Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM

Friday's Tip Sheet

Playoff Results | First Round Series Odds | Betting Stats

The NBA Playoffs began last Saturday and underdogs came out firing with a 3-1 record both straight up and against the spread. Since those results, favorites have struck back with an eye-opening 14-1 run and the ‘chalk’ has covered in every win, which tells you that the point-spread hasn’t mattered in any of the first 19 games played this postseason. The ‘under’ owns an 11-7-1 record so far and that includes three ‘over’ winners last night.

Friday’s card has three intriguing Game 3’s on tap and all of these series will meet again in Game 4 matchups on Sunday. With the help of experts Kevin Rogers and Tony Mejia, below is our quick handicap of tonight’s action.

Eastern Conference First Round Game 3 (Series Tied 1-1)
Toronto at Orlando (ESPN, 7:05 p.m. ET)

This series has played out accordingly based on Toronto’s recent playoff history – lose Game 1, win Game 2. That’s what happened in Canada and now the Raptors will look to build off their dominating 111-82 victory over the Magic on Tuesday.

Oddsmakers opened Toronto as a 4 ½-point road favorite and a handful of books are holding -5 as of Friday morning. Kevin Rogers offered up his thoughts on Game 3. He noted, “It’s been a minute since the Magic have hosted a playoff game (2012) and a little longer since they were last victorious at Amway Center in the postseason (Game 5 of the 2011 first round). However, Orlando has maintained a strong home-court advantage down the stretch this season by winning nine straight and 13 of the past 14 games in central Florida. The Magic covered in both home contests against the Raptors this season as an underdog, including a 116-87 blowout in late December.”

Orlando finished the season 25-16 SU and 23-17-1 ATS at home and as Rogers mentioned, plenty of those wins came down the stretch. As a home ‘dog, the Magic were hit or miss this season (9-9 SU, 10-7-1 ATS).

The Raptors definitely came to play on the road this season (26-15 SU, 19-21-1 ATS) and they went 4-1 both SU and ATS in their last five games as an away favorite. However, Rogers dug up an angle that could make you hesitant to lay the points tonight.

He explained, “Since Toronto won all three Game 3’s in the 2016 playoffs, the Raptors have dropped four consecutive Game 3’s over the last two postseasons. In the last two seasons in Game 3’s of the first round, the Raptors were blown out at Milwaukee in Game 3 in 2016 by a 104-77 count, while the Wizards ripped up the Raptors, 122-103 in 2017. However, Toronto came back and won both of the series on the road and clinched in Game 6.”

The ’under’ went 2-0 in the first two games and the number closed 212 ½ in each matchup. Friday’s number is hovering between 209 ½ and 210. Toronto averaged 113.7 points per game on the road this season and it leaned to the ‘over’ (23-18) but for this ‘over’ to cash, you’ll need Orlando to produce and it hasn’t been consistent offensively (107 PPG) all season.

Eastern Conference First Round Game 3 (Celtics lead 2-0)
Boston at Indiana (ABC, 8:35 p.m. ET)

We’ve all seen plenty of “Bad Beats” in sports betting in our time but last Wednesday’s Game 2 finish between the Pacers and Celtics was tough to stomach for any bettor who had Indiana +7 ½ points. Boston trailed 91-89 with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter and bettors taking the points were ready to light up the cigar and celebrate. Some newbies may’ve been worried about a potential loss in overtime and that’s fair but Indiana looked golden. Sure enough, Boston closed the game on a 10-0 run and seven of those points came in the final 12 seconds. Pacers head coach Nate McMillan called it the worst minute of basketball he's seen in a long time. The play-by-play doesn’t do the final minute justice and I would suggest catching up when you can with the video.

Fast forward to Friday and Indiana is listed as a three-point home favorite over Boston. I personally don’t like backing teams off bad losses yet alone two poor outings.

I understand that Indiana was in both games but a bad quarter in each contest at TD Garden turned out to be the difference. At the end of the day, losses are losses and the facts are that the Pacers are now 8-16 since the All-Star break and they have nobody that can measure up to Boston’s stars due to the leg injury of Victor Oladipo.

The Pacers have a crafty group of veterans and they’re now led by Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young, two solid players but not All-Stars. What wins in the playoffs, All-Stars! It’s been reported that Oladipo is expected to attend Game 3 on Friday, marking his first public appearance in Bankers Life Fieldhouse since his injury. His presence will likely get the squad going in the first quarter and half but can Indiana put forth a 48-minute performance against a more talented team?

By the way, oddsmakers have already juiced up both 1st quarter (-2 ½) and 1st half (-3) numbers on the Pacers. Backing a playoff home team down 0-2 in Game 3 in the first 24 minutes was a well-known system that turned out some great profits over the years, close to 90 percent. But it tapered off last year (5-5 ATS) and you can see that the books took the value out of the angle with these numbers. OKC is also in play and its Game 3 numbers (quarter, half) are even more inflated.

The Celtics are listed as high as plus-130 (Bet $100 to win $130) on the money-line tonight. Brad Stevens team was much better on the road last season (28-13) compared to the current campaign (21-20). As a road ‘dog, the club went 6-8 SU and 8-6 ATS. In last year’s playoff run without a full healthy squad, Boston went 1-7 SU and 2-6 ATS. Indiana went 2-1 at home in its first round series loss to Cleveland last season.

The ‘under’ connected easily in each of the first two games and tonight’s total is 204. Neither team has broken 100 points in the playoffs and if the Pacers post another quarter of 8 or 12 points, it’s hard to imagine them getting over the century mark again.

Western Conference First Round Game 3 (Trail Blazers lead 2-0)
Portland at Oklahoma City (ESPN, 9:35 p.m. ET)

Oddamkers are expecting Oklahoma City (-7 ½) to come out firing at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Friday in Game 3 even after getting humbled in two straight games at Portland.

Tony Mejia provided his handicap on the must-win spot for the Thunder. “I’m looking for the Thunder to not bother with the pleasantries as they host this must-win Game 3. There can’t be a feeling-out process. There’s no time for Paul George to find a rhythm with his shoulder issue or for Russell Westbrook’s jump shot to magically return. Oklahoma City must impose its will on the defensive end, something it failed to accomplish in Portland in letting C.J. McCollum and Enes Kanter immediately establish themselves in the opening quarter to provide support for Damian Lillard. McCollum is averaging 28.5 points per game in the series, so keeping him from becoming a factor early has to be a major point of emphasis,” said Mejia.

As Mejia noted, George hasn’t been George in this series but he’s encouraging his teammates to keep firing. ''Keep shooting,'' George said after Wednesday’s loss. ''We're going to make shots. Keep shooting. We missed shots, so what? Keep shooting.''

Those following OKC this season know that it’s not a great 3-point shooting team outside of George and if they play like they did in Portland, another loss seems inevitable. This season, the Thunder have gone 2-14 when shooting 41 percent or less from the field. OKC shot 39.8 percent in Game 1 and 40.7 percent in Game 2 while going a combined 10-of-61 (16%) from 3-point land.

Mejia believes we’ll see the Thunder be more aggressive on defense and that sets up a potential first-quarter wager. He explained, “The Blazers held off OKC at home on the strength of a brilliant first 12 minutes in Game 1 and a dominant Game 2 third quarter. If the Thunder are going to turn things around, they must physically impose their will on the defensive end. Since the venue change will naturally have Portland on its heels as it seeks out a comfort zone, capturing the first quarter is a must for the Thunder. Riding Oklahoma City -3.5 is appealing. Backing under 54 is a play I highly recommend. The threat of the Blazers eventually finding a rhythm exists since they have the shooters to hunt down the Thunder if they suffer through one of their stretches where points are hard to come by, so the safest bet on OKC is probably one that capitalizes on its hunger early.”

Portland lost both of its visits to Oklahoma City this season (123-114, 120-111) and its defense was diced up in each matchup. The Trail Blazers have always been a better home team but they’ve been great as visitors down the stretch. Since losing at OKC on Feb. 11, Portland closed the season with an 11-5 record both SU and ATS on the road. The five setbacks came by an average of 6.8 PPG and that’s in the same average of tonight’s spread.

Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard has stepped up in this series (29.5 PPG, 5 APG) and some pundits now believe he’s better than Russell Westbrook. In 15 head-to-head matchups, Lillard’s team holds a slight 13-12 edge so the argument has some substance. I’m a fan of both players and if Lillard really wants to grab the torch, then he needs to produce on the road in the playoffs.

Portland won its first two road playoff games with Lillard in the 2013-14 postseason, Game 1 and 2 at Houston. Since those victories, the Trail Blazers have gone 1-16 SU and 3-13-1 ATS with the lone win coming against a hobbled Clippers team missing two All-Stars (Paul, Griffin). You want respect “Dame” from bettors? Cashing a 5/2 money-line ticket as a live road ‘dog would certainly get it.

Since Kevin Durant departed the Thunder, the team has gone 3-2 SU and 2-3 ATS at home in the playoffs.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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