Thursday Playoff NBA Headline Bets
NBA Playoff Betting Insight
By Dan Favale
Indiana Pacers (+2.5) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (-2.5)
If the Indiana Pacers are going to steal a game in this series, it’ll be this one.
Related: They aren’t winning.
Indeed, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be without J.R. Smith, and they were far from convincing in their two victories on their home court. Though they built up double-digit leads in each, they let the Pacers hang around deep into the fourth quarter, paving the way for what, at one time, figured to be unnecessary crunch-time action.
And the Pacers, let’s not forget, have been stellar at home all year. They outscored opponents by 5.2 points per 100 possessions in front of their fans during the regular season, the ninth-best mark in the league, identical to that of the Washington Wizards.
Perhaps this should be enough for us to roll with the Pacers. At the moment, though, it’s just not. Paul George and Lance Stephenson have been mostly fantastic in this series, while Indiana got what it needed from Thaddeus Young and Jeff Teague in Game 2. All that can really change for them, in a positive way, is Myles Turner, who has been absolutely out-muscled by Tristan Thompson through and through.
Is improvement from him enough to carry the Pacers past a Cavaliers squad that has yet to play it’s best basketball? I’m sure you know the answer to that.
The Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers (-2.5)
This Milwaukee Bucks-Toronto Raptors square dance continues to be the most interesting of all first-round matchups.
Even while losing Game 2, the Bucks made the Raptors uncomfortable, constantly hanging around, never once refusing to go away. Now they get to play on their home court, in front of what should be a rowdy crowd.
Except, the Bucks haven’t exactly been a superpower at home. And they’re matching up with a Raptors squad that owns the league’s third-best road net rating since the trade deadline. If Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are going to play like did in Game 2, it’s tough to imagine the Bucks pulling out their second victory.
To that end, there are no guarantees. Both Lowry and DeRozan are prone to ugly cold streaks in the postseason, and the Raptors offense has been unable to create significant deficits in three-point makes. And if they’re not going to kill the Bucks with ball movement, it has to be with shooting.
All told, this one is basically a coin flip. The Raptors are the more balanced team, but the Bucks, as we’ve seen, are going to outwork them on the offensive glass. We’ve yet to see peak Raptors, though, and given the way they’ve played away from home over the last two months, it makes sense to roll with the series favorite.
The Pick: Toronto Raptors (+1.5)
It’s very fascinating that this line is so small. Nothing about the way this series has unfolded thus far suggests the Memphis Grizzlies can stay within five points of the San Antonio Spurs for a full 48 minutes.
Chalk it up to the power of home court. Also chalk it up to a potential shift in the way this game is officiated.
Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale eviscerated the refs after Game 2, earning himself a $30,000 fine. While the effects of his rant aren’t scientific, these explosions do draw attention to possible disparities. It shouldn’t surprise you to see the Spurs lose the free-throw battle this time around.
Not that it matters. The way Games 1 and 2 were officiated did not impact the ultimate outcomes. The Spurs were always going to win, and while teams that fall down 2-0 tend to respond well when Game 3 is at home, we can’t in good conscience direct you toward the Grizzlies.
Not when the Spurs are still the Spurs.
The Pick: San Antonio Spurs (-3.5)