Prior to Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks, the six most recent NBA franchises to win a championship were already out of the 2021 NBA playoffs, with some not even making the postseason: (1) the Los Angeles Lakers, (2) Toronto Raptors, (3) Golden State Warriors, (4) Cleveland Cavaliers, (5) San Antonio Spurs, and (6) Miami Heat. With the Mavericks falling to the Clippers, that added five more franchises to the list: the (7) Mavericks, (8) Boston Celtics, (9) Detroit Pistons, (10) Chicago Bulls, and (11) Houston Rockets. This is unbelievable, as these 11 franchises have combined for the last 37 Larry O’Brien Championship Trophies. The most recent champion left is the Philadelphia 76ers (1983).
The NBA playoffs are full of teams that have never won an NBA title, as five of the eight have never raised the trophy:
Phoenix Suns (+300 to win their conference): inaugural NBA season 1968-69
Los Angeles Clippers (+280): inaugural NBA season 1970-71 as Buffalo Braves
Utah Jazz (+125): inaugural NBA season 1974-75 as New Orleans Jazz
Brooklyn Nets (-135): inaugural NBA season 1976-77 as New York Nets
Denver Nuggets (+750): inaugural NBA season 1976-77
Not only are we looking at a very fresh crop of teams in the NBA playoffs, but we also feel like we are entering unprecedented times. Although the 2020 postseason was played in a bubble, the teams that made the Eastern Conference Finals and Western Conference Finals were well deserved. Of those four teams, three of them - the Heat, Celtics, and Lakers - are gone from the postseason and won a combined three games in the 2021 playoffs after winning 40 postseason contests last year. The Nuggets, who won two game sevens in 2020, had a total of nine wins last postseason and have made the second round in each of the last three years. Now, let us take a look at the other series in the Western Conference.
Western Conference Semifinals: Can the Clippers Make it to Their First Western Conference Finals?
(1) Utah Jazz vs. (4) Los Angeles Clippers
Game 1 tips off at 10:00 pm ET on Tuesday, June 8 at Vivint Home Smart Arena
Game 1 Spread: opened at Jazz -4.5
Game 1 Moneyline: opened at Jazz -200
Game 1 Over / Under: opened at 211
Remaining Schedule for the Series:
Game 2: Thursday, June 10, 10:00 pm ET at Vivint Home Smart Arena in Utah
Game 3: Saturday, June 12, 8:30 pm ET at Staples Center in Los Angeles
Game 4: Monday, June 14, time TBD at Staples Center in Los Angeles
Game 5 (if necessary): Wednesday, June 16, time TBD at Vivint Home Smart Arena in Utah
Game 6 (if necessary): Friday, June 18, time TBD at Staples Center in Los Angeles
Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday, June 20, time TBD at Vivint Home Smart Arena in Utah
FiveThirtyEight prediction: Clippers win the series (54%)
Series Preview: During the regular season, the Jazz won two of the three meetings against the Clippers. Of those three contests, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George played in two of them, and the semifinalists split those two games. The coaching matchup is one to watch, as Tyronn Lue had great success as a head coach with the Cavaliers. Meanwhile, Quin Snyder has yet to get out of the second round during his head coaching career. Neither the Jazz nor the Clippers have a recent history of success, so the odds may waver after we see the Game 1 performance. To begin the series, Vegas is giving the Jazz the edge.
Eastern Conference Semifinals: Can the Hawks Actually Upset the 76ers?
(1) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
Game 2 tips off at 7:30 pm ET on Tuesday, June 8 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia
Game 2 Spread: opened at 76ers -4.5
Game 2 Moneyline: opened at 76ers -180
Game 2 Over / Under: opened at 222.5
Remaining Schedule for the Series:
Game 3. Friday, June 11, 7:30 pm ET at State Farm Arena in Atlanta
Game 4. Monday, June 14, time TBD at State Farm Arena in Atlanta
Game 5 (if necessary). Wednesday, June 16, time TBD at Wells Fargo
Center in Philadelphia
Game 6 (if necessary). Friday, June 18, time TBD at State Farm Arena in Atlanta
Game 7 (if necessary). Sunday, June 20, time TBD at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia
FiveThirtyEight prediction: Hawks win the series (57%)
Series Update: Prior to the series beginning, most of the chatter was about Joel Embiid’s injury status. Embiid ended up playing 38 minutes through his knee issue, but his 39 points were not enough, as Trae Young (35 points and 10 assists), Bogdan Bogdanović (21 points), and John Collins (21 points) led the Hawks to the Game 1 upset. Moving forward, Vegas is not getting worried about the 76ers yet, as they opened as 4.5-point favorites for Game 2. However, most 76ers fans are one more impressive Young performance away from feeling like they will be bounced early from the playoffs yet again.