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Tuesday's Playoff Tips
Editor’s Note: Brian Edwards cashed another guaranteed play last night with the 'over' in Game 1 of the Boston-Philadelphia series. Brian's guaranteed plays are on a 19-7 run (73.1%, +11.48 Units) since March 20, so don't miss another winner tonight with his pay-if-it wins-only selection!

Eastern Conference – Game 1
Cleveland at Toronto (TNT, 8:05 p.m. ET)

2017-18 Regular Season (Cavaliers 2-1)
Apr. 3 Cavaliers (-1.5) vs. Raptors 112-106 (Under 223)
Mar. 21 Cavaliers (+1.5) vs. Raptors 132-129 (Over 227)
Jan. 11 Raptors (+2.5) vs. Cavaliers 133-99 (Over 221.5)

-- This Eastern Conference semifinals get started tonight with Game 1 at Air Canada Centre. As of early this morning, most betting shops had Toronto (63-25 straight up, 47-40-1 against the spread) installed as a 6.5-point home favorite with a total of 215. The Cavaliers were +220 on the money line (risk $100 to win $220).

-- Cleveland (54-35 SU, 33-55-1 ATS) has compiled a 22-22 SU record and a 20-24 ATS mark in its road assignments this season. The Cavaliers advanced past Indiana in the opening round, but they needed to go the seven-game distance to do so. For his team to survive the Pacers, franchise icon LeBron James had to muster a Herculean effort on a game-by-game basis that has many observers wondering how long he can carry this team in these playoffs. In other words, James had minimal help and will need much more assistance for his squad to make the East finals.

-- The oddsmakers are clearly in line with that notion. This is evidenced by the series price, which has the top-seeded Raptors as -185 favorites. The Cavs are +160 underdogs (risk $100 to win $160).

-- James has led his team to the NBA Finals in seven straight seasons. That’s four times he took the Heat there, while he’s had the Cavs battling for the O’Brien Trophy against Golden State in each of the last three campaigns. James has garnered three NBA Finals MVP Trophies during his storied career.

-- ‘King’ James delivered one of the finer performances of his storied career to close out Indiana. He became the first player in NBA history to make the first seven field-goal attempts in a Game 7. James produced 45 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals in Sunday’s 105-101 victory. The Pacers covered the spread as 5.5-point underdogs, while the 206 combined points slipped ‘over’ the 200.5-point total in the final minutes. Gamblers on the ‘under’ had plenty of life down the stretch with the combined score at 190 with 1:59 remaining. However, Thaddeus Young’s tip-in with 17.1 seconds remaining trimmed the deficit to 103-98 and sent ‘over’ backers to the window to collect.

-- Young’s tip shot got Indiana ahead of the number by one-half point. Bettors on the Pacers have George Hill and Victor Oladipo to thank for the spread cover. After Young’s bucket narrowed the gap to five, former Pacer George Hill was fouled. He made 1-of-2 free throws before Oladipo missed a deep trey. Hill was then fouled again with the Cavs up six. Once again, Hill made merely one of a pair of FTs with 6.5 ticks left. Trailing by seven, Oladipo drained a 27-footer with 0.6 seconds left to provide Indiana backers with the backdoor cover.

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-- Whether he was milking the situation a bit to add to his legend in vintage Kobe-like fashion (the examples of Kobe doing this could be the basis of a 500-page novel!) might be a fair question but whatever the case, James complained of leg cramps and headed back to the locker room late in the third quarter. Upon his return, he could be seen slamming Gatorade and eating orange slices on the bench. James had played every one of the first 35 minutes, scoring 38 of his team’s 75 points. His teammates were 12-of-49 from the field at that time. The Pacers had erased a 14-point deficit with a 20-5 run to briefly to take the lead. Things were looking dire for the Cavs. Hill had missed Games 4, 5 and 6 with back spasms, but head coach Tyronn Lue inserted him into the game in the third quarter. He started making plays at both ends of the court and Kevin Love stepped up to make three baskets, including a pair of 3-pointers. Lue had surprisingly started Tristan Thompson, who had played sparingly throughout the series. It was the 37th different starting combination used by Lue this year and the fourth different one in the Indiana series. Thompson responded by grabbing seven rebounds in the first quarter alone and finished with 15 points and 10 boards. Love added 14 points and six boards, knocking 4-of-8 launches from 3-point land. Hill and J.R. Smith scored 11 points apiece. Hill logged only 19 minutes of playing time, but he had six rebounds, one blocked shot and three assists compared to just one turnover. He made 9-of-11 FTs despite missing two in the last minute that hurt Cleveland backers.

-- How sensational was James in the seven games against Indiana? He averaged 34.4 points, 10.0 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocked shots per game. James shot at a 55.3 percent clip from the field and had a 54/26 assist-to-turnover ratio.

-- Toronto has posted a 37-7 SU record and a 24-19-1 ATS mark in its home games this season.

-- Toronto got all it wanted in the first round from the Wizards, needing six games to advance to the East semifinals. The Raptors trailed the Wizards 78-73 going into the final stanza of Game 6, only to outscore the home team 29-14 the rest of the way to collect a 102-92 victory as two-point road ‘chalk.’ Kyle Lowry led the way with 24 points, six rebounds, one steal and six assists compared to only two turnovers. Lowry made 9-of-15 FGAs and 3-of-7 from long distance. DeMar DeRozan had 16 points and four assists without committing a turnover. Jonas Valanciunas finished with 14 points, 12 boards and a pair of blocked shots, while Pascal Siakam made a major splash with 11 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots. Playing 22 minutes in a reserve role, Siakam hit 5-of-6 FGAs. The Raptors won the battle of the boards by a 47-42 margin and had an outstanding 18/6 assist-to-turnover ratio in the close-out win.

-- Cleveland won two of three head-to-head meetings with Toronto during the regular season. However, both of those wins (both SU and ATS) came at home by scores of 132-129 and 112-106. The only meeting in Toronto was a blowout in the form of a 133-99 shellacking. The Raptors won outright by a 34-point margin as 2.5-point home underdogs on Jan. 11. Fred VanVleet led seven Toronto players in double figures with 22 points, four rebounds, one steal and four assists without a turnover. The Wichita St. product hit 8-of-11 FGAs and 6-of-8 attempts from downtown. Valanciunas added 15 points and 18 rebounds for the winners, while James scored a game-high 26 points.

-- VanVleet missed four of the first five games of the Washington series recovering from a shoulder injury. He returned for Game 6 and tallied five points, four rebounds and four assists compared to only one turnover in 18-plus minutes of playing time.

-- Cleveland has been an underdog of six points or more just once this season, going 0-1 ATS. On the flip side, the Raptors are 27-22 ATS when favored by six points or more.

-- Toronto has won seven home games in a row and is 5-0-1 ATS in its past six home contests.

-- When these teams met in the East semifinals last year, Cleveland dealt out broom treatment in a 4-0 series sweep. The Cavs, who are 6-1 SU and 5-1-1 ATS in last seven games of this rivalry, won by scores of 115-94 and 109-102 in Games 3 and 4 played at Toronto.

-- VegasInsider.com’s Chris David thinks we’re in store for a long series that’ll eventually go the Raptors’ way. David said, “I’m predicting a Toronto win in seven games and one key factor will be keeping LeBron off the free-throw line, especially after watching him shoot an eye-opening 63-of-77 from the stripe against the Pacers.” David continued, “Backing Toronto as a home favorite hasn’t been a great investment. Since the team snapped its playoff drought in 2014, they’ve gone 13-8 SU and 7-13-1 ATS in that role at the Air Canada Centre. However, I’m thinking Toronto has turned a corner here recently. The Raptors have already exercised two demons in this year’s playoffs, the Game 1 losing skid and never holding a 2-0 lead in a series. They also took Game 6 at Washington, who had won eight straight playoff games in D.C. before that outcome. While the overall numbers aren’t great in Canada when laying points, Toronto has won five straight and eight of its last nine as a home favorite and a 6-3 ATS mark is profitable in my book.”

-- The ‘over’ went 2-1 in three regular-season encounters between these clubs.

-- The ‘under’ has cashed at a 21-8 clip in Cleveland’s past 29 games at Toronto.

-- The ‘over’ 44-43-1 overall for the Raptors, but the ‘under’ is 22-21-1 in their home outings. Totals were an overall wash (3-3) for Toronto in the Washington series, with the ‘over’ going 2-1 in its three home games.

-- The ‘under’ is 46-41-2 overall for the Cavs, 22-22 in their road assignments. They had seen the ‘under’ cash in six straight games until the ‘over’ appeared in Games 6 and 7 against the Pacers.

Western Conference – Game 2
New Orleans at Golden State (TNT, 10:35 p.m. ET)

-- Golden State (63-25 SU, 38-49 ATS) made quick and easy work of New Orleans in Saturday’s Game 1 at Oracle Arena. Playing without Steph Curry, the Warriors outscored the Pelicans 41-21 in the second quarter, 27-19 in the third and coasted to a 123-101 triumph as 7.5-point home favorites. The 224 combined points inched ‘over’ the 223.5-point total. Alvin Gentry’s team got no closer than 19 in the second half. Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant were the catalysts. Thompson tallied 27 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots, while Durant went for 26 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and a pair of blocks. Draymond Green stuffed the stat sheet with a triple-double that included 16 points, 15 boards, 11 assists, three steals and two rejections. Andre Iguodala (12), Quinn Cook (11) and Shaun Livington (10) were also in double figures for the winners.

-- Anthony Davis led New Orleans with 21 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in Game 1. Jordan Crawford scored 14 points on 6-of-7 FGAs in merely eight minutes of playing time off the bench. E’Twaun Moore had 15 points thanks to 7-of-11 shooting from the field, but Jrue Holiday made only 4-of-14 FGAs. Holiday, who was sensational in a first-round sweep of Portland, had 11 points, three rebounds and four assists without a turnover. Rajon Rondo had nine points, eight rebounds, one steal, one block and 11 assists compared to just two turnovers. Darius Miller had nine points, three boards, one steal and six assists compared to only one turnover. -- As of early this morning, most spots had Golden St. listed as an 11-point ‘chalk’ for tonight’s Game 2. The total was 227 points, while the Pelicans were +600 on the money line (risk $100 to win $600).

-- After missing more than a month of games with a knee injury, Curry is ‘probable’ to make his postseason debut tonight. Curry told reporters he could’ve played in Game 1, but the Warriors’ medical staff thought it best to rest him for one more game. The Davidson University product has missed 16 games in a row and 22 of the past 23. Curry has played only one game since March 8. He averaged 26.4 points, 6.1 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game in 51 regular-season games. Steve Kerr isn’t planning on limiting Curry’s minutes.

-- Gentry offered this assessment of his team’s disappointing Game 1 performance: “It’s one game. At the end of the day, it’s one game, and you know, we’ve been playing great basketball, and I’m not so sure if the week off helped us, really. I thought we lost a little bit of our rhythm.”

-- Kerr’s team is 33-12 SU and 19-25 ATS at home this year. The Warriors have won 13 consecutive home playoff games since losing Game 7 to the Cavs two seasons ago.

-- New Orleans (52-35 SU, 49-37-1 ATS) has produced a 26-18 SU record and a 28-16 ATS ledger on the road this season.

-- The Pelicans have been double-digit underdogs twice this year, going 1-1 ATS. Meanwhile, the Warriors are 18-20 ATS as double-digit ‘chalk.’

-- For the updated series price at Sportsbook.ag, the Warriors are -2750 favorites. The Pelicans are +1300 underdogs (risk $100 to win $1,300).

-- VI’s David offered this assessment (and lean towards New Orleans) of the Pelicans-Warriors heading into tonight’s Game 2: “After watching Golden State run New Orleans in Game 1, I’m not surprised the number has reached double figures and that’s been a common theme this season and in the previous playoffs as well. As a home favorite of 10-plus points this season, the Warriors went 25-5 SU but just 12-17-1 ATS. And in the last four postseasons, Golden State has gone 14-1 as a double-digit home favorite yet they burned bettors again with a 5-10 record versus the number. While the Warriors may seem like the obvious lean in Game 2, laying an inflated number doesn’t appear to be the logical wager.”

-- The ‘over’ is 5-1 in the past six head-to-head meetings between these clubs.

-- The ‘over’ is 50-37 overall for the Pelicans, but they’ve seen the ‘under’ go 23-21 in their road assignments. New Orleans has seen the ‘over’ hit in three straight games and seven of its past 10.

-- The ‘under’ is 45-42-1 overall for the Warriors, 22-21-1 in their home contests.

-- TNT will have the telecast at 10:35 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- Why have the Knicks not hired Marc Jackson yet?! He’s the answer for the winning-starved franchise. He’s a native New Yorker and had some of his best years while playing for the Knicks. Jackson went to St. John’s and has the moxy and everything else needed to excite the fan base and handle the media. The only acceptable hire ahead of Jackson would be Jeff Van Gundy.

-- Boston improved to 9-0 ATS with eight outright wins in nine games as a home underdog this year with last night’s 117-101 over Philadelphia. The Celtics won outright as five-point ‘dogs and hooked up money-line supporters with a +170 return. Nevertheless, the 76ers are still -195 favorites to win the series, leaving the Celtics as +167 ‘dogs.

-- With a 1-0 series lead, Boston has been made a 3.5-point home underdog to the 76ers for Thursday’s Game 2 in Beantown. The total is 207 points. Boston’s Jaylen Brown has been upgraded to ‘probable’ after missing Game 1.

-- For Wednesday’s Game 2 on TNT at 8:05 p.m. Eastern, Houston has been made an 11-point ‘chalk’ vs. Utah. The total is 204.5 points. The Rockets won Game 1 in blowout fashion. Ricky Rubio will be ‘out’ again for Game 2 with a hamstring injury.

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

  
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