Sat, Apr 18, 2015 - Page 19 News List

Cavaliers, Warriors, Hawks and Spurs favorites to win as NBA playoffs begin

AFP, LOS ANGELES

Regular season heroes will rise and fall, rivalries will be renewed and the dark horses will get their chance when the NBA playoffs begin this weekend.

The Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs are the favorites, but there is always someone who does the unexpected and launches a team to prominence.

Golden State finished with 67 wins and 15 losses in the regular season, completing one of the best seasons in league history and setting a club record for victories. The Warriors became just the 10th team to reach 67 wins in a season.

“Everything we have gone through to this point will hopefully prepare us for this journey of winning 16 games,” Warriors player Stephen Curry said of the playoffs. “Every game is of supreme importance and we have to be ready.”

The Warriors, who will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, begin first-round action against New Orleans today, after the Pelicans defeated San Antonio 108-103 on Wednesday in order to make the post-season.

Klay Thompson scored a game-high 25 points as Golden State closed out their remarkable season with a 133-126 win over the Denver Nuggets for their fourth consecutive win.

The Pelicans charged into the post-season in style. They needed a win in the season finale against the defending champions San Antonio, who were riding an 11-game winning streak.

New Orleans was up to the task as they grabbed the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff berth.

The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 138-113 to finish with the same record as the Pelicans. However, New Orleans held the tiebreaker thanks to winning the teams’ head-to-head series.

BOOKMAKERS’ FAVORITES

Cleveland finished the regular season with a 113-108 overtime win over the Washington Wizards. With the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and a first-round matchup with the Boston Celtics already secured, the Cavaliers (53-29) rested LeBron James, who has not played in eight consecutive season finales.

James will be back for the first game of the series tomorrow.

“I’m happy that our team is coming into this time of year after having gone through something,” Cleveland head coach David Blatt said.

The Cavaliers enter the playoffs with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, but do not tell that to the Las Vegas bookmakers who have tabbed them as the overall favorites in to win the championship.

The Cavs own the best record in the NBA since mid-January. They were on Thursday listed at 9-4 odds as the consensus choice to seize their first NBA title in June. The Warriors were next at 5-2, while the Spurs at 4-1 and Atlanta, who finished the regular season with the best record in the Ea stern Conference, at 12-1.

The East might be considered the weaker conference, but there are some interesting matchups.

The Chicago Bulls have the No. 3 seed in the East and are to open against the sixth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, and the Toronto Raptors are to square off with the fifth-seeded Washington Wizards.

Brooklyn earned the No. 8 seed and a first-round playoff meeting with the top-seeded Hawks.

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