Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM

Tuesday's Playoff Tips

Playoff Results | First Round Series Odds | Daily Stats Report

Tuesday’s playoff slate is loaded with four games and the first two contests in the Eastern Conference look like formalities for both Toronto and Philadelphia. Oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook opened up series prices on Monday for the conference semifinals even though the matchups haven’t even been officially determined.

Milwaukee -250 vs. Boston +200
Toronto -220 vs. Philadelphia +180

That’s the quartet that everybody wanted to see in the East and we should get there soon enough. For those believing that the Magic and Nets can win three straight games, then feel free to take a shot at 50/1 and 21/1 odds respectively on either long shot.

With the help of NBA expert Tony Mejia, let’s handicap the card.

Eastern Conference Game 5 (Raptors lead 3-1)
Orlando at Toronto (NBATV, 7:05 p.m. ET)

After losing a 104-101 decision in Game 1 on Apr. 13, the Raptors have won three straight games against the Magic and now own a commanding 3-1 lseries ead. While Toronto was given a bit of a scare in its 98-93 win in Game 3 at Orlando last Friday, it’s 107-85 victory in Game 4 on Sunday was a wire-to-wire outcome. The Raptors hit 53 percent from the field and the Magic struggled again overall (42%) and from 3-point land (21%). Orlando has actually done a decent job defensively in this series on Toronto but its offense is the issue and that’s not a surprise as they entered the playoffs averaging 106.6 points per game, the lowest among the 16 playoff teams.

Fast forward to Game 5 and the oddsmakers opened Toronto as an 11-point home favorite. The Raptors closed -9 ½ in the series opener from Canada and -11 in Game 2, and they evened up the series in that contest with a 111-82 win. Toronto is a 1/9 favorite (Bet $100 to win $11) to close the series out and that seems very likely.

Laying the points on Tuesday is a different discussion and it looks like a toss-up when you realize that Toronto went 14-1 straight up and 7-8-1 against the spread as a double-digit home favorite in the regular season. The lone setback came to Charlotte, which ended a buzzer-beater heave by the Hornets from half-court.

As a home favorite in the playoffs since 2014, Toronto has gone 14-10 but it’s burned bettors with an 8-15-1 record versus the number. During this span, the Raptors have won four series and the average margin in those close-out games was 10 points (99-89).  

For what it’s worth, Orlando has gone 1-4 SU and 3-1-1 ATS this season when listed as a double-digit underdog and that includes the Game 2 loss in this series.

Eastern Conference Game 5 (76ers lead 3-1)
Brooklyn at Philadelphia (TNT, 8:05 p.m. ET)

This series parallels the one above as the Nets won Game 1 in Philadelphia before the 76ers woke up and rattled off three straight games to push Brooklyn to the brink of elimination. Just like the Raptors, Philadelphia got tested once on the road and posted a pair of double-digit results in the other games.

Saturday’s outcome was the tightest of this series and clearly the most heated as Philadelphia captured a 112-108 road win over Brooklyn and it managed to cover (-3 ½) at the end with a pair of free throws.  The Nets have shown that they can compete with the star-power of the Sixers and they held a six-point lead (91-85) entering the final quarter. As we’ve seen many times this season, Brooklyn shot itself out of the game with a 5-of-19 shooting performance in the final 12 minutes and they turned the ball over six times as well. All-Star D’Angelo Russell had his worst shooting game of the series and if he doesn’t show up, the Nets are very limited.

Philadelphia opened as an eight-point favorite for Game 5, which is in the same neighborhood as Game 1 (-7 ½) and Game 2 (-8 ½). The money-line on the 76ers is minus-400 (Bet $100 to win $25) while the takeback on the Nets is hovering around 3/1 odds.

Going back the past three seasons, the Nets are just 3-5 in their last eight visits to Philadelphia but they have turned a slight profit (4-3-1 ATS) and the offense has come to play. Outside of a 95-point clunker in the 2018 regular season, Brooklyn has averaged 119 PPG in its other seven games at Philadelphia.

I do believe the series will end on Tuesday but the Nets will certainly go down firing and a Team Total (111) lean to the ‘over’ seems doable. My only hesitation with taking the points in Game 5 is because of what we’ve seen from Philadelphia at home in the playoffs. Since last season, the club has covered all four of its wins and the average outcome came by 18.3 PPG and that includes the Game 2 shellacking (145-123) in this series.

Western Conference Game 5 (Series tied 2-2)
San Antonio at Denver (NBATV, 9:30 p.m. ET)

Of the eight opening matchups, this has been the only competitive series and the Nuggets will have a chance to go up 3-2 on the Spurs at home this Tuesday from the Pepsi Center. Denver, the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, has looked dead in the water a couple of times but it managed to stay the course and it showed up in a big way last Saturday.

Trailing 2-1 after three games, Mike Malone’s team captured a 117-103 win in Game 4 as a 3 ½-point road underdog. The club finally connected from 3-point land (15-of-31) and they went 22-of-24 (92%) from the free-throw line. All-Star Nikola Jokic dominated the paint with 29 points and 12 rebounds while Jamal Murray added 24 points. The victory snapped a 15-game losing streak at San Antonio, which went back to the 2012 regular season. NBA expert Tony Mejia provided his thoughts on the series and what to expect in Game 5. He said, “The Nuggets scored 117 points in Game 4 after the Spurs put up a series-high 118 in Game 3, so it’s clear both teams have gotten comfortable with the way their opponents are defending. The playoffs are about talent first and foremost, but if teams are evenly matched, strategical adjustments take over. It’s up to Gregg Popovich and his staff to find a way to win what now becomes a best-of-three without homecourt advantage. San Antonio saw its home winning streak against the Nuggets snapped by Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, who each got comfortable in helping pull off Saturday afternoon’s upset.”

Stealing another win won’t be easy at Denver, who owned the best regular season record at home (34-7 SU, 25-16 ATS). Despite taking Game 1, San Antonio’s road mark (16-25 SU, 29-20-2 ATS) was nothing to be proud of this season.

“The Spurs have to find a way to bother one of them in order to steal one in Denver in order to get out of this series and it’s worth knowing that since he didn’t coach in last year’s Game 5 loss to Golden State in which they were eliminated, Gregg Popovich has won nine of the last 10 Game 5s in which he’s appeared in dating back to their run to the 2013 NBA Finals. Michael Malone is coaching in his first game this deep into a series in the head seat, but does have experience as an assistant with the Cavs, Hornets and Warriors. That stat alone should be worth a few points for the visitors,” added Mejia.

The line for Game 1 was Denver -5 ½ and Game 2 closed -7 with the assumption that the Nuggets wouldn’t fall into a 2-0 deficit. For Tuesday’s game, Denver is back to -5 ½ and the key to this matchup will be San Antonio’s defense and the unit has struggled on the road (114 PPG) all season. In wins, they held teams to 104.8 PPG and gave up 117.4 in losses. As Mejia mentioned, Denver’s offense is clicking right now and the basket has always looked bigger (114.1 PPG) for its offense at home.

The books have cleaned up on the total in this series as bettors have leaned heavily to the ‘under’ in each of the first four games. The low side cashed in the opener but the ‘over’ has now hit in the last three games. The total for Game 5 opened 212 and has dipped slightly to 211 ½.

The updated series price has Denver (-185) slightly favored over San Antonio (+160) in what’s now a best-of-three battle.

Game 6 will take place on Thursday from the AT&T Center.

Western Conference Game 5 (Trail Blazers lead 3-1)
Oklahoma City at Portland (TNT, 10:35 p.m. ET)

The fourth and final Game 5 matchup on Tuesday is expected to be the tightest and it’s the most intriguing as Portland can send Oklahoma City packing and that would be the third straight season that the Thunder get ousted in the first round. According to Mejia, OKC’s inability to shoot consistently or change its style has been key in this series.

“Apparently a lot of people are just noticing that Russell Westbrook no longer shoots the ball well. It may have been glossed over by all the triple-doubles, but he’s had his share of terrible runs like the one he’s on and has been an inefficient 3-point shooter all season. Shooting 34 percent from beyond the arc in March marked his best month by far, so maybe he had high hopes that he’d be able to hang with Damian Lillard from the perimeter, but that group of people I was alluding to earlier includes Westbrook, who is apparently delusional,” said Mejia.

The Thunder have been held under 100 points in all three of their losses in this series and event though Westbrook is averaging 21.3 PPG, 9.8 assists and 8.3 rebounds, he’s shooting 36.3 percent from the field.

Mejia added, “Enes Kanter and Al Farouq Aminu shouldn’t be keeping Westbrook from getting into the paint and collapsing the defense. He’s 3-for-17 from 3-point range in OKC’s losses and 4-for-6 in the lone victory, but It’s not worth it for him to continue exploring whether he can find the range. This visit to Portland, where he shot 1-for-10 in the first two games, must see him attack the paint and leave the 3-ball for those who can better do it. Paul George has gotten to the line 31 times over the past two games and has the right idea, because it’s going to take a parade to the free-throw line and improved perimeter defense to win three consecutive games in this series.”

George is averaging 28.6 PPG and 8.5 RPG in the series but he’s the best 3-point shooter on Oklahoma City and he’s only hitting 30.8 percent in this series. Can the Thunder flip the switch and find their shot like they did in the second-half of Game 3 or is this series done?

“With Westbrook having scored just one point on 0-for-7 shooting in the second half of Game 4, the Thunder’s stock can’t get any lower, but I wouldn’t count them out just yet. For simply the value of it, if you plan on riding Westbrook to find a tweak that will allow the Thunder to get back home for a Game 6, you may as well throw a few bucks on them winning the series since a return of +450 (Westgate) or more elsewhere provides a great return you wouldn’t have expected to have seen with a team that entered as the series favorite. If Westbrook stops giving the Blazers defense exactly what they want by settling for jumpers, Oklahoma City is capable of coming back,” Mejia explained his handicap for a series bet.

For Tuesday’s game, Portland is a 3 ½-point home favorite and the money-line is -160 on the Trail Blazers while OKC can receive 7/5 odds (Bet $100 to win $140) to stay alive. Knowing OKC will be favored in Game 6 if it wins and likely be a shorter ‘dog in Game 7, taking the 9/2 odds on the series is definitely worth a shot if you're leaning to the vistior in Game 5.

The ‘under’ has gone 3-1 in the first four games and the Game 5 number opened 220 and has dropped as low as 218 ½ as of Monday night.

If necessary, Game 6 will take place on Thursday from OKC and a possible Game 7 would be in Portland on Saturday.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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