stripe.

As far as coaching goes, Pop and the Spurs obviously have the edge, but Lionel Hollins has done a fine job especially after the Rudy Gay trade. After dropping 44 in Game 1, Steph Curry was held to 22, 16, 22, 9, 22 in Games 2-6 respectively. While some of that can be attributed to the ankle tweak Steph sustained during Game 3, it's hard for me to believe Pop didn't have anything to do with Curry's scoring slump. Additionally, after Klay Thompson's 28-point first half in Game 2, Kawhi Leonard held the young sharpshooter to a combined 46 points over the last 18 quarters of the series. 

Tayshaun Prince went 13-for-44 (30%) from the field against Oklahoma City during the series which honestly isn't that much worse than Rudy Gay's career shooting percentage from the outside (I'm not kidding either). Prince isn't the defender he once was but he is still an above-average wing defender in my book. If we compare him to Gay, Prince is a better defender, a similar outside shooter, and you get him for 40% of the price. Seems like a solid deal to me. Plus Memphis won't have to deal with the strict luxury tax penalties that came into the picture after the latest collective bargaining agreement was signed.

Neither of these teams are afraid to play games in the 80's or 90's and I'm expecting a relatively low scoring series which is evidenced by the Game 1 total that currently sits at 182.5.

Recommendations: If you like San Antonio for the series, I would go ahead and lay -140 (depending on the book you should be able to get a better number like -130). On the other hand, if you like Memphis, I would either take the points in Game 1 (Grizzlies are 5-1 ATS on the road during these playoffs) or simply sit on the sidelines and wait for an adjusted series price after Game 1. The reasoning is San Antonio is -185 on the moneyline for Game 1 which implies they have roughly a 65% chance to win the game. So assuming San Antonio takes Game 1 at home, Memphis will become a much larger dog than they currently are (more like +200 to win the series as opposed to the current number of +110 / +120). Also, we cannot forget Memphis lost both Game 1's against the Clippers and Thunder, only to come back and ultimately win both of those series.