Game 1 NBA Betting Tips
Who To Back On Saturday
By Dan Favale
This is a game in which the Cleveland Cavaliers will want to make a statement. They closed the season with 51 wins, which is nothing by their standards, and forfeited the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference to the Boston Celtics.
On top of that, their defense from last year has turned to mush. They were 29th in points allowed per 100 possessions after the All-Star break, their favorite five-man lineup of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson has been giving up buckets left and right, and their transition defense is, statistically, the worst in the NBA.
Fortunately for them, they are playing at home, where they routinely play well. And now that we’re in the playoffs, LeBron James will be flipping his postseason switch, entering a gear few others can, one that is capable of winning a series on its own.
The Indiana Pacers, meanwhile, are the most average team in the NBA. They don’t hold a candle to the Cavaliers on offense, and their defense isn’t good enough to stick with a Cavs squad firing on all cylinders.
The Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers (-8.5)
The Milwaukee Bucks are going to surprise some people in this series. The Toronto Raptors are ridiculously good and deep now that Kyle Lowry is back. They are going to win.
Still, the Bucks have been one of the most well-balanced teams in the league since March 1. Their offense has been pretty steady all year, and now their defense is coming around.
Between Malcolm Brogdon and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks should be able to scrap and claw with the Raptors’ backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Lowry. It might not be enough to win this game, but seven points feels like too much—especially when Lowry and DeRozan have endured onset slumps through each of the last two postseasons.
The Pick: Milwaukee Bucks (+7)
It’s fitting that the San Antonio Spurs have the largest favorite spread of Saturday’s bunch—mostly because they deserve it.
Though the Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies play a similar, calculated style of basketball, the former is by and far away the more efficient team. They placed first in points allowed per 100 possessions during the regular season, in addition to ranking seventh in points scored per 100 possessions. The Grizzlies cannot even begin to rival that balance. And their specialty, defense, is something the Spurs are even better at.
Troubling for Memphis still, San Antonio has absolutely owned it over the last half-decade. Since 2011-12, through the playoffs and regular season, the Spurs are a combined 26-6 against the Grizz.
Perhaps there will be some close games once these squads journey to Memphis. Saturday’s tilt, though, should belong to the Spurs.
The Pick: San Antonio Spurs (-9.5)
The Utah Jazz are much deeper than the Los Angeles Clippers. If you pick them to win this series, you aren’t crazy.
The issue is what happened during the regular-season sets. Every game played between these two should have favored the Jazz. The pace was petered down to a slow halt, with traditional frontcourts seeking to control the time of possession.
But the Clippers owned the season series anyway, which is a big red flag. Jazz head coach Quin Snyder has adjusted by playing Joe Johnson and Gordon Hayward at the 4 more, and he’ll need to do that pleny throughout this series to help offset the impact of the Clippers’ Blake Griffin-DeAndre Jordan marriage.
Thankfully, we’re not picking the moneyline on this, because the outcome is really too close to call. And since that’s the prevailing feeling, the smart play is to roll with the Jazz, which is akin to betting on this being a tightly contested game against two rather evenly matched opponents.
The Pick: Utah Jazz (+5.5)