Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM

Saturday's Early Tips

Western Conference First Round
No. 7 San Antonio at No. 2 Golden State (ABC, 3:05 p.m. ET)

2017-18 Regular Season (Warriors 3-1)
Mar. 19 Spurs (-8) vs. Warriors 89-75 (Under 210)
Mar. 8 Warriors (-11) vs. Spurs 110-107 (Under 223)
Feb. 10 Warriors (-10.5) vs. Spurs 122-105 (Over 219)
Nov. 2 Warriors (-8.5) at Spurs 112-92 (Under 219.5)

The NBA Playoffs begin with a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals as the Warriors and Spurs square off on Saturday afternoon from Oracle Arena. Golden State swept San Antonio 4-0 and advanced to the finals but the entire dynamic of that series changed when Spurs All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard went down with an ankle injury in Game 1, a contest the Spurs led by 23 points.

Fast forward to this season, and Leonard has been dealing with a mysterious quad injury that has kept him out 73 games in the regular season. He’s not expected to play versus the Warriors but sometimes you never know what San Antonio (47-35 SU, 42-38-2 ATS) and head coach Gregg Popovich will do with the lineup.

Golden State (58-24 SU, 34-47-1 ATS) has also been hampered with the injury bug this season and it won’t have All Star Stephen Curry in the first round. Curry has sat out 16 of the final 17 games with an ankle and more recently a knee injury. During this span, the Warriors only went 7-10 and they were pasted 119-79 at Utah in their regular season finale.

What’s more alarming is that they went 2-5 in their final seven home games and they burned bettors with a 1-6 record against the spread. Plus, the two wins came against the Suns and Hawks who just don’t have the firepower to keep up. Against four playoff teams, they gave up an average of 111 points per page and the ‘over’ went 3-1 in those contests.

Will that trend carry over against San Antonio? It’s hard to much stock into the Spurs on the road this season, knowing they went 14-27 SU and 16-24-1 ATS as visitors this season. Winning away games has always been a major staple to San Antonio and the last time they had a losing record (8-33) on the road came in the 1997 season when they finished 20-62.

More importantly, they’ve gone 1-12 in their last 13 road games and they’ve crushed bettors with a 0-7 ATS mark in their last seven. The defense (113.1 PPG) has been a mess during the non-covering streak and that’s helped produce a 5-2 ‘over’ mark.

[...] opened Golden State as an eight-point home favorite for the series opener. The number has held steady and it makes sense since most bettors would have trouble backing either team in Game 1. handicapper Mark Lawrence did have pull up some great numbers that support Golden State. He noted in his “Playoff Trends to Watch” piece.

Defending champions (the Golden State Warriors in this case) are 82-34 SU and 63-48-5 ATS overall in opening round games the next season, including 18-8 SU and 16-9-1 ATS in Game One of Round One the following season.

While the number on the side hasn’t moved, the ‘under’ has received some one-sided action. The total opened 210 and is down to 205 ½ as of Friday evening.

The offensive numbers without Curry down the stretch have declined to 103.8 PPG but as mentioned above, the defense has been suspect. San Antonio is ranked first in defensive scoring (99.8 PPG) and ninth in defensive field goal percentage (45.3%), yet its recent form has shown any glimpses of those numbers.

Including the two playoff losses at the Warriors in last year’s conference finals, San Antonio went 3-5 SU and 4-4 ATS on the road while the ‘over’ was 6-2. Golden State was perfect at home (9-0 SU, 4-4-1 ATS) in the playoffs last season and dating back to the 2014-15 playoffs, the club sits at 29-5 SU and 19-14-1 ATS.

Bettors believing San Antonio can pull off the first round upset can grab odds on the Spurs as high as 9/1 on the series or you can risk Golden State as a healthy -1500 favorite.

Game 2 is set for Monday from Oracle Arena.

Eastern Conference First Round
No. 8 Washington at No. 1 Toronto (ESPN, 5:35 p.m. ET)

2017-18 Regular Season (Series tied 2-2)
Mar. 2 Raptors (-3.5) at Wizards 102-95 (Under 216.5)
Feb. 1 Wizards (-4) vs. Raptors 122-119 (Over 213.5)
Nov. 19 Raptors (-6.5) vs. Wizards 100-91 (Under 208.5)
Nov. 5 Wizards (-6.5) at Raptors 107-96 (Under 213.5)

Saturday’s second NBA Playoff matchup takes us to the Air Canada Centre where the Raptors and Wizards meet in the 1-8 matchup. Toronto (-650) is listed as a heavy favorite to win the series over Washington (+480) and similar to the Golden State-San Antonio series, bettors could have trepidation in playing the opener.

Oddsmakers opened the Raptors as 7 ½-point home favorite and the number is up to -8 as of Friday, while the total has held at 211 for a couple days.

Toronto (59-23 SU, 43-38-1 ATS) produced the second best record in the NBA this season and it was lights out at home, going 34-7 SU and 21-19-1 ATS. However, Toronto struggled in the last few weeks of the regular season with a 7-6 SU record and it was a money burner at the betting counter with a 3-9-1 ATS mark.
Fortunately for the Raptors, they’ll be playing a Washington (43-39 SU, 37-44-1 ATS) squad that has been in worse form. The Wizards closed the season with a 4-9 record and they enter the playoffs with one win in their previous six games. The club has had to deal with injuries all season, including a major setback to All-Star point guard John Wall.

He returned on Apr. 5 and has played limited minutes in four games down the stretch and the team went 2-2 in those games. If Wall is 100 percent, there’s no doubt that Washington can compete and win this series against Toronto, something they did in the 2014-15 season when they swept the Raptors in the first round.

It would be surprising to see a similar outcome knowing that Toronto has greatly improved its defense (No. 7, 103.9 PPG) and the depth off the pine showed up in the stats with the Raptors leading the league in bench scoring (41.8 PPG).

The pressure on Saturday’s opener is clearly on Toronto, who have lost 10 straight Game 1’s and that includes a run 0-6 at home. Raptors All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry is aware of the streak and he addressed it on Friday, "Our Game 1 is our Game 7 tomorrow." Lowry hasn’t had much success in the postseason and his offensive numbers have dropped off in each of the last two years.

Since Toronto snapped its playoff drought and made an appearance in 2014, the team has gone 17-24 in the postseason overall. As home favorites in the playoffs, the Raptors certainly haven’t been a good team (10-7 SU, 4-12-1 ATS) to back at the betting counter.

While Toronto has struggled historically in the playoff favorite role, Washington has been solid when catching points this regular season. As an underdog, the club was 14-15 SU and 18-11 ATS. For whatever reason, they play up to their opponent and their 15 losses to teams below .500 in the regular season is the most among the 16 clubs in this year’s playoffs.

Before you jump on Washington, make a note that the team went 1-6 both SU and ATS as road underdogs in last year’s playoffs. Those losses were clearly attributed to poor defense as the club allowed 116.5 PPG, which helped the ‘over’ go 6-1.

The ‘under’ went 3-1 in the four meetings between the pair this season and is 8-3 in the last 11 in this series. Washington slight leaned to the low side (43-37-2) this season and did see more ‘under’ tickets connect on the road (24-17).

These teams will meet in Game 2 next Tuesday from the Air Canada Centre.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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