Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM

Saturday's Early Tips

First Round Predictions | First Round Odds | Playoff Trends

Eastern Conference First Round – Game 1
No. 6 Brooklyn at No. 3 Philadelphia (ESPN, 2:30 p.m. ET)

2018-19 Regular Season (Split 2-2, Over 3-1)
Mar. 28 - 76ers (-7) 123 vs. Nets 110 (Over 231.5)
Dec. 12 – Nets (+6) 127 at 76ers 123 (Over 224.5)
Nov. 25 – 76ers (-4.5) 127 at Nets 125 (Over 226)
Nov. 4 – Nets (+4) 122 vs. 76ers 97 (Under 224)

The NBA playoff opener will begin at the Wells Fargo Center with Philadelphia and Brooklyn meeting in an afternoon matchup. Oddsmakers opened the 76ers as seven-point favorites and the number dipped to -6 on Friday evening after an injury update was posted.

That alert was focused on 76ers All-Star forward Joel Embiid (knee) as he was downgraded to ‘doubtful’ for Game 1. The big man has missed 18 games this season and 14 of those came in the final 24 games. The 76ers went 8-10 in those contests.

Brooklyn is certainly hoping the big man sits out since Embiid has owned the Nets with 30 points per game, 14.3 rebounds and five assists in four games. The 76ers were a plus-27 with him on the floor against the Nets and minus-58 when the big man was on the bench. Saying he won’t be missed on both sides of the floor is a serious understatement.

If Embiid doesn’t go, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris will get his shots and both have been solid against Brooklyn so far. The 76ers are 2-0 versus the Nets this season with Butler in the lineup and 1-0 with Harris.  
With or without the All-Star center, the homecourt of Philadelphia is still one of the best in the league and that showed this season as the club went 31-10 straight up and 21-20 against the spread in front of its fans. In the second-half of the season at home, the 76ers finished 8-3 SU and 5-6 ATS down the stretch.

Brooklyn has a lot of fresh faces that will be in the playoffs for the first time and this group often plays like it has nothing to lose. The Nets love to chuck from distance, averaging 36.2 attempts from 3-point land this season and that’s both won and lost them plenty games. Head coach Kenny Atkinson has done a great job rebuilding this franchise and he’s developed some nice players along the way, especially in the backcourt.

Guards D'Angelo Russell (21 PPG, 7.3 APG), an All-Star, and Spencer Dinwiddie (23.8 PPG) both posted great numbers against Philadelphia this season and if those guys both get going, the Nets certainly have the ability to hang around perhaps surprise.

On the road, the Nets went 19-22 SU this season and the offense (110.7 PPG) wasn’t as potent away from the Barclays Center. For bettors, the club was 25-16 ATS overall and Brooklyn enters this game on a 6-1 ATS run in its last seven road games, the lone non-cover coming to the 76ers on March 28. In that 123-110 decision, the 76ers had its main five starters on the court which included Embiid.

After missing the postseason for five consecutive seasons, the 76ers made a return trip last year and they were eliminated in the second round by the Boston Celtics. In five home games, Philadelphia went 3-2 both SU and ATS and the point-spread didn’t matter in any of the games. The three wins were all by double digits and the ‘under’ went 4-1 in those games. The Nets haven’t been in the playoffs since 2015 when they lost in six games (4-2) to the Hawks in the first round.

Total bettors will be staring at a number hovering around 232 points. The 76ers offense at home (118.2 PPG) has really thrived, opposed to its road numbers (112.1 PPG). The club has often come out firing at home too, averaging 31.4 PPG in the first quarter and that’s the best mark in the league.

Philadelphia (42-40) and Brooklyn (41-41) didn’t have any glaring total leans (O/U) this season but the high side went 3-1 in their four meetings. Knowing the Nets aren’t great defensively, it’s not surprising to know they averaged 117.1 PPG in their wins and 107 PPG in their losses. The offenisve scoring difference on wins (119.2 PPG) and losses (108.6 PPG) was even larger for Philadelphia.

Game 2 will take place from Philadelphia on Monday before the series heads back to Brooklyn on Thursday.

Eastern Conference First Round – Game 1
No. 7 Orlando at No. 2 Toronto (ESPN, 5:00 p.m. ET)

2018-19 Regular Season (Split 2-2, Under 3-1)
Apr. 1 – Raptors (-6.5) 121 vs. Magic 109 (Over 216)
Feb. 24 – Magic (+7) 113 at Raptors 98 (Under 216.5)
Dec. 28 – Magic (+4.5) 116 vs. Raptors 87 (Under 207.5)
Nov. 20 – Raptors (-7) 93 at Magic 91 (Under 219)

Even though Toronto is listed as high as a -1500 series favorite (Bet $100 to win $6.66) over Orlando in this best-of-seven series, I do believe we could see a couple tight games but the favorite will come out on top in the end due to talent and depth.

For Game 1, Toronto opened as 7 ½-point home favorite and the line has been pushed up to 8 ½ as of Friday.

The Raptors went 32-9 at home this season but they weren’t that kind to bettors, producing an 18-23 mark against the spread. Expecting Orlando to win at Scotiabank Arena in the postseason is a tough argument knowing the team went 17-24 as a visitor this season. However, head coach Steve Clifford and company did surprise Toronto 113-98 on Feb. 24 as a road underdog and they turned a profit (23-17-1 ATS) for bettors on the road despite the losing mark.

Toronto is clearly the more talented team in this series but its success can be attributed to rookie head coach Nick Nurse and his ability to keep the group grinding despite using multiple lineups. All-Stars Kawhi Leonard (22) and Kyle Lowry (17) missed a combined 39 games in the regular season yet they still managed to post the 2nd best record in the NBA. For what it’s worth, the Raptors went 30-13 when the aforementioned players were in the lineup together.

After missing the playoffs for six straight seasons, the Magic return to the postseason and they enter this series in great form. Orlando won 11 of its last 13 games and it’s 15-8 record since the All-Star break was ranked seventh-best in the league, tied with Toronto as well.

This is certainly a step up in class for the Magic but a 4-2 record in its last six games as a road underdog shouldn’t be ignored. One of those losses did come to Toronto (Apr. 1) and that game blew up in the second and third quarters for Orlando, who was outscored 66-39 in that 24-minute span. Scoring droughts has been an issue for the Magic, who are ranked 24th in the league with 107.3 PPG and that’s the lowest average among playoff teams.

While the Magic have been hot down the stretch, so has Toronto. The Raptors closed the season with a 7-1 record and it produced a 6-2 ATS mark for bettors. The lone loss came by two points and the defense (104 PPG) has been lights out during this span, which could be the X-factor in this series.

Toronto (108.4 PPG) was ranked ninth in scoring defense while Orlando (106.6 PPG) is fifth in the league. The total for Game 1 opened at 216 and quickly swung to 213. The low side went 3-1 between the pair during the regular season and the early money is leaning to that theme in this series.

The Raptors watched the 'over' go 45-35-2 this season, which includes a 22-18-1 record at home. Meanwhile, Orlando's slower tempo produced a 44-38 mark to the 'under' and that included a 23-18 mark away from home.

Since Orlando hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2012, historical numbers certainly don’t help this squad but make a note that it was defeated 4-1 by the Indiana Pacers in its last visit to the postseason.

For Toronto, this will be its sixth straight trip to the playoffs and cashing tickets at home hasn’t been easy for the Raptors. Since this run started in 2014, Toronto has gone 15-12 SU and 9-16-2 ATS (36%) in playoff games at home. To be fair to the Raptors, five of the last six losses came against LeBron James and he won’t be standing in their way this postseason.

Prior to last year’s Game 1 win over Washington in the first round of the playoffs, the Raptors were 0-9 in opening round matchups dating back to 2000.

The Magic are listed as high as a plus-320 on the money-line for Game 1 but if you’re leaning to the road ‘dog, taking the points appears to be the better option. Including the two meetings this season, Toronto has gone 8-2 SU and 5-4-1 ATS in its last 10 home games versus Orlando.

The pair will have a couple days off before resuming the series in Game 2 on Tuesday from Canada. Orlando’s playoff opener will take place in Game 3 on Friday.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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