This 2011 NBA playoffs are filled with title contenders like the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, and Heat, but so far, underdogs like the Knicks, Hornets, and Grizzlies are ruling the day in Vegas. The Western Conference provided two upsets right off the bat, with both the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs and the second-seeded Los Angeles Lakers going down on the scoreboard and at the window in their respective openers.
The Lakers were stunned by the New Orleans Hornets in Game 1 of their best-of-seven first round series on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center, as Chris Paul nearly walked on water for the visitors.
Paul finished with 33 points, 14 assists, seven rebounds, and four steals for the Hornets, who cashed as 10-point dogs. Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles with 34 points, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Lakers from losing to the Hornets for the first time in five tries this season (3-2 ATS). Game 2 goes on Wednesday night.
The defeat dropped L.A. to +300 underdogs to win the NBA title. The Miami Heat are now listed as +275 chalk to go all the way. The Spurs were without leading scorer Manu Ginobili (elbow) in their 101-98 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies (+6.5) in Game 1 on Sunday afternoon. Ginobili is expected back in the lineup for Game 2 on Wednesday night at the AT&T Center.
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The Oklahoma City Thunder held up their end of the bargain with their 107-103 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of their first round set on Sunday night. Too bad for Thunder backers the Nuggets (+6) covered for bettors. Oklahoma City and Denver tip off again on Wednesday night.
The only Western Conference fave to cover in their opener were the Dallas Mavericks, who beat a 5-point tag in an 89-81 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers last Saturday. The Mavericks are giving 3.5 points to the Blazers for Tuesday night’s Game 2 at AmericanAirlines Center.
Over in the Eastern Conference, it’s a case of same story, second verse. The Boston Celtics kicked off their first rounder with the New York Knicks with an 87-85 win on Sunday night, but the Knicks cashed as 6-point pups at TD Garden. Game 2 is slated for Tuesday night, and the Celtics are listed as 7-point favorites.
Elsewhere in the East, the Atlanta Hawks continued their recent dominance over the Orlando Magic with a 103-93 triumph in Game 1 of their series. The Hawks won outright and covered as 8.5-point underdogs despite 46 points and 19 rebounds from Dwight Howard. Amway Center plays host to Game 2 on Tuesday night, and the Magic are once again priced as 8.5-point chalk.
The Heat took the first two games of their opening round series with the Philadelphia 76ers. Miami (-9) shut down Philadelphia 94-73 in Game 2 on Monday night at American Airlines Arena, with Game 3 set for Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center.
Returning to the theme of underdogs, the Indiana Pacers are down 0-2 in their series with the top-seeded Chicago Bulls, but they’ve covered the spread in both SU losses. The set shifts to Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis for Game 3 on Thursday night.
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