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NBA

Apr 24, 2018

Wednesday's Early Tips

Western Conference Tips

Eastern Conference – Game 5 (Series tied 2-2)
Washington at Toronto (NBATV, 7:05 p.m. ET)

The Raptors and Wizards will meet in Game 5 on Wednesday from Air Canada Centre and this series isn’t looking like your typical 1-8 matchup anymore. After watching Toronto take a commanding 2-0 lead at home, the Wizards returned the favor this past weekend and held serve in the nation’s capital with a pair of wins.

In Game 4 on Sunday, Washington evened up the series with a 106-98 victory over Toronto as a 1 ½-point home underdog but the outcome was a tad misleading. At halftime, the Raptors built a 51-40 lead and were in complete control of the game. However, the Wizards exploded for 40 points in the third quarter and then used their defense in the final 12 minutes to lock up the win.

Toronto was held to just 18 points in the fourth quarter and only eight of those came in the final six minutes as Washington closed the game on a 17-8 run. The Raptors shot just 43 percent from the field and they were very hesitant from 3-point land, shooting a season-low 18 shots from distance.

Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 35 points in the loss but his teammate Kyle Lowry only finished with 19 in the loss and his playoff woes are starting to get noticed again. Adding to Lowry’s struggles, Washington’s backcourt tandem of John Wall (27.5 PPG, 14 APG) and Bradley Beal (29.5 PPG) went off in the last two games.

Oddsmakers opened Toronto as a seven-point home favorite for Game 5 and the number hasn’t moved as of Wednesday evening. The Raptors closed as seven-point favorites in Game 1 and -7 ½ in Game 2.

Along with the Rockets, Toronto owns the best home record this season at 36-7.

While the two home wins by the Wizards were impressive, VegasInsider.com NBA expert Kevin Rogers is hesitant to back Washington in Game 5 due to their recent road tendencies in the postseason.

He explained his position, “Washington rebounded from a 2-0 hole to make this series interesting, but the Wizards still need to prove their worth on the road. Dating back to last season’s playoffs, the Wizards own a dreadful 1-8 record both SU and ATS away from Capital One Arena, including six losses by double-digits. The last road victory for the Wizards in the playoffs came at Atlanta in the opening round of the 2017 playoffs in Game 7.”

Toronto’s offense did look pedestrian (103, 98) in D.C. but bettors should be aware that the Raptors haven’t lost three straight games all season, which is pretty remarkable since no other team in the NBA can say the same. Not even Houston!

With that being said, I did some data mining and Toronto has gone 5-0 straight up and 4-1 against the spread after losing back-to-back games in the regular season. Delving into those contests further, the Raptors defense only allowed 87.6 points per game in those victories and that helped the ‘under’ go 5-0.

I’m well aware that bettors don’t put as much stock into those seasonal trends like myself, rather they ride the current wave and that’s certainly understandable. Plus when you look at this matchup based on playoff trends alone, it’s hard to argue against the high side in Game 5.

As a home favorite, Toronto has watched the ‘over’ cash in four straight and seven of the last 10 games in the postseason. Also, since Toronto broke its playoff drought in 2014, the ‘over’ has gone 15-9 in 25 home playoff games.

Meanwhile, the Wizards have seen the ‘over’ go 8-0-1 in their last nine playoff games on the road and they only held one team under 100 points, which was the aforementioned victory that Rogers noted above.

The total for Game 5 was sent out at 214 and that number has been pushed up to 216 as of Tuesday evening. The ‘over’ has gone 3-1 in this series with the lone ‘under’ connecting in Game 4.

The two teams will head back to D.C. on Friday for Game 6 from Capital One Arena.

Eastern Conference – Game 5 (Series tied 2-2)
Indiana at Cleveland (TNT, 7:05 p.m. ET)

Even though the Cavaliers opened this series as heavy favorites (-650) over the Pacers (+480), this 4-5 matchup has been next to impossible to predict. Outside of Game 1 when Indiana captured a 98-80 win at Cleveland, the past three games in this series have been complete toss-ups and off the outcomes could’ve been reversed.

Trailing 2-1 in the series, the Cavaliers faced a must-win situation on Sunday in Game 4 and earned a 104-100 road victory over Indiana as two-point favorites. LeBron James filled up the box score (32 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists) again and he finally got some help from his cast as Kyle Korver added 18 points. The 'others guys' for the Cavs have been missing so far and only Kevin Love (12 PPG) and J.R. Smith (10 PPG) are averaging double figures for Cleveland in this series.

Indiana failed to connect again offensively (43%) in Game 4 and they fell in love with jumpers. The club took 33 from 3-point land and their lack of aggression hurt them at the free throw line, where Cleveland doubled-up Indiana 26-13 in attempts.

Pacers guard Victor Oladipo lived up to his All-Star status in Game 1 with 32 points but he’s been held in check to 19 PPG in the last three and he’s only shooting 35 percent from the field.

Cleveland opened as a 6 ½-point home favorite for Game 5 and that’s a slight drop-off from the closing numbers (-7 ½, -8) in the first two games of this series at Quicken Loans Arena.

Looking at the eight matchups played between the pair this season, it seems too obvious to take the ‘dog. Indiana has gone 5-3 SU and 6-2 ATS with the losses coming by 7, 3 and 4 points.

VI’s Rogers provided us with a historical playoff angle that could have you leaning to LeBron and the Cavs in Game 5.

“Dating back to 2012, LeBron James-led teams own a 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS record as a home squad in Game 5 of a playoff series tied at 2-2. The only loss came in the 2012 conference finals to the Celtics when James played for the Heat, but Miami eventually won that series. Since returning to Cleveland in 2014, the Cavaliers are 2-0 SU and 1-1 ATS in this situation, as they blew out the Raptors by 38 points in Game 5 at home in the 2016 Eastern finals,” said Rogers.

In the last three postseasons, the Pacers have only gone 2-7 on the road but they’ve been very competitive with a 7-2 ATS mark. The largest setback came by 11 points.

Rogers once again shared a solid number on Indiana that should be taken into consideration. He explained, “The Pacers have done a solid job of rebounding off a loss. Since late January, they are 12-2 in the last 14 games off a defeat and that includes Game 3's win in this series.”

Similar to the point-spread, the opening total of 205 hasn’t seen much movement. The ‘over’ looked like the right side in Game 4 but a weak fourth quarter helped the ‘under’ cash for the fourth consecutive time in this series. Including the regular season, the ‘under’ is 6-1-1 in the eight games between the pair.  

Cavaliers point guard George Hill (back) sat out Game 4 and is listed as ‘questionable’ for Game 5. VI NBA expert Tony Mejia believes Hill is a key part to Cleveland. 

Mejia said, "The Cavs fell apart in Game 3 in part because they didn’t have a healthy George Hill to rely on since he was besieged by back spasms that forced him to be held out of Sunday night’s clash entirely. It’s no surprise that he’s been limited in practice the past few days, but I’d expect him to participate on Wednesday night. Listed as questionable, Hill would provide a huge lift at both ends since he’s the team’s top perimeter defender and a more complete offensive player than veteran Jose Calderon, who has been pressed into duty. If official word comes down that he’s in, it would definitely improve the Cavs’ chances of holding serve at home."
Game 6 will take place on Friday from Indiana.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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