Tuesday’s Playoff Essentials

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Eastern Conference Semifinals – Game 5 -- Series tied 2-2
No. 3 Philadelphia at No. 2 Toronto (-4/219) ,TNT, 8:05 p.m. ET
May 5 – Raptors (+2) 101 at 76ers 96 (Under 216)
May 2 – 76ers (+1.5) 116 vs. Raptors 95 (Under 216.5)
April 29 – 76ers (+7.5) 97 at Raptors 89 (Under 220)
April 27 – Raptors (-6.5) 108 vs. 76ers 95 (Under 223)

April 27 - Raptors (-6.5) 108 vs. 76ers 95 (Under 227)

Feb. 5 - Raptors (+2.5) 119 at 76ers 107 (Under 231)
Dec. 22 – 76ers (-7.5) 126 vs. Raptors 101 (Over 222.5)
Dec. 5 - Raptors (-6.5) 113 vs. 76ers 102 (Under 229)
Oct. 30 - Raptors (-6) 129 vs. 76ers 112 (Over 227.5)

Pascal Siakam played on Sunday when he ordinarily wouldn’t have if the game wasn’t so important. He did so poorly.

The lanky 6-foot-9 Raptors forward expected to be crowned this year’s Most Improved Player played through a right calf injury that limited his mobility, so he compensated by trying to be a factor by spreading the floor. Despite shooting nearly 37 percent from beyond the arc during the regular season, he’s been boom-or-bust this postseason and finished 0-for-4 in Game 4, his fourth playoff game where he’s failed to connect even once despite at least three attempts.

Siakam missed his first eight shots and scored a playoff-low nine points in 29 minutes in a contest where he was initially listed as “doubtful” to participate and was only cleared to play just before tipoff, but just being out there helped teammates pick their game up, perhaps seeing that there was no other recourse to avoid taking a loss since the team’s second-most productive player just didn’t have it.

Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol combined for 30 points and Raptors head coach Nick Nurse shortened his rotation to basically only include Serge Ibaka as he rode his veterans on the road in support of Kawhi Leonard’s 39 points to even the series with a 101-96 win.

Toronto went from staring a likely 3-1 deficit in the face as a Game 4 underdog to -300 to get out of this series according to Monday’s odds update at the Westgate LV Superbook. You can cash in on the 76ers at +240 if you believe they’ll be able to steal a game in Toronto tonight or in Game 7 while holding serve at home in Thursday night’s Game 6.

A twist of fate aided the Raptors’ cause since center Joel Embiid went from dominating Game 3 and looking as fresh as he has since before the All-Star break to requiring an IV at 6 AM in order to play later in the day as he attempted to fight off a nasty flu. Although he finished a team-best plus-17, he missed five of his seven shots from the field to finish with 11 points in addition to eight boards and seven assists. He scored 33 points and chipped in 10 rebounds and five blocks, so the drop-off in his production was substantial.

Embiid had to travel while getting over an illness but should be in better condition for this critical swing game. How close he is to 100 percent will likely determine whether the 76ers can pull off a second straight upset at Scotiabank Arena in this series. Jimmy Butler scored 30 points in a Game 2 that saw both teams shoot under 40 percent from the field in an ugly game that was heavy on effort and errant shots from the perimeter. Philadelphia outrebounded Toronto 57-50 and has shown it can scrap on the glass and the defensive end, overcoming a disappointing effort from former No. 1 pick Ben Simmons thus far in the series since he’s averaging 10 points and 4.8 assists through the first four games. The 76ers still haven’t put together a game in this series where they get everyone in their formidable starting lineup going so they’ve still got a higher level to reach.

VegasInsider.com NBA expert Kevin Rogers points out that Philadelphia has been resilient despite being a relatively young group with limited experience playing together.

“The 76ers have done a terrific job of bouncing back from a home loss this season by going 9-1 SU and 6-5 ATS, while listed as an underdog for the first time in this situation,” Rogers said. “The Raptors have not allowed over 100 points at home in the playoffs since giving up 104 points to Orlando in the first-round opener, as Toronto has cashed the ‘under’ in all five games at Scotiabank Arena.”

The ‘under’ has gone 4-0 in this series and the total for Game 5 opened at 212 ½ and quickly dropped to 211 ½. VegasInsider.com totals expert Chris David provided his quick thoughts on Tuesday’s number.

“I thought the Sunday afternoon tip was going to wake up the offensives for both clubs but that wasn’t the case as neither team could hit from distance,” David said. “Toronto is shooting 29.5 percent from 3-point land in this series while Philadelphia has connected at a 33.6 percent clip, both well below their season averages. If you’re leaning to the high side come Tuesday, you’re pretty much wagering on the results from beyond the arc and some global books offer number of treys made in a game as a prop wager.

“The Game 5 total (211 ½) is the lowest number posted in the eight meetings between the pair this season. Knowing that the losing team in each of the first four games in this series has been held under the century mark, you can see why the books adjust their number by nearly four points. You can argue that these results were helped with the lack of production in the fourth quarter as the teams are averaging a combined 42.3 PPG in the final 12 minutes so far. Instead of sweating out a ticket for 48 minutes, my lean for Game 5 would be on the ‘over’ in the first quarter. We’ve had two high-scoring firsts so far (70, 61 points) and two below average (43, 45 points) quarters. The number is 52 ½ and I believe the duo will exceed that mark.”

Including the results from this series, Toronto has watched the ‘under’ go 8-1 in the postseason while Philadelphia is 7-2 to the low side. Siakam’s calf injury is expected to be less of an issue here but compensating to play through it has affected his hamstring, which is certainly worth watching since limited explosiveness could again find him floating out to the perimeter where he’s less effective. The play of reserves Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell and Patrick McCaw will also be an x-factor since they’ve struggled to make a difference after excelling during the regular-season, turning the Raptors’ bench and overall depth into a major strength. At home, they should at least be more comfortable.

Western Conference Semifinals – Game 5 -- Series tied 2-2
No. 3 Portland at No. 2 Denver (-4/212.5), TNT, 10:35 p.m. ET
May 5 – Nuggets (+3) 116 at Blazers 112 (Over 211)
May 3 – Blazers (-5) 140 vs. Nuggets 137 (Over 215)
May 1 – Blazers (+4) 97 at Nuggets 90 (Under 219.5)
April 29 – Nuggets (-4) 121 vs. Blazers 113 (Over 215.5)

April 7 – Blazers (-8.5) 115 vs. Nuggets 108 (Under 219.5)
April 5 – Nuggets (-6) 119 vs. Blazers 110 (Over 216)
Jan. 13 – Nuggets (-4.5) 116 vs. Blazers 113 (Over 217)
Nov. 30 – Nuggets (+1.5) 113 at Blazers 112 (Over 214)

The Nuggets responded after losing homecourt advantage last time they took the floor at home by pushing the Trail Blazers to four overtimes in Game 3, nearly winning on multiple occasions before falling short. They then came through with an upset in Sunday night’s showdown by knocking down one huge shot after another in the fourth quarter to hold off a frantic comeback bid in a 116-112 victory.

It’s gone slightly under the radar due to the later tip-off times and the fact the other three conference semifinal series were more hyped, but Denver-Portland has taken a backseat to no one in terms of how competitive and exciting the games have been.

Although Damian Lillard came in with all the juice after his amazing performance in closing out the Oklahoma City Thunder, he’s unexpectedly cooled off. Lillard has shot just 38 percent over the past three games in this series after a Game 1 effort that saw him score 39 points.

Despite two of the games being played at the Moda Center, Lillard is shooting 24-for-63 since the opener, which includes a 5-for-23 (21.7 percent) showing from 3-point range. The Blazers will need their All-Star guard to re-emerge over the latter part of the series and enter Game 5 at +125 to win the series according to Westgate, which favors the Nuggets (-145) due to their homecourt advantage.

Denver center Nikola Jokic has done his part in leading the way as the All-Star catalyst for his group, averaging nearly 27 points, 13.3 rebounds and 9.5 assists in the series. With Jamal Murray looking healthier after suffering an ankle injury and the two guys with the most playoff experience on the team, Paul Millsap and Will Barton, really stepping up, Denver appears to be playing better as we enter this swing game.

Portland center Enes Kanter has been dealing with a shoulder issue suffered against the Thunder but has played through it and been a major factor in at least making Jokic work for everything he’s gotten. Kanter has been wearing padding over his left shoulder but has averaged 16 points and 10.3 rebounds in the series despite scoring just five points last time out. A bounce-back game from him is essential given how effectively Jokic and Millsap have been of late, imposing their will in the paint.

The Blazers are just 3-17 on the road in the playoffs dating back to 2014, so they’ll have to overcome a poor history as a visitor in order to advance to the conference finals since they need a win tonight or in a potential Game 7. They haven’t put their fresher legs to use since they didn’t have the quick turnaround Denver faced after being forced to play seven games against San Antonio.

The Nuggets opened the series as a slight favorite (-145) over the Trail Blazers (+125) according to Westgate, which is where the current odds also reside.

VI’s Rogers points out a few trends that favor the home team in Game 5.

“The Blazers have not been a reliable team to back in the playoffs since covering in the first two games against Oklahoma City in the opening round,” Rogers said. “Portland owns a 2-5 ATS mark in the past seven games, although the two covers have come in road victories at OKC and Denver. The Nuggets have covered in five of six wins, with the lone exception coming in the Game 7 victory against San Antonio in the last round. Since the start of the 2018 playoffs in series tied at 2-2, the home teams own a 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS record in Game 5, which includes Denver’s blowout of San Antonio, 108-90 as 5 ½-point favorites.”

Lillard played in all four regular-season meetings against Denver, averaging 21.3 points but shooting just 37 percent from the field and 28.6 from 3-point range.

Although he scored 39 points in the Game 1 loss, Gary Harris helped limit him to just 14 points on 5-for-17 shots in Game 2. Lillard shot 40 percent from 3-point range at home as opposed to 34 percent on the road during the regular season and despite scoring roughly the same amount of points per game, so he’s going to need to find a rhythm on the road that has largely eluded him. If he continues to struggle, expect McCollum to take on a larger role in the fourth quarter since he appears to have really fresh legs and is shooting the ball well. It remains to be seen whether reserves Rodney Hood and Seth Curry can continue to have the impact they had in Portland since the Nuggets’ bench is likely to be more of a factor at home.

The ‘over’ is 3-1 in the series and is 7-3 in the last 10 playoff games involving Denver. The high side is on a 4-1 run in Blazers’ games.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at mejia@vegasinsider.com