Fueled by their historic and record-breaking 73-victory campaign, the Golden State Warriors are massive favorites to win the 2016 NBA Finals. However, if the Warriors were upset by the Houston Rockets it wouldn’t be as big as the San Antonio Spurs falling to the Memphis Grizzlies.
According to OddsShark.com, the Rockets are +7100 underdogs to Curry and the Warriors while the heavily depleted Grizzlies are +9500 underdogs against the Spurs and Kawhi Leonard.
The likelihood of either Golden State or San Antonio losing in the first round is certainly slim, but it’s quite clear that from a talent and health perspective, Houston does have a much stronger chance of thwarting the defending champs than Memphis has of upending San Antonio.
The playoffs are all about matchups, and the Grizzlies simply don’t have enough solid bodies to throw at the Spurs and their top ranked defense. The Rockets can roll out electric, game-changing shooting guard James Harden as well as center Dwight Howard, while Memphis already lost injured point guard Mike Conley Jr. (Achilles) and big man Marc Gasol (foot) for the postseason.
Here’s odds for each first-round, seven-game series via OddsShark.com.
No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers (-2564) vs. No. 8 Detroit Pistons (+800)
The Pistons went 3-1 against Cleveland this season, but only five times has a No. 8 knocked off a No. 1. The Cavs have had their share of embarrassing moments this season and that’s spilled into the locker room, but Cleveland is too experienced and talented to lose to Detroit. There's no chance LeBron James bows out in the first round, but expect Detroit to put up a fight.
Prediction: Cleveland in 6
No. 2 Toronto Raptors (-337) vs. No. 7 Indiana Pacers (+222)
For the third year the Raptors improved their record in the regular season, racking up a franchise best 56 wins, and maybe that finally results in a trip out of the first round. That would be the first and only second time since 2001. But the Pacers may be a dark horse with Paul George and Monta Ellis, two very lethal scorers. DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas probably have enough to hold off Indiana after getting some rest.
Prediction: Toronto in 5
No. 3 Miami Heat (-171) vs. No. 6 Charlotte Hornets (+125)
With Chris Bosh, this Heat team can be a major force to challenge Cleveland. But his status is murky and Miami just gave up a 26-point halftime lead and scored a franchise low five points in the third quarter in the season finale loss to Boston. Charlotte has just enough sparkplugs in Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin, with Al Jefferson lurking, to push Miami to the brink.
Prediction: Miami in 7
No. 4. Atlanta Hawks (-238) vs. No. 5 Boston Celtics (+170)
Home court advantage swings the odds in Atlanta’s favor, so does the Hawks' 3-1 mark against Boston in the regular season. The Celtics have a solid point guard in Isaiah Thomas, but their front court can’t handle the Hawks Paul Millsap and Al Horford over a seven-game series.
Prediction: Atlanta in 7
No. 1 Golden State Warriors (N/A) vs. No. 8 Houston Rockets (+7100)
There’s a good chance James Harden goes off and gives Houston a fighting chance, but Houston’s defensive woes mean it should avoid a shootout with the Warriors. That won’t happen, as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will light it up while Draymond Green frustrates Dwight Howard.
Prediction: Warriors in 5
No. 2 San Antonio Spurs (N/A) vs. No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies (+9500)
A rematch of the 2013 conference finals, the Spurs defense would normally be able to contain a fully healthy Grizzlies. Without Conley or Gasol, the Spurs stand to be the only team to advance with a sweep.
Prediction: San Antonio in 4
No. 3 Oklahoma City Thunder (-1431) vs. No. 6 Dallas Mavericks (+600)
The Thunder have the edge in almost every way. But it will be interesting to see Dirk Nowitzki try and outgun OKC’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook by himself. Mavs will need guys like Wesley Matthews and Raymond Felton to step up.
Prediction: Oklahoma City in 6
No. 4. Los Angeles Clippers (-304) vs. No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers (+200)
Will these be the same Clippers that ousted San Antonio last year? Or the up-and-down crew that crumbled against Houston a round later? The Clippers are talented but temperamental, and Portland’s Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum should win this series by themselves.
Prediction: Trail Blazers in 7