NBA Playoffs First-Round Preview and Updated Championship Odds

  • The NBA Playoffs have arrived, with a bevy of great matchups
  • Who will raise the Larry O’Brien trophy in June as NBA Champion?
  • What teams will climb out of the East and West to battle for the title?

It has been a journey.

How about a pause and look back at just what the hell transpired in this regular season.

You actually have to go back before that, with an insane offseason.

Paul George and Carmelo Anthony ended up in Oklahoma City.

Kyrie Irving and Isiah Thomas swapped uniforms – the first time two conference finalists made trades with each other the following summer.

Chris Paul was dealt to the Rockets.

Jimmy Butler to the Wolves.

Dwyane Wade signed with the Cavaliers.

Take a breath.

Then the season started. Before we could even get our popcorn ready, Gordon Hayward’s ankle disintegrated minutes into his first game as a Celtic. The Raptors shifted styles instead of personnel. The Warriors … were the Warriors … until they weren’t … and stumbled down the stretch with injuries.

Oh those injuries: Porzingis, Irving, Curry, Boogie. The Kawhi saga. The Markelle Fultz saga. The Roberson ugly knee-buckle. Conley and Gasol. Isiah Thomas came back, talked smack, got dealt, and then … got hurt again.

And then the Cavaliers. About every single thing on God’s green earth could have happened to them. And they’re right about where they need to be, courtesy of LeBron James carrying the world on his ultra-broad shoulders. It felt like two seasons ago that Dwyane Wade was on the Cavs. It was just two months.

The Rockets look poised to dethrone the Warriors. The Blazers are on the scene. The ‘Brow is legit scary good. Everybody wants Boston. Giannis is still a freak, just an under the radar freak because so much is going on. The Sixers are processing faster than anyone expected. And Russell Westbrook just put together the quietest triple-double season ever. 

And just like that. We’re here. It’s the playoffs.

Let’s toss some odds around. Like the regular season, there’s gonna be something you’re going to like, and there’s nothing sweeter than ending your season with a little extra scratch in your account.

James Harden
James Harden has led the Rockets to first in the West. (Photo: Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License.)

Odds to Win the NBA Championship

  • Houston Rockets: 13/7
  • Golden State Warriors: 4/1
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: 6/1 
  • Toronto Raptors: 8/1
  • Philadelphia 76ers: 24/1
  • Utah Jazz: 32/1
  • Portland Trail Blazers: 39/1
  • Oklahoma City Thunder: 49/1
  • New Orleans Pelicans: 61/1
  • Indiana Pacers: 65/1
  • Miami Heat: 75/1
  • Boston Celtics: 82/1
  • San Antonio Spurs: 99/1
  • Minnesota Timberwolves: 124/1
  • Washington Wizards: 199/1
  • Milwaukee Bucks: 999/1

Odds to Win the Eastern Conference

  • Cleveland Cavaliers: 12/13                                                         
  • Toronto Raptors: 37/13       
  • Philadelphia 76ers: 8/1 
  • Indiana Pacers: 29/1
  • Miami Heat: 31/1
  • Boston Celtics: 32/1
  • Washington Wizards: 85/1 
  • Milwaukee Bucks: 299/1 

Odds to Win the Western Conference

  • Houston Rockets: 11/9 
  • Golden State Warriors: 13/7 
  • Utah Jazz: 17/1
  • Portland Trail Blazers: 19/1
  • Oklahoma City Thunder: 30/1
  • New Orleans Pelicans: 39/1
  • San Antonio Spurs: 49/1
  • Minnesota Timberwolves: 61/1
Raptors' guard DeMar DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors have locked up the top seed in the East. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License

Odds to Win Each First-Round matchup


  • (1) Toronto Raptors over (8) Washington Wizards: 1/4
  • (2) Boston Celtics over (7) Milwaukee Bucks: 9/11
  • (3) Philadephia 76ers over (6) Miami Heat: 1/3
  • (4) Cleveland Cavaliers over (5) Indiana Pacers: 1/9


  • (1) Houston Rockets over (8) Minnesota Timberwolves: 1/19
  • (2) Golden State Warriors over (7) San Antonio Spurs: 1/9
  • (3) Portland Trail Blazers over (6) New Orleans Pelicans: 1/1
  • (4) Utah Jazz over (5) Oklahoma City Thunder: 3/2
Steph Curry
Steph Curry will need to get back into the Warriors lineup if they hope to win their third championship in four years. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC License]

Odds Houston loses a game in the First-Round: 13/7

Whoever the Rockets play will have been in their own playoff world since the end of March. It’s probably part of the reason Mike D’Antoni favored playing vs rest despite clinching the top seed in basketball with weeks left to go in the season.

Odds Golden State loses a game in the First-Round: 1/1

Guess what? A team with Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green isn’t as strong as one with Steph Curry. Go figure. They won’t be in trouble in the First Round, but it’s reasonable to assume they’ll lose one. There’s nothing easy in the West, and especially if you’re minus one of the top five players on the planet.

Odds Cleveland loses a game in the First-Round: 17/3

From this ESPN Piece on LeBron’s opening round dominance: LeBron is 48-7 all time in first-round games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his .873 win percentage in first-round games is the best among the more than 300 players to play at least 25 playoff games since the current 16-team playoff format began in 1984. Oh and he’s won 21 straight opening round games.

Russell Westbrook averaged a quiet triple double season for the Thunder.
(Photo credit: Erik Daniel Drost (Flickr) CC License)

Odds to score the most points in the First-Round

  • Russell Westbrook: 3/1
  • LeBron James: 17/3
  • Kevin Durant:17/3
  • James Harden:17/3
  • Anthony Davis: 9/1
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo: 9/1
  • Damian Lillard: 93/7
  • Other: 97/3

Westbrook tied Kawhi last year for total points in the First Round. He’s the frontrunner, but LeBron James enters this postseason at his most dominant as the top scoring option since his first iteration of domination in Cleveland. A couple of other usual suspects in Harden and Durant find their names near the top, as well.

Over/Under number of sweeps in the First-Round: 1.5

Last year, it was just the Cavaliers and Warriors – the two eventual NBA Finals combatants – who moved through the opening round with ease. You’ll see a little later down that I do see one team bringing out the brooms, but it’s tough to pick another, especially because it’s so balanced across the playoff board.


Over/Under number of technical fouls in the First-Round: 37.5

There were 40 technical fouls doled in last year’s opening round. Thirty-seven players had one each. Only one player had more than that: Isaiah Thomas, who had three. That 40 seemed high, until I delved back to the 2013-14 campaign, and there were 58 techs handed out. 58!


Over/Under number of ejections in the First-Round: 1.5

There were all of six toss outs the entire playoffs. But there were 57 different players ejected during the regular season, 44 had one each and 13 had multiple infractions, paced by Kevin Durant’s five. Quite a chippy regular season. Expect it to amp up a little bit more when the games actually mean something. I’m thinking late-game blowouts. Nothing that would really hurt a team in a meaningful moment.

Frank Lorenzo

MTS co-founder Frank “Let It Ride” Lorenzo has been betting on sports since he was legally allowed to do so. (Did he do so before then, too? No comment.) He enjoys very strong coffee, neon lights, and passing on his wealth of betting knowledge to anyone who will listen.

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