Conference Playoff Semi-finals
Chicago Bulls @ Miami Heat
Chicago Bulls face Miami Heat in a tantalising Eastern Conference semi-final with neither coach having to be concerned over their team’s motivation.
The archives are stacked full of evidence that suggests this series opener could set the tone for a blockbuster of a series given the host of fiery past encounters involving the two teams.
The Bulls will remember all to well when Miami broke their hearts two years ago in the Eastern Conference Final.
Likewise, the Heat can recall how their 27-game winning run came to a crashing halt at the hands of the Bulls in the regular season.
The Heat came through in fine style against Milwaukee in their Eastern Conference quarter-finals and were rewarded for their clean sweep with a week of recuperation. Conversely, the Bulls, who just edged the Brooklyn Nets in Game Seven of their last-eight Western Conference clash are now relying on an increasingly depleted roster to beat a line-up that they realistically needed to be full-strength against to compete with.
Encouragement can be found in their regular season match-ups which finished all-square with both suffering one defeat in their back yard, but Miami will have their game face on and just staying competitive in the AA Arena will be tough.
With the Bulls coming off such a draining series against the Nets and with fewer top faces to look to in the dressing room, the Heat at 10/11 giving up 11.5 points on the handicap looks to way to go on opening night.
Golden State Warriors @ San Antonio Spurs
It’s a remarkable statistic and a worrying one for those wanting to back the Golden State Warriors that they have returned from San Antonio empty-handed in their last 29 visits to Texas.
One man who they will be relying on to buck that trend and get their series off to the perfect start is the league’s go-to-guy for entertainment at present, Stephen Curry. Just like he did back in college in Davidson’s run to the Regional Finals in 2008, Curry has found a Rolls-Royce rhythm with three-pointers that is proving almost impossible to counter.
Despite having a genuine game-changer in their ranks there is also the inevitable negative interpretation that the Warriors are too reliant on their star man. Coach Mark Jackson knows that his unassuming guard cannot be expected to score with the style and weight that he has done at various points in the campaign.
With an ankle injury seemingly not going completely away it’s difficult to assess what impact he could make on the first night of the series.
The Spurs are also in no mood to be generous at the moment, and although the LA Lakers are not the stiffest of yard sticks, they were ruthlessly disposed of. An average winning margin of 18 in their series whitewash will not be repeated against a more convincing Warriors side, but with the Spurs at 10/11 giving up only 8.5 points, it won’t need to be.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date