This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.
With the Rockets putting away the Thunder in Game 7 on Wednesday night, the league can officially move forward to Round 2. In the East, both series are already underway, and Game 3 between the Celtics and Raptors will have already been played by the time Game 1 of Clippers-Nuggets tips off.
Let's take a look at some betting angles for both Western Conference Semifinals series.
All odds via the DraftKings Sportsbook.
1. Los Angeles Lakers vs. 4. Houston Rockets
TO WIN SERIES
|Rockets: +460||Lakers: -670|
What's not surprising is that the Lakers are favored (-670) to win the series. But what is surprising is just how lopsided the odds are. Houston (+460) looked far from dominant for much of its first-round series, but the Rockets still have a pair of All-Star guards and a better supporting cast around them than what surrounds Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
The Rockets fared well against the Lakers during the regular season, most notably pulling off a 121-111 win at Staples Center in early February. James Harden had just three field goals and 14 points in that game, while Russell Westbrook went for 41 points at a time when the Lakers still had the services of Avery Bradley. Houston also outscored the Lakers by 30 points from beyond the arc. Whether the Rockets can hold the major advantage from beyond the arc will likely determine how competitive the series ultimately is.
SERIES FINAL SCORE
|Lakers win 4-0: +225||Lakers win 4-1: +250|
|Lakers win 4-2: +350||Lakers win 4-3: +650|
|Rockets win 4-3: +1000||Rockets win 4-2: +1200|
|Rockets win 4-1: +5000||Rockets win 4-0: +20000|
As the overall series odds would imply, the Lakers are favored to dispatch Houston quickly. Lakers in four games is considered the most likely outcome, followed by Lakers in five, Lakers in six and Lakers in seven.
If you're a Rockets believer, there's plenty of value to be had. While the Lakers' offense eventually woke up against Portland, it's yet to fully hit its stride. Of the remaining eight teams, the Lakers rank dead last in three-point percentage (34.3%) and free throw percentage (70.0%).
Houston isn't known as a lockdown defensive team, but the Rockets held Oklahoma City to a 102.4 offensive rating in Round 1 – the second-best figure of any team in the playoffs. Offensively, however, the Rockets struggled to a 108.7 offensive rating – more than four points per 100 possessions lower than their season-long number.
2. Los Angeles Clippers vs. 3. Denver Nuggets
TO WIN SERIES
|Nuggets: +700||Clippers: -1250|
Denver finished the regular season with only three fewer wins than LA, but the Clippers enter Round 2 as massive favorites. The Clippers are undoubtedly the team with more depth and top-end talent, and they'll hold a significant rest advantage. After closing out the Jazz on Tuesday night, Denver will play Game 1 roughly 48 hours later. Denver got a four-day break between Games 5 and 6, but they'll continue to play every-other day for the duration of the series.
The Clippers took the regular season series 2-1, with Denver's lone win coming back on Jan. 12 – a game Paul George missed due to injury. Entering the Conference Semifinals, the Clippers hold the second-best offensive rating in the playoffs (122.0), trailing only the Jazz, who threw up a 122.2 offensive rating on Denver's defense, which has been the worst in the league since bubble play began.
SERIES FINAL SCORE
|Clippers win 4-0: +170||Clippers win 4-1: +180|
|Clippers win 4-2: +400||Clippers win 4-3: +800|
|Nuggets win 4-3: +1600||Nuggets win 4-2: +3000|
|Nuggets win 4-1: +6000||Nuggets win 4-0: +20000|
As is the case with the other Western Conference series, the higher-seeded Clippers are favored to close it out in four or five games. Denver in seven games pays 16-to-1 – likely a better value than the Nuggets' 7-to-1 odds to win the series outright. Regardless, both outcomes are a longshot.
Overmatched as the Nuggets may be, they do have a top-10 player in Nikola Jokic, and a guard in Jamal Murray who proved last round that his ceiling might be considerably higher than many thought. The Nuggets should also get more out of Gary Harris, who returned for Games 6 and 7 against Utah. Harris gave Denver almost nothing on offense, but he was key in slowing down Donovan Mitchell for much of Game 7.
GAME 1 LINES
|POINT SPREAD||TOTAL POINTS||MONEYLINE|
|Clippers: -9.0||OVER 223.0 (-113)||Clippers: -435|
|Nuggets: +9.0||UNDER 223.0 (-108)||Nuggets: +350|
For Thursday's Game 1, the Clippers are installed as a 9.0-point favorite and sit at -435 on the moneyline (Denver is +350). The total checks in at a conservative 223.0 points – a number the Clippers topped in five of six games against the Mavs. Denver and Utah went over 223.0 in five of seven games, though the two teams combined for just 158 points in Tuesday's slog of a Game 7.
NBA CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS
|Clippers: +230||Lakers: +275||Celtics: +500||Heat: +700|
|Bucks: +700||Rockets: +1200||Raptors: +2000||Nuggets: +4000|
Looking more broadly, the Clippers have emerged as slight title favorites over the Lakers, Celtics, Heat and Bucks.
NBA FINALS: EXACT MATCHUP
|Celtics vs. Clippers: +425||Celtics vs. Lakers: +475||Bucks vs. Clippers: +590||Heat vs. Lakers: +590|
|Bucks vs. Lakers: +650||Heat vs. Lakers: +650||Celtics vs. Rockets: +1900||Raptors vs. Clippers: +2000|
|Raptors vs. Lakers: +2200||Bucks vs. Rockets: +2500||Heat vs. Rockets: +2500||Celtics vs. Nuggets: +5000|
|Bucks vs. Nuggets: +7000||Heat vs. Nuggets: +7000||Raptors vs. Rockets: +8000||Raptors vs. Nuggets: +20000|
Celtics-Clippers is now the favored Finals matchup, followed by Celtics-Lakers, Bucks-Clippers and Heat-Clippers.