Raptors vs. 76ers
The second round of the NBA Playoffs kicked off with the Toronto Raptors beating the Philadelphia 76ers last night. I was a pretty big fan of the Raptors before the series started, and I would be interested in getting the Raptors again if the 76ers ever tie up the series. I will likely avoid this series unless I have a recency bias pick and the line is simply too far in one direction. I expect to see multiple strategy changes in this series, so that is something to look out for. I do expect Philly to be relatively competitive, but they have a few defensive flaws that the Raptors can exploit that I think are too much to overcome.
Bucks vs. Celtics
The Bucks are anywhere from -300 to -400 in this series and I think that is way too much. I am a really big fan of the Celtics here, especially at the price. These two coaches are two of the best in the business, and I think it will be incredibly interesting to see how they attack each other, but Stevens is arguably the best in the business. I really look for Gordon Hayward in this series, and I think that will be very telling. I expect Hayward to have a bigger impact than most and that will really change the way we view the Celtics. Hayward has the ability to create for himself and others, and I think that he is much healthier than he was at the beginning of the season, where he really struggled. My favorite bet of this round is the Celtics around +250-280, and it isn’t even that close. The Celtics are incredibly talented, and the dysfunction of this team hasn’t really shown too much since they have been in what I consider playoff mode.
Warriors vs. Rockets
The Warriors are my pick here at -260, but I am not betting it quite yet. Both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are questionable, and I would not bet them until they are both playing. If they sit and lose game 1, I am all in on the Warriors in the series. Both teams have been looking forward to this series since this time last year, and I expect the Warriors to be more prepared than they were a season ago. Also, the Rockets are just worse than they were a season ago. The Rockets were loaded with “3-and-D” guys, and I think they lost too many of those guys. Both Trevor Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute were great defensive players, and now the Rockets are replacing those guys with Austin Rivers, Gerald Green, and Daniel House. That will not look the same, and I think the Warriors are basically the same team they were a year ago. My biggest concern is that Steph Curry can’t stay out of foul trouble vs. James Harden, but I can’t let that stop me from taking the value that I see on the Warriors, who I think win this series rather easily, especially compared to last season.
Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers
The Nuggets are coming off a strange game 7 while the Blazers are riding high, but I expect the Nuggets to win this series due to the lack of interior players. Maybe Aminu and Harkless can contain Paul Millsap, but they have no answer for Nikola Jokic, and I think he is the best player in the series. Dame Lillard is phenomenal, but I think that Jamal Murray is simply a younger version of Lillard that can neutralize his efforts once or twice in this series. I want to back the dynamic big man with absolutely no answers on the other end. The Nuggets are only -145, which I believe is much better odds than it would’ve been if this was the round 1 series, so I do love the value as well.