|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|06-13-19||Raptors v. Warriors -2.5||Top||114-110||Loss||-109||25 h 40 m||Show|
10* Golden State (9:05 ET): I just can't see the Warriors losing this game. Not after what happened in Game 5. I'm not referring to the Kevin Durant injury, of course, though that should not be minimized. Rather, I'm talking about how Golden State saved its season AFTER the Durant injury, "stealing" the game by a score of 106-105. Another reason I can't see the Dubs losing here is the fact Toronto won the first two games played here in Oakland. Them going 3-0 SU at Oracle Arena just seems far-fetched. I'll gladly lay the short number here as I'm concerned about the Raptors' psyche.
The loss of Durant is obviously significant. The Warriors lost three of the first four Finals games without him (though they were previously 5-0 w/o him since the initial injury). But the Game 5 comeback did not require his presence. It was the "Splash Brothers" (Curry & Thompson) combining to hit three consecutive three-pointers (after being down six) late in the fourth quarter. I've said previously that if there's one team that could overcome an injury to a player the caliber of Durant, it would be the talent-rich Warriors. They still have four former All-Stars on this roster, one of them a former league MVP himself (Curry).
Durant did have 11 pts in 12 mins in Game 5, but after the injury took place, Golden State still expanded its lead to as many as 14 points. (By the way, it should also be pointed out that Kevon Looney reaggravated his injury & is also done for the series). Now they are back at home where they don't lose often - let alone three times in a row. That's the key for me as this one seems destined to go to a Game 7. Toronto was minutes away from its first ever NBA Title and now has to go to a hostile environment instead. I admit that this is far more of a "gut" play than a technical one, something I don't do often. But it's the right call here. 10* Golden State
|06-07-19||Raptors v. Warriors -4.5||Top||105-92||Loss||-110||23 h 16 m||Show|
10* Golden State (9:05 ET): While it's the Warriors' fifth straight year in the Finals, this particular edition appears to be in no way as dominant as the previous four (three of which won at all). After taking a 123-109 loss in Game 3 (at home!), the Dubs have now trailed by double digits in each of their last six games. They've actually won four of those, but no Kevin Durant and no Klay Thompson proved too big of an obstacle to overcome Wednesday night. Thankfully, Thompson is going to be back for Game 4. Off a loss, I'm laying the short number w/ Golden State at home.
Few gave them a chance of winning this series, but the Raptors are definitely making everyone sit up and take notice. While it hasn't been quite the same stifling defense that we saw in the first three rounds (held Orlando, Philadelphia and Milwaukee under 100 PPG), Toronto has held Golden State to exactly 109 pts in all three games, which is 8.4 PPG under its season average. Offensively, the Raptors have hit on all cylinders in two of three games (should be easy to figure out which two!). Game 3 saw them shoot 52.4% overall, their highest FG% in any game this postseason. All five starters scored at least 17 points, including Danny Green going 6 of 10 from three-point range. I just can't envision a similar offensive showing from the Raptors here.
Meanwhile, Golden State should certainly improve offensively w/ Thompson back in the fold. They shot just 39.6% from the floor in Game 3, their LOWEST field goal percentage in any game this postseason. Without Durant, the Dubs had managed just fine, losing only one time (Game 1 in Toronto). Steph Curry has shown he's more than capable of picking up the scoring slack, which should be assumed considering he's a former league MVP himself. Curry just went for 47 points in Game 3, his career playoff high. You have to assume Golden State will be a lot better on both ends of the floor here. They are 8-3 ATS following a SU loss going back to the regular season. Not since X-Mas have they been off a DD loss and lost again their next time out. 10* Golden State
|06-05-19||Raptors v. Warriors UNDER 213.5||Top||123-109||Loss||-108||31 h 55 m||Show|
10* Under Raptors/Warriors (9:05 ET): Game 1 saw me cash my *10* Game of the Year (on Toronto), now here's my top total. Given how I played Game 2 (won w/ the Under), it should come as little shock how I'm playing this one. With an injury-riddled Golden State team facing a Toronto side that has played outstanding defense all throughout the playoffs, we should be in for a low-scoring game here in Oakland on Wednesday night. Raptors' games have been far lower-scoring in the playoffs than in the regular season, averaging just about 206 PPG. Take the Under here.
The big story heading into Game 3 is on the injury front for Golden State. It's still not known when Kevin Durant is going to return. The Warriors have done pretty well w/o their leading scorer, going 6-1 SU dating back to the close out game of the Houston series. But now they've lost Kevon Looney for the rest of the series and a hamstring is threatening to keep Klay Thompson out for Wednesday. If it doesn't keep Thompson out, it will at least limit him. It'll likely be Quinn Cook absorbing more minutes now and while he made 3 of 5 three-point attempts in Game 2, I don't see a repeat of that in Game 3.
Toronto held its previous three opponents (Orlando, Philadelphia & Milwaukee) to 99.6 PPG on 41.7% shooting. The Bucks were the only team to score more than Golden State in the regular season and they were held to 102 pts or less in regulation the last four games of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Warriors have been held to "just" 109 pts each of the first two games. Look for Toronto to go more "box-and-one" on defense for Game 3, a zone approach that worked well near the end of Game 2. The Warriors missed their first eight shot attempts once the Raptors switched. The Under is 13-6 in Golden State's last 19 home games and 6-2 when Toronto is off an ATS loss. 10* Under Raptors/Warriors
|06-02-19||Warriors v. Raptors -2||Top||109-104||Loss||-109||37 h 27 m||Show|
10* Toronto (8:05 ET): Purveyors of the famed "zig zag theory" (bet the ATS loser of the previous game) may be quick to hop on the Warriors here, but allow me to pump the brakes on that notion right off that. Isn't a big part of the zig zag theory anti-public perception (i.e. buy low on a team that just lost)? My read here is that most are going to expect Golden State to bounce back from the 118-109 loss in Game 1. But for all the same reasons I liked the Raptors in the series, I like them again here. They're again undervalued. They play great defense. Kevin Durant is still out. So lay the short number w/ the home team.
Golden State was off a long layoff going into Game 1 as they swept Portland in the Western Conference Finals. But that was a highly misleading sweep to say the least. In three of the four games, they trailed an inferior Blazers squad by double digits. Before that series, no team in NBA Playoff history had ever come back to win TWO straight when trailing by that many. The loss of Durant has become an underrated factor because the Warriors were able to sweep that last series (and because they closed out Houston w/o his services). I'd like to now reiterate something I said in my Game 1 analysis & that's the Dubs have been one of the WORST teams to bet on this season. Only the Lakers & Knicks had worse regular season ATS records.
Something else worth reiterating is that Toronto has played outstanding defense in the playoffs. They held the previous three opponents (Orlando, Philadelphia & Milwaukee) to 99.6 PPG on 41.7% shooting. At home is where the numbers get real impressive, especially if you take away the fact that Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals was a double overtime game (where Toronto barely trailed). Do that and the Raptors are giving up just under 96 PPG in regulation here at the Air Canada Centre. They just held the Bucks, who were the only team to average more points per game in the regular season than the Warriors, to 102 pts or less in regulation each of the last four games. Golden State was obviously held under its season average in Game 1. 10* Toronto
|06-02-19||Warriors v. Raptors UNDER 215||Top||109-104||Win||100||28 h 16 m||Show|
10* Under Warriors/Raptors (8:05 ET): I said it before Game 1 and I'll double down on it here. Toronto has played outstanding defense in the playoffs. They held the previous three opponents (Orlando, Philadelphia & Milwaukee) to 99.6 PPG on 41.7% shooting. At home is where the numbers get real impressive, especially if you take away the fact that Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals was a double overtime game (where Toronto barely trailed). Do that and the Raptors are giving up just under 96 PPG in regulation here at the Air Canada Centre.
The Bucks were the only team to outscore the Warriors in the regular season. The Raptors held them to 102 points or less in regulation each of the last four games in that series. Then Golden State was obviously held under its season average in Game 1. The Warriors clearly miss Kevin Durant, although before Thursday they hadn't lost since he went down to injury. In the last eight games, the Dubs surpassed their season average (in PPG) only twice and it was barely. They shot just 43.6 % from the field in Game 1. The Under is 7-3 the L10 times GSW has played on exactly two days rest.
Toronto shot 50% in Game 1. I think it's going to be tough for them to match that percentage again. Pascal Siakam scored a career-high 32 points on 14/17 shooting. That's DEFINITELY not happening again. The Under is a perfect 6-0 the L6 times the Raptors have played on exactly two days rest. Game 1 was just the third time in the playoffs that the Raptors shot better than 50% from the floor. I think you can tell which way I'm going here. Look for Game 2 to be lower-scoring than Game 1. Take the Under. 10* Under Warriors/Raptors
|05-30-19||Warriors v. Raptors -1||Top||109-118||Win||100||104 h 16 m||Show|
10* Toronto (9:05 ET): Despite being w/o Kevin Durant for (at least) Game 1, Golden State enters the NBA Finals as a prohibitive favorite for a fifth consecutive year. Of course, twice they made it here w/o Durant's services, but one of those was their only Finals loss. Unlike the previous four years, the Warriors will not be playing the Cleveland Cavaliers (no more LeBron!). Instead, it will be the Toronto Raptors. Interestingly enough, this will also be the 1st time the Dubs do NOT have home court advantage in the NBA Finals. Despite being prohibitive favorites to win this series, they have been bet to the underdog role for Gm 1 after opening as an ever-so slight favorite. I completely agree w/ the line move and will take the Raptors here as my *10* Game of the Year!
Toronto has played outstanding defense in the playoffs, holding the previous three opponents (Orlando, Philadelphia & Milwaukee) to 99.6 PPG on 41.7% shooting. At home is where the numbers get real impressive, especially if you take away the fact that Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals was a double overtime game (where Toronto barely trailed). Do that and the Raptors are giving up just under 96 PPG in regulation here at the Air Canada Centre. They just held the Bucks, who were the only team to average more points per game in the regular season than the Warriors, to 102 pts or less in regulation each of the last four games. So I do believe they are capable of limiting the Durant-less Dubs offensively here at home.
Golden State certainly has the edge in rest coming into the Finals. They last played a game on May 20th, giving them a full nine days off heading into Game 1. But that brings up the old "rest vs. rust" debate. Their turnarounds were much quicker between the last two series. Then there is the matter that the Warriors trailed by DOUBLE DIGITS in each of the last three games against Portland. No team in NBA history had ever rallied from B2B 13+ pt deficits to win in the playoffs, let alone three straight times. Toronto has Kawhi Leonard, who has been a man possessed this postseason, averaging 31.2 PPG on better than 50% shooting. Golden State had one of the worst ATS records in the league in the regular season and was 0-2 SU/ATS vs. the Raptors. 10* Toronto
|05-25-19||Bucks v. Raptors -2.5||Top||94-100||Win||100||29 h 49 m||Show|
10* Toronto (8:35 ET): The Raptors are now leading this series, three games to two, and quite frankly deserve to be up. Aside from a poor performance in Game 2 at Milwaukee, they have outplayed the Bucks. They easily could have won Game 1 (but blew the lead late). Games 3 & 4 here in Toronto were basically wire to wire victories (even though the former went to double overtime). Then in Game 5, they gave the Bucks a taste of their own medicine in rallying to steal a win. That upset was the 1st SU win by a road team in the ECF and now has Toronto knocking on the door of their first ever NBA Finals appearance. I'll lay the short number w/ them at home.
That the Raptors were able to win on the road - despite shooting only 36.9% from the floor - is a minor miracle. They came back from an early double digit deficit, led by Kawhi Leonard's 35 points, to win 105-99 as a 7.5-pt underdog. Now they're back home where they are 7-2 SU in the playoffs. But what's been most impressive of all about the Raptors has been their defense. They're allowing just 99.9 PPG in the playoffs, on 41.2% shooting. The last three games have seen them hold the Bucks, the league's top scoring team from the regular season, to 102 pts or less in regulation.
Even more impressive is that no opponent has scored more than 104 in regulation here in Toronto during the playoffs. I had the Under in Game 5 and called for the Raptors' bench to cool significantly after the hot shooting from Game 4. Well, now that they're back "North of the Border," I expect the bench to be a factor again. Admittedly, it is tough to pick the Bucks' season to end, but the Game 5 loss was a crusher. That the Raptors have shot barely above 40% in the series and have a chance to close things out is a bad sign for Milwaukee. I expect another offensive game from Toronto similar to Game 4. 10* Toronto
|05-25-19||Bucks v. Raptors OVER 212||Top||94-100||Loss||-100||10 h 18 m||Show|
8* Over Bucks/Raptors (8:35 ET): Though the Over cashed in Games 2-4, the Under was most certainly the correct call for Game 3 and would have cashed if not for TWO overtime periods. I was on the Under for Game 5 and that cashed easily w/ the Raptors pulling off a surprising 105-99 upset as 7-point road underdogs. One could make the case that - with the exception of Game 2 - Toronto has outplayed Milwaukee in this series as they led most of the way in Game 1 before relinquishing the lead (and cover) late. As they look to close the Bucks out tonight, I'm taking the Over.
There's a big difference in tonight's O/U line when you compare it to the closing number for Game 3, which is when it was at its series high point of 222. Yes, it took double overtime to send that one Over (game was tied at 96 at the end of regulation). But to me, tonight's O/U line looks like an over-adjustment by the linesmakers. It's at a series low point, basically a double digit difference from Game 3. That screams value to me. Toronto shot only 36.9% from the floor in the Game 5 upset and figures to be a lot sharper offensively tonight at home.
The Raptors' reserves were huge in Game 4, scoring 48 points in a 120-102 victory. I predicted that number would go down for Game 5 in Milwaukee and it did (down to 35 from the same three players). Bench play almost always improves for the home team and I expect that to be the case again here for Toronto. Meanwhile, we cannot discount a Bucks team that led the league in scoring during the regular season. The Over is 8-1 in their last nine road games and 6-2 their last eight visits to Toronto (2-0 in this series). 8* Over Bucks/Raptors
|05-23-19||Raptors v. Bucks UNDER 216.5||Top||105-99||Win||100||13 h 26 m||Show|
10* Under Raptors/Bucks (8:35 ET): Toronto has evened this series up as they won 120-102 Tuesday night, thereby reducing the Eastern Conference Finals to a best of three affair. Unfortunately for them, only one of the games (Game 6) will take place "North of the Border" and tonight's return to Milwaukee figures to be more of a "reality check," at least offensively. With Kawhi Leonard hurting, the Raptors' bench turned in a tremendous performance in Game 4, one that won't likely be repeated anytime soon. As you likely now, bench points tend not to "travel well." Take the Under here.
While Game 4 did just end up sneaking Over (by 6 pts), it was Game 3 that was the bigger "heartbreak" for Under bettors. That's because that game, tied 96-96 at the end of regulation, went to DOUBLE overtime. The game was still Under even after the 1st OT. It's been three straight Overs in the series going back to Game 2, but I don't see the same kind of shooting we saw from Milwaukee in Game 2 - or Toronto in Game 4 for that matter - taking place here. These are two very good defensive teams and with the stakes now raised, look for the pressure to be turned up at that end of the floor.
Milwaukee led the league in defensive efficiency during the regular season. Prior to Game 4, they had allowed a FG% above 43.2 only once in the playoffs (Game 1 vs. Boston), which is very impressive. For the entire playoffs, opponents are just barely shooting above 40% from the field against the Bucks. Their points allowed predictably drops here at home. Toronto is allowing just under 100 PPG (99.9) for the playoffs, on 41.2% shooting. The Under is 7-2-1 their L10 road games. I love the Under here. 10* Under Raptors/Bucks
|05-21-19||Bucks v. Raptors +2.5||Top||102-120||Win||102||12 h 14 m||Show|
8* Toronto (8:35 ET): My condolences to anyone who may have had the Under in Game 3, which was an all-time bad beat as it took not one, but TWO overtimes to send the game Over the total. Toronto was definitely happy w/ the result, however, as the 118-112 win enabled them to "get back" in the series. Now only down 2-1 in the series (as opposed to the 3-0 "death knell"), a win here by the Raptors would reduce this Eastern Conference Finals to a best of three affair. I cashed the home dog last night in a "must-win" scenario and while they didn't win, they were covering virtually wire to wire. I'll take the points again tonight.
Had it not been for OT, Game 3 would have marked the seventh straight home game that Toronto held its opponent below 100 pts. That's a pretty remarkable accomplishment in the modern NBA. For the entire playoffs, they are holding teams to 99.8 points per game on 41.2% shooting. At home, the PPG allowed average drops to 95.3. The most pts they've allowed in regulation for any home playoff game is 104. Coming into this series, they'd allowed 100+ pts in just 3 of 12 playoff games and two of those were on the road.
The Raptors were definitely outclassed in Game 2 at Milwaukee, but led most of the way in both Games 1 and 3. Game 1 was an infamous chokejob, similar to what we saw from Portland throughout the Western Conference Finals. Toronto led that game by as many as 13 and was up seven entering the 4th quarter. Game 3 did see them outscored in each of the final three quarters, however, the Bucks led just twice in the entire game: 2-0 and then 105-103 in double overtime. I feel the Raptors should be favored in this game (as they were in Game 3). 8* Toronto
|05-21-19||Bucks v. Raptors UNDER 216.5||Top||102-120||Loss||-110||12 h 14 m||Show|
10* Under Bucks/Raptors (8:35 ET): My condolences to anyone who may have had the Under in Game 3, which was an all-time bad beat as it took not one, but TWO overtimes to send the game Over the total. Toronto was definitely happy w/ the result, however, as the 118-112 win enabled them to "get back" in the series. Considering the game was 96-96 at the end of regulation (both teams shot below 40% from the field), coming back here w/ the Under seems pretty logical, especially given the kind of defense we've seen from both teams throughout the playoffs.
Had it not been for OT, Game 3 would have marked the seventh straight home game that Toronto held its opponent below 100 pts. That's a pretty remarkable accomplishment in the modern NBA. For the entire playoffs, they are holding teams to 99.8 points per game on 41.2% shooting. At home, the PPG allowed average drops to 95.3. The most pts they've allowed in regulation for any home playoff game is 104. Coming into this series, they'd allowed 100+ pts in just 3 of 12 playoff games and two of those were on the road. The Under is 5-2 the L7 times the Raptors have been off a game where they allowed 100+ pts.
Milwaukee led the league in defensive efficiency during the regular season and has been just as excellent as Toronto has on that end of the floor in the playoffs. Only one time (Game 1 vs. Boston) have the Bucks allowed a FG% above 43.2. That's pretty incredible. For the entire playoffs, opponents are shooting below 40% from the field! Toronto's last five games have seen them shoot below 40% overall and at the same time Milwaukee has finished below 40% in two of the three games in this series. The Under is 13-5 the L18 times the Bucks have been off a SU loss. 10* Under Bucks/Raptors
|05-20-19||Warriors v. Blazers +4||Top||119-117||Win||100||14 h 42 m||Show|
10* Portland (9:05 ET): It's all come down to this for the Blazers, who must win tonight or their season is over. Obviously, their chances of coming back to take this series currently rank somewhere between slim and none. But considering they've led each of the last two games by double digits at halftime, I won't hesitate in backing them at home. Especially now that they are an underdog, which was not the case for Game 3. Also, Portland is 12-1 ATS at home the L2 seasons when playing w/ revenge for a double digit loss (lost Game 3 by 11 points). Take the points here.
Coming into this series, no team in NBA history had ever won B2B playoff games in which it trailed by more than 13 points. That's changed now w/ the Warriors doing just that in both Games 2 and 3. Game 2 was bad enough as Portland blew an eight-point lead w/ just over four minutes to go (and they led by 15 at half). But Game 3 may have been even worse as the Blazers led that game by as many as 18 in the first half, at home, and not only didn't win, but they didn't cover either. It was a double digit loss (110-99) where they were held to a measly 33 points after halftime.
Portland averages 118 PPG at home for the year, so we should a bounce back performance offensively tonight, at least relative to the second half disaster from Saturday. They scored 66 points in the first half, so they're certainly capable of scoring against this Warriors team, which by the way remains w/o both Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins. Sure, the Warriors still have three other All Stars on the roster, a luxury almost unheard of in the history of this league. But they are also 1-7 ATS their L8 games following an ATS win and also 19-42-2 ATS when off a double digit victory. 10* Portland
|05-20-19||Warriors v. Blazers OVER 219.5||Top||119-117||Win||100||14 h 42 m||Show|
8* Over Warriors/Blazers (9:05 ET): It's all come down to this for the Blazers, who must win tonight or their season is over. Obviously, their chances of coming back to take this series currently rank somewhere between slim and none. But considering they've led each of the last two games by double digits at halftime, I don't see them simply "rolling over" here. They average 118 PPG at home for the year and scored 66 in the first half here in Game 3. A second consecutive 2nd half meltdown cost them the cash (and an Over), but I definitely see them scoring more points tonight.
The problem for Portland is that Golden State can score too. Despite not having Kevin Durant, the Warriors have scored at least 110 pts in the last four games, averaging 114.5 PPG overall. They average 117.6 PPG for the season. As you might expect, Steph Curry has picked up the slack in Durant's absence, scoring at least 33 points in all four games. That's the luxury Golden State has with five All Stars and two former MVP's on its roster. The Over is 11-3 in their L14 trips to Portland and 20-9 their L29 overall meetings w/ the Blazers.
Remember what I wrote in my Game 2 analysis about the total and the O/U line relative to the regular season. None of the four regular season matchups between the Warriors & Blazers saw fewer than 219 total pts scored. For the final regular season meeting, the O/U line was set at 235.5 points and the game still went Over! Portland should shoot better than 40% from the field tonight (that was their FG% in Gm 3) and three-point shooting in particular should improve. The Over is also 4-0 the L4 times the Blazers have been off an ATS loss. 8* Over Warriors/Blazers
|05-18-19||Warriors v. Blazers -2||Top||110-99||Loss||-113||13 h 23 m||Show|
10* Portland (9:05 ET): Needless to say, the Blazers have to have this game. They blew a "golden" (pun intended!) opportunity to steal one on the road, losing Game 2 114-111 after leading almost the whole way. It was in many ways reminiscent of what happened to Toronto in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Now we know how the follow-up for the Raptors went (they were blown out), but I think it'll be different for Portland as they are at home for Game 3 and in a virtual "must-win" situation. The Blazers are 4-1 ATS following a SU loss in the playoffs, including covering Game 2. Lay the short number here.
Portland was up 15 at halftime in Game 2 and looked well on their way to pulling the outright upset. Even w/ just over four minutes to go in the game, they were up eight and that was after the Warriors came back to tie things up after three quarters. But that's when the wheels came off as Golden State ended the game on a 14-3 run. As disappointing a loss as it was, I fully expect the Blazers to play better here at home. They didn't really shoot the ball well in either of the first two games w/ Damian Lillard being the biggest offender at just 10 of 28 overall from the field. At home, the Blazers average 118.1 PPG, which is well up from the 109.9 PPG they average on the road.
When Kevin Durant was lost to injury, I said you should expect Steph Curry to pick up the scoring load for the Warriors. That's exactly what has happened w/ the former league MVP scoring 30+ points in each of the L3 games. But now that they're playing on the road, don't be surprised to see Golden State struggle a bit more to score. By the way, Portland has not lost three straight games since early December. Since that time, they are 6-0 SU off B2B losses, covering the spread five times. Lillard is going to play better here and the Blazers will win. 10* Portland
|05-17-19||Raptors +6.5 v. Bucks||Top||103-125||Loss||-100||12 h 1 m||Show|
10* Toronto (8:35 ET): Each of the last two nights in the NBA playoffs, we've seen the underdog lose (straight up) in the most painful way possible, that being giving away the lead late after losing most of the game. Portland was up by 15 at halftime last night, but at least they still ended up covering (+7.5). Toronto couldn't even do that, even after leading almost the entirety of Game 1 here in Milwaukee. The Raptors, specifically Kawhi Leonard, wilted late and didn't score a single basket over the final four minutes. The end result was them losing 108-100 as a 6.5-pt underdog.
As the final seconds of Game 1 ticked away, the announcers were not shy about "shoveling some dirt" on the Raptors' proverbial grave. "This is like losing two games," they exclaimed. Reggie Miller and Chris Webber are of course both pretty bad and I think the demise of Toronto has been greatly exaggerated here. Again, the did lead almost the entire way in Game 1. We're not necessarily asking them to win tonight, they only need to cover. Given how good they have been defensively in the playoffs (only 96.9 PPG allowed), covering the spread is more than reasonable here.
What makes the Game 1 result all the more infuriating for the Raptors is that Kyle Lowry played very well, scoring 30 points on 10 of 15 shooting (made seven three-pointers). But Leonard faded badly down the stretch (fatigue?) w/ only two points in the fourth quarter (still ended up w/ a team-high 31). Pascal Siakam (15 pts) was the only other Raptor in double figures, so it'll need to be more of a "team effort" this time around. Again, definitely possible and make note of the fact Toronto is 10-1 ATS this season when coming off 3 or more ATS losses. They have not lost B2B games SU since late March. 10* Toronto
|05-16-19||Blazers v. Warriors OVER 217.5||Top||111-114||Win||100||13 h 7 m||Show|
10* Over Blazers/Warriors (9:05 ET): I don't think there's any denying that Portland played a poor Game 1, especially on the offensive end of the floor. Perhaps it had something to do w/ the fact they were basically 48 hours removed from winning a Game 7 on the road. They came back from 17 points down to win in Denver on Sunday, a 100-96 upset as 5.5-point dogs. I had the Under in that one, which was a winner, but the Over was NOT a winner here for me in Game 1 of the WCF. Golden State certainly did its part though, scoring 116 pts (even w/o Kevin Durant) and I think the Blazers should have a bounce back game offensively tonight. Thus, I'm on the Over yet again!
As Portland's C.J. McCollum was leading the way w/ 37 points in that Game 7 victory in Denver, LeBron James wasn't afraid to voice his approval (via Twitter) for McCollum's preference for "mid-range jumpers." Perhaps it was another case of "too much bubbly" for the King though in his mini anti-analytics rant. Yes, McCollum was quite successful in that game, but the bottom line is Portland has been in a shooting slump as a team of late. The last two games have seen them go a disastrous 11 of 54 from three-point range. Unlike James, I would advise the Blazers to keep shooting though. They are above 35% for the year from behind the arc and the three-point shot is their best weapon in trying to keep pace w/ the Warriors. Look for them to shoot their way out of the slump starting tonight.
Golden State is NOT in any kind of slump as they've scored 118 and 116 points in the two games w/o Durant. They shot 50% in Game 1 and as expected Steph Curry picked up the slack in Durant's absence. Curry went 9 of 15 from three-point range and scored 36 points. I expect him to continue to have a big series. As I said in the Game 1 analysis, oddsmakers have set a low O/U line here. None of the four regular season matchups between the Warriors & Blazers saw fewer than 219 total pts scored. For the final regular season meeting, the O/U line was set at 235.5 points and the game still went Over! 10* Over Blazers/Warriors
|05-15-19||Raptors +6.5 v. Bucks||Top||100-108||Loss||-105||12 h 37 m||Show|
10* Toronto (8:35 ET): This will be just the second time this postseason that the Raptors have been underdogs. Given the kind of defense we've seen from them in the first two rounds, this would seem to be a nice value. The only previous time they were getting points in these playoffs was Game 4 of the Philadelphia series (+2), a contest they actually opened as the slight favorite and wound up winning outright, 101-96. I had them there. While I won't guarantee an outright victory this time around, taking the points is definitely the way to go in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
As stated above, the defense we're seeing from the Raptors in the playoffs has been pretty remarkable. They are giving up just 96 PPG on 41.3% shooting. Now they will be facing the top scoring team in the league now, but I think Toronto will be up to the challenge. Just twice in the last 11 games have the Raptors given up over 100 points. While both exceptions came on the road (at Philadelphia), don't think for a second that Toronto won't be able to score here as well. They average 113.1 PPG and while they hit that average only once in the Philly series, don't be surprised at a breakout offensive performance tonight.
Milwaukee had a much easier time than expected w/ Boston in Round 2. That has them as the overwhelming favorite to win this series. But, make no mistake, the Raptors are a better team than the dysfunctional Celtics. The Bucks also lost Game 1 to Boston on this court. That's their only loss of the postseason, but still. There is a question of "rest vs. rust" here w/ Milwaukee having been off for so long (last played exactly one week ago). And the Bucks' track record is not good in this spot as they are just 5-14-1 ATS the L20 times they've played on three or more days rest. 10* Toronto
|05-14-19||Blazers v. Warriors OVER 219||Top||94-116||Loss||-108||28 h 2 m||Show|
10* Over Blazers/Warriors (9:05 ET): Congrats go out to Portland, who on Sunday became the rare road team to win a Game 7. They did so against a Denver team I've long thought was suspect due to what was a very fortunate record in close games. But all that's earned the Blazers is a date w/ Golden State, who is making its fifth consecutive appearance in the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors will play Game 1 w/o Kevin Durant (injured), but as we saw in the close out game vs. Houston, they still have more than enough "horses" to get the job done. Take the Over here in Game 1.
Portland did win twice in Denver in the last series and both times it was a result of holding the Nuggets under 100 points. Good luck to doing that against Golden State, however, even w/ no Durant. The Warriors scored 118 w/o Durant against Houston on Friday, shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor. I had the Over in that game, which cashed pretty easily as the oddsmakers clearly overreacted to the Durant injury (set low O/U line). Sure enough, the total here looks low as well. None of the four regular season matchups between the Warriors & Blazers saw fewer than 219 total pts scored. The last time they met, the O/U line was set at 235.5 points and the game still went Over!
There's shockingly little difference in either points scored or allowed for Golden State when it comes to home vs. road games. But home games are a little higher scoring w/ an average of 229.6 total PPG scored. Portland averages fewer PPG on the road than at home, but still scores 110.3 PPG. They give up around the same number. In the playoffs, the Blazers' total PPG average has stayed relatively consistent to what we saw in the regular season. Golden State games have averaged a slightly higher number of PPG. 10* Over Blazers/Warriors
|05-14-19||Blazers +8 v. Warriors||Top||94-116||Loss||-115||13 h 13 m||Show|
8* Portland (9:05 ET): Considering the Blazers were able to win twice in Denver (who had the league's best home record), there's no reason to doubt they can't win a game at Golden State. Plus the Warriors are playing without their best player Kevin Durant. Now we certainly can't discount the embarrassment of riches the Dubs enjoy, talent-wise. They still have Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. But this was a team that was certainly susceptible to losing at home in the regular season and they lost twice here in the 1st round to the Clippers. They are only 18-28-1 ATS in all home games for the year. Take the points in Game 1.
Golden State won all three home games in the Houston series, but those three victories were by a total of 15 points and none by greater than six. When they went into Game 6 at Houston w/o Durant, there was a pretty clear overadjustment by the oddsmakers in terms of both the side and total. It was the most points the Warriors were getting for any playoff game under HC Steve Kerr and they took advantage by pulling an outright upset. But, here, it appears as if they (meaning the oddsmakers) have overcompensated the "other way" in that there seems as if there's been NO adjustment for Durant's absence.
Portland did win here once in the regular season, right after Christmas, 110-109 as nine-point underdogs (in OT). Overall, they split the four regular season meetings. The Warriors were at "full strength" in all four of those games as well. Both losses found Golden State coming in extra motivated. They were on a four-game losing streak (longest of the Kerr-era) heading into the season's first meeting and then it was the second game of a home and home (Portland won the first) the other time they beat the Blazers. No such additional motivation is present here. If anything, I expect Portland to be the more motivated side. 8* Portland
|05-12-19||76ers +6 v. Raptors||Top||90-92||Win||100||32 h 56 m||Show|
10* Philadelphia (7:05 ET): If you're a little surprised that I'd be taking the 76ers in this winner take all situation, well, join the club. Given how I'd played this series so far (only taking Toronto when playing the side), I wouldn't have thought I'd be on the underdog in Game 7 either. But over the course of the series, it's become pretty clear to me that these teams are more evenly matched than I thought, even though Philly was destroyed here (by 36 pts!) in Game 5. They responded by taking Game 6 (at home), 112-101. Only two of the six games so far have been decided by single digits, but I think this one will be. Take the points.
I've talked about the Raptors' defense being exceptional in previous analysis. But Philadelphia has managed to shoot well against them in two of the past four games. Granted, both were at home where they average a far higher number of points per game. But I think a big key here is going to be Joel Embiid's health. He definitely appeared over his illness in Game 6 where he scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Jimmy Butler led all Sixers' scorers w/ 25 points and also had eight rebounds and six assists.
While Toronto's Kawhi Leonard has been the best player in the series - for either team - his teammates have not always been there to support him. In Game 6, Pascal Siakam was the only other Raptor w/ more than 13 points. The starting five combined to go 7 of 28 from three-point range. While it certainly can be argued that we'll see improvement from the "supporting cast" here at home in Game 7, I don't think it'll be enough to cover the generous pointspread. Philly has its "demons" here in Toronto (lost 15 of last 16 visits), but I believe can keep this one close, if not pull the outright upset. 10* Philadelphia
|05-12-19||76ers v. Raptors OVER 209||Top||90-92||Loss||-105||32 h 56 m||Show|
8* Over 76ers/Raptors (7:05 ET): This would be a new series low in terms of the O/U line, which means value from where I sit. Consider that the O/U line for Game 1 closed at 223 points, a double digit difference from where we are now for Game 7. It's pretty rare to see something like that take place. Now the first four games of the series did all stay Under, hence the drop from the oddsmakers. But the last two games did (just barely) squeak Over and those were several points higher than this one. Philadelphia may be a better offensive team at home, but this number is too low. Take the Over.
You have to figure we'll see better shooting from Toronto here than what we saw in Game 6 in Philly. As has been the case in every Raptors loss in the series, Kawhi Leonard got little help from his teammates Thursday night. Only Pascal Siakam had more than 13 points (with the exception of Leonard). The team shot 43.2% overall and just 25% from three-point range. At home, they are averaging 114.3 PPG on the year w/ much better shooting numbers. The last time here in Toronto, the Raptors dropped 125 points, a series high. Philadelphia allows 114.2 PPG for the season on the road.
I think a big key to this Game 7 will be the fact that Sixers' big man Joel Embiid appears to be healthy again. He had 17 points and 12 rebounds in the team's Game 6 victory. Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler led the way w/ 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The Sixers didn't shoot all that well in the 112-101 victory. But we know they'll be a lot better here than they were in Game 5. This is poised to be the lowest total for any 76ers game all season. Their games average more than 226 PPG overall while Toronto's aren't too far behind at 220.3. 8* Over 76ers/Raptors
|05-12-19||Blazers v. Nuggets UNDER 212.5||Top||100-96||Win||100||28 h 27 m||Show|
10* Under Blazers/Nuggets (3:30 ET): It's all come down to this for Portland and Denver, a Game 7. For the Nuggets this is their second Game 7 of the playoffs. They won in the 1st round, also here at home, beating San Antonio by a score of 90-86. While I was quite content to cash my Under bet in that game, the final score was very misleading as the Nuggets were up big most of the way (led by as many as 17) and never trailed. Things figure to be a bit more challenging here, even though the core of this Portland team has never been in a Game 7 before. Once again though, I'll be on the Under as the Nuggets host a Game 7.
Now, I do realize that I'm bucking a pretty substantial season-long trend here. Unlike w/ the Spurs, the Over has hit almost every time Denver has played Portland this season. In 10 meetings, the Over has gone 9-1. That includes 5-1 in this series, the lone exception being Game 2 here in Denver, which went way Under as the Blazers pulled a 97-90 upset as four-point underdogs. I believe we'll see a game like that on Sunday, given the stakes. It is a little surprising to see the oddsmaker stay so consistent w/ what appears to be low O/U lines in this series. But the Nuggets are 27th in pace of play.
We also know that the Nuggets play much better defense here at home than on the road. In four of the last five home games, they've held the opponent - either San Antonio or Portland - under 100 points. That includes a 124-98 victory in Game 5. Only one time in the playoffs, Game 1 of this series, have they allowed more than 105 pts at home. For the season, they allow only 102.9 PPG at home, a far cry from the 111.0 PPG they allow on the road. As for Portland, they allow only 1 more PPG on the road compared to at home while their own scoring average drops 7.6 PPG. 10* Under Blazers/Nuggets
|05-10-19||Warriors v. Rockets OVER 213||Top||118-113||Win||100||13 h 1 m||Show|
10* Over Warriors/Rockets (9:05 ET): In the wake of the Kevin Durant injury, oddsmakers set a very low total for Game 6 and I think it's pretty obvious that the number was set too low. Compared to previous O/U lines, we're looking at anywhere from a five to double digit point drop. That's a bigger adjustment than what we've seen w/ the game line as Houston is now prohibitively favored to make this a seven game series. Let's not forget about all the other options Golden State has offensively as well as how much Houston is capable of scoring. I see a ton of value in the Over tonight.
Durant was leading the league in points per game (34.2) in the playoffs, so he'll definitely be missed. (If the Warriors do end up advancing, the team sounds fairly confident about an eventual Durant return). But with him out for at least the next two games, I expect everyone else on the roster to step up. Remember this is a team that won 72 regular season games and a NBA title (not the same seasons) w/o Durant. Steph Curry is a former league MVP and despite a low field goal percentage, still scored 25 points in the last game. Klay Thompson had 27. As per usual, the Dubs were #1 in the league in offensive efficiency in the regular season. They average 117.7 PPG for the year. They'll find ways to score here.
Houston has seen its games be lower scoring than usual in the playoffs, but remember they played Utah in the first round. This series has seen an average of 219.6 total points per game scored. The Rockets were held under 100 (99) in Game 5, but average 116.7 PPG for the year at home. They shot only 41.8% on Wednesday and we should see dramatic improvement in that department tonight. In the two previous home games in the series, they scored 126 and 112 points. Remember that the Warriors really fell off defensively this season, ranking only 10th in efficiency. The Rockets were right behind them in offensive efficiency in the regular season, finishing 2nd. 10* Over Warriors/Rockets
|05-09-19||Raptors -2 v. 76ers||Top||101-112||Loss||-109||13 h 51 m||Show|
8* Toronto (8:05 ET): The Raptors completely annihilated the 76ers in Game 5, winning by 36 points, thus setting up a situation where they need just one more win to advance. I took Toronto in both Games 4 and 5, feeling they were pretty clearly the better team here, and will take them again here to finish off Philadelphia's season. While the Sixers are obviously a stronger team here at home, the spread is now basically a non-factor w/ Toronto being on the road. Also, the Raptors have really owned this Atlantic Division rivalry through the years, winning 24 of the last 29 meetings. Lay the short number here.
Fortunately, to make up for Philadelphia's likely large increase in offense from the last game, Toronto can score too. Especially when the ball is in Kawhi Leonard's hands. In this series, Leonard is averaging 34.6 points to go along w/ 9.8 rebounds per game. He's shooting at an incredible 58.3% clip. Keep in mind that Game 5 was the first time in the series Leonard did NOT score at least 33 points. He didn't have to though as his teammates shot 50% from the field. Remember that the Raptors are a top six team in offensive efficiency and average 113.4 PPG.
The defense Toronto has played, not just in this series, but the entire playoffs has been pretty remarkable. They are giving up just 95.0 PPG and have allowed fewer than 100 pts in all but two games. One of the two where they failed to hold the opponent under 100 was Game 3 here in Philly, their worst defensive effort of the entire postseason. But other than that one game, the highest field goal percentage allowed was 42.0! Opponents are barely shooting 40% against them in the playoffs. I thought Philly was a pretty weak 3-seed coming into the playoffs (were actually 5th in point differential in the East) and the Raptors are just better. The series ends tonight. 8* Toronto
|05-09-19||Raptors v. 76ers OVER 212.5||Top||101-112||Win||100||13 h 51 m||Show|
10* Over Raptors/76ers (8:05 ET): These teams finally went Over in Game 5, the first Over of the series. Game 5 was also a complete and utter beatdown by the Raptors, who won by 36 points to put the Sixers on the brink of elimination. While Toronto has defended exceptionally well in the postseason (only 95 PPG allowed), stopping Philadelphia in this game will likely prove a little more difficult given it's in the City of Brotherly Love where the Sixers average a healthy 118.0 PPG. Back in Game 3, they scored 116 pts and shot 51.2% from the field, which is the only time in the playoffs a Toronto opponent shot better than 42.0 percent. Take the Over here.
Fortunately, to make up for Philadelphia's likely large increase in offense from the last game, Toronto can score too. Especially when the ball is in Kawhi Leonard's hands. In this series, Leonard is averaging 34.6 points to go along w/ 9.8 rebounds per game. He's shooting at an incredible 58.3% clip. Keep in mind that Game 5 was the first time in the series Leonard did NOT score at least 33 points. He didn't have to though as his teammates shot 50% from the field. Remember that the Raptors are a top six team in offensive efficiency and average 113.4 PPG.
Philadelphia was right behind Toronto in offensive efficiency in the regular season, ranking 7th overall. The large jump we see from them in terms of scoring at home is the key here. While they have been held below their season average in four of the five games overall in the series, they scored only 95, 94 and 89 in Toronto. For the year, they average just 111.3 PPG on the road. As stated above, that number jumps all the way to 118.0 at home. There's no way we won't see drastic offensive improvement from the last game where the starting five combined for only 60 points. The Over is 6-2 in the 76ers' last eight games following a SU loss and 9-3 the last 12 times they have been off an ATS loss. 10* Over Raptors/76ers
|05-08-19||Celtics +9 v. Bucks||Top||91-116||Loss||-108||12 h 43 m||Show|
8* Boston (8:05 ET): What a disastrous three-game stretch this has been for the Celtics, particularly Kyrie Irving. Over those L3 games, Irving has shot the ball at a disastrous 31% clip (19 of 62). Those 43 misses are his most over a three-game stretch in the playoffs in Irving's entire career. Not surprisingly then, Boston has lost all three games. He's also seemingly alienating teammates in the process. I think most are of the opinion that the Celtics' season is all but over, but I'm seeing a lot of value in this pointspread. Remember that Boston won Game 1 here in Milwaukee. Take the points.
It hasn't been only Irving struggling to make shots from the Boston side. His teammates have provided little in the way in relief. Game 4 saw the Celtics shoot 37.8% overall, including 9 of 41 from three-point range. On uncontested jumpers alone, the team shot 14 of 39. I refuse to believe that this team got this bad "overnight." Granted Milwaukee led the league in scoring during the regular season and was also #1 in defensive efficiency. But Boston was able to "expose" their flaws back in the 112-90, Game 1 win. There's no reason to believe they can't keep this one close.
I have to admit that part of me was wanting to take the Celtics on the 1st Half line only. They actually led at halftime in both Games 3 and 4. All throughout the series, the 3rd quarter has been the deciding factor w/ the last three games seeing the Bucks +40 in that quarter. Maybe a road trip is what the Celtics need. They've covered six of their last seven road games. They are also a perfect 4-0 ATS the L4 times they have been off a double digit home loss. There have been only two times all season that the Celtics have dropped four straight games. Again, I think they keep this one close. 8* Boston
|05-08-19||Celtics v. Bucks UNDER 218||Top||91-116||Win||104||12 h 42 m||Show|
10* Under Celtics/Bucks (8:05 ET): I had the Under in Game 1 and that was an easy winner (by 20 points). The next two games both went Over, but then it was back to the Under for Game 4 as the Bucks won 113-101. That result has the Celtics on the verge of elimination as Kyrie Irving and company continue to struggle to shoot the ball. Irving, in particular, has been pretty brutal the L3 games. It's been the worst three-game stretch for him in his playoff career as he's shot just 19 of 62 from the field. As a team, Boston has shot 37.8%, 43.2% and 39.5% the L3 games.
Milwaukee led the league in defensive efficiency during the regular season, which is something I don't think a) they get enough credit for and b) most are even aware. So perhaps it shouldn't be too surprising that Boston has struggled offensively. But the bigger surprise has been Boston's defensive struggles. I know the Bucks led the league in scoring during the regular season, but the Celtics were also a top 10 team in defensive efficiency. The Bucks have averaged almost 120 PPG in taking the L3 games after being held to only 90 in the Game 1 loss.
Expect Milwaukee's scoring to go down here in Game 5. If Boston has any hope of staying alive, the defense must improve. The first five playoff games saw them allow fewer than 100 pts four times. Granted, Indiana is not Milwaukee, but the Bucks have managed to shoot better than 44% in only one game in the series. I do expect Boston's shooting to improve some here, but Game 1 was their best shooting effort and that game stayed well Under the total. 10* Under Celtics/Bucks
|05-07-19||Blazers v. Nuggets UNDER 213.5||Top||98-124||Loss||-109||14 h 15 m||Show|
8* Under Blazers/Nuggets (10:35 ET): These second round series have been far more competitive than what we saw in the first round w/ three of the four tied at 2-2. Count Portland-Denver among the three as the Nuggets turned in a "gutsy" Game 4 performance in Portland to even the series up. They made some key shots down the stretch for the 116-112 upset as three-point underdogs. Now we return to Denver and if history is any indication, the game is going to be close yet again. These teams have played eight times this season and none of the games have been decided by double digits. Half (four) of them have been decided by four points or less.
Another trend is that the Over is 7-1. But that one Under occurred in the last game here in Denver, which Portland won 97-90 as four-point underdogs. I had the Under. The Blazers held the Nuggets to a 34.7 FG% in that game. Usually though, it's Denver that you can count on to play excellent defense at home. Their PPG allowed drops to 103.0 here at the Pepsi Center, which is well below what they are giving up on the road (110.8 PPG). What's interesting about Portland is their defensive numbers are basically identical on the road compared to at home. But they do score significantly less, averaging only 110.8 PPG on the road, compared to 118.1 PPG at home.
Both teams shot really well in Game 1, but that hasn't been the case ever since, save for the closing minutes of Game 4. Denver has allowed fewer than 100 points in three of its last four home games. The defensive improvement we see w/ them at home can't be discounted here nor can the offensive decline on the road we see w/ Portland. Normally, that might lead one to play the Nuggets in this spot, but I'm leery of them, not just because of some mediocre regular season numbers, but also due to the fact they've shot poorly in two of the last three games and lack a true "go to" scorer. 8* Under Blazers/Nuggets
|05-07-19||76ers v. Raptors -6||Top||89-125||Win||100||12 h 39 m||Show|
10* Toronto (8:05 ET): The Raptors were able to seize the home court advantage back w/ a 101-96 win in Game 4, covering as a 2-point underdog. I was on them there, feeling this is the better team in the series. Obviously, I still feel that way and will now lay the points w/ them back at home. While Philadelphia did win Game 2, they had previously dropped 14 straight here "North of the Border" and are only 5-23 SU vs. Toronto since the start of the 2013-14 season. Back home, the Raptors should reassert themselves as they are 35-11 SU in all home games this season.
Toronto has done a marvelous job defensively in the playoffs, allowing an average of just 95.7 points per game on 40.5% shooting. Only once have they given up more than 104 points or allowed better than 42.0% shooting and that was Game 3 in Philadelphia. Take that away and the defensive numbers from Toronto get even more impressive. Game 4 marked the third time in the series that they held the Sixers below 100 points. Kawhi Leonard is having a series for the ages here, averaging 38 points and nine rebounds per game. He is easily the best player on either team right now.
Toronto getting back the homecourt advantage was huge. Philadelphia is just 23-22 SU on the road this year while being outscored in the process. I expect Leonard to get more "help" from his supporting cast here at home, including Kyle Lowry, who has struggled at times here in the postseason. Prior to winning Game 2, the Sixers had failed to cover five times in a row here in Toronto. They don't have the depth the Raptors do, which we saw in Game 4 w/ Joel Embiid playing sick. On the road, I expect the depth issue to be an even bigger factor. 10* Toronto
|05-06-19||Warriors +1.5 v. Rockets||Top||108-112||Loss||-107||14 h 52 m||Show|
10* Golden State (9:35 ET): All three games in this series have been decided by six points or less and Houston's 126-121 win in Game 3 went to overtime. I'm anticipating another close one tonight, but getting the Warriors off a loss and NOT having to lay points seems like quite the ideal combination. The Dubs are 8-1 ATS L9 on the road when seeking revenge. They are also 21-6 SU off a SU loss this season (4-0 ATS L4), winning by an average of 8.4 points per game. You have to figure Steph Curry will break out of his shooting slump sooner rather than later and tonight sounds like as good a time as any. Take the short number.
Curry has not been good in this series so far, shooting just 18 of 52 overall and 8 of 32 from three-point range. He was just 7 of 23 in Game 3 and had an all-time low point when he missed a breakaway dunk w/ just 19.2 seconds left in overtime. But in spite of Curry's shooting woes (not to mention Klay Thompson's as well), Golden State still leads the best of seven series 2-1. That should have Houston quite scared. Of course, when you are as talent rich as the Warriors are, a Curry slump isn't necessarily a backbreaker. Kevin Durant continues to dominate this postseason, averaging 35.6 PPG on better than 51% overall shooting.
Houston obviously has James Harden, who had 41 points in Game 3. But unlike the Warriors, I'm not sure the Rockets can reliably count on multiple scoring options. They did get 30 points in Game 3 from Eric Gordon, his career playoff high. But I wouldn't go expecting a repeat of that tonight. Chris Paul hasn't had a great series by any means as he's yet to score 20 pts in any game. I expect Curry or Thompson (possibly both?!) to have a big Game 4 and for the Warriors to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Houston is 17-37-1 ATS after scoring 125+ pts their last game. 10* Golden State
|05-05-19||Nuggets v. Blazers UNDER 210.5||Top||116-112||Loss||-100||10 h 13 m||Show|
10* Under Nuggets/Blazers (7:05 ET): Though I like both totals quite a bit on Sunday, this is my "preferred" one, hence the 10* rating. Game 3 saw Denver get a taste of its own medicine, that being dealt a close loss. I've previously written at great length about the Nuggets extremely good fortune in close games this year. The regular season saw them go a perfect 7-0 SU in games decided by three points or less, which played a major role in them finishing 2nd in the Western Conference despite three teams below them having better YTD point differentials and four having better net efficiency ratings. Count Portland as one of the teams in that group.
It was a wild Game 3 that went 4 OT's. Because of that, the Over was forgone conclusion. But neither team shot the ball very well in the 140-137 final. In fact, it was the second straight game the Blazers shot below 43% from the field. They made just 12 of 42 three-pointers in the contest. Denver, who shot horribly in Game 2 (34.7 FG%) wasn't a whole lot better. The game was tied 102-102 at the end of regulation, so that was a bad break for Under bettors. Remember I had the Under in Game 2 and that was a 30+ pt winner as Portland won 97-90.
Could the Blazers shoot significantly better tonight? It's certainly a possibility. But Damian Lillard has been pretty bad the last two games, making only three of 16 attempts from three-point range. That 4 OT game took out a lot of both teams, including Denver's best player (Nikola Jokic), who played 65 minutes. (Portland's leading scorer C.J. McCollum played 60). This game might not end up as low-scoring as Game 2, but the Blazers are 7-2-1 the L10 games after giving up 125+ pts the previous game. Denver is 4-0 Under the L4 times it has been coming off a 125+ pt game. 10* Under Nuggets/Blazers
|05-05-19||Raptors +2 v. 76ers||Top||101-96||Win||102||7 h 45 m||Show|
8* Toronto (3:30 ET): Put up or shut up time here for the Raptors, who have lost two straight to the 76ers, including an embarrassing 116-95 loss here in Philly on Thursday. After allowing fewer than 100 pts in six straight games, Toronto was torched for 116 in Game 3. Not only was that the first time a Raptors' opponent shot better than 50% in these playoffs, it was the first time any opponent shot 42%! They should shore up the defensive issues here while at the same time improving their own offense rather dramatically. I'm laying the short number w/ what I still view as the better team.
The Raptors have scored only 89 and 95 pts the last two games, shooting 39% from the field. Kyle Lowry's already checkered postseason past is again coming into question as he was held to only 7 points (on 2 of 10 shooting) in Game 3. But as we've seen time after time, Lowry typically follows a poor playoff performance w/ a decent to good one. He was held to nine points in Game 1 (ironically, a Toronto win) and then scored 20 in Game 2 (ironically, a loss). So I expect Lowry to "help out" Kawhi Leonard a little more Sunday afternoon. Leonard has had a great series (37.6 PPG). So has Pascal Siakam (23.3 PPG). It's on Lowry to pull his weight too.
One would have to go back to March 22-24 to find the last time the Raptors lost B2B games. They have not been on a three-game losing streak since November and that was their lone losing streak of that length all season. Since then, they're 5-0 in this situation (off B2B losses). I felt the Raptors were the much better team in the regular season as Philly's YTD point differential (+2.9 per game) was pretty weak for a 3-seed. Toronto has a sizable edge defensively according to the numbers. You have to keep in mind that Thursday was the Raptors' 1st loss by more than seven points since March 11th. Since we flipped the calendar to 2019, they are a perfect 5-0 ATS off a DD loss. 8* Toronto
|05-05-19||Raptors v. 76ers OVER 214.5||Top||101-96||Loss||-104||7 h 45 m||Show|
8* Over Raptors/Sixers (3:35 ET): Toronto has now seen 7 of its 8 playoff games go Under the total, including all three in this series. But Game 3 certainly seemed to be on an "Over trajectory" most of the way. But it wound up falling just a few points short due to a woeful 4th quarter effort from the Raptors where they scored just 14 points. Because of that, they ended up losing by 21 points and are now down 2-1 in the best of seven series. To get the home court advantage back, they'll need to win Game 4, which I like them to do. But I also like the game to go Over as well.
This comes straight from the writeup on the side - "The Raptors have scored only 89 and 95 pts the last two games, shooting 39% from the field. Kyle Lowry's already checkered postseason past is again coming into question as he was held to only 7 points (on 2 of 10 shooting) in Game 3. But as we've seen time after time, Lowry typically follows a poor playoff performance w/ a decent to good one. He was held to nine points in Game 1 (ironically, a Toronto win) and then scored 20 in Game 2 (ironically, a loss). So I expect Lowry to "help out" Kawhi Leonard a little more Sunday afternoon. Leonard has had a great series (37.6 PPG). So has Pascal Siakam (23.3 PPG). It's on Lowry to pull his weight too."
So I fully anticipate Toronto scoring more today. In fact, I'll project a series high in points scored here. Philadelphia still gives up 111.9 PPG for the year and was only 14th in efficiency during the regular season. At the same time, the Sixers were not only the first team to shoot above 50% against Toronto in these playoffs, they were the first team to shoot above 42% against them. They do average an impressive 118.5 PPG at home this season, so it's going to take a lot of points from the Raptors to beat them. Both teams are top 7 in offensive efficiency. The Over is still 7-3 the last 10 meetings here in the City of Brotherly Love. 8* Over Raptors/Sixers
|05-04-19||Warriors v. Rockets UNDER 222.5||Top||121-126||Loss||-110||24 h 33 m||Show|
10* Under Warriors/Rockets (8:35 ET): It's been two close games in this Western Conference Semifinal (both decided by 6 pts), but the bottom line is that Houston is still looking for its first win of the series. In addition they must deal w/ the fallout of James Harden's vision issues. Five minutes into Game 2, Harden was "inadvertantly" hit in the face by Draymond Green. It caused contusions in both eyes and a laceration on the inside of the left eyelid. Though he said he could "barely see" during Game 2, Harden still scored 29 pts on his best shooting night of the playoffs (9 of 19). He has said he's good to go for Game 3.
The Rockets were held to an average of 104.5 points in the two games in Oakland. Quite frankly, something has been "up" w/ their offense going back to the Utah series. The last five games have seen them average just 100.8 PPG on 41.3% shooting. That hardly sounds like "Rockets basketball." But on the bright side, their defense has also improved. They are allowing just 101.1 PPG in the playoffs and have held the Warriors under their season average in both games. Not only is the Under 19-7-1 in Houston's last 27 games overall, it is a perfect 7-0 when they are off an ATS loss. For the record, they failed to cover Game 2 (were 5.5-point underdogs).
Golden State has allowed more than 110 pts just twice in these playoffs. With the series moving to Houston, it is absolutely worth mentioning that Warriors' road games - on average - are lower scoring than their home games. Both their own scoring average and opponents' scoring average drops about a point. It's pretty rare to see a team give up fewer points on the road than at home. The Under is 10-3 in their last 13 games following an ATS win. The Under is also 9-2 the L11 meetings between these teams, surprising for sure, but it makes sense as most of those have been playoff games where the stakes are higher. 10* Under Warriors/Rockets
|05-03-19||Bucks v. Celtics -2||Top||123-116||Loss||-106||12 h 55 m||Show|
8* Boston (8:05 ET): After a very impressive showing in Game 1 and a good start in Game 2, the Celtics pretty much "fell apart" in the second half Tuesday night in Milwaukee. They were outscored 39-18 in the third quarter and that was the difference in the game as they lost by 21, 123-102, as 7-pt underdogs. Fortunately for them, they already did what they needed to do and that was win one in Milwaukee. Now they return to Boston where they've gone 12-1 ATS their L13 playoffs games. This includes a 2-0 mark vs. Indiana in Round 1 where they allowed just 74 and 91 points.
Game 2 was easily Boston's worst defensive effort of these playoffs as they gave up 123 points. Before that, they hadn't allowed more than 106 in any playoff game and had allowed 96 pts or less in four of the five games. It was also a bad shooting night for the Celtics as they made only 39.5% of their field goal attempts. Given how well the "zig zag theory" (play on previous game's ATS loser) has worked out so far in the NBA playoffs, one should reasonably expect the Celtics to bounce back at home Friday night.
The Bucks are just 1-6 ATS their last seven trips to Boston. That includes 0-4 in LY's 1st round playoff series where the home team won every game straight up. Don't discount the experience factor (on Boston's side) that I spoke of previously. Aside from the third quarter of Game 2, the Celtics have largely outplayed the Bucks so far. I seriously doubt we'll see a repeat here of the Bucks' three-point shooting from Game 2 where they went 20 of 47 w/ Khris Middleton's 7 of 10 leading the charge. Middleton has 44 pts so far in the series, but on the road I expect him to struggle to find his shot. Lay the points. 8* Boston
|05-02-19||Raptors -1 v. 76ers||Top||95-116||Loss||-109||20 h 1 m||Show|
10* Toronto (8:05 ET): I had the Raptors in Game 1. That was a good play. They won 108-95 as six-point chalk. I had the Over in Game 2. That was not a good play. It was a 94-89 final w/ the Sixers winning and thus "stealing" the home court advantage. I came into this series believing Toronto was decidedly the better team. But I laid off Monday (Game 2), thinking Philadelphia would be eager to rebound and end a 14-game losing streak "North of the Border." They did just that, led by Jimmy Butler's 30 points. But, off a loss, I love the Raptors in this price range. Take the visitors.
Unlike the first two games, we no longer have to really worry about "laying points" w/ Toronto. A SU win basically equals an ATS win here. I'll go back to something I said in my Game 1 analysis and that's Philly profiles as a pretty weak 3-seed. They had a regular season point differential of just +2.9 PPG. That was only fifth in the Conference. Also, despite winning Game 2, history has not been on the Sixers side vs. the Raptors. Not only are they just 1-13 their L14 visits to Canada, they are 4-22 SU against them since the start of the 2013-14 season. Their only win in four regular season meetings this year came when Toronto was w/o Kawhi Leonard.
Toronto's defense in the 1st round vs. Orlando really impressed me. They have kept it up in this series and have now allowed fewer than 100 pts in six straight games. They're giving up an average of just 92.7 PPG in the playoffs (on 39.0% shooting). There is a big gap between these teams defensively. Toronto's scoring drops very little on the road as they still average 113.2 PPG. They are 4-0 ATS off their previous four ATS losses. Look for the Raptors to regain control of this series. 10* Toronto
|05-02-19||Raptors v. 76ers OVER 216.5||Top||95-116||Loss||-109||20 h 1 m||Show|
8* Over Raptors/Sixers: Toronto has now allowed 96 pts or fewer in six straight games and is giving up just 92.7 PPG (on 39.0 FG%) for the entire playoffs. But despite another sub-100 pt effort on the defensive end, there was a big difference between the last game and the previous five. The Raptors lost. They went down 94-89 as a 7.5-point home favorite and thus lost their home court edge in the series. Obviously, with all the outstanding efforts at the defensive end, it shouldn't be a surprise that the Under is now 6-1 in all of their playoff games. But whether or not they can continue to defend well, I see Game 3 going Over the total.
Philadelphia has scored just 95 and 94 points in the first two games of this series. This after averaging 127.5 PPG in their four wins over Brooklyn. Obviously, Toronto is alot better than the Nets, but that still shouldn't account for such a precipitous drop in scoring. Whatever the reason, the Sixers should be more difficult to defend tonight. They average 118.6 PPG at home, which is well up from their scoring average on the road. I know Toronto is allowing a field goal percentage of only 39.0 in the playoffs, but I have to believe Philly will shoot better than that tonight.
The Raptors were also pretty dreadful at the offensive end in Game 2. They shot 36.3% from the field. They had only 38 pts at halftime. Both of these are top seven teams in offensive efficiency. The Over is 6-2 in the Sixers' last eight home games and 7-2 the L9 meetings w/ Toronto here in Philly. Obviously, Game 2 went way Under, but that was w/ both teams shooting below 40%. Again, can't imagine that'll be the case here. Expect a dramatic increase in scoring for Game 3. In particular, I expect to see an increase in Toronto's three-point shooting percentage after they were just 10 of 37 on Monday. 8* Over Raptors/Sixers
|05-01-19||Blazers +4 v. Nuggets||Top||97-90||Win||100||12 h 5 m||Show|
10* Portland (9:05 ET): I was a perfect 5-0 in Denver's 1st round series, but never once took the Nuggets. Now that perfect record did include three totals plays. But I also did fade the Nuggets twice, noting they didn't fit the typical profile of a #2 seed. Their regular season point differential was just 5th best in the Western Conference and their net efficiency rating was 6th. One of the teams with better numbers than them is Portland. Now, Game 1 obviously belonged to Denver, who won 121-113 as 4-point favorites. That was particularly impressive when you consider the Nuggets were 48 hrs removed from playing a Game 7. Portland had a five-day break.
The Trail Blazers actually had a better overall FG% in Game 1 (51.9 to 50.6) and Damian Lillard led all players in scoring w/ 39 pts. But it was points off turnovers that were likely the biggest determining factor and Lillard was upstaged by Denver's Nikola Jokic as the game's most impactful player. Now back to the turnovers and the points scored off them. Whereas Portland was only able to convert 12 Denver turnovers into six points, Denver converted 18 Portland TO's into 23 points. That was the difference in the ballgame.
While Denver is now 4-1 SU head to head vs. Portland in 2018-19, virtually all of the games have been close and were decided by single digits. In the regular season, they only outscored the Blazers by six points. Two of the wins were by three points or fewer. Winning close games have somewhat been the Nuggets' forte this season as they were a perfect 7-0 SU in the regular season in games decided by three points or less. Winning close games at that kind of rate is no skill, but rather good fortune. With Portland at 11-5 ATS off a SU loss and 14-6-1 ATS off an ATS loss, I'll back them to bounce back in Game 2. Take the points. 10* Portland
|05-01-19||Blazers v. Nuggets UNDER 220||Top||97-90||Win||100||12 h 42 m||Show|
8* Under Blazers/Nuggets (9:05 ET): It was a misfire w/ the Under in Game 1, but I'll come back w/ it here for Game 2. Because Game 1 did go Over, we're getting a few extra points here Wednesday night, some nice added value. As I pointed out in my Game 1 analysis, all four regular season meetings between these teams did go Over. But now it's time for an Under as I don't see either team matching its field goal percentage from Game 1. The Under is also still 13-4 in Denver's last 17 home games.
The Trail Blazers actually had a better overall FG% in Game 1 (51.9 to 50.6) and Damian Lillard led all players in scoring w/ 39 pts. But points off turnovers played a key role in the Nuggets prevailing 121-113 as four-point chalk. They scored 23 points off 18 Portland TO's while the Blazers were only able to manage six points off 12 Denver TO's. While Portland should have done better in that department, a combined 24 pts off turnovers is still a lot and I don't expect this game to be nearly as sloppy. For Portland, it may have been a case of "rust" as they had a five-day break in between series while Denver was just 48 hrs removed from a Game 7 victory over San Antonio.
Something else I stated in the Game 1 analysis is how the Nuggets play a lot better defense at home. You'll recall I had the Under in home victories over the Spurs in both Games 5 and 7 of the last series. They allowed just 90 and 86 in those two games. Now they did allow 113 to Portland here in Game 1, which is well above their season average of 103.1 PPG allowed at the Pepsi Center. It was even above the 110.1 PPG average they allow on the road. So I do expect better defense from Denver tonight. I also expect MUCH better defense from Portland, who held Oklahoma City under 100 pts three different times in Round 1. 8* Under Blazers/Nuggets
|04-30-19||Celtics +7.5 v. Bucks||Top||102-123||Loss||-105||12 h 54 m||Show|
10* Boston (8:05 ET): The Celtics aren't your typical 4-seed and in fact many feel they are the favorite in this series, even though the Bucks had the league's best regular season record. Game 1 certainly was a wake up call for Bucks fans, who watched their team get trounced 112-90. A team that was #1 in points per game got held to only 90 points on 34.8% shooting. Milwaukee now finds itself in almost "must win" territory heading into Game 2 tonight, but this looks to be a series that the oddsmakers have mispriced as I'm not convinced Boston isn't the better team based on its Game 1 showing or at least every bit Milwaukee's equal. Take the points.
There's no denying that Boston underachieved in the regular season. Though they finished 4th in the East, they actually had the league's 6th best point differential and 5th best net efficiency rating. So they aren't exactly an ideal second round draw for Milwaukee here in Round 2. Remember that while this same Celtics squad made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals last year (lost to LeBron James and Cleveland), Milwaukee just won its first playoff series as a group. It was the first series win for any Bucks team going back to the group that got jobbed by the officiating in the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals (vs. the Iverson' 76ers)
The Celtics are a perfect 6-0 SU/ATS their last six games and they too swept their 1st round series. Only they swept Indiana. Milwaukee was not tested by a Detroit side that appeared as ill-prepared for the playoffs as any team in recent memory. The ease w/ which the Bucks won that series may have done them no favors here. Boston is a perfect 6-0 ATS its last 6 road games and 10-3 ATS its L13 visits to Milwaukee. They are playing tremendous defense right now (allowing just 91.4 PPG in the playoffs!) and that makes them a great play as the underdog for Game 2. 10* Boston
|04-29-19||Blazers v. Nuggets UNDER 216.5||Top||113-121||Loss||-109||27 h 19 m||Show|
8* Under Blazers/Nuggets (10:35 ET): It may have taken the Nuggets the full seven games to eliminate the Spurs, but for me it was a perfect 5-0 series. Ironically enough, I never played Denver once! I had San Antonio in both Games 1 and 6 while also being on the right side of the total three times. Game 2 it was the Over, but Games 5 and 7 it was the Under. It's a pretty quick turnaround (basically 48 hrs) for the start of this second round matchup w/ Portland, who has been sitting idly by since impressively dispatching of the Thunder in just five games. The Over cashed in all four regular season matchups between these teams. That opens up some value to go the other way here. Take the Under.
There wasn't much that surprised me in Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs. Utah flaming out so quickly against Houston was a moderate surprise. But the way Portland dominated Oklahoma City was definitely a "shock to the system." Despite being the lower seed, the Thunder were actually favored to win that series. Instead, they were done in just five games. Blazers' leading scorer Damian Lillard ended the series in the most dramatic way possible, nailing the winning three-pointer (from 37 feet!), which gave him 50 points for the game.
While all four regular season meetings went Over, none did so by a substantial margin. The teams did meet twice in April, in a home & home, and those games saw 229 and 223 total pts scored. Something I need to reiterate from my Game 7 analysis of Nuggets-Spurs is how Denver is a much better defensive team at home where they give up just 102.9 PPG (held the Spurs to 86 pts in Gm 7 after holding them to 90 in Gm 5). Portland's offensive numbers also predictably decline when they are the road team. The Under is 13-3 in Denver's L16 home games and 7-3-1 in Portland's L11 road games. 8* Under Blazers/Nuggets
|04-29-19||76ers v. Raptors OVER 220.5||Top||94-89||Loss||-105||25 h 11 m||Show|
10* Over Sixers/Raptors (8:05 ET): I had Toronto in Game 1 and that proved to be the correct call as they rolled to a 108-95 win and cover as 6-pt chalk. While my view that the Raptors are the superior team here has not changed, I also expect Philadelphia to come back stronger in Game 2. They only shot 39.3% from the field Saturday and what was most odd about that is how poorly they shot on their two-point attempts. Going 11 for 32 from three-point range is by no means great, but it's pretty close to average. Going 24 of 57 from two-point range (42%) is pretty low. It also didn't help that the Sixers missed one-third of their free throw attempts (14 of 21).
Toronto has been playing outstanding defense in the playoffs. They're allowing an average of just 92.5 PPG on 38.9% shooting. They've gone five straight games w/o giving up 100 pts. Those are really impressive numbers. They're also likely unsustainable. The Sixers are typically a pretty strong offensive team, averaging 115.4 PPG for the year. They scored 122 or more three times in the first round vs. Brooklyn. Granted, the Nets are pretty bad defensively. But Philly should definitely top its offensive outut from Game 1 here. The Over is 5-1 the L6 times they've been off a SU/ATS loss.
Predictably, the Game 2 total opened a little lower and that gives us some value right off the bat. I should probably spend some time talking about the Toronto offense. This is a team that has shot well in the playoffs (48.5%) and they average 114.6 PPG at home. Kawhi Leonard dropped 45 pts Saturday, but perhaps more impressive Pascal Siakam adding 29. While neither player may match their respective Game 1 totals, I expect the rest of the team to contribute more than a combined 34 points (possibly double that here?). Philly is not a great defensive team, by any means. 10* Over Sixers/Raptors
|04-28-19||Celtics v. Bucks UNDER 223.5||Top||112-90||Win||100||25 h 47 m||Show|
10* Under Celtics/Bucks (1:05 ET): Both teams swept their way right into Round 2. Milwaukee was less surprising as it was clear from the outset that their Rd 1 opponent (Detroit) was ill-prepared for playoff basketball. The Bucks won the four games by an average of 23.7 points per game and the closest the Pistons got in any game was 16 pts. Boston had an easier time than expected w/ Indiana as the Pacers clearly missed leading scorer Victor Oladipo. That series was very low scoring w/ neither team even averaging 100 PPG. I believe Game 1 of this series is set to be low-scoring as well (comparatively speaking, at least). Take the Under.
These teams met in the playoffs last year as well. The series, which took place in Round 1 and went the full seven games, saw the Celtics advance. So revenge will be a motivating factor here for the top-seeded Bucks, who have the home court advantage this time around. The O/U line here - while in line w/ the three regular season meetings - is MUCH higher than it was for any of the games in LY's 1st round series. Five of those seven games went Over, but what is interesting about that is only ONE of them would have gone Over this number. The last time the teams played was Feb 21st, right after the All-Star Break, and the Bucks won 98-97 at home.
We know Milwaukee is prolific at the offensive end as they led the league in scoring. But they also led the league in defensive efficiency. Detroit was held to 98.0 PPG on 38.8% shooting in that first round series. That could mean trouble for a Boston team that averaged only 99.2 PPG against an Indiana team that was #3 in the league in defensive efficiency. Of course, Boston is no slouch itself at the defensive end (#6 in efficiency) as they held the Pacers to 91.7 PPG on 40.1% shooting. The Under is 4-0 the L3 times the Bucks have played on 3+ days rest while the Celtics are 6-2 Under in that same scenario. 10* Under Celtics/Bucks
|04-27-19||Spurs v. Nuggets UNDER 209.5||Top||86-90||Win||100||14 h 8 m||Show|
8* Under Spurs/Nuggets (10:05 ET): Not to "toot my own horn," but "toot, toot!" I've gone a perfect 4-0 w/ plays in this series, starting w/ San Antonio's outright upset in Game 1. That game went Under the total, but we didn't see another Under until Game 5. That Game 5 Under was another winner for me. I also won with the Over in Game 2. Game 6 was another easy call on the Spurs as they rolled to a 120-103 win and cover as three-point favorites. Game 7 is in Denver, giving what appears to be a decided edge to the Nuggets, but my view coming into the series is that these teams were pretty even and tonight's spread looks too high.
Oddsmakers have been pretty consistent w/ their O/U lines in this series as they've all ranged from 207 to 210.5. Something I do NOT expect to happen here is the Spurs' matching their overall shooting % from the last game. Game 6 saw them sink an incredible 57.1% of their shot attempts, including 10 of 24 from three-point range. That was easily their best FG% of any game in the series (only time over 50%). It's only predictable that they'll decline out on the road. In the three games so far at Denver, the Spurs have scored 101, 105 and 90 points, an average of just 98.7 per game.
For the year, all San Antonio's offensive numbers decline pretty substantially on the road, especially three-point shooting. While they are #1 overall in the league in 3-pt FG%, that's largely because they shoot a lights out 41.9% at home. On the road, that shooting clip dips to 36.5%. Denver defends a lot better at home too, giving up only 103.3 PPG (as opposed to 110.1 PPG on the road). What's notable about that is visitors are shooting just 32.2% from behind the arc here at the Pepsi Center. The Under is 14-4 the L18 times Denver has been off an ATS loss. The Under is also 9-3 in San Antonio's last 12 road games. 8* Under Spurs/Nuggets
|04-27-19||76ers v. Raptors -6.5||Top||95-108||Win||100||12 h 35 m||Show|
10* Toronto (7:35 ET): The Raptors' misfortune in Game 1's is well-known. I wrote about in the opener of their 1st round series (where I won w/ the Under) and said an outright upset was a "distinct possibility." Sure enough, they did lose outright to Orlando, by a score of 104-101 (were -9.5). But then the Raptors really poured it on over the next four games, holding the Magic to an average of 89 PPG while winning all four. I do think that this Game 1 is going to be different for Toronto as I have my suspicions about Philadelphia going forward and think they're outclassed here. Lay the points.
For the record, the Raptors are 2-14 SU all-time in Game 1's. That includes a 1-10 record in Round 1. What's really head-scratching is that a lot of these losses have occurred at home. Each of the last two years, they've been swept in Round 2, but that was against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. This time, there will be no King James and they do enter as the better team. There's also some positive history on their side. They've defeated Philadelphia 13 straight times here at home and are 21-3 SU against them since the start of the 2013-14 regular season. The Sixers did win one of the four matchups this year, but that was when the Raptors were w/o Kawhi Leonard.
Toronto's defense against Orlando really impressed me. Of course, they are a pretty strong offensive team as well, averaging 114.0 PPG while ranking sixth in efficiency. Philadelphia actually averages slightly more PPG (one spot behind in efficiency), but there is a gap at the defensive end. In the first round vs. Brooklyn, the Sixers followed a similar trajectory by losing Game 1, then winning four straight. But they also gave up an average of 111.4 PPG. Remember that the Sixers had a pretty week YTD point differential (+2.9 PPG) for a 3-seed. 10* Toronto
|04-26-19||Warriors v. Clippers UNDER 233.5||Top||129-110||Loss||-110||15 h 34 m||Show|
10* Under Warriors/Clippers (10:05 ET): Only two 1st round series are still going and who would have thought the Warriors would be in one of them. The three-time NBA champs came into this series w/ the Clippers as overwhelming favorites. In fact, the Clips were the biggest 1st round underdogs (in terms of odds) that we'd ever tracked. But they've managed to win twice at Golden State, including a shockingly great performance in Game 5 where they won 129-121 as 14.5-pt underdogs. The Over is now 12-4 the L16 meetings, but not this one. Take the Under.
The Clippers shot 54.1% from the field in Game 5, just the second time they've been above 50% in the series. The other was Game 2, their other win (not coincidentally), and they followed up that performance by shooting a series worst 37.2% in Game 3. (Funny how that works). Actually, the Clippers have shot 42.5% or worse from the field in all three losses in the series. The Under is 11-4 the last 15 times Golden State has allowed 125+ pts in the last game and they are 24-9-1 off their previous 34 straight up losses (17-9 this season).
Even though they're now heading home, the Clippers figure to see an offensive decline in this game (compared to Game 5). Golden State, not surprisingly averages slightly fewer PPG on the road than at home. But what is surprising is that they also give up fewer PPG on the road. The first two games of the series here in LA saw them yield just 105 pts (both games). I expect a much better defensive performance in this game from the Warriors. Their three wins in the series have seen them allow 105, 105 and 104 points. While three of the five games have gone Over, this total is too high. 10* Under Warriors/Clippers
|04-25-19||Nuggets v. Spurs -3||Top||103-120||Win||100||12 h 13 m||Show|
10* San Antonio (8:05 ET): I am 3-0 in this series and have won three different ways. In Game 5, it was the Under. Game 2, it was the Over and going all the way back to Game 1, I was on the Spurs. Since pulling the outright upset in Game 1, San Antonio has lost three of four and that's too bad considering they probably should have been up three games to none going into Game 4. But they will likely end up "ruing the day" they blew a double digit 4th quarter lead in Game 2. That cost them the chance of taking the first two games in Denver and a shot at advancing here.
I still think the Spurs were clearly the better team in the first four games, however. They held a double digit lead in all four games. They were clearly NOT the better team in Game 5 though as they got blown out by the Nuggets, 108-90, in Denver. But again, that was on the road. Coming into this series, home court advantage figured to play a significant role. Denver is now 36-8 SU in all home games this season while San Antonio is 33-10 SU. Both teams have losing records on the road. In the regular season, no team had a wider split between home and road victories than these two. The Spurs were #1 w/ 16 more wins at home than on the road while the Nuggets weren't far behind (+14).
Game 6 is in San Antonio, so you can probably guess where I'm heading here. To go back to my analysis from Game 1, I think the Nuggets are a pretty shaky #2 seed. They were definitely aided by a lucky 7-0 SU mark in games decided by three points or less during the regular season. Also, their YTD point differential was just 5th best in the Western Conference. Net efficiency rating was just 6th and only slightly better than the Spurs, who won six less games. I say we're heading back to Denver for a Game 7. The Spurs are 10-1 ATS this season in home games when playing w/ revenge for a double digit loss on the road. 10* San Antonio
|04-24-19||Jazz +8 v. Rockets||Top||93-100||Win||100||13 h 36 m||Show|
|04-24-19||Jazz v. Rockets UNDER 213||Top||93-100||Win||100||13 h 35 m||Show|
10* Under Jazz/Rockets (8:05 ET): Utah did its job defensively in Games 3 and 4. They held the Rockets to 61 of 165 shooting from the field, or just under 37% overall. James Harden had a terrible Game 3 (missed first 15 shots) and the entire Houston team couldn't make a three-pointer in Game 4 (missed final 13 attempts). Unfortunately for the Jazz though, they were able to win only one of the two games. Their own poor shooting has really hurt them in this series as they're making just over 40% of their total attempts. They failed to score 100 pts in either of the first two games in Houston.
With the Rockets back at home, the conventional wisdom is going to be that they will rediscover their lost shooting touch. I'm not so sure about that. While they did score 118 and 122 points in the first two games of the series, Utah has been an elite defensive team all season. They ranked second in the league in efficiency during the regular season and were 4th in points allowed. Both Games 1 and 2 fell right on the number, so depending on your closing O/U lines, there really hasn't been a "true" Over in the series. Houston is a surprising 11-4-3 Under its L18 games.
The Under is 5-1-2 in the eight meetings this season between these teams (that's counting Games 1 and 2 as 'pushes.') Even going back to the regular season, the oddsmakers have been pretty consistent w/ their OU lines. The one exception, ironically, was the lone Over where the total was higher than normal (222.0) and the Over cashed by a single point (125-98 Rockets' win). Meanwhile, four of the five Unders have cashed by double digits. The Under is also 6-0-1 in Houston's last seven games following a SU loss. 10* Under Jazz/Rockets
|04-23-19||Spurs v. Nuggets UNDER 212||Top||90-108||Win||100||13 h 54 m||Show|
8* Under Spurs/Nuggets (9:35 ET): Of the eight 1st round series in the NBA Playoffs, this seems to be the only one where the winner is in doubt. The Spurs and Nuggets have split the first four games, putting us right back to where we started, that being Denver possessing the home court advantage. Perhaps the Nuggets should feel a little fortunate to be tied at this juncture, considering they have been down by double digits in every game. It was an early 12-point deficit that they faced in Game 4, which was erased after halftime, and they went on to cruise to a 117-103 victory in San Antonio.
But the Spurs probably should have won each of the first three games. They blew a late lead in Game 2 (here in Denver) that ultimately may prove costly. Both of these teams were much better at home compared to the road in the regular season, so Denver has to be feeling pretty good about itself right now, all things considered. They are 35-8 SU at home this year (best home record in the league) while San Antonio is just 17-26 SU on the road (worst road record of any playoff teams besides the Pistons). The Spurs are 33-10 SU at home while Denver is 21-22 SU on the road.
The last three games in the series have all gone Over the total (Game 1 stayed Under). The Game 2 Over was my top NBA O/U play for last week. In the analysis, I'd noted all four regular season matchups between these teams were Unders. The Nuggets do play significantly better defense at home, giving up just 103.6 PPG. In this series, the Spurs have topped 105 pts just one time. Neither team is known for playing at a fast pace, so the fact we've seen three straight Overs is a little bit surprising. Call it a bit of a "market correction" from the O/U results from the regular season. The bottom line is the Under is still 11-3 in Denver's last 14 home games. The Spurs are 5-1 Under their L6 times playing on exactly two days rest. 8* Under Spurs/Nuggets
|04-23-19||Nets +8.5 v. 76ers||Top||100-122||Loss||-100||12 h 34 m||Show|
8* Brooklyn (8:05 ET): Since taking Game 1, the Nets have had a tough time in this series, especially on the defensive end. Not that they were noted as a great defensive team or anything, but they have allowed 145, 131 and 112 points the L3 games and now face elimination Tuesday night in Philadelphia. The good news is that Brooklyn is an outstanding 13-1 ATS since the start of last season if they allowed 110+ points in three straight games. Despite two double digit losses in the series, the Nets have played the Sixers tougher than you might think and I'll take the points here.
The Nets led Game 4 at the half, 63-57. They were down only six at the half in Game 3 (lost by 16) and down just one in Game 2 (despite losing by 22). Of course, they won Game 1 outright here in Philly, 111-102 as eight-point dogs. So far in the series, they have averaged 62 PPG in the first half. So scoring has not been an issue for them, at least in the first half. The second half has been a somewhat different story, but the fact is they still are averaging 114.2 PPG for the series. Getting as many points as they are here, a similar scoring output should yield an easy ATS victory in Game 5.
I took Brooklyn in that Game 1 upset as I said I wasn't really sold on the 76ers. For a 3-seed, they have a weak YTD point differential (+2.9 per game). Joel Embiid is back and he led the way w/ 31 pts and 14 rebounds in Game 4. But the Sixers should feel a little fortunate to be up 3-1 in the series. Maybe they do end up closing things out Monday, but still take the points as I anticipate this game coming down to the wire and being much closer than anticipated. 8* Brooklyn
|04-23-19||Magic v. Raptors OVER 205.5||Top||96-115||Win||100||10 h 30 m||Show|
10* Over Magic/Raptors (7:05 ET): This is the lone series w/o an Over so far, in fact, it's the only series where the O/U result has been the same for every game. I had the Under for both Games 1 and 3, but tried w/ the Over in Game 4 as the number was the lowest it had been for any game in the series. It looked like it would be close going into the 4th quarter, but the Magic completely fell apart down the stretch, scoring only 15 pts in the game's final 12 minutes. Toronto has held them to an average of just 91 PPG in the series, on < 40% shooting.
Predictably then, the O/U line for Game 5 (which looks like it will be Orlando's last game of the season) is the new low for the series. I saw value in the Game 4 number, so I definitely see value here. Believe it or not, but the Magic actually shot better overall in Game 4 than they had in any of the three previous games. This despite scoring their lowest point total of the series. The problem was they were just 7 of 33 from three-point range. I'm certainly a bit surprised that Orlando has been unable to hit its season scoring average of 106.5 PPG (pretty modest number) in any game yet. But perhaps that time might be Game 5 as they have to start shooting better from three-point range. They certainly can't get any worse.
Toronto is top tier offensive team. They average over 114 PPG. They also have not hit their YTD scoring average for any game in the series. This is a really low total for a Raptors' game. Unless it gets bet up several points, it stands to be the lowest O/U for ANY Raptors' game all season! That some serious value and while there's no denying it's been an ugly offensive series all around, these two teams are more than capable of each scoring 105 pts in the same game. The Over is 7-3 the L10 times Toronto has been off a double digit win. 10* Over Magic/Raptors
|04-22-19||Rockets v. Jazz OVER 213||Top||91-107||Loss||-110||15 h 15 m||Show|
10* Over Rockets/Jazz (10:35 ET): On a night that James Harden missed his first 15 field goal attempts, Houston still found a way to win Game 3 (104-101 as 2-pt underdogs) and put Utah on the brink of elimination. Harden scored 14 of his 22 points in a decisive fourth quarter Saturday and you have to figure he'll shoot better tonight. At the same time, Utah has only shot 40.1% as a team in the series. They're averaging just 96.3 points per game. I'm not convinced that the Jazz can stay alive, but this game will go Over the total.
Houston is off its lowest scoring game in the series, which is primarily tied to Harden's individual effort. The Rockets average 113.9 PPG for the year and are above that number in the playoffs. With Harden a virtual lock to score more in Game 4, you can look up for the Rockets' point total to go up as well. Harden dragged down the overall shooting percentage last time out (38.4%), which was the Rockets' worst shooting game in almost a month. The last time they shot below 40% in a game, they came back and scored 112 pts the next time out.
It would appear that I had a gross misread on this series. I came in thinking Utah could compete and possibly take the series. After all, the Jazz did have the league's 4th best net efficiency rating and point differential in the regular season. But that all appears for naught now. Still, I don't anticipate the Jazz simply "rolling over" in this one. Not on their home floor, where they average a solid 112.4 PPG. Each of the first two games fell very close to the closing number, but in what very well might be the final game of the series, I'm calling for the highest scoring game of the series as well. 10* Over Rockets/Jazz
|04-21-19||Raptors v. Magic OVER 207||Top||107-85||Loss||-105||20 h 40 m||Show|
8* Over Raptors/Magic (7:05 ET): This is the other series (besides Celtics-Pacers) where there has yet to be an Over. Toronto now leads 2-1 after taking Game 3, 98-93. Unfortunately for Raptors' backers, unless they bet early, it was an ATS loss as the line closed -5.5. But the team will take it. Since losing Game 1 at home, 104-101 as 9.5-pt chalk, Toronto has held Orlando to just 175 total pts in a pair of victories. The Magic have shot pretty horribly for the series (37.8 FG%) and really need a win here or the series is all but over. Speaking of Over, that's what I'll call for Game 4 to do!
Playing the Over is a departure for me in the series as I won w/ the Under in both Games 1 and 3. In my Game 1 analysis, I wrote "an outright upset is definitely in the realm of possibility here" (due to the Raptors' poor history in Game 1's.) That's exactly what happened. I also wrote that "the Magic posted the league's top defensive efficiency rating in the second half of the regular season." Thus I thought it was a bit odd to see them come into the playoffs on a 7-game Over streak. I thought there was definitely value w/ the Under early in the series and was right.
But now the oddsmakers have been forced to adjust and we have our lowest O/U line for any game in the series. You have to figure that Orlando will start to shoot the ball better. While not a great offensive team on the road, at home the Magic average 109.6 points per game. Toronto is obviously one of the league's better offensive teams, averaging 114.0 PPG. It should be noted that this is the lowest O/U line for any Raptors game in some time. Their last game w/ a sub-210 pt total was New Year's Day vs. Utah. The Under might be 7-0 the L7 meetings here in Orlando, but the Over is 7-0 the L7 times Orlando has played on exactly one days' rest. 8* Over Raptors/Magic
|04-21-19||Celtics v. Pacers OVER 203.5||Top||110-106||Win||100||14 h 40 m||Show|
10* Over Celtics/Pacers (1:05 ET): This is one of two series yet to see an Over (Raptors-Magic is the other). The first two games in Boston were obviously really low scoring w/ the Celtics winning 84-74 and 99-91. Each of those two games saw the Pacers experience a significant scoring drought. In Game 1, it was a dreadful eight-point third quarter that turned a halftime advantage into a large deficit. Game 2, the collapse happened later w/ a 12-point fourth quarter and no field goals over the final minute. Obviously, both Games 1 and 2 stayed well Under the total.
Game 3 looked to be a little different. At least for a half it did. Indiana went into the break w/ a two-point lead, but it was how many points that had been scored in the first half that made things quite different. It was a 61-59 game and we looked to be heading towards our first Over of the series. But things came to a grinding halt after the halftime w/ the Pacers again turning in a dreadful half offensively. They scored only 12 points in the third quarter, which was the 4th time in the series they scored 17 or less in a quarter. They wound up w/ only 35 pts in the half and the results ended up being the same: Celtics win/cover & Under.
In this series, the Pacers are a stunning 12 of 40 on uncontested three-point attempts. That seems unfathomable. Whether or not they are able to stay alive to fight another day, I do see an Over Sunday afternoon. I realize that Indiana is w/o Victor Oladipo, but them averaging just 87 PPG on 39.8% shooting vs. Boston is kind of stunning. Remember they've been w/o Oladpio for awhile now and still averaged 107.3 PPG on 47.2% shooting for the regular season. Boston averages 111.8 PPG too. The first half of Game 3 showed me these teams are capable of putting together a high scoring game when facing each other. 10* Over Celtics/Pacers
|04-20-19||76ers v. Nets UNDER 233||Top||112-108||Win||100||7 h 42 m||Show|
10* Under Sixers/Nets (3:05 ET): The big story here is that Philadelphia likely will be w/o Joe Embiid. But they didn't have Embiid for Game 3 either and still won 131-115 here in Brooklyn. It was their second straight 130+ point game against the Nets, but this time they didn't shoot nearly as well as they did for Game 2 in Phillly (56.1%). That wasn't surprising, but the game still easily went Over the total. As a result, oddsmakers have been forced to up their O/U line for Game 4. I see some value here w/ the Under as Philly should start to cool off offensively.
Brooklyn attempted 39 three-pointers in Game 3, a playoff record. Problem is they made only eight. While that percentage may very well improve Saturday afternoon, the real issue for the Nets lies on the defensive end. When they pulled their Game 1 upset, they did so by holding the Sixers to just 102 points. While not necessarily noted as a defensive team, Brooklyn did at least show they are capable of defending the Sixers well once. Now there's no Embiid and at home the task should (theoretically) be easier. Despite Game 3, the Under is still on a 7-3 run when the Nets are off an ATS loss.
Philadelphia has seen the Over go 7-2 their last nine games, but this is a higher total than usual for them. The last two games have seen them shoot better than 40% from three-point range. They figure to "cool off" moving forward as they weren't exactly a great three-point shooting team in the regular season. Their scoring drops off by about 6 PPG on the road compared to at home. Following a SU win by 10 or more points, the Under is on a 6-2 run in 76ers' games. They scored at least 30 in every quarter of Game 3. That won't happen again here. 10* Under Sixers/Nets
|04-19-19||Celtics v. Pacers -3||Top||104-96||Loss||-107||29 h 30 m||Show|
10* Indiana (8:35 ET): The Pacers lost a couple of low scoring games in Boston, 84-74 and 99-91. Game 1 saw them fall apart in the third quarter when they scored all of eight points. In Game 2, the collapse happened later. They were outscored 31-12 in the fourth quarter this time as Boston outscored them 10-0 over the final five minutes. Indiana desperately needs to find some offense as they've been held 100 points the last three times they've played the Celtics. Game 1 was their lowest scoring game of the year (same as the Celtics). At home, I think Indiana finds the missing offense and delivers in a virtual "must-win" spot. Lay the short number.
Boston hasn't exactly been shooting the lights out either. They shot just 36.4% in Game 1 and 47.6% in Game 2. Kyrie Irving had 37 points in Game 2, but outside of Jayson Tatum (26 pts), he didn't have much help. Only one other Celtic had more than six points. Remember that Jaylen Brown is now starting in place of the injured Marcus Smart. I expect Smart's absence to be felt more on the road. The Celtics were only mediocre on the road in the regular season, going 21-20 overall and they had a losing record as an underdog.
Meanwhile, Indiana is an outstanding 29-12 SU at home. Key for them is defense. The fact that they've held the Celtics under 100 in both games should not come as a shock considering the Pacers were #1 in the league in scoring defense. They allow just 101 PPG at home, so expect the defensive prowess to continue as they find their offensive touch. The Pacers won 24 of their 33 games as a home favorite in the regular season, outscoring opponents by almost eight points per game. Yes, there's been a big swing in the line from Games 1 & 2. However, Indiana is significantly better here and they are also a perfect 6-0 ATS when coming off a road trip of at least seven days. 10* Indiana
|04-19-19||Raptors v. Magic UNDER 210||Top||98-93||Win||100||27 h 0 m||Show|
8* Under Magic/Raptors (7:05 ET): I had the Under in Game 1 of this series. In my analysis, I stated that "an outright upset is definitely in the realm of possibility here" due to the Raptors' poor history in Game 1's. That's exactly what happened as the Magic won outright 104-101 as 9.5-pt dogs. Of course, I'd also noted the Magic posted the league's top defensive efficiency rating in the second half of the regular season and won 22 of their final 31 games. Given Orlando's defensive prowess, I certainly thought it odd that they came into the playoffs riding a 7-game Over streak.
Game 1 went Under and so did Game 2. I thought Toronto might underestimate their opponent for Game 1, but that was definitely not the case in Game 2 as they came out and won 111-82. The Magic didn't shoot well in either game (40% and 37%). We figure to see improvement in that department for Game 3, now that they're at home. But at the same time, Toronto is no slouch defensively itself. The Raptors have not allowed any opponent to shoot 50% since the All-Star Break. Incredibly, they've allowed only three opponents to shoot 50% or better since January 1st.
But let's go back to the fact Orlando has posted the defensive efficiency rating in the league since the Break. Toronto came into the playoffs having scored 110 or more points in nine consecutive games. I said that streak would end in Game 1 and it did. They scored 111 in Game 2, but again I'm calling for less than 110 pts here. Neither Kawhi Leonard nor Kyle Lowry should shoot as well as they did in Game 2. When Orlando is off an ATS loss, the Under has gone 24-11 this season. The Under is also 6-0 their last six times hosting Toronto. 8* Under Magic/Raptors
|04-18-19||Warriors v. Clippers +9||Top||132-105||Loss||-110||15 h 50 m||Show|
8* LA Clippers (10:35 ET): The "world" figured to be on the Warriors here after they blew a 31-point lead and lost to the Clippers in Game 2. Sure enough, that is the case and while Golden State certainly ought to be respected, they are laying far too many points in this spot. I though the lines for both Game 1 and 2 were inflated. Now it looked as if "the joke was on me" midway through the third quarter of Game 2. Having already lost Game 1 by 17 points, they were down by 31 and things were looking bleak. But that's when the greatest comeback in NBA Playoff history took place.
The Clippers are now back at home where they went 26-15 SU during the regular season. They shot 56.5% from the floor in Game 2, a number they likely will be unable to match tonight, but nevertheless this remains a prolific offensive team. They average 117.9 PPG at home and as previously noted, Golden State isn't as good defensively this season as in years' past. Obviously, it is rare to find the Clips getting this many points at home. They split two regular season home games w/ the Warriors and neither time were they getting this many points.
As critical as I'd been of DeMarcus Cousins and his adverse effect on the Warriors' offense, the team will miss him as they simply don't have much depth. Now when you're as "top heavy" talent wise as the Warriors are, depth really isn't that great of a concern. But it can be in the playoffs, especially on the road as you get deeper into a series. Remember that the Clippers are among the deepest teams in the league as they are #1 in bench scoring. Golden State simply has not been a good team to bet on this season as their ATS record was third worst in the league during the regular season. Take the points. 8* LA Clippers
|04-18-19||76ers v. Nets +3||Top||131-115||Loss||-107||28 h 55 m||Show|
10* Brooklyn (8:05 ET): This was a specific game I had targeted when they playoff seedings were first announced. Philadelphia is a pretty pedestrian road team, having gone just 20-21 SU in the regular season. Brooklyn, as they showed in Game 1 of this series, is better than you think. They took the series opener, leading almost wire to wire, 111-102 as an eight-point underdog. I had them. Sensing some potential retribution from the Philly side, I laid off Game 2. That was wise as the Sixers shot 56% from the field en route to a 145-123 win and cover. Looking at the lines for Game 1 & 2, the Sixers seems to be a bit overvalued here as the series moves to the Barclays Center. Maybe that shouldn't be a surprise considering the nature of the Game 2 victory. But my own personal power ratings have this game as a pick 'em. Take the points.
Brooklyn went 23-5 SU as a favorite in the regular season. Honestly, I thought the likelihood of them being favored in this spot was greater than them ending up as a dog. But then Game 2 happened. It's not that the Nets didn't shoot the ball well, quite the contrary. They were 47.9% from the field, including 15 of 36 from three-point range. The problem was they gave up 51 pts in the third quarter. Yes, 51 points. Philadelphia shot 18 of 25 in the quarter and was 11 for 11 from the free throw line.
That quarter was (obviously) the difference in the game. It went from a 1-pt deficit at halftime to 29 pts for the Nets. They ended up losing by 22. But note Philadelphia is just 2-6 ATS in their last eight games after scoring 125+ pts the previous time out. They are also 1-5 ATS off the L6 double digit wins. The Nets are 13-6 ATS off an ATS defeat and 9-3 ATS following a DD loss. There won't be any 51 pt quarters this time as I expect a much better effort on the defensive end from Brooklyn at home. Remember what I said about the Sixers in my Game 1 analysis. For a 3 seed, a YTD point differential of less than +3.0 per game is kind of weak. 10* Brooklyn
|04-17-19||Jazz +6.5 v. Rockets||Top||98-118||Loss||-100||13 h 1 m||Show|
8* Utah (9:35 ET): Admittedly, my play on the Jazz for Game 1 did not go well. They lost by 32 points. But that final score of 122-90 is a little misleading when you consider how things really got out of hand late. Houston outscored them 39-19 in the fourth quarter to take a game that already wasn't very competitive and turn it into a full fledged rout. But - believe it or not - as I come back with a play on Utah for Game 2, much of the rationale will stay the same. The number, which I thought was too high for Game 1, has stayed relatively unchanged here. Take the points.
Directly taken from my Game 1 analysis - "The Jazz are a better team than their seed indicates. As a matter of fact, in my own personal power rankings I have them one spot above Houston. I have them #4 overall, 2nd best among Western Conference teams (trailing only Golden State obviously). Only three teams - the Bucks, Warriors and Raptors had better net efficiency ratings and point differentials. Were it not for an "unlucky" 0-7 SU record this year in games decided by three points or less, Utah definitely would have finished higher." One bad game is not going to change my view of them.
The Jazz shot just 39 percent in Game 1 and were 7 of 27 from three-point range. That's not a winning formula and their trademark defense wasn't present either. I expect them to play much better on BOTH ends of the floor Wednesday. Coming off a SU loss, they are on a 20-6-1 ATS run this season. They did lose the meaningless regular season finale (to the Clippers), so Game 1 was a rare instance of them failing to cover in that spot. But the last time Utah lost three games in a row straight up was mid-November (note: they've never lost four in a row). I took the Clippers off a double digit loss on Monday (and won) and will do the same thing here. 8* Utah
|04-17-19||Pacers v. Celtics OVER 203||Top||91-99||Loss||-109||11 h 31 m||Show|
10* Over Pacers/Celtics (7:05 ET): My hats off to anyone who had the Under in Game 1 of this series as it was a FIFTY point winner! As a result, the O/U line has come WAY down for Game 2. The Under was a perfect 8-0 in Game 1's across the playoffs, so that was something else for the oddsmakers to consider. Monday featured a pair of high-scoring Game 2's though, showing we should be careful about putting "too much stock" into one result. Note that the previous three times the Pacers and Celtics had met, they had combined to score 214 or more points. Take the Over here as there's some serious value.
The trend stretches back awhile, but Indiana is 14-3 Over the L17 times it was held to 75 pts or less in its previous game. Despite being one of the top Under teams in the regular season, the fewest number of points they scored in a regular season game was 89, done a few times. They average 107.6 PPG. Game 1 swung entirely on a dreadful 8-point third quarter. For the game, the Pacers shot just 33.3% overall and were 6 of 27 from three-point range. They had just 29 pts in the second half. Obviously, we'll see much better shooting from them in Game 2. As for the defensive end, while they led the league in PPG allowed in the regular season, they still gave up 107.7 per game away from home.
Boston averages 112.0 PPG for the year. They shot just 36.7% from the floor in Game 1 and turned the ball over 20 times. Yet they still won comfortably, thanks to the Pacers' own ineptitude and that decisive third quarter. That many turnovers should (theoretically) lead to more points from the opponent. But Indiana converted those 20 TO's into only NINE points. That's remarkably bad. This will be the lowest total for any Pacers-Celtics matchup this season and seven points lower than the O/U line for Game 1. Can we say "value?" 10* Over Pacers/Celtics
|04-16-19||Thunder v. Blazers OVER 221||Top||94-114||Loss||-110||14 h 21 m||Show|
8* Over Thunder/Blazers (10:35 ET): It was kind of an ugly Game 1, but Portland held serve on its home court, winning 104-99 and covering as 3.5-pt chalk. In case you missed it, the Blazers are the only team w/ home court advantage in the 1st round NOT to be favored. A large part of that was due to the fact the Thunder swept the regular season series, SU and ATS. Also, Portland had lost 10 consecutive playoff games entering Saturday. They are without one of their best players too (Jusuf Nurkic), but that hardly mattered in Gm 1 w/ OKC shooting so poorly and Damian Lillard scoring 30 points.
Neither team shot the ball well in Game 1 as the Blazers were 41.9% from the field and the Thunder an even worse 39.8%. OKC really struggled from three-point range, going 5 of 33. I suspect we'll see drastic improvement in that department here on Tuesday. For the season, the Thunder are averaging 114.3 PPG on more than respectable shooting - both overall and from behind the arc. Paul George (8 of 24) really struggled from the floor in Game 1 and should be better here. Portland's starting backcourt (Lillard and McCollum) were a combined 18 of 45 and also should see collective improvement.
As of this writing (Monday afternoon). the Under has gone a perfect 8-0 in the NBA Playoffs! That's right, every Game 1 stayed Under. I expect at least one game will probably go Over Monday night (didn't play either total) and eventually that trend will start to even out. The Over remains 15-5-1 in Portland's last 20 home games where they average 117.9 PPG, a nice jump (about 3 PPG) from the overall average. Also, the Over is 20-5-1 the L26 times the Blazers have take the court on exactly one days rest. Portland is not as good defensively as they showed Saturday, but they are a top five team in offensive efficiency. 8* Over Thunder/Blazers
|04-16-19||Spurs v. Nuggets OVER 207.5||Top||105-114||Win||100||13 h 46 m||Show|
10* Over Spurs/Nuggets (9:05 ET): We cashed the Spurs in Game 1 as they turned in a truly masterful performance by holding Denver to just 96 points in what was an outright upset as 6-pt underdogs. Taking both games at the Pepsi Center isn't something many, if any, thought the Spurs could do. But now they have a chance. We do respect Denver enough to hold off on taking the points again, but don't discount what we taked about in our Game 1 analysis either. San Antonio has been "sneaky good" on offense this season, ranking fifth in efficiency and 1st in 3-pt shooting %. Take the Over for Game 2 (as the number is several points lower than it was for Game 1).
As of this writing (Monday afternoon), the Under has gone a perfect 8-0 in the NBA Playoffs! That's right, every Game 1 stayed Under. I expect at least one game will probably go Over Monday night (didn't play either total) and eventually that trend will start to even out. Now, speaking of trends, the Under has hit in all five Spurs-Nuggets matchups this season. After a March meeting (in San Antonio) peaked w/ an OU line of 230 (!), predictably we are now at the lowest number yet. The Spurs are 6-1 Under their last seven games overall as well.
But I simply can't see the Nuggets shooting the ball so poorly yet again. They finished at just 42.0% from the field in Game 1, including 6 of 24 on three-pointers. It also didn't help that they missed 8 of 24 free throw attempts. The Spurs, as usual, were pretty efficient from three-point range as they made 7 of 15 attempts. Note that it was a 30-point third quarter (17-13 in favor of Denver) that really sealed the Under Saturday night. I don't see such a quarter taking place again here. For the season, the Nuggets average 113.7 PPG at home while the Spurs give up roughly the same number on the road. With the oddsmakers having dropped the total for Game 2, I see value. 10* Over Spurs/Nuggets
|04-15-19||Clippers +13.5 v. Warriors||Top||135-131||Win||100||14 h 50 m||Show|
10* LA Clippers (10:35 ET): The Clippers came into this series as the biggest underdogs EVER in Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs. So no one is giving them much of a chance. On a Saturday where the other three underdogs all won outright, the Clips lost Game 1 by 17 points, but that's really not horrible considering they closed as 13.5-pt underdogs. There's been no real change in the line for Game 2 and I do see some value w/ the underdog. They are 8-1 ATS on the road, off a road loss, this season. Steph Curry probably isn't making eight three-pointers again here either. Take the points.
Despite Curry going 8 of 12 from three-point range for the game and the Clippers making only 2 of their first 10 three-point attempts, the game stayed relatively close for most of the first half. It was just a two-point game w/ slightly over two minutes to go before halftime. That's when the Warriors made a big run and never looked back (Clips never got closer than six points). Curry has killed LA all season, but containing him would go a long way. Easier said than done obviously, but the rest of the Warriors really weren't that impressive in Game 1. The Clippers were only 27 of 64 on 2-pt attempts Saturday (42%), a number which should go up substantially here.
DeMarcus Cousins only played 21 minutes in Game 1 for Golden State. That's something to keep an eye on as the Dubs are a substantially WORSE offensive team when Boogie is on the court. Obviously then, it would be wise for HC Steve Kerr to minimize his minutes, but is that really possible over the course of a series? Only six Warriors played more than 20 minutes in Game 1. They are obviously lighter on "star power," but the Clippers are a significantly "deeper" team than the Warriors and had the most bench scoring in the league. They will keep this one close! 10* LA Clippers
|04-14-19||Jazz +6.5 v. Rockets||Top||90-122||Loss||-109||78 h 56 m||Show|
10* Utah (9:35 ET): The Jazz are a better team than their seed indicates. As a matter of fact, in my own personal power rankings I have them one spot above Houston. I have them #4 overall, 2nd best among Western Conference teams (trailing only Golden State obviously). Only three teams - the Bucks, Warriors and Raptors had better net efficiency ratings and point differentials. Were it not for an "unlucky" 0-7 SU record this year in games decided by three points or less, Utah definitely would have finished higher. This is way too many points to pass up for Game 1.
Houston losing to Oklahoma City in the final game of the regular season proved costly. It was a game that they led by as many as 14 pts in the fourth quarter (lost 112-111 as 3-pt chalk). Now if "all" that did was simply end Houston's prior six-game SU/ATS win streak, it wouldn't be that big a deal. But that result, coupled w/ Portland winning on the final day of the regular season, dropped the Rockets down a spot and into this unfortunate matchup w/ the Jazz. The teams split four regular season meetings and again, by the numbers, Utah was better in the regular season.
The Rockets actually had a decent defense last year. That was how they were able to win 65 regular season games and come within an eyelash of the NBA Finals. But this year, their defensive efficiency rating dropped down to 16th in the league. The Jazz were #2 in that department. Now, Utah will be tested defensively by a Houston team that has James Harden and Chris Paul. But I think they'll be up to the task and Donovan Mitchell should hit some key shots for them on the other end. Utah did drop its final regular season game (in OT to the Clippers), but it meant nothing and it was by six points or less (6 exactly). The Jazz are 10-2 ATS this season off a loss by 6 pts or less. Houston will "rue the day" it lost its own regular season finale. 10* Utah
|04-13-19||Spurs +5.5 v. Nuggets||Top||101-96||Win||100||39 h 25 m||Show|
8* San Antonio (10:35 ET): This season has to be considered a massive success in Denver, regardless of what happens here in the playoffs. However, not to be the "bearer of bad tidings," but the Nuggets were a bit fortunate in finishing the regular season w/ a 54-28 SU record. They went an extremely fortunate 13-3 in games decided by three points or less. That was the most wins by any team in games of that nature and easily the best win percentage. The Nuggets are one of two playoff teams in the West that didn't have a winning record. First round opponent San Antonio happened to be the other, but this is too many points to lay for Game 1.
These teams essentially finished the regular season w/ matching net efficiency ratings. Denver was +3.0 while San Antonio was +2.8. This was far from Greg Popovich's best defensive team, but they did improve on that end of the floor - significantly - over the second half of the season. The Spurs did end up beating projections for this season and a major reason for that was the offensive end. They were fifth in offensive efficiency and led the league in three-point shooting percentage. With both teams ranking near the bottom of the league in pace of play, possessions will be vital here. I think it's going to be difficult for Denver to create any separation.
In the past, home court advantage has been pretty critical when these teams meet. The home team has won 10 straight meetings, including four this season. Denver had the best home record in the league (34-7 SU), but I still have my doubts about a team that lack a true "go to" superstar and is making its first foray into the postseason as a group. Meanwhile, this will be the 22nd straight year in the playoffs for San Antonio, and while the names on the back of the jerseys have changed, the coach has not. I'm not a huge "buyer" in this Nuggets team and like the points! The Spurs have gone 19-2 ATS avenging a loss this season if the opponent scored 110+ pts in the previous matchup. 8* San Antonio
|04-13-19||Clippers +13 v. Warriors||Top||104-121||Loss||-115||37 h 4 m||Show|
8* LA Clippers (8:00 ET): The Warriors weren't the Warriors this year. Sure, they won 57 games and actually posted the highest scoring average (117.7 PPG) under HC Steve Kerr. But their vaunted reputation clearly preceded itself as they were a bust at the betting window, posting a 35-46-1 ATS record, the third worst mark in the entire league. Only the disappointing Lakers and hideous Knicks were worse to bet on in the regular season. It's an old rival that Golden State draws in the opening round of the playoffs, the Clippers, and not surprisingly the line is big for Game 1. I'm taking the points.
Meanwhile, the Clippers were one of the best teams to bet on this season, going 45-36-1 ATS. That was the third BEST ATS mark in the league (only Milwaukee & Dallas were better). Doc Rivers did arguably his best coaching job this season, especially considering the front office trading away Tobias Harris was supposed to signal the end of any kind of playoff run. But it didn't. Danilo Gallinari posted career bests in points per game, field goal percentage and three-point percentage. While they might lack a "true" superstar, the Clippers are among the deepest teams in the league as they led the league in bench points (53.2 PPG) by a wide margin.
Golden State took three of the four regular season meetings, the last two both coming by convincing margins (18 and 27 pts). The Clippers did cover the first two though and were 11-5 SU/ATS in all division games. They've also covered 13 out of the last 16 division road games. The Warriors actually lost straight up 11 times in the regular season and were just 16-24-1 ATS at Oracle Arena. The spread here is larger than it was for either regular season matchup here in Oakland. The Clippers were also a top five team in scoring this year. One thing worth monitoring with the Warriors is that they were a far worse offensive team w/ DeMarcus Cousins on the court. They also slipped defensively as well. Too many points here. 8* LA Clippers
|04-13-19||Magic v. Raptors UNDER 213||Top||104-101||Win||100||9 h 29 m||Show|
10* Under Magic/Raptors (5:05 ET): You shouldn't go underestimating the Magic in this series. They have won 22 of their last 31 games and since the All-Star Break the only team in the East w/ more victories is top-seeded Milwaukee. The Magic have played exceptionally well on the defensive end in the second half, posting the league's top efficiency rating since the Break! With Toronto's poor playoff history, particularly in Game 1's, an outright upset is definitely in the realm of possibility here. But I feel that the Under is the best play in Game 1 of this series.
Now the Raptors did close the regular season by scoring 110+ points in nine straight games. That's a franchise record and they've gone 7-1 SU/ATS the L8 games w/ the only loss coming by two to a desperate Charlotte team. A number of franchise records (on offense) were set in the regular season, but this is now the playoffs and we know how Toronto struggles when we get to this point. Incredibly, they are 2-12 all-time in Game 1's, which includes a 1-9 mark in the first round. That lone victory came last year against Washington. I don't think we'll see the same level of offensive prowess from the Raptors here that we did in the regular season.
Like Toronto, the Magic seemingly closed the regular season w/ an offensive barrage. Their last seven games have all gone Over the total. But that, and what Toronto did over roughly the same timeframe, set us up to go the opposite way here. On April 1st, the Raptors did beat the Magic 121-109 here at Air Canada Centre. But the season's first three matchups all went Under and saw Orlando cover (including two outright upsets). The Magic only average 104.9 PPG on the road, so Under is the way to go here. 10* Under Magic/Raptors
|04-13-19||Nets +8 v. 76ers||Top||111-102||Win||100||31 h 14 m||Show|
Note: this play stands regardless of Joel Embiid's status! Obviously, we'd feel even stronger about Brooklyn were Embiid not to suit up for the 76ers.
8* Brooklyn (2:30 ET): The Nets made the playoffs for the 1st time since 2014-15, but aren't really getting much of any respect as oddsmakers view them as the weakest team in the entire field. I don't necessarily agree w/ the sentiment (I think Detroit is worse) and think we can use the opinion to our benefit here in Game 1 against Philadelphia. While neither playing on the road nor the underdog role suited Brooklyn particularly well in the regular season, this is too many points to pass up given they split four matchups with the Sixers and were 3-1 ATS. Take the points.
It turns out that trusting the famed "process" in Philadelphia has paid dividends as for the second straight year the Sixers won 50+ games. Last year's team did make the second round of the playoffs, so the expectation coming into this season was for them to take "the next step." But I'm not sure that's going to happen. Part of the reason I say that has to do w/ the fact the Sixers' point differential was only fifth best in the East this year, so a third place finish should be considered a little fortuitous. Over the course of the year, the Sixers outscored teams by less than three points per game.
As I said earlier, these teams split four regular season matchups, but Brooklyn was 3-1 ATS. They covered both times at home (won by 25, lost by 2), then later pulled an upset here as 5.5-pt road underdogs. All three of those games were played before X-Mas and the Sixers did take the final game, handily, by a score of 123-110. That was just over two weeks ago and Philly shot the ball very well. Brooklyn has been in "playoff mode" for some time now (just to ensure they got here) while Philadelphia largely got to coast over the last month. That, to me, signals the favorite could get caught "flat footed" here for Game 1. 8* Brooklyn
|04-09-19||Hornets -7.5 v. Cavs||Top||124-97||Win||100||11 h 33 m||Show|
8* Charlotte (7:05 ET): With two games remaining, there's only one spot left in the Eastern Conference playoffs and it will go to one of three teams: Detroit, Miami or Charlotte. The Pistons are in "pole position" right now, one game ahead of the other two teams. Charlotte has won three straight, including a key win over Detroit on Sunday that enabled them to stay alive. The Hornets basically have to win out and tonight's game against sorry Cleveland looks to be an easy one. Overall, the Hornets are 8-2 ATS the L10 games. The Cavs have dropped nine in a row straight up and tonight is their final game of the year. Expect little effort from them. Lay the points.
Believe it or not, the Cavs may end up slightly worse this season than they did the season after LeBron James first left town (2010-11). At 19-62 SU, they may not have the worst record in the league (the Knicks do), but they have the worst point differential in the league at -9.4 per game. A loss here would mean they'd finish w/ the same record as that 2010-11 team, which was outscored by 9.0 PPG. The Cavs showed little fight on Sunday when they lost here at home to San Antonio, 112-90 as 8.5-pt dogs. There's a good chance Kevin Love won't play tonight.
The number here is obviously inflated due to Charlotte's need to win, but it's still justified in my eyes. Note the Hornets were favored by a similar number (actually more!) the first time they visited this season. Granted, they lost that game outright, but that was also back in November. The stakes are far higher now and there won't be any kind of letdown. They did beat the Cavs twice - by 32 and 11 points - at home. The Cavs' home arena (currently Quicken Loans Arena) will be renamed Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse for next season. Call it whatever you want, the team is very bad and ranks dead last in the league in defensive efficiency. 8* Charlotte
|04-08-19||Texas Tech v. Virginia -1||Top||77-85||Win||100||30 h 41 m||Show|
10* Virginia (9:20 ET): Those who follow my NCAA Tournament picks regularly know that I constantly tout the importance of defense, particularly efficiency, this time of year. If you were still on the fence about believing me, then look no further than this National Championship matchup which pits the #1 team in scoring defense (Virginia) against the #1 team in defensive efficiency (Texas Tech). For the record, Virginia is 5th in efficiency while Texas Tech is third in points allowed. Points definitely figure to be at a premium Monday night, but ultimately (pun intended!) I feel that it will be Virginia cutting down the nets. They have been the more consistent team all season and were my pick to win it all before this Tournament started.
It's not just Virginia's entire body of work that has me on them here. The Hoos have been very good in this Tournament as well. As per usual, we start w/ defense. They are giving up only 55.5 PPG for the season, 58.6 PPG in the Tournament. Remember though, they were taken to overtime by Purdue. Yes, the last three victories have all been by five points or less. But we are getting what I feel is an extremely good value here as this line would have been much higher had these teams played a couple weeks ago. Also, the Cavaliers are a perfect 11-0 ATS the L2 seasons when on the road and coming off a SU win where they did not cover. That's the situation they're in here.
Tip your cap to Texas Tech, who has been very kind to me in this Tournament. They were a *10* ULTIMATE POWER release when they upset Gonzaga in the Elite 8, then my *10* Game of the Year when they upset Michigan State. They're a perfect 5-0 ATS now in the Big Dance w/ all but one win (Gonzaga) coming by double digits. They are giving up fewer PPG (55.8) in the Tournament than Virginia. But, the irony here is that with the defensive numbers basically being a draw, it could come down to the fact Virginia is #2 in the country in offensive efficiency (Tex Tech just 28th). Virginia has been the better team all year and getting them as basically a "pick 'em" is a big deal. 10* Virginia
|04-07-19||Nets v. Pacers OVER 219||Top||108-96||Loss||-107||9 h 51 m||Show|
10* Over Nets/Pacers (5:05 ET): Brooklyn recorded perhaps its biggest win of the season yday, beating Milwaukee 133-128 on the road. The win brought them back to .500 (40-40 SU) on the year and more importantly back into a sixth place tie w/ Orlando. There are still five teams vying for the final three available spots in the Eastern Conference, but the Nets would seem to have a nice cushion given they're 1.5 games ahead of ninth place Miami (who they play in the regular season finale). But still a win here in Indiana would be huge. But the Pacers won't make it easy on 'em.
Indiana is off a bad loss to Boston, who will likely be their first round opponent in the playoffs. Right now the Pacers are 5th in the East, significantly ahead of the Nets, by 7 games. But what they are playing for right now is home court advantage in the first round against the Celtics. Losing 117-97 (here at home) Friday did the no favors as it put them a game behind Boston in the standings. So motivation won't be lacking on either side Sunday. You have to expect the Pacers will shoot a lot better here than they did vs. Boston, who held them to a 41.3 FG% for the game.
Indiana played good defense in a home and home sweep of the Pistons earlier in the week, but other than that - in the last five games - they've allowed other three opponents to all shoot above 50%. Brooklyn obviously had no difficulty scoring yday, putting up 133 pts on the team that leads the league in defensive efficiency. It was the 8th time in the last 9 games that the Nets scored at least 110 points. At the same time, they often struggle defensively, which is evident by the fact they've given up at least 115 pts in seven of those last nine games. The Over is 5-1 in their last six road games while the Over is 4-0 in Indiana's last four home games. 10* Over Nets/Pacers
|04-07-19||Thunder -6.5 v. Wolves||Top||132-126||Loss||-105||7 h 21 m||Show|
8* Oklahoma City (3:30 ET): The Thunder will definitely NOT have the home court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs, but that doesn't mean there's nothing left to play for in these last three games. Mostly, it's what they are trying to AVOID. That would be finishing in eighth place and having to play Golden State in the first round. Right now, they are in seventh, but just one-half game ahead of the Spurs, who are in Cleveland today for a game against the lowly Cavaliers. So winning should be a huge priority here for OKC and I think they come through by delivering a big win on national TV Sunday. Lay the points.
Eliminated from playoff contention, Minnesota is reduced to a "spoiler role" and it's something that they have embraced. They upset Miami on Friday, winning 111-109 as three-point home dogs. That put a severe damper on the Heat's playoff hopes. The T'wolves also recently beat Golden State (as 10-pt dogs) here at home, which was a *10* Game of the Week selection for me. So I do respect them. But I don't expect motivation to be as high here as it was for Golden State or even Miami two nights ago. Yes, it's a national TV game. But let's not forget that the T'wolves have covered only 6 of their last 19 games. They are 0-3 vs. the Thunder this season.
Oklahoma City has won two straight by double digits, including a 123-110 win over Detroit on Friday. That came on the heels of a 119-103 win over the Lakers where Russell Westbrook had 20 pts, 20 rebounds and 21 assists, making him just the 2nd player in league history to have a 20-20-20 game. This is the third season in a row that Westbrook will average a triple double, which is incredible. But the Thunder are more than just Westbrook as it was Paul George leading the way w/ 30 pts vs. the Pistons. The Thunder also have a massive edge defensively in this matchup as they rank 4th in the league in efficiency while the T'wolves are 22nd. 8* Oklahoma City
|04-06-19||Texas Tech +3 v. Michigan State||Top||61-51||Win||100||104 h 15 m||Show|
10* Texas Tech (8:49 ET): The Red Raiders were a signature *10* ULTIMATE POWER release for me in the Elite 8 when they upset top seeded Gonzaga. They remain a live dog moving forward, thanks to #1 ranking in defensive efficiency. This is the key metric that I've leaned on in past tournaments and Texas Tech beating Gonzaga (who was #1 in the country in offensive efficiency) was the latest example of it working out. As soon as the Red Raiders moved on Saturday night, I knew I was going take them again here, regardless of the Duke-Michigan State winner. The fact Michigan State won I believe is a better deal for the Red Raiders as they don't have the offensive weapons that Duke does. Take the points.
Since a poor 1st half in the first round game against Bradley, Michigan State has been very good, outscoring its opponents by 50 points. They outlasted Duke 68-67, sparked by Cassius Winston's 20 points. But Sparty is not a deep team. Only seven players saw action against Duke w/ one of them (Gabe Brown) playing just three minutes. Had Xavier Tillman not gotten into early foul trouble, it's likely Brown wouldn't have even seen the floor. All other MSU starters played at least 38 minutes w/ Winston playing the whole 40. I realize the Spartans have won 14 out of their last 15 games (only loss by 1 pt!) w/ three wins over Michigan. But Texas Tech, save for Duke, will be their toughest opponent to date.
Remember that Texas Tech had no problem beating Michigan in the Sweet 16 themselves. They crushed the Wolverines, holding them to 1 of 19 shooting from three-point range, in a 63-44 final. Michigan State's three wins over Michigan were by a combined 24 points. The Red Raiders have held their four tournament opponents to an average of 57 PPG and the last three have all been against top 25 offenses. They just held the #1 offense in the country (Gonzaga) to 69 pts on 42.4% shooting. I don't see Michigan State topping those numbers, so I'm clearly siding w/ the underdog in this one. 10* Texas Tech
|04-05-19||Heat v. Wolves OVER 217||Top||109-111||Win||100||13 h 0 m||Show|
8* Over Heat/T'wolves (8:05 ET): As badly as Miami needs this game, I'm not convinced they deserve to be favored in Minneapolis. But if they are going to win, it likely would be as a result of some poor T'wolves defense. The T'wolves did just hold Dallas to 108 pts in a two-point road win Wednesday night. However, in the four games prior, they allowed 122, 130, 118 and 132. This is a team giving up 113.9 PPG for the year and the Heat probably are set to improve (offensively) after five straight games of scoring 105 pts or less. Take the Over in this one.
The Heat just got swept in a home and home by Boston and that really has hurt them in the playoff race. Of the four teams battling for the final three spots in the Eastern Conference (all separated by one game), they are the ones on the "outside looking in" right now. They allowed 110 and 112 pts to the Celtics, which may not seem like a lot, but it's also a number Minnesota can easily reach (they average 114.8 PPG at home). Before losing to the Celtics by 10 (112-102) at home Wednesday night, the Heat had been playing good defense, holding five straight opponents below a 43.0 FG%. But they're still just 3-3 SU over the L6 games.
Bottom line is I expect Miami to both score and allow more here than what we've been seeing from them recently. The Over is 4-1 in the last five meetings vs. Minnesota, including a 113-104 LOSS back in December. Now the number is noticeably higher for the rematch. But the Over has also cashed in six of Miami's previous seven non-conference games. Conversely, the Over is 16-5 in Minnesota's last 21 non-conference games. Given those numbers, it should come as no shock to learn that BOTH teams' number of points given up AND scored rises against non-conference competition. 8* Over Heat/T'wolves
|04-05-19||Hawks v. Magic -8.5||Top||113-149||Win||100||12 h 1 m||Show|
10* Orlando (7:05 ET): For most NBA teams, simply making the NBA playoffs doesn't mean much. The majority of teams in this league either have championship aspirations or are deliberately tanking. But the Magic don't fit into either of those categories. Having not made the playoffs since Dwight Howard left town in 2012, an appearance of any kind (even if it meant being swept by Milwaukee) would be welcomed. Lately, Orlando has been playing very well. They've won 8 of 10 and as a result are currently tied w/ Brooklyn for 7th in the Eastern Conference w/ just three regular season games to play.
The Magic obviously can't afford any kind of slip up as Miami is breathing right down their neck. The ninth place Heat are only one-half game back. There are four teams - all separated by a game - battling for the final three spots and obviously one is going to be left out. Believe it or not, but the key numbers - whether it be point differential or net efficiency rating - say the Magic are the best team out of that quartet. Tonight is the final home game of the regular season, so expect them to be extra motivated. They are 22-16 at home for the season and have not lost here since right after the All-Star Break. They've won eight straight at home and 12 out of the last 13, including a 14-pt win over the Knicks on Wednesday.
Drawing Atlanta is obviously of great help to the Magic here as well. The Hawks came into the year as non-contenders and have certainly "lived up" to that advanced billing. While far from the worst team in the league, the Hawks are definitely in the bottom five. I say that knowing full well they've gone 5-2 SU and 6-1 ATS their last seven. They've recently upset both Philadelphia and Milwaukee, but both of those games were at home and the opponents came in disinterested. They won't be facing a disinterested opponent here on the road. The Hawks are dead last in the league in points allowed (118.8 per game) and are giving up even more than usual the L5 games. Meanwhile, the Magic have been among the best defensive teams in the league since the Break. They've also posted three double digit victories against Atlanta since the New Year. 10* Orlando
|04-04-19||Cavs v. Kings UNDER 228.5||Top||104-117||Win||100||13 h 41 m||Show|
10* Under Cavs/Kings (10:05 ET): Despite these teams both being among the very worst in the league defensively (in terms of points allowed), I see this game still staying Under. Yes, Cleveland has gone Over in five straight while giving up an average of an average of 122.6 PPG and its opponents are shooting a lights-out 55.1% during that time. The Cavs are allowing 113.9 PPG for the season, which 23rd in the league, and they are dead last in efficiency. But despite everything you just read, I believe we are in store for an Under tonight in Sacramento. The number is just too high.
Sacramento is no better than Cleveland on the defensive end. Well, in terms of efficiency, they are 18th. That's not terrible. But they also give up 114.9 PPG, which is 26th. They just gave up 130 points in their last game. But that was against the Rockets and this is against Cleveland. The Cavs rank near the bottom of the league in scoring (29th) at 104.6 PPG. While the Kings play at one of the league's fastest tempos (3rd), the Cavs play slow (29th in pace of play). In spite of the bad defensive numbers from both sides, Cleveland's offense may very well be what keeps this game from going Over the total.
Kevin Love won't be playing in this game either. Such was the case when the teams first met back in December. Now that game did go Over with both teams shooting lights out. I don't see that kind of shooting being replicated here, however. Cleveland obviously averages less PPG on the road than they do at home. They can't possibly continue to allow the shooting percentages we've seen recently. The Kings were held to 105 pts here at home by Houston. They too are in line to see defensive improvement in this game. The Under is 8-1 following the Kings' previous nine double digit losses at home. 10* Under Cavs/Kings
|04-03-19||Rockets v. Clippers -1||Top||135-103||Loss||-110||14 h 15 m||Show|
10* LA Clippers (10:35 ET): Houston certainly proved me wrong last night by going on the road and delivering a resounding statement in Sacramento. The Rockets won 130-105, easily covering the 5.5-pt spot. It was their 50th win of the year along w/ the third straight win and cover. As a result, they've moved into third place in the West and are only 1.5 games back of Denver (3.5 games behind Golden State). But this is a tough spot playing a Clippers team who is also looking to improve its own playoff position. The situation tremendously favors LA here, who is playing at home.
The Clippers are currently sixth in the West, one-half game back of Utah. Obviously, getting into the top four (2.5 games back) and garnering home court advantage for the first round playoff series should be the goal. The Clips are 25-13 SU at home this season, averaging 117.7 PPG. The team has done its best to shoot up the standings and had itself a tremendous March, going 13-2 SU and 10-4-1 ATS. Not only is Houston playing the second game of a back to back here, the Clippers have been off for two days. They last played Sunday and blew out Memphis 113-96 as 10-pt chalk.
The Rockets have performed poorly when playing on the road w/o rest. They've gone 2-4 SU and 1-5 ATS in the situation, including 1-4 ATS when both games took place on the road. Meanwhile, give the Clippers any rest at all (meaning they're not playing in the second game of a B2B) and their SU record is 40-24. They have already beaten Houston twice this season, once by three here at home and by 20 on the road. While Houston has the stars, the Clippers are the deeper team. 10* LA Clippers
|04-02-19||Rockets v. Kings +5||Top||130-105||Loss||-100||12 h 23 m||Show|
10* Sacramento (10:05 ET): This has the potential for an upset as the Kings are a much better team than you think. While they're going to miss the playoffs for a 13th straight year, 2018-19 has brought masssive improvement as they can still finish above .500 for the 1st time since that last playoff year (2006). At 44-32-1 ATS overall, Sacramento has been one of the best teams to bet on this season. Only the Bucks and Clippers have been more profitable at the betting window. Tonight, they can play "spoiler" against a Houston team that just beat them 119-108 over the weekend. Take the points.
The Rockets have already wrapped up a playoff spot and are probably going to have home court advantage for their first round playoff series, whomever that's against. Right now, they are tied w/ Portland for third place. Avoiding Utah in the 1st round should be a priority, but considering how congested the West is, that's not a simple thing to do. Saturday's win over the Kings saw James Harden deliver a 5th career 50+ pt triple double, leading the team for a fourth quarter rally. Sacramento actually led after three quarters, but was outscored 28-15 in the fourth.
This is not a "true" home and home for the Kings as they've played a game since losing in Houston. That was the follow night in San Antonio where they snapped an 11-game losing streak in the Alamo. Finishing .500 seems to be a goal the Kings are excited about. "We've just got to come out and be ready to play. We can't overlook and say the season's over. We have a goal, let's get that," said Buddy Hield, who led the team w/ 26 pts in SA. The Kings are a lot stronger at home (23-15 SU overall, 13-5-1 ATS L19), so the Rockets face a much tougher challenge here than what they faced Saturday. 10* Sacramento
|04-01-19||Bulls v. Knicks OVER 212.5||Top||105-113||Win||100||11 h 24 m||Show|
10* Over Bulls/Knicks (7:35 ET): Two of the league's worst teams meet tonight in the Big Apple w/ nothing really on the line except draft position. Truthfully, there's very little chance the Knicks don't end up w/ the worst record in the league. They have three fewer wins than every other team and w/ only six games left, it's difficult to imagine them making up that difference. They've lost six in a row and 14 out of their last 15, but are actually favored here, which is obviously a real rarity. Despite having been held under 100 pts nine times in the last 12 games, I do expect the Knicks to score "more than usual" tonight against the Bulls.
Chicago is slightly better on both offense and defense than New York and thus has won seven more games. Really, the gap probably shouldn't be that big as the Knicks do deserve to be favored in this spot. The Bulls have lost four in a row themselves and three of those have been by 20 or more points. Strangely enough, the those three 20+ pt defeats all came at home while the one that didn't was on the road, at Toronto. The Bulls actually average slightly more PPG on the road than at home. But they continue to give up points in bunches w/ the L5 opponents averaging 117.6 PPG.
I already mentioned that the Knicks are slightly worse defensively than the Bulls. They give up 114.2 PPG on the year, which is not quite bottom five in the league, but it's close (6th worst). In terms of efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions), the Knicks are 28th. That's two spots below Chicago. So w/ two of the worst defensive teams in the league squaring off in a game that means next to nothing, plenty of points should be scored. The only prior meeting this season between these teams saw 231 total pts scored (Bulls won 116-115) and it should be something similar here. 10* Over Bulls/Knicks
|03-31-19||Auburn v. Kentucky -4.5||Top||77-71||Loss||-105||6 h 18 m||Show|
10* Kentucky (2:20 ET): Just as Kentucky has gotten back one of its key cogs (PJ Washington), Auburn has lost one of theirs (Chuma Okeke). This turn of events is obviously a decided edge for the already favored Wildcats and I've got no hesitation about laying the short number here. UK swept the regular season series, winning by two on the road and by 27 at home. While it is quite unlikely the beatdown will be as severe here as it was in Lexington, UK should win by more than they did down in Auburn. They scored 80+ in both previous games and are much better defensive team compared to the Tigers.
Kentucky has been outstanding defensively in this Tournament, holding all three of its opponents under 60 points. That will obviously be tested by an Auburn team that's shooting the lights out right now (53.5 FG% L2 Games). But I view the Wildcats as being up to the challenge here. They are top 10 (8th) in defensive efficiency and all three Tournament opponents have been held under 40% shooting. Obviously, Auburn is more prolific than any of UK's three previous opponents, but they were held to 32.8% shooting the last time they met. Being without their third leading scorer (Okeke) obviously hurts as well. Okeke had 20 pts last round vs. North Carolina.
Of the six teams still left standing in this Tournament, five are ranked in the top nine nationally in defensive efficiency. Auburn is the other, way off the pace at 43rd. This should end up costing them given the value of this particular metric. They can't continue to shoot above 40% from three-point range. The Tigers have given up at least 75 points in every game in the Tournament, and again, they gave up 82 and 80 points to Kentucky in the regular season. They are looking to do something incredible here - that's beating Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky in three straight Tournament games, but they ultimately fall short here. 10* Kentucky
|03-30-19||Grizzlies -1.5 v. Suns||Top||120-115||Win||100||15 h 36 m||Show|
10* Memphis (10:05 ET): Clearly, the oddsmakers made a mistake in opening Phoenix as a slight favorite here as the line quickly "jumped the fence" and the Grizzlies now find themselves in the chalk role. The Grizz are a team I've used w/ a great deal of success this month. Now, normally that's at home and as an underdog, but I'll make an exception here despite them not being in either situation tonight. These teams are "worlds apart" defensively as Memphis is #2 in the NBA in scoring (105.3 PPG allowed) while Phoenix is near the bottom (27th), giving up 116.3 PPG.
The Suns have gotten B2B 50+ point games from Devin Booker, yet lost both times, including by 33 at Utah. That game saw Booker's teammates combine to score less than he did. Wednesday night, the Suns lost here at home to the Wizards, 124-121. They've now lost five in a row and seven out of eight. Booker has scored more than 50% of his team's points the L2 games, which is not a recipe for success and you have to figure he'll struggle more than usual to find his shot, given how strong Memphis is on the defensive end. Phoenix is allowing 119 PPG its last five contests, including 125 and 124 the last two games.
This is a big drop in class for the Grizzlies, who just had to play Oklahoma City and Golden State. They've lost five of seven overall, but did beat OKC, not to mention Houston last week. But stretching things back further, the Grizz are a respectable 7-7 SU the L14 games and they also beat Portland and Utah. Now almost all of those wins came at home. But Phoenix is not a hard team to beat, even on the road. Memphis did lose here (by two) early in the season, but considering how well both Mike Conley and Jonas Valanciunas are playing right now, they get the win tonight. 10* Memphis
|03-30-19||Purdue v. Virginia UNDER 126.5||Top||75-80||Loss||-105||13 h 20 m||Show|
8* Under Purdue/Virginia (8:49 ET): Purdue has been on fire in this Tournament, averaging 93 points its last two games while shooting almost 54.0% overall from the field. They have already made a record-setting 40 three-pointers in three games. Carsen Edwards has suddenly found his shot again, making 14 of those 40 three-pointers, and scoring 71 total pts the L2 games. But hey Purdue, to quote a very bad song, "Meet Virginia." The Hoos are #1 in the country in scoring defense and should drastically slow down this Boilermakers barrage. Take the Under here.
It hasn't just been Edwards lighting up the scoreboard for Purdue. Senior Ryan Cline turned in the best game of his career Thursday vs. Tennessee, scoring 27 points by making 7 of 10 three-point attempts. Anything close to a repeat performance should not be expected. Also, with Edwards, he had been cold coming into the Tournament. He's the 1st player since Davidson's Steph Curry to score 25+ pts in four straight NCAA Tournament games (goes back to last year), but that streak should end here. Note Virginia has allowed 70+ points only three times all year and two of those were against Duke.
Remember Purdue's 99 points against Tennessee came w/ OT. No matter who they played here, it would have been difficult to continue their torrid shooting of the last two games. But drawing Virginia all but ensures it will come to an end. Virginia held Oregon w/o a single made basket for the final 5:43 of their 53-49 Sweet 16 victory. Oregon had scored 73 points the game before that. Virginia also held an Oklahoma team that almost went for 100 in Round 1 to just 51 points. By the way, Purdue can play some defense too as was evident by them holding Old Dominion and Villanova to 26.9% and 34.5% shooting respectively in the first two games. All three Virginia tourney games have stayed Under. 8* Under Purdue/Virginia
|03-30-19||Texas Tech +4.5 v. Gonzaga||Top||75-69||Win||100||11 h 40 m||Show|
10* Texas Tech (6:09 ET): Once again, we have an underdog w/ a better defensive efficiency rating. Actually, as long as Texas Tech stays in this Tournament, they'll be in this role. Well, provided they're the underdog. No team in the country has a better defensive efficiency rating than the Red Raiders, who have completely stifled their three tournament opponents, holding them to 57, 58 and 44 points. The performances in the last two rounds were really impressive considering they were against Michigan (LY's national runner-up) and a Buffalo team that was among the highest scoring in the country during the regular season. Right now, I wouldn't bet against this team when getting points.
This is an interesting battle as it pits the country's #1 defensive team against the #1 offensive team. Gonzaga has looked every bit the part of a #1 seed so far, winning all three of its games by double digits. But Texas Tech will easily be their stiffest test to date. In the Sweet 16, the Zags faced a Florida State team that was top 15 in the country in defensive efficiency. The Seminoles were able to hold them to 72 points on 40.3% shooting. Again, Texas Tech is #1 in the country in defensive efficiency, so I am of the belief they're going to do an even better job here. None of the Red Raiders' opponents in this Tournament have shot better than 37.1% from the field.
Texas Tech has also won all three of its games by double digits. Their average margin of victory is actually is 18 PPG w/ every win coming by at least 15 pts. What they just did to Michigan Thursday night was very impressive. They held the Wolverines to 44 pts on 32.7% shooting, making them look like a bad team. Michigan missed its first 18 three-point attempts. That came after holding Buffalo, who averaged 84.5 PPG and had just scored 91, to 58. The Red Raiders are allowing just 53.0 PPG in the Tournament and have held seven opponents under 50 this season. Remember that Gonzaga was held under 50 in the WCC Tournament Final, so it wouldn't be unprecedented. 10* Texas Tech
|03-30-19||Cavs +10 v. Clippers||Top||108-132||Loss||-109||8 h 7 m||Show|
8* Cleveland (3:35 ET): Cleveland, yes Cleveland, has been a tough out down the stretch. The Cavs once again had a disastrous beginning to a post-LeBron era, but recently they've played a lot better, going 8-4-1 ATS the L13 games. They even had San Antonio on the ropes for much of the game Thursday before letting them "off the hook" and losing 116-110. I'm not saying the result here will be as good as last night's 10* Game of the Week play on Minnesota (upset Golden State), but the Cavs should cover pretty easily. Take the points.
The eight playoff teams are pretty much set in the Western Conference and the Clippers are one of those to have already clinched. They're still jockeying for position though and currently find themselves in the six spot after losing 128-118 at Milwaukee Thursday night. That loss snapped a six-game win streak. The team is still 11-2 SU in its last 13 games overall, but I wouldn't be surprised if they came out a little "sleepy" for this early start time (12:30 local time) and that would be a problem laying this many points.
These teams just met in Cleveland last week and it was one of those games where the Cavs played hard, but ultimately fell short. They lost 110-108 as 6.5-pt dogs, even after scoring 40 pts in the 1st quarter and taking a 15-point lead. It was a similar story two nights ago vs. San Antonio, whom they led by nine at halftime. For the Clippers, this is the first game back home after a four-game trip out East and there's always the fear of a "letdown" in that first game back at home. They are not a team accustomed to being in this price range, so we'll go the other way. 8* Cleveland
|03-29-19||Virginia Tech v. Duke UNDER 144.5||Top||73-75||Loss||-110||32 h 57 m||Show|
10* Under Va Tech/Duke (9:39 ET): It's rare to see conference rivals meet in the NCAA Tournament (at least prior to the Final Four), but this is already the second time it's happened in this Tournament. The first was Michigan State crushing Minnesota 70-50. Duke is hoping for a similar outcome here in the Sweet 16 against Virginia Tech. These ACC foes met just once in the regular season and it was actually the Hokies pulling a 77-72 upset (as 3-pt dogs) in Blacksburg. That game just managed to sneak Over, but I'll call for a lower-scoring rematch and take the Under here.
Duke is 0-2 ATS so far in the Tournament and maybe even a little lucky to be here. They escaped by the skin of their teeth against UCF Sunday, winning by one as 13.5-pt chalk. (You may remember I had UCF). That was after failing to cover as huge 27.5-pt favorites in Rd 1 against North Dakota State (won by 23). The Blue Devils did hit 10 three-pointers against UCF, which is a high number for them. Believe it or not, Duke was one of the WORST three-point shooting teams in the entire country in the regular season, at least in terms of percentage. They shot just 30.2% from behind the arc, which was tied w/ SIU-Edwardsville for 339th (out of 354 teams) in the country.
A big difference between this game and the regular season matchup is Zion Williamson. He missed the regular season contest. Of course, so did Va Tech's best player Justin Robinson. With the respective top scorers back in the lineup, you might expect a higher scoring game. But I don't think that'll happen. Va Tech's last four games have stayed Under the total. The Under is 6-2 in Duke's last eight games and they haven't gone Over in B2B games since January. (The UCF game went Over). In fact, that was the ONLY time they went Over in B2B games all season (Under is 25-10-1 in all Duke games). Va Tech has had one of the easiest paths to the Sweet 16 of any team (St. Louis, Liberty) and still shot poorly in those games. 10* Under Va Tech/Duke
|03-29-19||Warriors v. Wolves +10||Top||130-131||Win||100||10 h 59 m||Show|
10* Minnesota (8:05 ET): This is a lot of points to lay on the road, even for a team like Golden State. Then again, it's not like laying points w/ the Warriors this year has been a very good idea. The Dubs have the third worst overall ATS record in the league at 31-42-2 w/ only the Knicks and Lakers worse. Take away the small sample of games where they were an underdog and the team is cashing in just above 40% of the time for the year. After a disastrous stretch at the betting window in February, things have improved somewhat here in March, but they are still only 6-6 ATS w/ four outright losses.
One thing Golden State has not had much trouble doing the last few years is beating Minnesota. They are 28-6 SU against the T'wolves, including 13-3 here in Minnesota. They've already beaten them three times this year w/ all of those wins coming by at least eight points. The most recent was 10 days ago here at the Target Center by a score of 117-107. The spread for that game was six points, so there's been a sizable adjustment here and I'm not sure that's warranted. Minnesota might be eliminated from playoff contention, but it's not as if they're a bad team. It's been a rough stretch lately, but they're still 23-12 SU at home and have Karl Anthony Towns on the roster. Towns has averaged 23.3 points and 14.3 rebounds against the Warriors this season.
One might look at Boogie Cousins being in the lineup tonight for Golden State as a net positive. After all, the Warriors have been able to comfortably defeat the T'wolves the last two times w/o Cousins on the floor. But Cousins' presence has seemingly had a NEGATIVE effect on Golden State, particularly on offense. With Cousins on the court, the Dubs are averaging about five points less per 100 possessions. Since the All-Star Break - a stretch which has seen Golden State go just 10-7 SU - Cousins is the only one of the six key players to have a negative +/-. So Golden State might actually be in WORSE shape tonight. T'wolves get the cash. 10* Minnesota
|03-29-19||Auburn v. North Carolina UNDER 165||Top||97-80||Loss||-110||27 h 10 m||Show|
8* Under Auburn/North Carolina (7:29 ET): Auburn seems like a real "trendy" dog here coming off the beatdown of Kansas. I played the Tigers in that 2nd round matchup, citing that they'd been priced as a top 15 team most of the year, but were a value in that spot. Sure enough, they came through. But here I think they're priced appropriately against top seeded North Carolina. The total has moved pretty significantly though, to the point that I now see value on the Under. Everyone's expecting a shootout here and because of that we're able to exploit a high number. Take the Under.
So Auburn has now won 10 straight. Most of the wins have been close games, but the one over Kansas was not as the Tigers jumped out to a huge early lead (51-25 at half!) and coasted from there. I seriously doubt they'll be able to shoot that well again (were 52.5% for the game), especially from three-point range (were 13 of 30). For the season, Auburn shot only 43.1% away from home. North Carolina has held its last five opponents to a 40.1 FG%. That includes TWO games vs. Duke! The Tar Heels rank 11th in the country in defensive efficiency.
Of the 16 teams remaining, Auburn actually has the second lowest defensive efficiency rating (only slightly ahead of LSU). So it will be a challenge keeping UNC's offense in check. Roy Williams' team averages 86.0 PPG, third most in the country. But they too shot the ball really well, especially from behind the three-point line, in their last game. Not sure they'll be able to match those percentages, even though Washington is a superior defensive team compared to Auburn. The Under is 5-0 in North Carolina's last five NCAA Tournament games and also 5-0 the last five times they've been coming off a SU win by 20+ points. 8* Under Auburn/North Carolina
|03-28-19||Oregon v. Virginia -8||Top||49-53||Loss||-110||76 h 17 m||Show|
10* Virginia (9:59 ET): Given the way this Tournament has gone ("the chalk has walked!"), the idea that Oregon could somehow win here seems a little far-fetched. Admittedly, the Ducks are as hot as any team in the country right as they come into the Sweet 16 on a 10-game win streak, both SU and ATS. But Virginia has been one of the best teams in the country all season. They still don't get enough credit because they lost in the first round last year to a 16-seed. But that's fueling them this year and after a bad 1st half in the 1st round, the Cavailiers have looked completely dominant. I'm laying the points here in what is my top play for the entire Sweet 16.
For the first half against Gardner-Webb, there had to be a sense of dread in Charlottesville. Virginia was down six going into the break and it looked like UMBC all over again. But this time the Hoos put together a vintage second half performance, holding Gardner-Webb to just 20 points and Virginia won comfortably (by 15). Then, in the second round, they faced an Oklahoma team that had turned in one of the Tournament's best 1st round performances (95-72 win over Ole Miss). Virginia held the Sooners to just 51 points. In terms of scoring defense, no team in the country is better than Virginia as they allow only 55.0 PPG.
Historically, the matchup of a #1 vs. #12 seed in the Sweet 16 has gone the way you'd think. Top seeds have absolutely dominated, going a perfect 19-0 SU head to head. None have been closer than seven points. Top seeds are also 9-3 ATS the previous 12 matchups with an average margin of victory of 16.8 PPG. All 12 won by at least eight points. Overall, #1 seeds are 14-1 SU, 12-2-1 ATS in the Sweet 16 since 2014. The odds are not in Oregon's favor here and I expect Virginia's defensive prowess to be on full display in this one as they roll onto the Elite 8 w/ a third straight double digit victory. 10* Virginia
|03-28-19||Purdue +1.5 v. Tennessee||Top||99-94||Win||100||73 h 12 m||Show|
8* Purdue (7:29 ET): I think Purdue is the better team here. Granted Matt Painter's team has not done well in the past vs. top three seeds in this Tournament, especially in this round. His Boilermakers are 0 for their last 7 against the spread when taking on a top three seed including losses by a combined 45 pts the L2 years in the Sweet 16. But Tennessee HC Rick Barnes is a big money burner in this event himself, going 1-9-1 ATS his L11 NCAA Tournament games, including 0-2 this year. Through the first two rounds, I don't think there's any denying that Purdue has looked better than Tennessee.
Now, for a half, the Vols looked unstoppable against Iowa. They were up as much as 25 on Sunday. But then came the second half. They blew the entire lead and needed OT just to advance. As an Iowa bettor, I was pretty grateful, as the Hawkeyes ended up losing by only six as 8.5-point dogs. It was only a seven-point win for Tennessee in the 1st round against Colgate, whom they allowed to hit 15 three-pointers. In my analysis for the Iowa game, I mentioned that defending the three-point line has been an issue all season for the Vols. Opponents are hitting 38.4% of their 3-pt attempts against them outside of Knoxville. Iowa was even below that percentage (w/ only seven makes), so in that regard Tennessee was actually a bit lucky.
There's been no luck needed for the way Purdue handled Old Dominion and Villanova in the first two rounds of this Tournament. They dominated both, winning by 13 and 26 respectively. The showing against 'Nova, the defending National Champs, was obviously the more impressive of the two. The game was never in doubt as the Boilermakers took a 43-24 lead into halftime. The shooting percentages they've allowed in two games are pretty ridiculous. ODU shot 26.9% while Nova was at 34.5%. On offense, Carsen Edwards was ridiculous w/ a 42-point game against Nova, including nine made threes. Similar three-point shooting from the Boilermakers here is what I expect. Look for them to finally clear that Sweet 16 "hurdle." 8* Purdue
|03-28-19||Purdue v. Tennessee UNDER 146.5||Top||99-94||Loss||-109||73 h 12 m||Show|
8* Under Purdue/Tennessee (7:29 ET): While Tennessee's issues do mainly reside at the defensive end, the bottom line is their game vs. Iowa would have stayed Under if not for OT. Instead, the extra five minutes ensured the Vols' sixth straight Over, a streak which dates back to the end of the regular season. Here they are matched up against a Purdue team that has held its first two Tournament opponents to field goal percentages of 26.9 (Old Dominion) and 34.5 (Villanova). The Boilermakers probably won't shoot as well here as they did against 'Nova (though I still have them winning!), thus I'm looking Under.
Though the field goal percentage allowed against Villanova was higher than it was in the first round matchup w/ ODU, Purdue's defensive effort was probably more impressive in the second game. Villanova is a team that came in ranked 16th in the country in offensive efficiency. Yet the Wildcats could do nothing offensively against the Boilermakers as they made only 20 shots on just 58 attempts. Now Tennessee is obviously a better team than Villanova, but the Vols did just get held to only 22 points in the second half by an Iowa team that is not good defensively. Granted, that came after a big 1st half. But the Vols aren't likely to have a half that prolific again.
If there is one saving grace for Tennessee in this game, it's that Purdue is likely to have an offensive dropoff themselves from the last round. They absolutely torched Villanova to the tune of 87 points on 53.1% shooting, led by Carsen Edwards' 42 points and nine made threes. Edwards had been struggling w/ his three-point shot prior to that game, so he'll definitely have a decrease in production here (even if his teammates pick him up some). Bottom line is Purdue is going to win here, but they won't score anywhere close to as many as they did in the last game. 8* Under Purdue/Tennessee
|03-28-19||Florida State +7.5 v. Gonzaga||Top||58-72||Loss||-109||73 h 53 m||Show|
8* Florida State (7:09 ET): This is a matchup I'd hoped for in the Sweet 16 when the brackets were first released. Florida State has a higher defensive efficiency rating (key metric!) than Gonzaga and should easily be able to stay within this number, if not pull the outright upset. One could point to the fact the Seminoles have only had to play a 13 (Vermont) and 12 seed (Murray State) to get here, but the Zags' path of Farleigh Dickinson (16-seed playing for a second time in three days) and Baylor was hardly a "murderer's row" either. Also, Florida State beat Gonzaga in LY's Sweet 16 (as a lower seed), 75-60 as six-point underdogs.
Now I did play against the 'Noles in Round 1. But they were laying a decent number to an experienced Vermont team. For three-quarters of the game, it was neck & neck before FSU pulled away late (but still did not cover). Their Round 2 performance was much more impressive though as they destroyed Ja Morant and Murray State, 90-62 as only four-point chalk. They held the Racers to 32.8% shooting as a team and it was a blowout going into halftime. FSU has now won 16 of its last 18 games, the only two losses coming to Duke and North Carolina.
Both teams are better in 2019 than they were in 2018. Gonzaga's offensive numbers are off the charts this season, but like I said earlier - Florida State is the better team defensively here. The Seminoles have the kind of size that Gonzaga normally does not have to deal w/ in the West Coast Conference or even so far in this Tournament (Baylor is an undersized team). Yes, the 'Noles will be w/o Phil Cofer here (father passed away), but they were w/o him against Murray State as well. I think they honor their teammate w/ another strong performance here. Last year, they held the Zags to 33.9% overall shooting and 25.0% from three-point range. Under HC Leonard Hamilton, the Seminoles are 7-1 ATS w/ five outright wins as a NCAA Tournament underdog. 8* Florida State
|03-27-19||Wizards v. Suns +2||Top||124-121||Loss||-109||13 h 49 m||Show|
8* Phoenix (10:05 ET): This would be the rare instance of the Suns going into a game believing they can win. This team has been buried at the bottom of the Western Conference all season and they are on a four-game losing streak. Now 17-58 SU overall, the Suns are simply playing out the string. But that's also the case w/ Washington, who has now lost five in a row and is at the disadvantage of having played last night (lost to the Lakers, 124-106). The Wizards are an absolutely terrible road team (9-29 SU), so them being favored here makes for an easy target. Take the points.
I needed four more points from the Wizards & Lakers last night having had the Over. Unfortunately, the Wiz scored just six points over the game's final five minutes. Of course, by then, their chances of winning the game were long gone. The Lakers outscored them in every quarter and the Wiz's playoff chances are now all but dead. Their play on the road has a lot to do w/ this disappointing season as they've been outscored by about eight points per game. Going back further, they are just 16-35 ATS their L51 road games. The fact they are just 3-7 SU & ATS as a road favorite this season should be enough to make anyone not want to lay the points here, no matter how short the line is.
While Phoenix was beaten badly in its last game (lost 125-92 to Utah), don't blame Devin Booker, who went for 59 points. His teammates were not good, however, making just 12 of 42 shots (!) including 2 of 15 from three-point range. (Jimmer Fredette was atrocious.) But this is a game the Suns can win. It's the start of a five-game home stand, which has some other winnable games as well. While it's unlikely they avoid another 60+ loss season, I look for the Suns to come through here in a revenge spot for a triple OT loss in Washington back in December. 8* Phoenix
|03-27-19||Colorado +5.5 v. Texas||Top||55-68||Loss||-104||12 h 12 m||Show|
10* Colorado (9:05 ET): Both teams are obviously 2-0 here in the NIT, but while Colorado has covered both of its games (albeit barely), Texas is 0-2 ATS in theirs. The Buffs have won seven of eight overall, the only loss coming to top seed Washington in the Pac 12 Tournament. The Longhorns have now failed to cover five in a row dating back to the end of the regular season and are just 3-5 SU the L8 games. I realize this game is in Austin, but Colorado looks like the much better team and I'll gladly take the points here.
Colorado really dominated its second round NIT game against Norfolk State as they led by 20 at the half and coasted from there. They were actually pretty fortunate to cover the large spread (-14) as Norfolk State missed 11 of 21 free throws in a 16-point loss. But now the Buffaloes are back to being underdogs, a role they have actually not been in very much lately. Playing w/o rest in the Pac 12 Tournament, they did "upset" Oregon State as 2.5-point pups. Other than that, Washington is the only team they've been a dog against in the last month.
Honestly, it may be more important that Texas is a favorite than Colorado being the underdog. The Longhorns have been huge money burners as chalk this season, going 7-15 ATS in that role w/ eight outright losses. Their two wins in this Tournament have both been by six points or less and by just eight points total. They are just 18-16 SU on the season, by the way. The 1st round game against South Dakota State saw the 'Horns make 15 three-pointers (unlikely to be repeated here) and the game against Xavier went to OT. Better team is getting points. 10* Colorado
|03-26-19||Wizards v. Lakers OVER 232.5||Top||106-124||Loss||-113||15 h 20 m||Show|
8* Over Wizards/Lakers (10:35 ET): This game is on Unlike the other two games in this package, I expect plenty of points to be scored tonight in the Staples Center where the Lakers host the Wizards. Both teams are simply looking to finish up very disappointing seasons. The Wizards were a playoff team last year (finished 8th), but got off to a lousy start this season (2-9 first 11 games) and recent play has been just as ugly (lost 7 of 10). Meanwhile, no team has been more disappointing than the Lakers, who will miss the playoffs despite having LeBron James. Go w/ the Over here as defense should be optional in this matchup.
James did his best w/ what he had this year. He's averaging 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game (really good numbers!), but he missed significant time in the middle of the season (17 games w/ a groin) and the roster around him wasn't all it was cracked up to be. James did just post his 81st career triple double the other night (29-11-11) in a 111-106 victory over Sacramento. It was just the 2nd SU win for the Lakers in the last 12 games and just the 2nd ATS win in the last 15 games. No team has been worse to bet on this year as LA's YTD ATS record is now 27-44-2. However, I do expect them to score a lot tonight against a Wizards team that's allowing a putrid 119.2 PPG on the road this season.
Washington comes in off a home loss to Miami, which all but sealed their fate as a non-playoff team. They now trail the 8th place Heat by 6.5 games for the final spot. Because of the poor defense, the Wiz have been the league's top Over team this year (60.8% of games), going 45-29 overall. They've allowed 113 or more points in six straight games and four of their last five opponents have shot 50% or better from the field. The Over is 10-2 their last 12 road games. I look for this to be a wild game w/ little defense being played. 8* Over Wizards/Lakers
|03-26-19||Clippers v. Wolves UNDER 230.5||Top||122-111||Loss||-109||13 h 49 m||Show|
8* Under Clippers/T'wolves (8:05 ET): The Clippers have surged up the Western Conference standings and are now tied for fifth, thanks to a five-game win streak (longest active in the West). Tonight, they're a short favorite in Minnesota and while all signs point to victory, I think the Clips may have more of an issue scoring than the oddsmakers realize. Actually, they very well may hit their season average of 114.7 points per game, but that still likely won't be enough to send this game over what is a very high total. Take the Under.
Minnesota just turned in one of their better defensive performances in awhile, holding Memphis to 99 points on Saturday. Now that was against the league's lowest scoring team, but the Under is now 5-0 in the T'wolves previous five contests. A big part of that is also they haven't been scoring as much as per usual. They've averaged only 105.4 PPG, which is well down from their season average. One positive is that the T'wolves do consistently play better defense here at home compared to the road. They allow "just" 109.4 PPG at home as opposed to 116.8 PPG on the road. That's certainly significant as the team gets ready to play its next four games here at the Target Center.
The Clippers did just score 124 points on Sunday, but that was against the sorry Knicks. It's been a fairly favorable stretch that has seen the team win 10 of its last 11 games overall. Unfortunately, they enter this game a little short-handed as the underrated Landry Shamet is likely out due to an ankle injury suffered on Sunday. Shamet, who had started 16 games, had been averaging 11.7 PPG since coming over in a trade w/ Philadelphia. This total just screams "too high" to me as I don't see a repeat of last month's meeting (here in the Twin Cities), a 130-120 T'wolves win that saw both teams shoot better than 51%. 8* Under Clippers/T'wolves
|03-26-19||Magic v. Heat UNDER 205||Top||104-99||Win||100||12 h 15 m||Show|
8* Under Magic/Heat (7:35 ET): First off, props to Orlando for delivering me a huge win last night. They were a signature *10* Ultimate Power release and came through w/ "flying colors," defeating Philadelphia 119-98 as small home dog. Tonight's game in Miami was already set to be an important battle, but the Magic's win last night sets up a scenario where the winner here will be in the "coveted" eighth position in the Eastern Conference (i.e the difference between making the playoffs and NOT making the playoffs). I expect a hard-fought battle here and an Under.
As stated in yday's analysis, Orlando has played sensational defense as of late. They are #1 in the league in defensive efficiency since the break and further strengthened those numbers last night by holding the Sixers under 100 pts. The Magic really dominated in the 2nd half, holding Philadelphia to just 38 points and there was a 12-minute stretch where the Sixers did not make a single shot! With the exception of an overtime win against Memphis last week, Orlando has held every other opponent to 106 points or less in their last eight games. In four of the last five games, they've held the opponent under 100 points! The Under is 8-2 their last 10 games.
What's curious about Miami is they have a worse record at home than on the road. Numbers are basically identical (in terms of points scored vs. allowed), but they're only 17-20 SU here on South Beach as opposed to 19-17 SU on the road. Their last game was Saturday when they beat the Wizards 113-108, in D.C. That came on the heels of a disastrous showing the night prior in Milwaukee where they were held to only 87 points. In fact, the Heat had been held below 100 in three of five games before "breaking out" against the Wizards. Both teams shot better than 50% in their last game, something I don't see happening here. Orlando only averages 103.8 PPG on the road as their FG% is way down compared to at home. 8* Under Magic/Heat
|03-26-19||Charleston Southern v. Hampton OVER 157||Top||67-73||Loss||-109||12 h 39 m||Show|
10* Over Charleston Southern/Hampton (7:00 ET): This is an interesting matchup as the teams are conference rivals, playing in a postseason tournament. It's not a longstanding rivalry, mind you. Hampton just joined the Big South last year after leaving the MEAC. The first meeting in nearly 20 years took place back in January w/ Hampton winning 92-84 as four-point road dogs. As you can see from that final score, it was a high-scoring game, one where the Over cashed by 30 points. The total is significantly higher (by about 10 pts!) for this rematch in the CIT, but I still don't think it's nearly high enough. Take the Over.
Hampton is one of the highest scoring teams in the entire country. They play at a pretty fast place (44th in adjusted tempo) and average 81.7 points per game. They've been either right at or slightly below that season average the last three games. But expecting an increase in scoring tonight does seem logical. The Pirates' scoring average jumps to a whopping 86.4 PPG at home where they are shooting 37.3% from three-point range. They scored 81 here in their opening round game of the CIT, beating St. Francis (NY) by nine. While that game just managed to sneak Under, the Over is still 18-9 in all Hampton games this season.
Charleston Southern has seen the Under cash in seven straight games, so things are "due" to swing the other way. They shot better than 50% from the floor in a 68-66 win over Florida Atlantic in opening round CIT action while also holding the Owls to just 36.2%. Despite those disparate overall shooting percentages, the game remained close because Charleston Southern could not make a three (4 of 23) while FAU was 11 of 30 from behind the arc. Charleston Southern also hardly got to the free throw line, taking only six attempts from there the entire game! I would expect the Buccaneers three-point and free throw shooting to increase tonight. At the same time, they let Hampton shoot 55% overall and 13 of 25 from 3-pt range in the regular season matchup. So I expect their defensive numbers won't be as good as the last game either. 10* Over Charleston Southern/Hampton
|03-25-19||Longwood v. DePaul -15||Top||89-97||Loss||-107||11 h 13 m||Show|
8* DePaul (8:00 ET): Longwood is outclassed here as they face a team from the Big East Conference. DePaul may not be Villanova, but they are certainly head and shoulders above their opponents in this one. Longwood pulled a real stunner in their first CBI game, beating Southern Miss 90-68 as 9.5-point home dogs. I'm not entirely sure how or why Longwood ended up w/ the home court advantage for that game, given Southern Miss was a 20-win team in the regular season. Longwood has a losing record (16-17 SU overall) and went just 5-11 in the Big South.
DePaul also delivered an impressive performance in 1st round CBI action by hanging 100 pts on Central Michigan. They gave up 86, but it hardly mattered as the Blue Demons couldn't miss and hit the century mark for the THIRD time this season and second in four games. We should expect them to score a ton again this evening while you probably can't say the same for Longwood. The Lancers did make 18 three-pointers and shoot 52.6% overall against Southern Miss, but they are averaging a scant 64.8 PPG away from home this season. That's a huge drop (double digits) from what they average at home.
Longwood clearly "wanted it more" than Southern Miss as they had way more energy at the start of the game. They raced out to a 25-13 lead and never looked back. A similar start is unlikely tonight. I know this seems like a lot of points to lay in a postseason tournament, but Longwood is probably the worst team still playing college basketball at this point. The Lancers had lost four in a row before beating Southern Miss in what I'll call a "gifted home game." DePaul can score w/ the best of 'em and should have no problems here. 8* DePaul