Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
Since 1984 when the NBA playoffs expanded to its current 16-team field, just five times has a No. 8 seed upset a No. 1 in the first round and not since 2012 when the Philadelphia 76ers upset the Chicago Bulls. That one deserves an asterisk because Bulls star Derrick Rose suffered a season-ending injury in Game 1. Oddsmakers don’t expect a similar upset in the first round this year because both top seeds are favored to win their conference title.
The Golden State Warriors are -375 favorites to win the Western Conference for a fifth straight season and open defense of their back-to-back NBA titles on Saturday against the No. 8 Los Angeles Clippers (+8000 to win West). That’s a matchup the Warriors probably wanted because while the Clippers won the first meeting of the two very early in the season, Golden State won the final three – the last two with ease. Dubs star Steph Curry left Tuesday’s game with a minor injury but is expected to be fine for Game 1.
Golden State could be on a crash course in the second round with the Houston Rockets (+600), who are seeded fourth and open Sunday against the No. 5 Utah Jazz (+2800). Of course, the Warriors and Rockets went seven full games in last year’s Western Conference Finals, and most believe Houston is the only team capable of dethroning the Dubs in the West.
Houston could have finished as high as No. 2 in the West but a few results went against the team in the season’s final two nights – including losing in the final seconds to Oklahoma City. Houston eliminated Utah in five games in the second round of last year’s playoffs.
The Milwaukee Bucks finished with the NBA’s best record and are +150 favorites to win the Eastern Conference. That’s something the team has never done – the last time it reached the NBA Finals in 1974 was when the Bucks were located in the Western Conference.
The Bucks host the No. 8 Detroit Pistons (+8000) in Game 1 on Sunday. Detroit earned the East’s final playoff spot on the season’s final night with a victory at the New York Knicks but was without star Blake Griffin due to a knee injury, and his status for Game 1 (at least) is in question. Griffin is likely to play through it but hasn’t looked close to normal in recent games.
The second-seeded Toronto Raptors (+220) also have never won the Eastern Conference and open against the No. 7 Orlando Magic (+5500) on Saturday. Orlando improved by 17 wins this season to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012. The Raptors and Magic split four regular-season meetings.