A look at the 1st round of the 2009 NBA basketball playoffs with series predictions and odds available at Sportsbook.com. Each round is the best of seven games and the higher seed gets home-court advantage.
(8) Detroit Pistons vs. (1) Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers and Pistons have been longtime rivals in the NBA's Central Division, but since Lebron James arrived in Cleveland, the clubs have also built an intense postseason rivalry as well.
They will get together once again in 2009, this time in the first round, and for a change, the Cavaliers are the heavy -3500 favorite.
Cleveland and Detroit last met in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, with the Cavaliers winning on the road in Game 7 to take the series and earn a trip to their first NBA Finals.
Overall, Cleveland is on an impressive run of 11-2 ATS in their L13 postseason games against the Pistons. Lebron & Co. will not only have that historical playoff edge, but also the advantage of being the #1 seed in the East.
That means home court advantage in the series, and they have been nothing short of dominant at home in 2008-09. Perhaps the only good news for the Pistons is that they've been a respectable team on the road this season.
Cleveland took three of four games from Detroit in the regular season with the games split 2/2 ATS. All four games went under, and in the most recent three, incidentally the Cleveland wins, Detroit managed just 77 PPG.
The Pistons also ended the season on just a 18-31 stretch and will be without Allen Iverson for the duration of the playoffs.
Prediction: Cleveland in five games.
(7) Chicago Bulls vs. (2) Boston Celtics
The #7-seeded Chicago Bulls enter as one of the hottest teams in the league as it prepares to take on defending champion Boston.
In fact, both teams were 12-4 in their L16 games. However, if the teams' entire body of work is what matters, then it's clearly advantage Celtics, who find themselves a -500 series favorite.
Make no doubt about it, the Bulls come into the playoffs playing their best basketball of the season, and the midseason trade in which they acquired Brad Miller and John Salmons from Sacramento really seems to be paying dividends.
Chicago is playing particularly well on the offensive end, as they topped the 125-point mark three times in the last month and were held below 97-points just once in their final 17 contests.
Boston hoped to have Kevin Garnett back for the postseason but the latest indications reveal that he's likely out for the posteseason.
He has been down with a knee injury for most of the late part of the season, The team has played well without him, but without KG, the chances of repeating or even reaching the conference finals are slim.
Prediction: Boston in seven games.
(8) Utah Jazz vs. (1) LA Lakers
The Utah Jazz have no-one but themselves to blame for their precarious postseason positioning.
The Jazz faded down the stretch, eventually winding up in the Western Conference's #8 spot. Since going 15-1 in a torrid stretch from February 2nd through March 10th, Utah sputtered to a 7-11 finish.
Oddsmakers don't give the Jazz much of a chance in their Best-of-7 series versus the Lakers, making bettors lay $2000 for every $100 they'd like to win by backing Los Angeles.
If there was any spot to avoid in all of this season's playoff foray, that was it. The #2 through #7 seeds are going to be enjoying competitive and balanced playoff basketball.
The Jazz meanwhile, get a series of dates with the Lakers, a team that wrapped up the top seed weeks ago and bettered all other West clubs' records by double-digit wins.
Don't tell the Jazz that they have no chance however, as if you ask, they'll tell you that they just need to steal one game in Los Angeles to have a chance in this series.
Utah's home court advantage has been one of the most superior in all of the NBA. In '08-09, Utah was 33-8 at home.
Furthermore, Jazz players might also point out that they were the victim of unfair scheduling, going a horrid 3-18 in the second of back-to-back games. Of course, in the playoffs there are no such scenarios, meaning Utah should be fully rested for each encounter.
Los Angeles spent the last week or so attempting to work Andrew Bynum back into the rotation, figuring his contribution would be enough to take this team over the top.
The Lakers of course, finished one step short of their goals last season, losing to the Celtics in the Finals, four games to two.
They failed to even cover a pointspread in that series, so the bitter playoff aftertaste still in their mouths is one they'd like to be rid of quickly.
L.A. was 16-2 when rested two or more days, so like Utah, the playoff schedule figures to be of benefit.
Prediction: LA Lakers in six games.
(7) New Orleans Hornets vs. (2) Denver Nuggets
No NBA team has been worse in the postseason than Denver. In fact, the Nuggets are just 2-16 SU & 3-15 ATS in their L18 playoff games.
The franchise believes those struggles are behind them, and for good reason. With the mid-season trade for Chauncey Billups, Denver acquired one of the league's most clutch playoff performers, a player with a long history of postseason success.
His leadership and a more diverse lineup have the Nuggets thinking big this time around. Oddsmakers have installed Denver as only a -220 series favorite vs. the Hornets, despite the spread in seed #2 vs. #7.
As the #2 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs, the Nuggets are in an enviable position of having home court advantage for the first two rounds should they advance, as well as avoiding the heavily favored Lakers until the conference finals.
Denver's 54-wins in the regular season tied the franchise high since the old ABA days of '75-76. That of course, is another reason for optimism.
The opponent for Denver is the 7th seeded New Orleans Hornets, fourth place finishers in the tough Southwest Division despite winning 49 games.
The Hornets are hoping to emulate their playoff success of a year ago, when they advanced past Dallas in five games before falling to San Antonio in a grueling 7-game set.
New Orleans is one of the teams in the West that struggled down the stretch however, going just 8-10, including 2-5 against other conference playoff teams.
Much of the way this series goes hinges on the tempo of the games. Denver loves taking it up and down the court and enjoys a 104.3 PPG to 95.7 PPG edge in scoring over the Hornets.
Don't make the mistake of underestimating the Nuggets' defense however, as they actually hold opponents to a lesser field goal percentage (44.0%-45.3%) of the two teams.
If the Hornets have any edge, it's in the postseason success they enjoyed last year and the play of PG Chris Paul, who has shown the ability to take over games on numerous occasions in his young career.
Prediction: Denver in five games.