What Does Early Playoff Drama Signal for the Rest of the 2019 NBA Postseason?

Much of recent NBA playoff history has been devoid of drama. For the last four seasons, a Warriors/Cavaliers finals matchup has basically been a foregone conclusion from the outset.

However, the rash of early upsets in the 2019 playoffs have given hope that this postseason will feature far more
intrigue.

Or have they?

The Early Upset Crowd

All told, three underdogs pulled upsets in Game 1 of their respective series:
However, the two heavy conference favorites, Golden State and Milwaukee, both handled their business with ease.  The Warriors distanced the Clippers early and won by a comfortable 17 points (121-104), while Milwaukee completely obliterated a Blake Griffin-less Pistons team by 35 (121-86).

Arguably, the early upsets in the other series only increase the chances that the outright favorites will
wind-up meeting in the 2019 NBA finals.  The Warriors’ odds to win the West are now around -350, ever so slightly shorter than they were a week ago. Meanwhile, the Bucks’ odds to win the East have improved from about +175 before the playoffs started to +110 after just one game.

The ease with which the Bucks are about to dispatch Detroit, coupled with the potential to matchup against either the Nets or the Magic in the Eastern Conference finals, has sportsbooks incredibly optimistic about their chances.

In all likelihood, it’s a good time to get your bets in! Milwaukee’s odds to win the East are only going to get shorter as the first round progresses, so unless you’re terrified about a second-round matchup with the high-ceiling, low-floor Celtics, you better get moving sooner than later.

Even if the 76ers and Raptors come back and win their series, the Bucks are going to be a considerably fresher and more rested team going forward.

Can Any Team Beat the True Favorite?

The hope for a huge upset - the Warriors (and, to a lesser extent, Bucks) getting bounced before the finals - seems to lie with the Rockets and Celtics. Thankfully for the Anyone-But-The-Warriors crowd, Houston is playing its best basketball of the season.

Some lamented the fact that Houston finished as the no. 4 seed in the West – setting up a matchup with the Warriors in the second round instead of the Western Conference finals – but that’s actually a good thing for Houston.

Last year, the Rockets were poised to upset the Warriors until injuries and fatigue derailed their bid.
Without Chris Paul in Game 7, they fell 101-92 while shooting 7/44 (15.9%) from three-point range.
The Rockets were, and remain, a tremendously top-heavy group. Their eight-man rotation is arguably as good as any in the league, but after that, it’s a steep decline.

Facing the Warriors in the second round (instead of the third round) will mean we see a fresher Houston team against Golden State, one that is less likely to be undone by injuries and exhaustion.  They aren’t going to be favored against Golden State, particularly because they won’t have home-court advantage like they did last year. But they looked very impressive in Game 1 vs Utah (122-90 win) and are at full strength, for now.
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