The NBA Playoffs begin early Saturday with four games on schedule beginning with the game in Canada featuring DeMar DeRozan-led Toronto Raptors versus Paul George and the rest of the Indiana Pacers.
Three other match-ups are on tap that day, including the start of the title defense of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and the top-seed Golden State Warriors against the Houston Rockets, which made the playoffs on the final day of the regular season but remains a dangerous threat with the presence of James Harden and Dwight Howard.
Saturday’s postseason opening day also features the Boston Celtics versus the Atlanta Hawks plus the Dallas Mavericks up against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Which teams draw first blood? Which teams will fall to the upset ax in their opening game? Here’s the schedule for the first day of the regular season, with betting odds and predictions
Saturday (April 16) – East First Round – Game 1 Betting Odds
Indiana Pacers +6.5 vs. Toronto Raptors
Houston Rockets +13 vs. Golden State Warriors
Boston Celtics +5.5 vs. Atlanta Hawks
Dallas Mavericks +12 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Prediction for Pacers vs. Raptors, Celtics vs. Hawks
The Pacers are experiencing a resurgence of sorts with their return to the playoffs and the return of Paul George to elite form as one of the NBA’s stars. The Pacers barely missed the postseason last year (ninth place and losing a tiebreaker to the Brooklyn Nets for the last spot in the East) and George played a full season for the first time since his harrowing leg injury in 2014.
With George back in the fold, the Pacers face a squad that has vastly improved this season, the Raptors led by DeRozan, another premier wingman in the league.
Toronto won against Indiana three of four times in their regular season series. However, if there is a top seeded team that is in for a letdown it would be the Raptors.
Meanwhile, like the Raptors, the Hawks will enjoy homecourt advantage against the Celtics and have a 3-1 record against their rivals in their season series. However, the Celtics have played better in the second half of the regular season and primed to pull off an early surprise in these playoffs.
The Raptors and Hawks might very well advance to the next round after their respective series but Game 1 appears to be where the favorites are vulnerable and look for the Pacers and Celtics to take advantage.
Prediction for Rockets vs. Warriors, Mavericks vs. Thunder
Nothing to see here except the fact that both the Warriors and Thunder are double-digit favorites against the spread and could very well prove right from the start of the series that this will be a one-sided best-of-seven affair.
Blowout losses incoming for the pair of Texas team as Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant leads their teams to opening game wins in the 2016 NBA Playoffs.