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December 20, 2014

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NBA Playoffs at the sports book: Vegas second-round odds, preview and picks

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Frank Gunn, the Canadian Press / AP

The Toronto Raptors’ Terrence Ross (31) drives to the net against the Brooklyn Nets’ Deron Williams (8) and Paul Pierce (34) as the Nets’ Kevin Garnett (2) boxes out the Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas during the first half of Game 7 of the opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Toronto on Sunday, May 4, 2014.

LVH Superbook odds to win the NBA Championship

  • Heat: 3-to-2
  • Spurs: 5-to-2
  • Thunder: 4-to-1
  • Clippers: 7-to-1
  • Pacers: 14-to-1
  • Nets: 25-to-1
  • Blazers: 25-to-1
  • Wizards: 30-to-1

The first round of the NBA Playoffs resuscitated what’s typically a dead time in Las Vegas sports books.

Five of the eight series going to a seventh game, which ties an overall NBA Playoff record in a single round, boosted bookmakers’ workloads. They aren’t complaining.

“I’ve never seen anything like it where every game is a nail biter,” said Johnny Avello, executive director of the Wynn sports book. “It creates more excitement going forward. Everyone wants to get in on the action.”

Call off those vacations from sports scheduled to last until football season because this year’s NBA Playoffs look to have fallen into the can’t-miss variety. Underdogs covered in 32 of 50 games so far, winning 23 of them straight-up.

“We’ve needed underdogs to come through more than you might think,” William Hill sports book Nick Bogdanovich said early in the first round. “It hasn’t all been great for us.”

Less than a decade ago, casinos would have scooped a fortune off of the public on underdogs covering that often. But the proliferation of information has improved the average sports bettor to the point that it’s less of a given that the house will be rooting for the favorite in any given contest.

In an effort to further make those holding the vig sweat, read below for a preview of the second round of the NBA Playoffs including odds and picks . All odds come from the LVH Superbook except the exact series results, which aren’t available locally and originate from offshore sports book Bovada.lv.

No. 1 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 5 Portland Blazers

Series price: Spurs minus-360; Blazers plus-300

Game one: Spurs minus-6.5 (Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.)

Matchup: The first-round results didn’t end up epitomizing its wildness. The Blazers turned out the biggest underdog to advance, and they were just plus-175 against the Houston Rockets in sports books. Portland faces nearly twice the challenge in the second round. The odds, when accounting for the hold, give the Blazers just a 23 percent chance against the Spurs. These teams did split four meetings in the regular season with Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed one of the losses due to an injury, creating matchup problems for San Antonio. The Blazers also took two of three games off of the Spurs last season, winning as both a 7- and 11.5-point underdog. But for those who believe experience creates an edge, there’s a major downside for Portland. This is the first time in 14 years the Blazers made it out of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. It’s the Spurs’ 11th time in the same span.

Pick: Spurs in six games at 7-to-2

No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers

Series price: Thunder minus-200; Clippers plus-175

Game one: Thunder minus-5.5 (tonight at 6:30 p.m.)

Matchup: Well, this should be a dandy. This conference semifinal series pits the best team from the first half of the season, the Thunder, against arguably the one most impressive in the second, the Clippers. The Spurs finished with a better record and the Heat are two-time defending champions, but there’s still an argument that these are the two best teams. They at least have the best one-two punches of players — yes, better than Miami and San Antonio — by most statistical measures. They’re the only two teams with two players in the top 10 of Player Efficiency Rating among those who appeared in at least half of their teams’ games. Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant is No. 1 and Russell Westbrook is No. 8. For Los Angeles, Chris Paul is No. 6 and Blake Griffin is No. 10. But both teams have also been maddeningly inconsistent at times, as seen in their first-round series that went the distance. Los Angeles went 2-5 against the spread in its win over Golden State, hinting the oddsmakers may have the Clippers overvalued. The Thunder went 3-4 versus the number against the Grizzlies, but dropped two games straight-up as a 7.5-point favorite.

Pick: Clippers in six games at 11-to-2

No. 1 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 5 Washington Wizards

Series price: Pacers minus-180, Wizards plus-160

Game one: Pacers minus-4 (tonight at 4 p.m.)

Matchup: The Wizards face a second-round opponent seeded three spots higher than their first-round foe, the Bulls, but post as a shorter underdog in sports books. That rarely ever happens. The Wizards were plus-165 against the Bulls, but now are a nickel cheaper against the Pacers. It’s a testament to the public’s shrinking interest in backing the Pacers coinciding with a surge of excitement over the Wizards. While Indiana labored to put away Atlanta, getting outscored in the series but covering in all four wins, Washington scorched Chicago. The Bulls’ defensive efficiency rose from the second-best in the NBA during the regular season at 97.8 points per 100 possessions to 104.8 in the playoffs. The only team better at preventing points than the Bulls? The Pacers. Washington has threats inside — Nene and Marcin Gortat — and out — John Wall and Bradley Beal — that could seemingly implement the same game plan against Indiana. It didn’t work well in the regular season for the Wizards against the Pacers, as the latter won two of three meetings with an overall scoring differential of plus-34.

Pick: Pacers in five games at 7-to-2

No. 2 Miami Heat vs. No. 6 Brooklyn Nets

Series price: Heat minus-550, Nets plus-425

Game one: Heat minus-7 (Tuesday at 4 p.m.)

Matchup: Is the betting market too high on the Heat? It’s a question that bettors must ask after sports books posted the defending champions with an 85 percent chance to beat a team that swept them during the regular season. It’s true that all the games were extremely close. The Nets’ biggest win over the Heat was by nine points but came in overtime. The other three Brooklyn victories were each by one point. Oddsmakers have the Heat as the runaway favorite to win the NBA title at plus-150 despite most power ratings having them no better than the fourth best team in the league with the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers all ahead. But that’s short compared to this time last year, when Miami was minus-300 to win the title. Sweeping the Bobcats to get a week off while the Nets had to play three additional games could be a saving grace for the Heat.

Pick: Heat in seven games at 4-to-1

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer

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