Tue, May 8, 8:56pm by Staff Writer
The 2017-18 NBA season is nearing its conclusion with conference semi-finals currently taking place.
In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers hold a 3-nil lead over their opponents and look certain to progress to the conference finals.
No team has ever come back from a 3-nil deficit in NBA playoff history, so it is a near impossible task for the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors.
The 76ers led by Joel Embiid and Aussie point guard Ben Simmons have been better than expected this season, but now find themselves on the brink of elimination and priced at $101 to win an unlikely NBA championship.
The same can be said for the often underachieving Toronto Raptors. The top seed in the Eastern Conference has had a poor playoffs, losing three games in a row to LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers team, including game three at the buzzer.
The Raptors have lacked a secondary scorer outside of DeMar DeRozan and have had no answer for the mighty LeBron James. They are now $76 to win the NBA championship.
The Cavaliers ($8) are the shortest priced Eastern Conference team and will be aiming to make their fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance.
LeBron James has played at another level during the playoffs, often single-handedly winning games for the Cavs.
His playoffs thus far have featured two buzzer beaters and he should not be under-estimated during the remainder of the playoffs.
The question mark surrounding Cleveland is where else do they get their scoring when they face what is likely to be either Golden State or Houston in the NBA Finals.
Rodney Hood, Kevin Love and Jordan Clarkson have not produced points as consistently as expected and they will need a major boost from these players to have a chance of winning the title.
Boston was forced to seven games by Milwaukee in the first round but has found the going much easier against the inexperienced 76ers in the semi finals.
The Celtics continue to perform above expectations, with Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford standouts.
Whether or not Boston will be able to compete with Cleveland will be another issue, but they do have home court in the series and should not be under-estimated at $15. Their price will surely come down if they win game one of the series and may provide a good cash-out opportunity if the market allows.
The Western Conference this season has been dominated by Golden State and Houston, with both teams look to be on track to meet in the conference finals.
The Warriors hold a 3-1 advantage against the New Orleans Pelicans after a big game four win in New Orleans.
Golden State has welcomed back Steph Curry into their lineup, with the guard starting his first game for some time in game three.
He gives them a tremendous scoring boost and their three-pronged attack of Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Curry has posed headaches for teams for the past two seasons.
The Warriors are favourites for the NBA title at $1.91 at Sportsbet.
Houston finished the regular season with the best record in the NBA (65-17) and are hunting their first NBA Championship since 1995.
The Rockets were stunned in game two by Utah but bounced back in a big way in Salt Lake City during games three and four, producing dominant displays.
A Rockets-Warriors series produces numerous questions, but it will surely come down to who can hit their shots with enough consistency.
The Rockets lack a third scorer, but centre Clint Capela gives them a decided scoring and rebounding edge over the Warriors.
P.J. Tucker has shown that he can guard Kevin Durant, but will the former league-MVP find a way to break the shackles against his pesky opponent.
The Rockets are $2.60 to win the NBA Championship and have been second favourites all season after the acquisition of Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers.
Paul offers a second ball-handling option for the Rockets after Harden played point guard for much of last season.
Houston’s bench is also much improved this season, but Golden State are scoring 32.7ppg compared to the Rockets 30.3 with the second unit. Defensively the Rockets bench is ranked one of the worst in the NBA compared to the Warriors in defensive efficiency. The bench lineups for both teams will be crucial in deciding the winner in this series, with Houston holding home court advantage. Watch for big momentum shifts at the start of the second and fourth quarters when it is likely that both teams will rotate their stars out of the lineup for rest purposes.
It is hard to turn down the Warriors as favourites for the NBA title, but we predict the final series itself will be decided in the Western Conference finals.
NBA Championship Odds – Sportsbet
Golden State $1.91
New Orleans $376
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