Moore: Re-Ranking All 8 NBA First-Round Series Odds After Game 1
Photo credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kawhi Leonard
- After the eight Game 1s this weekend, series prices have shifted -- some dramatically so.
- Matt Moore re-ranks all the current NBA Playoffs first-round series prices, headlined by a surprising team still getting plus odds.
Everyone always overreacts to Game 1.
Well, OK, not every time. For example, last year when the Pelicans ran roughshod over the Blazers, few saw a sweep coming. Sometimes Game 1 is a test case of how bad the matchup is. Sometimes it’s an outlier. Sometimes it’s the only strike a team gets in before an unstoppable adjustment. There’s a lot to figure out in some of these matchups.
But based off what we saw in Game 1, where’s the value on the new adjusted series prices? Where was the overreaction? And where should you exercise caution? Here’s a look at the series prices and their value after the Game 1s.
1. Brooklyn Nets (+180)
They were my No. 1 value before the series started and remain that way. The expectation has to be that Philly will respond in Game 2. However, unlike the other upsets this weekend, this one feels like it has more sustainability. Joel Embiid isn’t right, and as long as he isn’t, this series will be up in the air.
More to the point, even the saving graces for Philadelphia were a concern.
- Jimmy Butler had 36 points, but it never felt like he was making teammates better; he finished with zero assists.
- The gap in 3-point shooting was a concern going into the series and was only exacerbated; unlike the other upsets, this one was the one that held true to form for both teams’ regular-season profile beyond the arc.
- D’Angelo Russell was terrible in the first half.
- Jarrett Allen was in foul trouble.
- J.J. Redick and Jonathon Simmons seemed unplayable.
The Sixers don’t just seem like they’re in a tough matchup — they seem mentally compromised, from Ben Simmons’ comments about the booing to their questionable chemistry with Butler to the same between Embiid and Simmons.
You’re still getting plus money on the Nets, who play with a lot of confidence and may have the coaching edge in this matchup. The Nets have nothing to lose, but they also seem more connected. If the Nets take Game 3 (I’m expecting Philly to take Game 2), this number’s going to shift to minus odds. This may be the last good chance to get the Nets at a plus number with confidence.
2. Toronto Raptors (-400)
I expected the Raptors to drop that game. They can’t win Game 1s. Doesn’t matter what new guys they add, the Raptors are still the Raptors in Game 1. However, it was way more of an outlier than the Sixers’ performance. The Magic hit 14 three-pointers on 48% shooting from deep; they averaged 11.3 per game in the regular season on 36% shooting.
Kyle Lowry defecating in the sleeping quarters is no surprise in a playoff environment and especially Game 1, but going scoreless is an outlier even for him. Much was made of his +11 plus-minus, but if he had made two buckets, he would have been a +15 and Toronto wins that game.
Similarly, Toronto shot 33% vs. their regular-season mark of 36% from deep. It took both a red-hot night from Orlando and D.J. Augustin and a pitiful night from Toronto for a three-point win.
Toronto opened -1400 to win this series and now is all the way down to -350; that’s too good of value for a team this good. The Magic played a great game, but not every Raptors game is a Game 1.
3. Denver Nuggets (-110)
Saying “they just missed shots” is an excuse I will always shy away from. However, it really is true with Denver. According to Second Spectrum data, the Nuggets had a better “shot quality” expected eFG% than the Spurs did. The Spurs shot 6.3% better than expected; the Nuggets shot 3.9% worse.
The Spurs hit contested fadeaway mid-range shots; Denver clanked catch-and-shoot shots. On unguarded catch-and-shoot opportunities, the Nuggets shot 4-of-14, per Synergy Sports, almost all of them off crisp opportunities from Nikola Jokic passes after the Spurs doubled.
San Antonio closed with typically Spurs-ian mental toughness in Denver’s first playoff game with this young squad. However, the Nuggets were relaxed after Game 1, and they should settle down. The home-court advantage for San Antonio I still think is contextually overrated, and this number could head in a big Denver direction by the end of the week. A normalized set of shooting performances and Denver would have rolled.
The Nuggets have been a top-five offense for three years running. Trust the sample size.
4. San Antonio Spurs (-110)
That said, I think San Antonio may have the best chance to win Game 2 on the road of the underdogs, and doing so would effectively finish the series. An inexperienced team like Denver down 0-2 going to San Antonio isn’t coming back with its season alive.
The Spurs did prove an important strategy is viable: make Nikola Jokic pass, and dare the other guys to beat them. Denver’s been in an offensive funk for months, and its biggest weakness has been shooting. A big LaMarcus Aldridge or DeMar DeRozan game (neither of which happened in Game 1), and this thing spirals quickly. I don’t love paying the same price for the 7-seed as the 2-seed after one game, but this series is very much a coin flip now.
5. Portland Trail Blazers (-130)
The Blazers drew first blood behind superior shooting. They won the key matchup, with Enes Kanter scoring 20 points and finishing with a +15 plus-minus. If the Thunder can’t make Portland pay with Kanter on the floor, that’s a big swing in Portland’s favor.
Portland locked down the paint and OKC took 33 three-pointers, way more than it wants.
The biggest factor here is Paul George’s shoulder. If he’s not right, OKC can’t win. George said after the game he couldn’t lift it for two days after the win over Houston Tuesday and hadn’t shot since then. The Oklahoma City offense just can’t survive with George that way, and it’s both shoulders that are injured.
OKC’s going to make this a fight, but Portland does have home court and Damian Lillard. Enough things are in their favor for them to be this high.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (+110)
That said, the Thunder generated good looks, and while they don’t have great shooters, even they should have hit more than five of the 33 three-point attempts. George did suit up and made some big plays down the stretch. After Tuesday’s Game 2, the series doesn’t resume until Friday, giving him two full days rest before Game 3 back in OKC.
Russell Westbrook played well, and the Thunder had a chance to win this game despite everything that went against them. They won two of the quarters and lost the third by just a point. They were hit in the mouth in the first quarter, settled and recovered. The better team that was favored before Sunday is now plus money. There’s still value there.
7. Orlando Magic (+300)
D.J. Augustin was amazing. Jonathan Isaac was sneaky good. The Magic won a game in which Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross combined to shoot 5-of-25. That said, they outshot the Raptors, which is going to be difficult to sustain, and Kyle Lowry could simply not have played any worse.
Augustin hit the game-winner thanks to miscommunication by Toronto in coverage. Things may stabilize for Orlando’s other star players offensively, but Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam are too good to have gotten beat defensively the way the metrics reveal they did. This seems more like an offensive outlier.
However, this is the Raptors, and Orlando is more likely to twist the screws defensively. They’re not scared of this moment, and that counts for something. I wish the number was a bit higher — closer to +315 — and I’d be more into this.
8. Philadelphia 76ers (-220)
I’m just not sure they’re better than Brooklyn. Even if they win Game 2, this number won’t move much, if at all. I’d wait to see if they win Game 2 and then fire to protect yourself from the complete meltdown.
If you wanted to get in on the Sixers, I’d wait until they win a game to set their feet, but even then I want to see how the games go in Brooklyn first. Embiid’s injury status looms huge here.
9. Indiana Pacers (+600)
I don’t want any part of this because a lot of the matchup advantages I identified played out in Game 1. That said, the Pacers are just not going to shoot that poorly, maybe ever, as a unit. They held a halftime lead and genuinely took it to Boston defensively.
The third quarter that sunk them was the only quarter they lost on Sunday. Boston’s defense played a part, but if that regulates itself to even a small degree, they’ll be within range in Game 2. I don’t love this, hence the ranking, but at that return it’s better value than Boston for how close the series is.
10. Boston Celtics (-900)
Boston’s defensive intensity was amazing. Jaylen Brown absolutely smacked the Pacers in their DHO sets trying to free up Bojan Bogdanovic, and Al Horford dominated his matchup vs. both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis.
They are the better team and finally played like it. However, they also didn’t play like it at all in the first half. Focus is still a little wonky. The biggest reason to get in at this number? They won big despite giving the Pacers 13 points off turnovers. Boston can clean it up.
11. Houston Rockets (-650)
I hate laying 6.5-to-1, but this is still a reasonable number because of the respect Utah generates from the basketball public and the analytic wonks. This one, however, I will chalk up to being “a sign of things to come.” This is a nightmare matchup for Utah. The Rockets are a great team, and they’ll beat most anyone. They will especially beat Utah.
The Jazz cannot match up with Houston with the players they need to play. They need to play Rubio, but he’s a non-shooter who, even when he had a good night like Game 1, isn’t a real threat the Rockets have to respect offensively. And defensively he’s very disciplined but not physical enough.
They need to play Gobert, who will probably win another DPOY award but in a playoff series gets exposed vs. guards who can score on the switch against him. Offensively, the Jazz can’t go to him to get buckets.
The Rockets are a much better team, and they have a huge matchup advantage in this series.
12. Milwaukee Bucks (-20,000)
I mean, sure, if you’ve got $20k lying around and want to buy an iPhone 7 or something, then go for it.
13. Golden State Warriors (-50,000)
Come on, why bother?
14. Utah Jazz (+450)
Aren’t the better team. Don’t have the matchup. Don’t have home court. Korver’s not healthy. Gobert is almost unplayable. Rubio had a good game, and they lost by 32. I can’t see any way they pull out four victories with the Rockets at the level they are.
15. Los Angeles Clippers (+10,000)
Just light your money on fire.
16. Detroit Pistons (+5000)
I will not dignify this with a response. I’m sorry, Pistons… good run. Can we have Kemba Walker and the Hornets storm the court like it’s a wrestling run-in?