Packers, Pats top 2012 NFL season win totals

Eight NFL teams have been installed with double-digit season win totals for the upcoming NFL campaign. The New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers top the list with an over/under of 12 wins, while the Colts, Jaguars and Browns have been assigned the fewest season wins at 5 1/2.

The Packers and Pats also have the lowest odds to win the Super Bowl at 4/1, while the Jags are the longest shot on the board at 150/1.

The 2012 over/under season win totals and odds to win the Super Bowl appear below courtesy of Cantor Gaming.

 

Team

2012 wins Odds to win
Pats 12 4/1
Packers 12 4/1
Eagles 10 9/1
Texans 10 9/1
49ers 10 7/1
Saints 10 12/1
Ravens 10 14/1
Steelers 10 12/1
Lions 9.5 16/1
Broncos 9.5 10/1
Giants 9.5 14/1
Chargers 9 25/1
Bears 9 15/1
Falcons 9 25/1
Jets 8.5 20/1
Cowboys 8.5 18/1
Chiefs 8 30/1
Bengals 7.5 40/1
Dolphins 7.5 40/1
Panthers 7.5 40/1
Bills 7.5 40/1
Seahawks 7 50/1
Titans 7 50/1
Raiders 7 60/1
Cards 7 50/1
Redskins 6.5 60/1
Vikings 6 75/1
Rams 6 65/1
Bucs 6 80/1
Colts 5.5 100/1
Jags 5.5 150/1
Browns 5.5 100/1

Interactive Whiteboards by PolyVision

 

Hot Spurs favored in Western Conference Finals

Oklahoma City At San Antonio, Game 1, 8:30 p.m. EDT

Maybe they’ll finally get a challenge this time.

The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder have simply rolled through this postseason. There’s the 18-game winning streak that has the Spurs flirting with history. Seventeen combined playoff games and just one loss. The Thunder sending home the last two NBA champions, and no other playoff teams besides these two that can boast a series sweep.

What took the Western Conference finals so long to get here Sunday, anyway?

“I think we both deserve it,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said.

Few would dispute that.

It’s a clear-cut matchup of the West’s best teams without any qualifiers: No what-if speculating because of devastating injuries like Derrick Rose’s blown-out knee that sunk top-seeded Chicago and reshuffled predictions in the East, nor were there lucky breaks or Game 7 heartbreakers that will gnaw at San Antonio’s and Oklahoma City’s dispatched opponents and their fans all summer.

By and large, the Spurs and Thunder have just steamrolled to this point.

The top-seeded Spurs clobbered Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers by an average of 14 points a game. They’re one victory from tying the 2001 Lakers for the longest winning streak kept alive in a postseason and two from becoming just the fourth team in NBA history to win 20 in row.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been in the Western Conference finals. And it’s been a week kind of sitting here stewing and waiting on it,” said Spurs forward Tim Duncan, whose last playoff trip this far in 2008 ended with a loss to the Lakers. “All of that together makes it an exciting series to start.”

Oklahoma City – which finished three games behind the Spurs for first place – didn’t have as many blowouts the first two rounds as San Antonio but drew tougher matchups. The Thunder avenged falling at the brink of the NBA Finals last year with a sweep of defending champion Dallas, then beat the Lakers in five.

Even before the playoffs, it was arguably easy to see this conference finals matchup coming: From the second week of the regular season until April 6, the Thunder held first place in the West.

Then the Spurs leapfrogged them, and never gave it back.

“I know they’re the No. 1 seed – they’re a tough group, they haven’t lost in a couple months,” Thunder forward Kevin Durant said. “But I think we bring another dimension to the table as well and we come out and compete.”

Then the NBA’s scoring champion the last three seasons added, “We’re a group that’s been together for four or five years. They’ve been together for 15 years. Those guys, they know each other inside and out.”

If there’s any broad way to frame this series, it’s that: the up-and-coming Thunder vs. the old-and-still kicking Spurs. The triumvirate of Durant, All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook and Sixth Man of the Year James Harden are all 23 or younger. Spurs point guard Tony Parker turned 30 last week, while Manu Ginobili is 34 and Duncan 36.

Yet youth hasn’t been served when these teams have played. The Spurs are 8-2 against the Thunder since 2009, including two wins this season despite Ginobili not playing because of injury. The Spurs were the NBA’s best 3-point shooting team this season at 39.3 percent, but they especially picked apart the Thunder from behind the arc, shooting 52 percent in their three most recent meetings.

Durant this week brushed off the Thunder’s troubles defending San Antonio’s slash-and-kickouts that set up so many of those 3-point looks. He also grew noticeably annoyed by questions about how the Thunder will stop the Spurs – “You’ve got to ask me about how we’re going to come at them,” Durant shot back – and was asked before boarding a plane to San Antonio on Saturday whether they’re leaving as underdogs.

“Everybody’s always been using that, `We’re too young for this and it’s not our time, we’re not ready,”‘ Durant said.

The Thunder say they are.

“Our success is just not overnight. It just doesn’t happen,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “It happens through all of the effort that guys put in. This series is going to be the same thing.”

 

Celtics, Sixers meet in Game 5

Philadelphia At Boston, Game 5, 7:00 p.m. EDT

The Celtics player who needs a break the most this postseason isn’t 34-year-old Paul Pierce, who’s nursing a knee injury. Or 36-year old Ray Allen, who’s got bone spurs in his ankle. Or even Kevin Garnett, who turned 36 on Saturday but is playing like he did a decade ago.

It’s Avery Bradley, 21, who is determined to stay on the court despite a left shoulder that has popped out of its socket four times so far during the season.

“He is a guy who wants to be out there; a guy that wants to win and do anything he can to help,” Pierce said. “A lot of young players would probably sit down and worry about their futures or careers or contract situations. … Hopefully he doesn’t have any long-term injuries due to the fact that he’s playing.”

A first-round draft pick who did not appear in the playoffs as a rookie last year, Bradley moved into the starting lineup when Allen was injured and remained there even after the future Hall of Famer returned. Bradley dislocated his shoulder in Game 3 of Boston’s first-round series against Atlanta, but has not missed a game because of it.

“He’s dealing with stuff and it’s tough,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said on Sunday before practice, which Bradley sat out. “A lot of people would not be playing, and the only reason he is is because he wants to. I am concerned at some point that he may not be able to anymore. We don’t know what game that is. … Tomorrow could be his last game.”

The Celtics resume the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers with Game 5 on Monday night. The series is tied 2-2 thanks to the Sixers’ comeback from an 18-point, third-quarter deficit to win Game 4 92-83.

“It’s a swing game, but it’s a swing game for both teams,” Rivers said. “Game 5s and Game 7s are pretty much the same.”

Game 6 is Wednesday in Philadelphia, with a seventh game back in Boston on Saturday, if necessary.

With two days off between the fourth and fifth games, Rivers gave his aging team the day off on Saturday before returning to practice on Sunday. Bradley did not participate in the workout, but Allen was on the court shooting jumpers 30 minutes early and Garnett joined him soon after.

Rivers said Bradley’s shoulder has popped out at least four times during this season. On Friday night, it popped out but popped right back in.

“It’s crazy,” Rivers said, adding that the injury is keeping Bradley from driving to the basket. “Listen: It’s a tough thing that he’s going through. A lot of players would not be playing.”

Can Heat bash without Bosh?

Indiana At Miami, Game 2, 7:00 p.m. EDT

Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat were relieved by the diagnosis. It’s the prognosis – or lack of one – that’s a source of worry now.

And suddenly, the Indiana Pacers may be even more of a threat.

Bosh strained a lower abdominal muscle in Game 1 of the teams’ Eastern Conference semifinal series, that original diagnosis confirmed Monday after an MRI exam. The team said Bosh is out “indefinitely,” though coach Erik Spoelstra and others say the injury could have been worse.

Either way, Bosh is out for Game 2 on Tuesday, and sounds like he probably won’t play again in this series.

“This season has to be extended for me to play again,” Bosh said. “So that’s what’s on my mind.”

Bosh was hurt late in the first half as he drove for a dunk and got fouled by Indiana’s Roy Hibbert. The foul almost certainly played no role in the injury, as Bosh fell forward to his hands and knees after landing and stayed down for a few seconds. He got up and made his free throw, but dropped to the court again on the ensuing possession, leaving the game for evaluation.

Without Bosh, Miami rallied behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who outscored the Pacers 42-38 in the second half themselves and fueled a series-opening 95-86 win.

“Seeing him yesterday, seeing the pain he was in, you feared the worst,” Wade said as practice wrapped up Monday. “But seeing him downstairs in the training room with a smile on his face – it wasn’t a big smile, it was a little one – but just to see him in there, it was good.

“You never know with these kind of things how long it takes.”

It’ll be an adjustment for Miami, which will likely start either Ronny Turiaf or Joel Anthony at center and keep Udonis Haslem in the opening lineup at power forward – and that trio earned a tip of the cap from Indiana coach Frank Vogel on Monday when he called them “three of the best dirty-work guys in the business.” James will see some time at power forward as well, which isn’t uncommon for Miami anyway.

The Pacers will also be doing some adjusting as well, after spending the buildup to this series preparing for James, Wade and Bosh.

“It changes their team, but we’ve got to understand it doesn’t allow you to play 5-on-4,” Vogel said. “They’ve got great players they can fill in for him. They’ve got different lineups that are sometimes more effective than the lineup with Bosh. Obviously, not having to worry about Bosh helps because he’s such a terrific player.”

Indiana got a look at what Miami will do without Bosh in the second half, when James and Wade dominated the ball. James took 17 shots in the second half, Wade took 13. No other Heat player took more than two shots after halftime.

“If Chris can’t play it’ll be really heavy, heavy pick-and-roll sets for LeBron and D-Wade,” Indiana forward Danny Granger said. “That’s what it was when he went out of the game. They kind of lost their low-post presence so now those guys will dominate the ball even more, which makes my job and Paul George’s job a little difficult, and our bigs, because they’ll set multiple pick-and-rolls every possession.”

Granger’s focus Monday wasn’t entirely on defense, and the extra challenge that’ll come with Wade and James having the ball in their hands more now. Indiana’s top scorer had no points in the first half of Game 1, his lowest since April 10, 2007 – a span of 366 games including playoffs, according to STATS LLC.

Chances are, Granger won’t be taking just 10 shots again on Tuesday.

“I expect guys to always be aggressive against me,” James said. “We’ll see. I’m always ready for a guy to be aggressive, no matter who I’m going up against. So I won’t be surprised by it, if he is.”

Meanwhile, talk of fouls – an issue in this series before it even started, after Vogel said the Heat were the league’s biggest bunch of floppers – continued Monday. And Vogel wasn’t happy about the 31 fouls charged to his team in Game 1 either, but he pointed the blame squarely at those who picked up those calls and not those who made them.

“We understand loud and clear that the officiating didn’t beat us in Game 1,” Vogel said. “The Miami Heat beat us in Game 1. We understand that. Part of winning on the road in the playoffs is overcoming that.”

For the Heat, part of winning anywhere for at least the immediate future will be overcoming not having Bosh, someone who James – the reigning NBA MVP – routinely refers to as Miami’s most important player.

“It’s not the worst thing that could have happened,” Bosh said. “So that was good news. We started treatments and everything, it’s a process and we’ll see how my body responds. … There’s been so many curveballs throughout my career and really throughout this season, nothing would surprise me. I just want to be out there and playing with my teammates.”

As has been the case all season when the Heat dealt with injuries, like ones that kept Wade sidelined and another that kept Bosh out for the final six games of the regular season, coach Erik Spoelstra insisted that his team has enough depth to compete.

“We feel this team was built with a great deal of versatility,” Spoelstra said. “We feel that that is one of our best strengths.”

Spurs shoot for 10th straight win

While highlight shows focus on Linsanity and monster dunks from Blake Griffin, the San Antonio Spurs have quietly put together the NBA’s longest winning streak of the season.

The veteran team is far less flashy than Griffin’s Clippers, but Los Angeles is right behind the Spurs in the race for first place in the Western Conference.

In a matchup of division leaders, San Antonio looks to extend its winning streak to 10 games and continue its dominance of the Clippers on Saturday night at Staples Center.

After being in eighth place in the West following a 101-100 overtime defeat at Dallas on Jan. 29, the Southwest Division-leading Spurs (21-9) have reeled off nine straight victories to vault into second, one game ahead of Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles (19-9).

“We’ve been on fire lately,” Tony Parker said after Wednesday’s 113-106 victory over Toronto. “We’ve been playing very good basketball, moving the ball great.”

Parker scored 34 points, handed out 14 assists and made all 12 of his free throws against the Raptors. In his last eight games, Parker is averaging 25.3 points – 6.3 better than his season average.

He’s led the way during the Spurs’ longest winning streak since a 10-game run Dec. 3-22, 2010.

“No one is walking around here talking about (the streak), no one is sitting here focused on it,” forward Richard Jefferson said. “It’s more about how can we get better.”

There are few areas where San Antonio seems like it needs to improve, although its defense appeared to take a step back Wednesday. After allowing an average of 87.4 points in the first eight games of their win streak, the Spurs let the Raptors shoot 54.7 percent and become the first team to reach triple digits against them since the Mavericks.

San Antonio had little trouble slowing down the Clippers in the first meeting, a 115-90 home win Dec. 28, but Griffin and Chris Paul have since had seven weeks to further develop their chemistry.

Griffin ranks in the top 10 in the league in scoring at 21.2 points per game, while Paul averages 18.2 and ranks in the top five in assists at 8.8 per game. The Clippers, 11-3 at home, are averaging 98.5 points in their last 12 games.

Even when the offense struggled like it did Thursday in Portland, Los Angeles still found a way to win. Paul was scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting with one assist before scoring 13 in the fourth quarter in a 74-71 comeback victory.

“This says that we’ve matured as a team,” said Griffin, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds for his seventh double-double in eight games. “I think we’ve answered the question that we can win on the road.”

Now Griffin and Paul need to prove they can beat San Antonio.

The Spurs have won 27 of the last 29 meetings, although they suffered a 90-85 loss in their last trip to Staples Center on Dec. 1, 2010, snapping an 18-game winning streak in the series.

In the first meeting this season, Manu Ginobili made five 3-pointers and finished with 24 points to lead six Spurs in double figures. Ginobili had 11 points Wednesday after combining for nine in his first two games back after missing 5 1/2 weeks with a broken left hand.

Griffin, who has decided not to defend his All-Star slam dunk title, had 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting in San Antonio in December, but the rest of the team combined to shoot 32.7 percent. Paul had 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting in his second game in a Clippers uniform.