Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:58 AM

Sunday's Tip Sheet

Playoff Results | 2nd Round Odds | Expert Picks

Eastern Conference Semifinals – Game 4 (76ers lead 2-1)
Toronto at Philadelphia (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET)

Toronto captured the series opener between these Atlantic division rivals and looked like the Raptors would cruise to the Eastern Conference Finals. However, the Sixers rebounded with a solid defensive effort in Game 2 to even up the series before ripping the Raptors, 116-95 in Game 3 to go up 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

The 76ers dropped 64 first half points on the Raptors, while all five starters for Philadelphia registered double-figures in scoring, led by Joel Embiid’s 33 points. Jimmy Butler contributed 22 points for the Sixers, while fellow midseason acquisition Tobias Harris put up 13 points and eight rebounds. Philadelphia shot 51% from the floor and converted 20-of-23 free throws as the Sixers limited the Raptors to only 14 points in the fourth quarter to cash the UNDER of 216 ½.

Kawhi Leonard did his part to keep Toronto hanging around by scoring 33 points, but point guard Kyle Lowry was limited to seven points on 2-of-10 shooting and owned a dreadful -28 in the plus/minus department. Pascal Siakam scored 20 points for the Raptors, but the forward is listed as doubtful for Game 4 with a calf injury. Siakam is having a terrific series by averaging 23.3 points per game, while the former New Mexico State standout has topped the 20-point mark six times in the playoffs.

The ‘under’ has gone 3-0 in the first three games of this series and the oddsmakers continue to drop the totals. Game 1 closed at 223, followed by 220 and 216 ½ in the second and third installments. The total for Game 4 opened 215 and has been dropped to 214 ½ as of Sunday. Chris David of isn’t buying the move.

He explained, “Even though the results have leaned to the ‘under’ in this series, two of the first three games could’ve easily went ‘over’ if it wasn’t for a couple low-scoring fourth quarters. Neither team has connected from distance and I’m of the belief that the shots will eventually fall. These afternoon games aren’t easy to handicap but both teams have flourished in these 3:00-3:30 p.m. ET tipoffs, especially offensively. The Sixers have gone 5-1 in this time slot and the offense has averaged 122.3 PPG. Meanwhile, the Raptors have posted 118 PPG in afternoon games while averaging 118 PPG. I’m expecting more points to be scored and would lean high for both team totals over and the game ‘over’ as well.” NBA expert Tony Mejia provides his thoughts on this pivotal Game 4, ““The potential absence of Siakam should be worth at least two points if he’s ruled out before tip-off and certainly would hurt the Raptors long-term, but in a one-game situation, may not be the end of the world. The 76ers really haven’t prepared to face a Toronto lineup without him, which means that Marc Gasol, Lowry and likely starter Serge Ibaka will have more touches in store and could find a rhythm that Philadelphia will have to adjust on the fly in order to disrupt.”

The Raptors are flipped to an underdog for the first time in the playoffs as Toronto compiled a 9-6 ATS mark when receiving points this season. However, Toronto has lost 11 of its past 13 games as a road underdog in the postseason dating back to the 2016 second round against Miami. The 76ers have won five of their last six as a playoff favorite, including a 5-3 SU/ATS mark when laying points at Wells Fargo Center since 2018.

Western Conference Semifinals – Game 4 (Blazers lead 2-1)
Denver at Portland (TNT, 7:05 p.m. ET)

The Blazers have provided plenty of drama at the Moda Center these playoffs following a disappointing sweep at the hands of the Pelicans in last season’s first round. Damian Lillard single-handedly eliminated the Thunder on a buzzer-beating three-pointer to close out the first round, giving Portland a perfect 3-0 home mark to open the playoffs.

After Portland rebounded from a Game 1 loss at Denver, the Blazers’ defense shut down the Nuggets in a 97-90 triumph at Pepsi Center to even the series at 1-1 headed back to the Pacific Northwest. Game 3 on Friday night was one to remember (and stay up late for) as the Blazers outlasted the Nuggets in four overtimes, 140-137. Denver cashed as five-point underdogs, while the game would have stayed UNDER the total of 215 if not for the extra sessions as regulation ended tied at 102-102.

Denver was on its way to a 2-1 series advantage following Jamal Murray’s three-pointer to give the Nuggets a 100-95 lead with under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Maurice Harkless scored consecutive baskets for the Blazers, including a trey to even the score at 100 as the two division rivals exchanged two-pointers in the final 30 seconds to head to overtime.

Both teams owned four-point leads in the third overtime, including Denver’s 129-125 advantage with under 30 seconds remaining before Lillard converted a pair of layups to force the first four-overtime playoff game since 1953 between the Celtics and Syracuse Nationals. Rodney Hood knocked the go-ahead three-pointer in the fourth overtime with 18.6 seconds remaining to give Portland the lead for good and send Denver to its third road defeat in four tries this postseason.

Obviously there were huge scoring numbers all around with an extra 20 minutes of action as C.J. McCollum paced Portland with 41 points, while Lillard put up 28 points. Murray led the Nuggets by scoring 34 points, while triple-double machine Nikola Jokic posted 33 points, 18 rebounds, and 14 assists, but the center played 65 minutes.

How will the teams approach Game 4 following Friday’s marathon finish? Mejia is back to answer that question, ““The Blazers may have dealt the Nuggets a brutal blow by holding on to win the Game 3 marathon since they should have much fresher legs due to a much lighter first-round workload. Despite not having to deal with a tougher Oklahoma City team, Denver did itself no favors in being pushed to seven games by San Antonio and compounded its issues by fumbling away homecourt advantage in Game 2. From Murray playing through an injury to Jokic working 65 minutes, there’s no way anyone can dispute that Portland is in better shape, at home, to go up 3-1 than desperate Denver is as it attempts to even the series.”

Denver will get its points from Murray and Jokic, but what about the rest of Mike Malone’s squad?

“The great equalizer would be if we see an x-factor emerge. Will Barton finally got going and finished with 22 points off the bench, while Malik Beasley is capable of a huge impact from beyond the arc. Monte Morris, who was excellent as the backup point guard during the regular season and had four double-figure scoring games against the Spurs, is averaging 3.3 points in this series and has been a liability. He’s certainly capable of stepping up and can really provide a spark if he can find his game. If the Nuggets bench is outscored again, they stand no chance,” Mejia notes.

The Nuggets last dropped three consecutive games in early March, while winning straight games off a road loss dating back to mid-February. The Blazers are 4-2 in their previous six Game 4’s of a playoff series at the Moda Center with the two defeats coming to Golden State in the 2016 semifinals and 2017 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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