2015 NBA Playoff Race: An Oddsmakers Take

The 2015 NBA Playoffs begin on April 18th and teams are still jockeying for position. The top seeds have already been locked up with the Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors holding substantial leads over the competition, but the battle for the 8-seed in each conference likely won’t be decided until the final day of the season.

In the Western Conference, the New Orleans Pelicans (42-35) hold a half-game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder (42-36) for the final playoff spot. However, the Eastern Conference has turned into a four team race with the Boston Celtics (35-43) somehow holding the upper hand over the Miami Heat (35-43), Indiana Pacers (34-43) and Charlotte Hornets (33-44). The Brooklyn Nets (36-41) also hold a tentative lead on the 7-seed in the East with a one-game lead over Boston.

Most of these teams have either five or six games to play, and we wanted to know what the lines would be in each of these critical matchups. With the help of Bet Labs manager Travis Reed we predicted the point spreads and implied odds for every remaining game. Using those figures, we were able to determine which teams were likely to make the postseason, and which were destined for the lottery.

Note: The win projection is calculated by removing the juice from the moneyline and then converting to an implied win percentage.

Eastern Conference:

Brooklyn Nets (Currently 7th)

Date Opponent Projected Spread Projected ML Implied Odds
April 8th vs. Atlanta Hawks -6 -245 69.23%
April 10th vs. Washington Wizards +3 +140 41.49%
April 12th at Milwaukee Bucks +2 +115 46.15%
April 13th vs. Chicago Bulls +4.5 +185 36.55%
April 15th vs. Orlando Magic -10 -505 83.27%

Projected Wins: 2.7669 | Total Wins: 38.7669

Boston Celtics (Currently 8th)

Date Opponent Projected Spread Projected ML Implied Odds
April 8th at Detroit Pistons -1 -115 51.08%
April 10th at Cleveland Cavaliers* +11 +455 14.15%
April 12th vs. Cleveland Cavaliers* +7 +260 27.03%
April 14th vs. Toronto Raptors -2.5 -135 55.83%
April 15th at Milwaukee Bucks +3 +140 41.49%

Projected Wins: 1.8958 | Total Wins: 36.8958

Miami Heat (0.5 Games Back)

Date Opponent Projected Spread Projected ML Implied Odds
April 9th vs. Chicago Bulls* +1 +100 48.92%
April 11th vs. Toronto Raptors -4.5 -215 63.45%
April 13th vs. Orlando Magic -9.5 -470 82.00%
April 15th at Philadelphia 76ers -8 -335 76.62%

Projected Wins: 2.7099 | Total Wins: 37.7099

Indiana Pacers (1.0 Games Back)

Date Opponent Projected Spread Projected ML Implied Odds
April 8th at New York Knicks -12.5 -730 90.09%
April 10th at Detroit Pistons PK -110 50.00%
April 12th vs. Oklahoma City Thunder +1 +100 48.92%
April 14th vs. Washington Wizards -3 -160 58.51%
April 15th at Memphis Grizzlies* +6 +210 30.77%

Projected Wins: 2.7829 | Total Wins: 36.7829

Charlotte Hornets (2.0 Games Back)

Date Opponent Projected Spread Projected ML Implied Odds
April 8th vs. Toronto Raptors +3.5 +165 39.88%
April 10th at Atlanta Hawks* +10.5 +410 15.48%
April 12th at Detroit Pistons +6 +210 30.77%
April 13th vs. Houston Rockets +8.5 +325 21.58%
April 15th at Toronto Raptors +6 +210 30.77%

Projected Wins: 1.3848 | Total Wins: 34.3848


Western Conference

New Orleans Pelicans (Currently 8th)

Date Opponent Projected Spread Projected ML Implied Odds
April 8th at Memphis Grizzlies +4.5 +185 36.55%
April 10th vs. Phoenix Suns -5.5 -240 67.65%
April 12th at Houston Rockets +6.5 +230 28.93%
April 13th at Minnesota T'Wolves -5 -230 65.48%
April 15th vs. San Antonio Spurs* +3 +140 41.49%

Projected Wins: 2.401 | Total Wins: 44.401

Oklahoma City (0.5 Games Back)

Date Opponent Projected Spread Projected ML Implied Odds
April 10th vs. Sacramento Kings -9.5 -470 82.00%
April 12th at Indiana Pacers -3 -160 58.51%
April 13th vs. Portland Blazers -2 -130 53.85%
April 15th at Minnesota T'Wolves -12 -680 88.22%

Projected Wins: 2.8258 | Total Wins: 44.8258


Based on our analysis, the Thunder are projected to pass the Pelicans for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. In the Eastern Conference, our numbers indicate that the Nets will hold onto the 7-seed while the Heat will leapfrog the Celtics for the 8-seed.

All of our lines are based on the premise that each team will dress a full roster, but it will be interesting to monitor whether playoff teams rest their stars down the stretch. We have put an asterisk next to potential rest teams, so those lines are certainly subject to dramatic changes.

The Celtics have two games against the Cavs, and that spread could change dramatically if LeBron James, Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love sit out. When you consider that Cleveland has all but locked up the 2-seed in the East, this seems like a highly plausible scenario. Similarly, the Miami Heat will play the Chicago Bulls tomorrow and it remains unclear whether the recently activated Derrick Rose will be playing on the second night of back-to-back games.

The most obvious potential rest game is the Pelican/Spurs game on the last day of the season. San Antonio has a history of resting their stars, so don’t be surprised if coach Popovich gives Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili the night off.

There is only one game featuring two playoff hopefuls: the April 12th showdown between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers. Bettors should be sure to bookmark our free NBA odds page for the latest odds and public betting trends.

Have any questions for the staff at Sports Insights? Utilize our live chat to speak with a customer service representative or e-mail us at help@sportsinsights.com.

David Solar is the Content Manager at Sports Insights and can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com.

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David Solar

David Solar has been the Content Manager at Sports Insights for over four years. He specializes in sports betting analytics and has created several popular data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

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