There was a heavy dose of good news and bad news for the New Orleans Pelicans on the final night of the 2014-2015 NBA regular season. The Pelicans clinched their first playoff berth since 2011 with a 108-103 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.
"Honestly, I know I all told ya'll before this game it didn't mean nothing, but I tried to downplay it because I didn't want to get too excited," said Anthony Davis, who scored 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. "It meant a lot -- and we played like it meant something.
"We played our hearts out."
Unfortunately for the No. 8 Pelicans, they’ve drawn MVP-frontrunner Stephen Curry and the No. 1 Golden State Warriors for their opening series. The Warriors won the season series, 3-1. In the first meeting between the two teams, Golden State cruised to a win in New Orleans, 112-85, on Dec. 4.
The Warriors are listed as 1/25 favorites to eliminate New Orleans, according to odds compiled by OddsChecker.com. The Pelicans are 11/1 longshots to complete what would amount to one of the biggest upsets in NBA playoffs history. New Orleans would be just the sixth No. 8 seed to bump off a No. 1, with the Philadelphia 76ers the last team to do so back in 2012 over the Chicago Bulls.
Golden State raced out to a franchise-record 67 wins, including a 39-2 mark at home.
But they aren’t considered the biggest lock to come out of the first round. That distinction belongs to LeBron James and the No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers.
It took some time before James clicked with point guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Love in his first season back in Cleveland, but the Cavs now maintain 1/100 odds to knock off the young No. 7 Boston Celtics. Boston finished the regular season with a 40-42 record, but racked up six straight wins and eight in their last nine games to snap a one-year postseason hiatus. Two of those wins also came in a home-and-home match up with Cleveland six days ago.
However, James’ remarkable postseason runs are reason enough to pick the Cavs. The 30-year-old MVP candidate made the last four NBA Finals with the Miami Heat, and during his first stint with Cleveland James’ squads never fell in the first round of the playoffs.
Upsets in the NBA’s first round are largely anomalies, with the higher seed typically moving on. However, in the Western Conference the No. 6 Spurs and No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies will start the postseason as favorites.
The Spurs, who saw their 11-game winning streak snapped by New Orleans, were in contention with the Southwest division rival Houston Rockets and Memphis for the No. 2 spot in the West but the loss to the Pelicans dropped them to No. 6. The Grizzlies lost two of their final three games and slipped to No. 5 with injuries to starting center Marc Gasol, point guard Mike Conley and swingman Tony Allen taking a serious toll.
San Antonio now faces the red-hot No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers, a team that generated seven straight wins to close out the season, but the playoff savvy Spurs are 11/17 favorites compared to the Clippers at 13/10.
Despite the injury woes and poor play of late, the Grizzlies odds are set at 8/13 in their matchup with the No. 4 Portland Trail Blazers, who have lost four straight games and five out of their last six overall.
Memphis swept its regular season series with Portland, winning by an average of 8.5 points, and still have the same core of Gasol and power forward Zach Randolph that has reached at least the second round of the playoffs twice in the last four years.
As for how the playoffs will unfold beyond the first round and who fans can expect to see in the NBA Finals, the odds peg the Warriors and the Cavs as 11/5 favorites to win this year’s title. But San Antonio isn’t too far back at 7/2,
The full list of odds for each series is laid out below
No. 1 Atlanta Hawks (1/16) vs. No. 8 Brooklyn Nets (9/1)
No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers (1/100) vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics (19/1)
No.3 Chicago Bulls (1/6) vs. No. 6 Milwaukee Bucks (17/4)
No. 4 Toronto Raptors (8/15) vs. No. 5 Washington Wizards (8/5)
No. 1 Golden State Warriors (1/25) vs. No. 8 New Orleans Pelicans (11/1)
No. 2 Houston Rockets (10/21) vs. No. 7 Dallas Mavericks (7/4)
No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers (13/10) vs. No. 6 San Antonio Spurs (11/17)
No. 4 Portland Trail Blazers (23/17) vs. No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies (8/13)