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NBA

Apr 26, 2019

Saturday's Tip Sheet

Eastern Conference Second Round – Game 1
No. 3 Philadelphia at No. 2 Toronto (TNT, 7:35 p.m. ET)

2018-19 Regular Season (Raptors 3-1, Over 2-2)
Oct. 30 - Raptors (-6) 129 vs. 76ers 112 (Over 227.5)
Dec. 5 – Raptors (-6.5) 113 vs. 76ers 102 (Under 229)
Dec. 22 – 76ers (-7) 126 vs. Raptors 101 (Over 221)
Feb. 5 – Raptors (+2) 119 at 76ers 107 (Under 230)

Both the Raptors and 76ers were expected to make the second round of the playoffs, but nobody predicted each of these Atlantic division squads would lose their postseason opener. Toronto and Philadelphia each overcame early upsets to win four consecutive games and advance to the conference semifinals for the second straight season.

The Raptors were tripped up by the Magic on a last-second three-pointer in Game 1, but Toronto roared back with four wins in a row, including three by double-digits. Toronto’s defense clamped down after allowing 104 points in the series opener as the Raptors yielded 82, 93, 85, and 96 points to move onto the second round of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.

Kawhi Leonard stepped up in his first postseason in a Raptors’ uniform by averaging 27.8 points per game, including a 37-point performance in a Game 2 blowout of Orlando. Forward Pascal Siakam averaged 16.9 ppg in the regular season, but was a force in the opening round by scoring 22.6 ppg, including racking up a pair of double-doubles.

The 76ers fell behind early in Game 1 against the Nets and couldn’t recover in a 111-102 defeat as 7 ½-point home favorites. Philadelphia rebounded nicely in Game 2 by dropping 145 points on Brooklyn, including a monster 51-point output in the third quarter of a 145-123 blowout. Six 76ers scored at least 15 points and that group didn’t include Jimmy Butler, who was limited to seven points.

The Sixers traveled to Barclays Center for Game 3 and played without star center Joel Embiid, but Philadelphia rolled to a 131-115 victory behind 31 points from Ben Simmons on 11-of-13 shooting from the floor. Embiid showed no signs of rust in Game 4 as the Sixers rallied past the Nets, 112-108 as Philadelphia improved to 4-0 on the road in the first round the last two postseasons. The Sixers finished off the series in Game 5 after jumping out to a 23-2 lead in a 122-100 blowout as nine-point favorites.

Toronto captured three of four regular season meetings, including both matchups at Scotiabank Arena. The Raptors rolled past the Sixers in late October, 129-112 to cash as six-point favorites, led by Leonard’s 31 points. Toronto beat Philadelphia again at home in early December, 113-102 as Leonard and Butler went back and forth scoring. Leonard finished with 36 points, while Butler posted 38 points in his first matchup with Toronto after getting dealt by Minnesota.

Philadelphia broke through against Toronto in the third matchup, 126-101 at Wells Fargo Center as the Sixers outscored the Raptors by 19 points in the second half. Leonard didn’t suit up for Toronto, while Embiid posted a double-double with 27 points and 11 rebounds. The Raptors won the final meeting in Philadelphia, 119-107 as Toronto went into halftime owning a 17-point halftime edge. Leonard was limited to 3-of-11 shooting from the floor, but hit 16 free throws to lead Toronto with 24 points.

After losing to the Magic in their first-round opener at home, the Raptors dropped to 2-14 all-time in postseason Game 1s. Chris David of VegasInsider.com believes that record is factored into the opening number of this series, which is the Raptors -5.

He explained, “As a bettor, it’s tough to trust Toronto as a home favorite in the playoffs. Since the 2014 postseason, the club has gone 15-10 SU and 9-15-1 ATS. However, The Raptors did trounce the Magic by double digits in Game 2 and 5 behind an offense that averaged 113 PPG. In three wins and covers in last year’s playoffs versus the Wizards, the attack posted 117.3 PPG.”

David feels that the poor ATS playoff records for Toronto at home could be overlooked by its recent domination of Philadelphia. He added, “This Philadelphia squad is certainly more talented than Orlando and Washington but it’s had plenty of trouble against Toronto. Ignoring the fact that the Raptors have gone 6-2 both SU and ATS in their last eight encounters with the 76ers would be foolish. Toronto has big advantages in three key categories – defense, 3-point shooting and depth. Knowing Philadelphia hasn’t won in Canada since 2012 makes it tough to trust the ‘dog come Saturday but the oddsmakers have me scratching my head. Since Philly became competitive again, it was getting 6 to 9 points in its last four trips to Toronto. Now the line is five?”

Game 7 – Spurs at Nuggets – 10:05 PM EST – TNT
Series tied at 3-3

The lone Game 7 to take place in this season’s chalk-heavy playoffs is between a #2 and #7 seed. Denver and San Antonio were separated by six games in the regular season, so the Spurs forcing a seventh game shouldn’t be a huge shocker. However, the last four contests in this series have been decided by double-digits, while San Antonio has lost two games after squandering leads of 19 in Game 2 and 12 in Game 4.

The Spurs gave up another double-digit advantage in Game 6 after leading 34-24 following one quarter. Denver rallied to go in front in the second quarter, but the Spurs closed out strong to lead by four at halftime. San Antonio pulled away in the fourth quarter to grab a crucial 120-103 victory and reach a seventh game for the first time since the 2015 first round against the Clippers.

The key to San Antonio’s success in Game 6 was shooting extremely well as the Spurs knocked down 57% of their shots from the floor, including an efficient 12-of-16 performance from DeMar DeRozan. The Spurs’ guard scored 25 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge paced San Antonio with 26 points and veteran Rudy Gay dropped in 19 points off the bench. The Nuggets’ bench produced only 13 points, while Nikola Jokic carried the load for Denver with a career-high 43 points.

The OVER has hit in four of six games in this series as the two UNDERS have come at Pepsi Center in Games 1 and 5. In four of five meetings in Denver this season, the Spurs and Nuggets have seen the UNDER cash as the totals in this series have fluctuated between 208 and 210 ½ (Saturday’s total sits at 209).

Last season, four series reached a Game 7 as the home team went 2-2 in those contests. In the conference finals, both road teams (Cleveland and Golden State) captured victories on their way to the NBA Finals. San Antonio last picked up a Game 7 win in the opening round of the 2014 playoffs against Dallas as that Spurs’ squad eventually won the NBA title. Denver hasn’t won a Game 7 in the postseason since the 1978 semifinals against Milwaukee, while falling to the Lakers in its previous Game 7 appearance in the 2012 opening round.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

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