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NBA Weekend Playoff Betting Preview
The 2012 NBA playoffs are finally set with the Chicago Bulls clinching the top overall seed and the San Antonio Spurs finishing as the Western Conference's best team in the regular season despite both teams finishing with identical records. The Bulls (50-16) won the tiebreaker this year and also beat out the Spurs (50-16) for that distinction last year, but neither of them made it to the NBA Finals with the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks meeting instead.
The second-seeded Heat (46-20) remain the favorites to win the 2012 NBA championship out of the Eastern Conference and will face the New York Knicks (36-30) in the first round, with Game 1 scheduled for Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (ET) and televised on ABC. The Knicks earned the seventh seed with a 104-84 rout of the Charlotte Bobcats on Thursday, handing them their 23rd straight loss to the regular season. The Bulls will host the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers (35-31) on Saturday with Game 1 scheduled for 1 p.m. Eastern and television coverage provided by TNT.
76ers second-year player and Chicago native Evan Turner made some headlines when he said his team matches up better with the Bulls than the Heat, and he may be right. The problem is, Philadelphia still might not be able to win a game in their playoff series. Chicago won two of the three regular-season meetings both straight-up and against the spread, taking the last two after losing the first one at Philly, 98-82. Derrick Rose and C.J. Watson represented the point guard position well for the Bulls in the loss with 38 points between them, but none of their teammates scored in double figures. The biggest concern for Chicago is the health of Rose, who played in just 39 games due to various injuries following his MVP season a year ago.
The higher seed won the regular-season series in five of the other seven first-round playoff matchups, including Miami with a 3-0 sweep of New York. The Knicks are still playing without point guard Jeremy Lin but did get power forward Amare Stoudemire back late in the season. Other first-round series in the East include the third-seeded Indiana Pacers (42-24) against the sixth-seeded Orlando Magic (37-29) and the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics (39-27) against the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks (40-26).
The Magic went 3-1 against the Pacers and will play Game 1 at Indiana on Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPN. The Hawks won home court against the Celtics due to a better overall record even though they lost two of the three regular-season meetings. Atlanta will host Game 1 on Sunday at 7 p.m. on TNT.
In the West, the first-round matchups include San Antonio against the eighth-seeded Utah Jazz (36-30), the second-seed Oklahoma City Thunder (47-19) against the seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks (36-30), the third-seeded Los Angeles Lakers (41-25) against the sixth-seeded Denver Nuggets (38-28) and the fourth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies (41-25) against the fifth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers (40-26).
The Thunder are the only Western Conference team that will open the playoffs on Saturday, as they host Game 1 at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN. On Sunday, the Spurs host the Jazz at 1 p.m. on ESPN, the Nuggets visit the Lakers at 3:30 p.m. on ABC and the Clippers travel to Memphis for a 9:30 p.m. start on TNT. Oklahoma City's James Harden has been cleared to play after taking an elbow to the head by Lakers forward Metta World Peace last Sunday in LA's 114-106 double-overtime victory. World Peace was suspended seven games and will miss the first six games of the playoffs since he sat out the regular-season finale
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