Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM

Friday's Playoff Tips

Playoff Results | Playoff Projections

Eastern Conference First Round – Game 3 – Series tied 1-1
Cleveland at Indiana (ESPN, 7:05 p.m. ET)

LeBron James and the Cavaliers avenged their Game 1 loss on Wednesday with a 100-97 win over Indiana in Game 2. James scored the first 16 points and had 29 at halftime before finishing with a game-high 46 in what many believed to be a must-win game for Cleveland. The Pacers managed to earn the cover as eight-point underdogs, while the ‘under’ (212 ½) was never in doubt.

The series heads back to Indiana tied at 1-1 and despite getting even, it seems as if a lot of pundits believe Cleveland is in for a dogfight.

Thanks to LeBron’s outburst, the Cavaliers came out on fire and led 33-18 after the first quarter but that lead was trimmed to 12 points at halftime (58-46) and seven (74-67) entering the final 12 minutes. If you watched the game, you're well aware that the Cavs were fortunate that the Indiana couldn’t connect from distance (6-of-22) and a lot of those shots were wide-open looks too.

Cleveland held advantages in both free throws made (15-9) and 3-pointers (11-6) in Game 2 and those numbers clearly turned out to be the difference and some would argue that the outcome (3) should’ve been larger for the Cavs.

Oddsmakers have adjusted the series price and Cleveland (-285) remains favored over Indiana (+230) but the odds are not nearly close to the opening numbers (Cavs -650, Pacers +480) before the series began.

For Game 3, Indiana opened as a two-point home favorite but the early money has come in on Cleveland and most betting shops are holding the Pacers -1 as of Thursday evening. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the line close as a pick ‘em and one global had the Cavs (-1) slightly favored. NBA expert Kevin Rogers provided numbers on Cleveland as a playoff underdog in LeBron’s second go-round with the franchise.

He said, “Cleveland is listed as a road underdog against an Eastern Conference opponent in the playoffs for the first time since the 2015 conference finals against Atlanta. The Cavaliers won both of those games against the Hawks outright, but since LeBron James returned to Cleveland four seasons ago, the Cavs compiled a 6-7-1 ATS record as a road ‘dog in the postseason.”

Make a note that the 10 of the 14 encounters came against Golden State and the fortunate push came in Game 5 of last year’s NBA Finals.

If you take out the three losses to Golden State’s in last year’s finals, the Cavaliers went 7-0 straight up and 6-0-1 against the spread in their seven other road playoff games last season. Two of those wins came in the first round at Indiana but the outcomes were by a combined nine points (119-114, 106-102).

As a road ‘dog this season, the Cavaliers went 8-5 SU and 10-3 ATS.

Indiana was a solid bet at home this season (27-14 SU, 24-17 ATS) and two of those wins came against Cleveland. Rogers also dug up a solid number on the Pacers after they lose. He explained, “The Pacers have done a solid job of rebounding off a loss since late January by going 11-2 in the last 13 games off a defeat.”

The two losses came on the road and Indiana has gone 6-0 at home after a loss in 2018.

The ‘under’ is 2-0 in this series and the books are holding a total of 208 ½ for Game 3, which is a four-point drop from the first two games.

The pace has been slow by NBA standards with both clubs taking less than 80 shots in each of the first two games. Indiana produced the best ‘under’ mark (48-31-3) this season and a lot of those winning tickets came at home (24-15-2). Including this series, the ‘under’ is on a 5-1-1 run between the pair.

The two teams will meet again on Sunday from Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Game 4.

Eastern Conference First Round – Game 3 – Raptors lead 2-0
Toronto at Washington (ESPN2, 8:05 p.m. ET)

The middle game on Friday is arguably the toughest one to handicap and the oddsmakers are expecting a tight affair. Washington opened as a one-point favorite and a couple books are showing -2 less than 24 hours before tip-off.

Even though they lost 114-106 in Game 1 last Saturday, the Wizards were competitive for three quarters but fell apart in the fourth. On Tuesday it was a different story in Game 2 as the Raptors cruised to a 130-119 win as seven-point favorites. Toronto shot 51 percent from the field and took advantage at the free throw stripe by knocking down 27-of-33 freebies. DeMar DeRozan had 37 points for the Raptors and his partner in crime Kyle Lowry finished with 13 points and 12 assists.

The outcome in Game 2 wasn’t surprising to VI’s Rogers. “The Wizards have been a horrible road team to back in the playoffs the last few seasons, but are money in the bank at home. In last season’s playoffs, Washington posted a perfect 6-0 SU record, while covering four times as a favorite at Capital One Arena,” he added.

The success for the Wizards during their recent home playoff run has been all about their defense. The team only allowed 98.1 PPG in those game which helped the ‘under’ go 4-2.

While Washington has been great at home in the postseason, the same can’t be said for Toronto on the road. Since they made a return to the playoffs in 2014, Toronto has gone 5-14 SU and 6- 13 ATS as a visitor and defense has been the key factor. In the five wins, the Raptors allowed 84 PPG while surrendering an eye-opening 108 PPG in the losses.

However, Toronto has won in five of its past six visits to D.C. since getting knocked out in the opening round of the 2015 playoffs by Washington.

If you believe Washington can rally, take note that the Wizards are listed as 10/1 underdogs on the series price.

The series will stay in D.C. for Game 4 on Sunday, which is set for 6:00 p.m. ET.

Eastern Conference First Round – Game 3 – Celtics lead 2-0
Boston at Milwaukee (ESPN, 9:35 p.m. ET)

After capturing Game 1 in overtime, the Celtics wasted no time on Tuesday as they earned a 120-106 wire-to-wire victory over the Bucks in Game 2. Boston opened as a three-point favorite but plenty of money came in on Milwaukee and it closed as a one-point road underdog.

The Celtics posted 60 points in both halves and that offensive effort helped the ‘over’ (200) connect midway through the fourth quarter. Jaylen Brown posted a playoff career-high 30 points for the Celtics and Terry Rozier added 23 points.

Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo dropped 35 in Game 1 and finished with 30 in Game 2 but outside of 25 points from Khris Middleton, Milwaukee didn't have anybody else step up on Tuesday.

Surprisingly, the Bucks have shot better from the field in the series (48%, 59%) but they've been hurting themselves with turnovers. They had 15 on Tuesday and that led to 21 points for Boston. Another factor in Game 2 was the bench as Boston's reserves outscored the Bucks 41-25 in Game 2. In the opener, the Celtics barely nipped the Bucks in bench scoring (27-23).

Despite facing a 0-2 deficit, it appears as if the [...]s are still giving Milwaukee a chance to rally for the win especially when you look at the odds on other first round series where a team holds a 2-0 lead. The Celtics were listed as -150 prior to the series and are only -340 heading into Game 3, while the takeback on the Bucks is +275.

For Game 3, Milwaukee opened as a six-point favorite and the number was pushed up to 6 ½ as of Thursday.

For bettors believing that Milwaukee will right the ship at home, make a note that Boston owned the third best road record (28-13 SU, 28-13 ATS) in the regular season. The Celtics did close their schedule with three straight setbacks away from home and one of them did come against the Bucks, a 106-102 loss on Apr. 3. However, Boston had won four of its five previous trips to Milwaukee and it’s also covered seven of its last eight as a visitor in this series.

Milwaukee has played better at home (25-16) this season but it has burned backers at the betting counter with a 12-25-4 mark against the spread, the second worst record in the NBA. More importantly, the Bucks were awful as home favorites in the second-half of the season, going 4-5 SU and 1-9 ATS. As road ‘dogs, the Celtics are only 7-9 but they’ve managed to produce an 11-5 record ATS.

The total for Game 3 is sitting between 202 and 203, which is up a couple points higher from the first two games. The ‘over’ is 2-0 in the series but I believe the ‘under’ could be worth a look in Game 3 based on playoff tendencies we’ve seen from Boston. Since head coach Brad Stevens took over the C’s, the team has watched the ‘under’ go 10-3 in road playoff games and the offense has only averaged 96.3 PPG. Boston has gone 4-9 SU and 8-5 ATS in those 13 contests.

Before you jump on the low side, be aware that Milwaukee is on a 17-2 run to the 'over.'

Game 4 will take place on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. ET from the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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