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NBA-Playoffs 2019- Wednesday night betting preview

Western Conference First Round – Game 5
No. 5 Utah at No. 4 Houston (ESPN, 8:05 p.m. ET) — Rockets lead 3-1
April 14 – Rockets (-6.5) 122 vs. Jazz 90 (Under 212.5)
April 17 – Rockets (-6.5) 118 vs. Jazz 98 (Over 215.5)
April 20 – Rockets (+2) 104 at Jazz 101 (Under 215.5)
April 22 – Jazz (+2) 107 vs. Rockets 91 (Under 215)

Donovan Mitchell wasn’t allowing the Rockets to sweep the Jazz out of the playoffs in Salt Lake City.

The second-year guard scored 19 of his 31 points in the game-deciding fourth quarter and Utah’s defense held Houston to a playoff-low scoring output in a 107-91 win that allowed them to stave off elimination for at least a few more days, forcing them back on a long flight back to Texas’ largest city.

While it remains to be seen whether the Jazz simply postponed the inevitable, their fourth-quarter dominance featured exactly what they need in order to stunningly win four straight and pull a second consecutive first-round upset. Utah defended extremely well at the rim, altering shots and controlling the boards, winning that battle by a 52-35 count while outscoring Houston 52-22 in the paint. For the Rockets, it marked their first game being held under 100 points since a loss in Milwaukee on March 26. It was the team’s lowest scoring output since Nov. 10 and only the fourth time in 2019 that they failed to reach the century mark.

If he is, this series at least has a chance to be compelling.

Mitchell played closer after a slow start and demonstrated a fabulous will to win that served as a driving force, but the Jazz probably would’ve won Game 4 if he hadn’t exploded. What will ultimately decide whether this first-round series can be extended again is whether their strong defense can travel. Houston averaged 120 points in convincingly winning the first two games of the series, winning by a combined margin of 52 points. Center Rudy Gobert and power forward Derrick Favors must again control the paint and Jae Crowder has to serve as an asset at both ends, which will be far more difficult to manage on the road. Counting the playoffs, the Jazz are now 21-22 outside Salt Lake City. Houston’s 33-10 mark at home is better than all teams except the Bucks, Nuggets, Raptors and Trail Blazers.

The Rockets’ x-factor is the health of center Clint Capela, whose lack of activity was glaring and allowed Utah’s bigs to settle in and impose their will in the manner they did. Capela, who averaged 11.3 points and 12 rebounds over the first three wins, managed just four points and seven boards in Game 4, missing five of his six field goal attempts. He revealed he’s been diagnosed with a pair of viruses (adenovirus and kiebsiella for those medically-inclined) that has really sapped his energy and are guaranteed to keep him from being 100 percent over the next few games. I’m sure there’s no one who wants to get back on another flight to Utah less than Capela would be if he’s feeling ill, but he’s up against a difficult matchup and will need teammates to bail him out given that he’s operating at a diminished capacity. Expect Kenneth Faried to get more minutes if Capela remains as ineffective as he was in Game 4.

“The Rockets have won three of the last four close-out games in the playoffs at home since 2017 with the lone defeat coming to the Warriors in last season’s conference finals. However, Houston owns a 1-3 ATS mark in these games, which includes a non-cover against Utah in last season’s Game 5 of the second round as 11 ½-point favorites in a 112-102 victory,” said Rogers. “Although it’s a small sample size, the Jazz have posted a perfect 2-0 ATS record when facing elimination on the road in the playoffs under Quin Snyder, and this is the biggest number Utah is receiving as an underdog in this series.”

The Rockets finished off a 122-90 Game 1 win with a dominant fourth quarter and led by 28 points entering the final 12 minutes of Game 2, so the Jazz haven’t had many stretches of success at the Toyota Center in this postseason. Each team won on the other’s home court once during the regular season and got blown out there as well, but most of this Utah roster has had limited success in the Rockets’ building and found themselves eliminated there in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals last year (112-102).

The low-side in 17-6-1 over the Rockets’ last 24 contests since the beginning of March and has gone 3-1 in the series. The Rockets must find a way to limit offensive boards after being outscored 17-3 on second-chance points in Game 4. Harden is averaging 28.8 points in the series after leading the NBA with a scoring clip of 36.1 during the regular season and is shooting just 37 percent from the field over the four games, so we’ll see if he can put together a big game to close things out. The Jazz covered in all three games where they were an underdog of 7.5 points or more this season.

Western Conference First Round – Game 5
No. 8 L.A. Clippers at No. 1 Golden State (TNT, 10:40 p.m. ET) — Warriors lead 3-1
Apr. 13 – Warriors (-13.5) 121 vs. Clippers 104 (Under 233)
Apr. 15 – Clippers (+13.5) 135 at Warriors 131 (Over 234)
Apr. 18 – Warriors (-9.5) 132 at Clippers 105 (Over 234)
Apr. 21 – Warriors (-9.5) 113 at Clippers 105 (Under 236)

It’s been an eventful first-round series for the Warriors, who have unexpectedly lost a game, lost their starting center and on occasion, lost their tempers in attempting to dispose of the pesky eighth-seeded Clippers. While many of the team’s players call Los Angeles home, no Golden State player or coach wants a return trip there for a Game 6. It’s time to start concentrating on the next round, especially with the Rockets on the brink of clinching against the Jazz.

The Warriors have largely dominated the series against L.A. outside of a remarkable Game 2 second-collapse that saw them blow a 31-point lead, evening things up at a game apiece. They’ve since taken control of the series, but Klay Thompson indicated that the team is aggravated that it let anyone walk out of Oracle Arena with a victory, something they’re looking to ensure doesn’t become a common occurrence during this three-peat bid.

For whatever reason, the Warriors didn’t look sharp to open the playoffs, following up a 21-turnover Game 1 by committing 22 in the Game 2 setback as Kevin Durant racked up nine. After fouling out of Game 2 following a Game 1 ejection, he found his game at Staples Center, dominating out-sized guard Patrick Beverley, who has been in a pest role against him all series. DeMarcus Cousins is likely done for the rest of the playoffs, Stephen Curry has struggled with his shot and Klay Thompson has been hit-or-miss, so the team’s most consistent All-Star thus far has actually been Draymond Green. He’s the lone injury concern for either side but plans to play through a wrist issue.

It would be silly to write that the Warriors need to acquire confidence from a close-out game in this series given all that they’ve accomplished, but it would be nice to see multiple guys find a groove in the same game, especially if you’re up for laying the points here. As a favorite of 13.5 points or more this calendar year, Golden State is 8-3 SU but just 6-5 against the number. Each of their losses in that situation has occurred since March 10, including the Game 2 loss to the Clippers.

Golden State opened the postseason as a 2-to-7 favorite (-350) at Westgate to win the West and 1-to-2 (-200) to win the NBA title and have had their odds adjusted to 1-to-3 to win the West (-300) and 5-to-8 (-160) to win it all, so we’re reaching the point where you’re unlikely to find better odds on the defending two-time champs unless they fall behind early in any of their upcoming series. They were made a heavy favorite (-360) in a potential series with the Rockets by Westgate, who have Houston at +280.

Including the first two games of this series, Golden State has gone 21-4 at home this season as a double-digit home favorite. For our purposes, Steve Kerr’s team has gone 12-13 ATS while the ‘under’ has produced a 15-10 record. Since the Warriors started making noise in the playoffs in 2015, the team has been favored by 10-plus points 22 times in the postseason. Golden State has only lost two of those games and that includes the recent Game 2 stunner to the Clippers. While their regular season ATS numbers were basically a stalemate, Golden State is just 8-14 ATS as a double-digit favorite in the playoffs.

“In last year’s playoffs, the Warriors won their close-out games by an average of 12.3 PPG and that number was inflated a bit by their 23-point win over the Cavaliers in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. They only averaged 105.3 PPG and that lack of production helped the ‘under’ go 4-0. While that was the trend last season, two years prior was a much different story and their first run with Kevin Durant was explosive in 2017. In those four close-out games, the Warriors averaged 126.7 PPG and won by an average of 18.5 PPG.”

Golden State has lost just three of the last 20 games it has played against the Clippers at Oracle since 2012 and is 28-12 overall against them in that span, which includes a 17-3 run since ’15.

NBA- Playoffs 2019- Game’s betting preview

Milwaukee -250 vs. Boston +200
Toronto -220 vs. Philadelphia +180

That’s the quartet that everybody wanted to see in the East and we should get there soon enough. For those believing that the Magic and Nets can win three straight games, then feel free to take a shot at 50/1 and 21/1 odds respectively on either long shot.

Eastern Conference Game 5 (Raptors lead 3-1)
Orlando at Toronto (NBATV, 7:05 p.m. ET)

After losing a 104-101 decision in Game 1 on Apr. 13, the Raptors have won three straight games against the Magic and now own a commanding 3-1 lseries ead. While Toronto was given a bit of a scare in its 98-93 win in Game 3 at Orlando last Friday, it’s 107-85 victory in Game 4 on Sunday was a wire-to-wire outcome. The Raptors hit 53 percent from the field and the Magic struggled again overall (42%) and from 3-point land (21%). Orlando has actually done a decent job defensively in this series on Toronto but its offense is the issue and that’s not a surprise as they entered the playoffs averaging 106.6 points per game, the lowest among the 16 playoff teams.

Fast forward to Game 5 and the oddsmakers opened Toronto as an 11-point home favorite. The Raptors closed -9 ½ in the series opener from Canada and -11 in Game 2, and they evened up the series in that contest with a 111-82 win. Toronto is a 1/9 favorite (Bet $100 to win $11) to close the series out and that seems very likely.

Laying the points on Tuesday is a different discussion and it looks like a toss-up when you realize that Toronto went 14-1 straight up and 7-8-1 against the spread as a double-digit home favorite in the regular season. The lone setback came to Charlotte, which ended a buzzer-beater heave by the Hornets from half-court.

As a home favorite in the playoffs since 2014, Toronto has gone 14-10 but it’s burned bettors with an 8-15-1 record versus the number. During this span, the Raptors have won four series and the average margin in those close-out games was 10 points (99-89).  

For what it’s worth, Orlando has gone 1-4 SU and 3-1-1 ATS this season when listed as a double-digit underdog and that includes the Game 2 loss in this series.

Eastern Conference Game 5 (76ers lead 3-1)
Brooklyn at Philadelphia (TNT, 8:05 p.m. ET)

This series parallels the one above as the Nets won Game 1 in Philadelphia before the 76ers woke up and rattled off three straight games to push Brooklyn to the brink of elimination. Just like the Raptors, Philadelphia got tested once on the road and posted a pair of double-digit results in the other games.

Saturday’s outcome was the tightest of this series and clearly the most heated as Philadelphia captured a 112-108 road win over Brooklyn and it managed to cover (-3 ½) at the end with a pair of free throws.  The Nets have shown that they can compete with the star-power of the Sixers and they held a six-point lead (91-85) entering the final quarter. As we’ve seen many times this season, Brooklyn shot itself out of the game with a 5-of-19 shooting performance in the final 12 minutes and they turned the ball over six times as well. All-Star D’Angelo Russell had his worst shooting game of the series and if he doesn’t show up, the Nets are very limited.

Philadelphia opened as an eight-point favorite for Game 5, which is in the same neighborhood as Game 1 (-7 ½) and Game 2 (-8 ½). The money-line on the 76ers is minus-400 (Bet $100 to win $25) while the takeback on the Nets is hovering around 3/1 odds.

Going back the past three seasons, the Nets are just 3-5 in their last eight visits to Philadelphia but they have turned a slight profit (4-3-1 ATS) and the offense has come to play. Outside of a 95-point clunker in the 2018 regular season, Brooklyn has averaged 119 PPG in its other seven games at Philadelphia.

I do believe the series will end on Tuesday but the Nets will certainly go down firing and a Team Total (111) lean to the ‘over’ seems doable. My only hesitation with taking the points in Game 5 is because of what we’ve seen from Philadelphia at home in the playoffs. Since last season, the club has covered all four of its wins and the average outcome came by 18.3 PPG and that includes the Game 2 shellacking (145-123) in this series.

Western Conference Game 5 (Series tied 2-2)
San Antonio at Denver (NBATV, 9:30 p.m. ET)

Of the eight opening matchups, this has been the only competitive series and the Nuggets will have a chance to go up 3-2 on the Spurs at home this Tuesday from the Pepsi Center. Denver, the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, has looked dead in the water a couple of times but it managed to stay the course and it showed up in a big way last Saturday.

Trailing 2-1 after three games, Mike Malone’s team captured a 117-103 win in Game 4 as a 3 ½-point road underdog. The club finally connected from 3-point land (15-of-31) and they went 22-of-24 (92%) from the free-throw line. All-Star Nikola Jokic dominated the paint with 29 points and 12 rebounds while Jamal Murray added 24 points. The victory snapped a 15-game losing streak at San Antonio, which went back to the 2012 regular season.

“The Nuggets scored 117 points in Game 4 after the Spurs put up a series-high 118 in Game 3, so it’s clear both teams have gotten comfortable with the way their opponents are defending. The playoffs are about talent first and foremost, but if teams are evenly matched, strategical adjustments take over. It’s up to Gregg Popovich and his staff to find a way to win what now becomes a best-of-three without homecourt advantage. San Antonio saw its home winning streak against the Nuggets snapped by Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, who each got comfortable in helping pull off Saturday afternoon’s upset.”

Stealing another win won’t be easy at Denver, who owned the best regular season record at home (34-7 SU, 25-16 ATS). Despite taking Game 1, San Antonio’s road mark (16-25 SU, 29-20-2 ATS) was nothing to be proud of this season.

“The Spurs have to find a way to bother one of them in order to steal one in Denver in order to get out of this series and it’s worth knowing that since he didn’t coach in last year’s Game 5 loss to Golden State in which they were eliminated, Gregg Popovich has won nine of the last 10 Game 5s in which he’s appeared in dating back to their run to the 2013 NBA Finals. Michael Malone is coaching in his first game this deep into a series in the head seat, but does have experience as an assistant with the Cavs, Hornets and Warriors. That stat alone should be worth a few points for the visitors,” added Mejia.

The line for Game 1 was Denver -5 ½ and Game 2 closed -7 with the assumption that the Nuggets wouldn’t fall into a 2-0 deficit. For Tuesday’s game, Denver is back to -5 ½ and the key to this matchup will be San Antonio’s defense and the unit has struggled on the road (114 PPG) all season. In wins, they held teams to 104.8 PPG and gave up 117.4 in losses. As Mejia mentioned, Denver’s offense is clicking right now and the basket has always looked bigger (114.1 PPG) for its offense at home.

The books have cleaned up on the total in this series as bettors have leaned heavily to the ‘under’ in each of the first four games. The low side cashed in the opener but the ‘over’ has now hit in the last three games. The total for Game 5 opened 212 and has dipped slightly to 211 ½.

The updated series price has Denver (-185) slightly favored over San Antonio (+160) in what’s now a best-of-three battle.

Game 6 will take place on Thursday from the AT&T Center.

Western Conference Game 5 (Trail Blazers lead 3-1)
Oklahoma City at Portland (TNT, 10:35 p.m. ET)

The fourth and final Game 5 matchup on Tuesday is expected to be the tightest and it’s the most intriguing as Portland can send Oklahoma City packing and that would be the third straight season that the Thunder get ousted in the first round.

“Apparently a lot of people are just noticing that Russell Westbrook no longer shoots the ball well. It may have been glossed over by all the triple-doubles, but he’s had his share of terrible runs like the one he’s on and has been an inefficient 3-point shooter all season. Shooting 34 percent from beyond the arc in March marked his best month by far, so maybe he had high hopes that he’d be able to hang with Damian Lillard from the perimeter, but that group of people I was alluding to earlier includes Westbrook, who is apparently delusional.

The Thunder have been held under 100 points in all three of their losses in this series and event though Westbrook is averaging 21.3 PPG, 9.8 assists and 8.3 rebounds, he’s shooting 36.3 percent from the field.

Enes Kanter and Al Farouq Aminu shouldn’t be keeping Westbrook from getting into the paint and collapsing the defense. He’s 3-for-17 from 3-point range in OKC’s losses and 4-for-6 in the lone victory, but It’s not worth it for him to continue exploring whether he can find the range. This visit to Portland, where he shot 1-for-10 in the first two games, must see him attack the paint and leave the 3-ball for those who can better do it. Paul George has gotten to the line 31 times over the past two games and has the right idea, because it’s going to take a parade to the free-throw line and improved perimeter defense to win three consecutive games in this series.

George is averaging 28.6 PPG and 8.5 RPG in the series but he’s the best 3-point shooter on Oklahoma City and he’s only hitting 30.8 percent in this series. Can the Thunder flip the switch and find their shot like they did in the second-half of Game 3 or is this series done?

“With Westbrook having scored just one point on 0-for-7 shooting in the second half of Game 4, the Thunder’s stock can’t get any lower, but I wouldn’t count them out just yet. For simply the value of it, if you plan on riding Westbrook to find a tweak that will allow the Thunder to get back home for a Game 6, you may as well throw a few bucks on them winning the series since a return of +450 (Westgate) or more elsewhere provides a great return you wouldn’t have expected to have seen with a team that entered as the series favorite. If Westbrook stops giving the Blazers defense exactly what they want by settling for jumpers, Oklahoma City is capable of coming back,” Mejia explained his handicap for a series bet.

For Tuesday’s game, Portland is a 3 ½-point home favorite and the money-line is -160 on the Trail Blazers while OKC can receive 7/5 odds (Bet $100 to win $140) to stay alive. Knowing OKC will be favored in Game 6 if it wins and likely be a shorter ‘dog in Game 7, taking the 9/2 odds on the series is definitely worth a shot if you’re leaning to the vistior in Game 5.

The ‘under’ has gone 3-1 in the first four games and the Game 5 number opened 220 and has dropped as low as 218 ½ as of Monday night.

If necessary, Game 6 will take place on Thursday from OKC and a possible Game 7 would be in Portland on Saturday.

NBA-Playoffs 2019 – Betting preview

Eastern Conference First Round – Game 3
No. 3 Philadelphia at No. 6 Brooklyn (TNT, 8:10 p.m. ET) — Series tied 1-1
Apr. 13 – Nets (+7.5) 111 at 76ers 102 (Under 228)
Apr. 15 – 76ers (-8.5) 145 vs. Nets 123 (Over 224.5)

2018-19 Regular Season (Split 2-2, Over 3-1)
Nov. 4 – Nets (+4) 122 vs. 76ers 97 (Under 224)
Nov. 25 – 76ers (-4.5) 127 at Nets 125 (Over 226)
Dec. 12 – Nets (+6) 127 at 76ers 123 (Over 224.5)
Mar. 28 – 76ers (-7) 123 vs. Nets 110 (Over 231.5)

The Nets got the split they coveted in Philadelphia and now hope that shooting on familiar rims at Barclays Center will help them take down a division rival in the Eastern Conference series that has seen the most bad blood develop. While bickering in Warriors-Clippers and Trail Blazers-Thunder has crossed the line at times, this series has seen the most hostile act of the playoffs to date.

Joel Embiid could have certainly been thrown out for swinging his elbow on a post move against Brooklyn center Jarrett Allen late in the second quarter. He caught Allen squarely, rocking him backward, and ended up receiving a Flagrant 1 that could’ve just as easily been determined as a Flagrant 2, which comes with an immediate ejection. Only the officials truly know why they pardoned Embiid, be it the fact that he’s an All-Star or that the game was being played in Philly, but there’s no question that if they would’ve been well within their rights to throw him out. It looked excessive. In my opinion, if it had happened in a regular-season game, he would’ve been gone.

After the game, Embiid and Ben Simmons broke up in laughter as he attempted a half-hearted apology for catching Allen so viciously, so there’s no question the Nets feel disrespected and a little slighted since the favorite caught a break and then proceeded to break off a 51-point third quarter to avoid falling in a potentially insurmountable hole in the series. The incident hovers as a factor that must be taken into account prior to tonight’s game since it’s likely to affect how the game is called early.

James Capers, Courtney Kirkland and Scott Wall are on the whistle for this one.

Embiid is once again listed as ’questionable’ due to his lingering knee issues but he appears more certain to play than he was before either of the two home games, where his availability won’t be determined until close to tip-off. If I were Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, I’d funnel the ball inside and see if I can’t get an early call or two on the 76ers star simply because officials are going to be on high alert to curb any potential nonsense immediately.

Embiid has made no secret of the fact that he’s playing through pain and soreness. He’s dealing with a minutes restriction that may ultimately be lifted if he continues to feel better but is expected to remain in place tonight. Boban Marjanovic has played a large role and should continue to be a major x-factor, particularly if Embiid lands in foul trouble. On the Brooklyn’s side, backup forward Ed Davis’ tremendous play off the bench was a major factor in the opener but he struggled to get going in Game 2.

After slowing Ben Simmons down in Game 1, his physical gifts proved to be too tough to stop on Monday night as he helped key a 14-0 run to open the second half, helping even the series. He notched his second career triple-double, so part of Brooklyn’s game plan will be to keep him from getting into the paint or in transition as easily as he did. Although the Nets were known as a high-tempo team throughout the regular-season, finishing 10th in pace, it might benefit them to slow the game down some since the 76ers have looked ordinary when being forced to employ their typical offense in halfcourt sets.

Phladelphia ranked eighth in pace this season and has been streaky shooting it early on in the series. On the road, that could certainly be an issue, which is why my lean would ordinarily favor the ‘under’ (59) in the first quarter, especially if officials throw off rotations by utilizing their whistles frequently early on. That could, however, lead to both teams getting into the penalty early, which could pose a concern since both lineups are filled with strong free-throw shooters outside of Simmons. Philadelphia shot 3-for-25 from 3-point range in Game 1 but finished 9-for-23 from beyond the arc on Wednesday.

The Nets are just 7-8 at home since February began and have played at Barclays only eight time since March 1 since they had to survive longest road trip of the season last month. At 23-18, Brooklyn had the worst home mark of any team that reached the postseason this season, so it isn’t exactly surprising to see them in an underdog role here. The 76ers finished 20-21 on the road and dropped three of their final four games in opposing gyms, losing to the likes of Dallas, Atlanta and Miami while winning only in Chicago.

Philadelphia was -800 to get out of this first round according to series prices set at the Westgate Superbook prior to Saturday’s start to the postseason but came all the way down to -220 after dropping the opener. The Nets were moved to +180 after opening at +550 prior to Game 1.

The over has prevailed in six of the last eight games involving Philadelphia, so I don’t think it’s a reach to expect them to push tempo whenever possible after their Game 2 exploits. Conversely, Brooklyn is 5-1 SU/ATS in games that have failed to surpass the posted total since March 22, which includes their Game 1 upset.

Jarrett Dudley, who missed Game 2 with calf soreness, is expected to return.

Western Conference First Round – Game 3
No. 2 Denver at No. 7 San Antonio (NBA TV, 9:10 p.m. ET) — Seiries tied 1-1
Apr. 13 – Spurs (+5.5) 101 vs. Clippers 96 (Under 210.5)
Apr. 16 – Nuggets (-7) 114 vs. Clippers 105 (Over 210.5)

2018-19 Regular Season (Split 2-2, Under 4-0)
Dec. 26 – Spurs (-4) 111 vs. Nuggets 103 (Under 216)
Dec. 28 – Nuggets (-4.5) 102 at Raptors 99 (Under 216.5)
Mar. 4 – Spurs (-1.5) 104 vs. Nuggets 103 (Under 229.5)
Apr. 3 – Nuggets (-5) 113 at Spurs 85 (Under 214.5)

The Spurs were outscored by 16 points in the fourth quarter and only managed to beat Nuggets’ point guard Jamal Murray 23-21 in coughing up an opportunity to venture into this Game 3 with a commanding 2-0 lead.

Despite coughing up a 78-59 third-quarter lead in the most un-Spurs like fashion possible, getting sloppy and allowing a single player to find a rhythm and get to whatever shot he wanted, San Antonio remains in a position of strength. Gregg Popovich has a history of pressing the right buttons following a loss and has to take some blame since he failed to make the proper adjustments and drew an ill-timed technical foul to further aid Denver’s cause.

There’s also the fact that the Nuggets haven’t defeated the Spurs in a playoff series since 1985, dropping four straight, or that they haven’t won at the AT&T Center since March 4, 2012, carrying a 13-game losing streak in the building into Thursday’s Game 3. After stealing homecourt in a game where neither LaMarcus Aldridge or DeMar DeRozan played well, shooting 33 percent combined, San Antonio saw both improve in Game 2 as they combined for 55 points. Paul Millsap was much better for Denver after a dismal Game 1, so we’ll see what adjustments are made at both ends here.

After watching the ‘under’ connect in Game 1, the ‘over’ cashed in Game 2 on Tuesday and that was helped with 61 and 62-point efforts by the pair in the second and fourth quarter respectively. Chris David of VegasInsider.com weighed in on the total for Game 3 and offered up his handicap.

“Bettors continue to bet into the ‘under’ in this series and I can’t disagree with the lean based on the offensive form for Denver and San Antonio’s reluctance to shoot from 3-point land, which is a rarity in the NBA. Even though Nuggets ended up with 114 in Game 2, the offense only had 56 points in the first 30 minutes,” David said. “The stars aligned for ‘everybody’ and they put up 58 points in the final quarter and a half of action. Will that confidence and momentum travel to San Antonio? It certainly could but backing the high side seems iffy, especially knowing that Denver watched the ‘under’ go 25-16 outside of the Pepsi Center this season and that included a 9-4 mark to the low side in away games since the All-Star break.” The ‘under’ is on a 22-8 run over the past few months of Denver games and all five of the six meetings between these teams resulted in games that failed to eclipse the posted total, so trend-trackers are right to favor the low-side. The ‘under’ is 17-6 in the last 23 games involving San Antonio and likely wouldn’t have gotten there in Game 2 if it weren’t for Murray’s flurry. It’s worth wondering whether finding his stroke will lead to his team turning the corner and playing like the favorite in this series that they were expected to be or if his outburst was simply a band-aid masking how bad the Nuggets have otherwise been, not only against San Antonio but down the stretch as they seemed to fade some despite finishing as Northwest Division champs.

“Denver’s final six road games of the season all came against playoff teams. Not only did the team struggle to a 1-5 record in those contests, they allowed 115 PPG. Make a note that Denver had a 6.2 difference (103.6, 109.8 PPG) in its home and away defensive scoring numbers this season, which was ranked 28th in the league. Coincidentally, San Antonio was 30th in difference and the unit was much stronger at home (106 PPG),” VI’s David points out. “That defensive effort helped the Spurs close the season with a 16-4 mark at the AT&T Center and that included five straight wins against playoff teams. In those victories, they only allowed 105.4 PPG and the top two betting choices to win the NBA Finals (Bucks, Warriors) were in that group too. With all those numbers considered, I would lean to the Denver Team Total Under (104) on Thursday.”

There are no injury concerns for this one. Ed Malloy, David Guthrie and Mark Lindsay will be the NBA’s officials.

Western Conference First Round – Game 3
No. 1 Golden State at No. 8 L.A. Clippers (TNT, 10:40 p.m. ET) — Series tied 1-1
Apr. 13 – Warriors (-13.5) 121 vs. Clippers 104 (Under 233)
Apr. 15 – Clippers (+13.5) 135 at Warriors 131 (Over 234)

2018-19 Regular Season (Warriors 3-1, Split 2-2)
Nov. 12 – Clippers (+3.5) 121 vs. Warriors 116 (Over 226.5)
Dec. 23 – Warriors (-11) 129 vs. Clippers 127 (Over 234)
Jan. 18 – Warriors (-7.5) 112 at Clippers 94 (Under 241.5)
Apr. 7 – Warriors (-11.5) 131 vs. Clippers 104 (Under 237.5)

Losing DeMarcus Cousins hurt the Warriors since it’s always painful to lose a teammate, especially a popular one, but his departure to a torn quad that will likely keep him out for the remainder of the postseason played absolutely no role in what transpired over the game’s final quarter-and-a-half. Cousins’ injury came in the first quarter, long before Golden State built a 31-point lead it would eventually blow as the Clippers engineered the biggest playoff comeback in league history.

Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell continued to have their way in the series, which is what Steve Kerr and his staff must find a way to neutralize most, but it’s hard to imagine this series against the eight-seed Clippers becoming too complicated for the two-time defending champs. Kevon Looney, who is in line to split time with Andrew Bogut in replacing Cousins inside, shot 6-for-6 and finished with a career-high 19 points, while Patrick Beverley’s pesky defense against Kevin Durant proved to be a nuisance but certainly wasn’t keeping the Warriors from executing in the manner they wanted to for the better part of three quarters. They simply took their foot off the gas, lost focus and were caught by a team that has one of the league’s most gifted playmakers and individual scorers in Sixth Man of the Year lock Lou Williams, not to mention a number of knock-down shooters in veteran Danilo Gallinari and rookie Landry Shamet, whose late 3-pointer gave the Clippers the stunning upset.

Oddsmakers stopped short of making the Warriors a double-digit favorite in L.A. but are expecting a high-scoring affair in placing this total at 237 as an opener – the highest figure we’ve seen to date throughout all eight matchups.

Can Golden State, embarrassed and angry at the fact they’ve guaranteed themselves at least another game in this first-round series, respond on the road better than they did at Oracle, where they followed up a 21-turnover Game 1 by committing 22 in Monday’s loss? Durant was the main culprit with nine miscues and fouled out of Game 2 after being ejected in Game 1, so it’s clear that Doc Rivers’ plan to have Beverley pester him for the entire time he’s on the floor has worked to take him out of his game.

Durant addressed the situation on Wednesday and vowed to be better, but stopped short of saying he’d look to shoot more or deviate in any way from his typical style.

Golden State opened the postseason as a 2-to-7 favorite (-350) at Westgate to win the West and 1-to-2 (-200) to win the NBA title, so we’ll see whether their odds decrease given Cousins’ injury and their erratic showing in this series. They still have more than enough to win a third straight title and become the first team in league history to participate in five straight Finals, but the contrast between how they’ve opened the postseason and how potential semifinal opponent Utah has handled their business has been glaring.

This first road game of the 2019 postseason thus becomes a statement game for the Warriors, so it’s no surprise to see bettors have jumped all over them pushing the number from its opener (7.5) up to 8.5 where it resides at most shops.

Scott Foster, Jason Phillips and Scott Twardoski are the officials for Game 3, which is worth knowing since Foster has a reputation for being pro-Warriors and Phillips is a noted ‘over’ ref. The high-side has prevailed in 11 of the last 15 games involving Golden State.

NBA-Playoffs 2019- Sunday games preview

Eastern Conference First Round – Game 1
No. 8 Detroit at No. 1 Milwaukee (TNT, 7:00 p.m. ET)

2018-19 Regular Season (Bucks 4-0, Under 2-1-1)
Dec. 5 – Bucks (-7.5) 115 vs. Pistons 92 (Under 225.5)
Dec. 17 – Bucks (-3) 107 at Pistons 104 (Under 225.5)
Jan. 1 – Bucks (-10) 121 at Pistons 98 (Push 219)
Jan. 29 – Bucks (-7) 115 at Pistons 105 (Over 216)

It’s hard to beat a team eight times without them getting on the board, especially when they’re well-coached. Dwane Casey surely has some ideas on how to try to give his team a fighting chance in this Eastern Conference 1-8. The Pistons are the last No. 8 seed to be swept in the East, falling against the LeBron James-led Cavs in ’16. They were swept in their previous postseason trip back in ’09 by LeBron’s Cavs too, so the last team in franchise history to win a playoff game is probably the one you remember best. Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton were among the league’s top guard combos. Tayshaun Prince, Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace held down the frontcourt with Ben Wallace gone a couple of years by then.

That was 11 years ago.

Any chance to end that drought hinges on whether Blake Griffin can participate and be his normal self. Going into Game 1, that remains in doubt.

Knee soreness sidelined Griffin down the stretch throughout the final two weeks of the regular season, which forced Detroit to reach the postseason on the strength of center Andre Drummond and point guards Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith. They locked up the No. 8 seed and secured a .500 record by sweeping a back-to-back against the depleted Grizzlies and Knicks. Both the Heat and Hornets would’ve been better candidates to play spoiler here if Griffin isn’t available.

If he is, this series at least has a chance to be compelling.

Griffin averaged 24.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists in the four losses against Milwaukee, but also committed seven turnovers per contest, making him rather inefficient to play through. Despite that, he’s certainly the best option to try and successfully score against a Bucks team that led the NBA in defensive rating (104.9). Thon Maker, Zaza Pachulia, Jon Leuer and Glenn Robinson, Jr. would be Casey’s options to pair with Drummond up front, though he can also go small and play four guards alongside the league’s top rebounder. Jackson and Smith run the point, while shooters Wayne Ellington, Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway and slasher Bruce Brown will man the wing.

Even with Malcolm Brogdon expected to miss at least this first round as he recovers from a torn plantar fascia and Tony Snell sidelined with an ankle injury, the top-seeded Bucks have more than enough ammunition to squash a Griffin-less Pistons team. Giannis Antetokounmpo had his own issues with a sore knee throughout the regular-season’s final month and missed two of the last three contests, but he’s good to go here. Milwaukee has won nine of the last 10 games he’s played in, including each of the last seven. The “Greek Freak” has averaged 31.8 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists over his last 10. He shot 58 percent over the four conquests of Detroit, averaging 20.8 points, 8.8 boards and 7.0 assists despite shooting just 10 percent from 3-point range.

Point guard Eric Bledsoe averaged 20.5 points in the four games against the Pistons, while wing Khris Middleton averaged 19.7 points over the course of three wins against the team that originally drafted him, missing one due to injury. Drummond averaged just 13.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game against the Bucks, well below his season averages. He shot just 44.9 percent from the field, his fifth-lowest clip among the 30 teams he faced this season.

Only the Clippers (+10000) are a bigger underdog entering this first round than the Pistons (+2000) are against the Bucks, who were a 5-to-4 (+125) choice to win the East at the Westgate SuperBook even before the Raptors and 76ers blew their first-round Game 1s. Milwaukee is +600 to win the NBA title behind favored Golden State (-200) and led the NBA in wins and margin of victory all season while ranking in the top-five in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

The Bucks were the East’s top home team, winning 33 of 41 at the brand new downtown Fiserv Forum, which will host its first playoff game. The Pistons had the worst road record of any of the 16 teams that reached the playoffs, finishing 15-26. Their season-ending win in New York snapped a five-game road losing streak.

Milwaukee has seen the ‘over’ go 6-1 in its last seven contests. The ‘under’ has prevailed in four of the last five games involving Detroit.

Western Conference First Round – Game 1
No. 5 Utah at No. 4 Houston (TNT, 9:30 p.m. ET)

2018-19 Regular Season (Split 2-2, Under 3-1)
Oct. 24 – Jazz (+1) 100 at Rockets 89 (Under 217)
Dec. 6 – Jazz (-1.5) 118 vs. Rockets 91 (Under 215.5)
Dec. 17 – Rockets (-5) 102 vs. Jazz 97 (Under 212)
Feb. 2 – Rockets (+7) 125 at Jazz 98 (Over 222)

Considering how fun and competitive Saturday’s action was, the NBA looks like it has saved its best first-round offering for last. Of the eight series, only OKC-Portland and Denver-San Antonio are seen as more of a toss-up than this matchup featuring the Rockets and Jazz, the only pairing featuring two 50-win teams. It’s a battle of the two teams with best point differential since the All-Star break, though in Utah’s case, a favorable schedule contributed to some of its dominance. Houston has the league’s second-most efficient offense. Utah has the second-ranked defense. Game on.

The regular-season meetings couldn’t have been weirder. Each team won on the other’s home court once and got blown out there as well. Rudy Gobert got ejected over a beef with the refs in the second meeting, a 27-point Jazz win, but he struggled with foul trouble in one of the games and finished with just 10 points in the 27-point loss in the most recent encounter back in February. Neither Chris Paul nor Clint Capela participated in that rout, and both have actually struggled in the games they have played in against the Jazz.

Capela is shooting just 38.7 percent from the field and 33 percent from the free-throw line in his three outings vs. Utah, averaging only 9.0 points against its length. Paul has only suited up into of the four matchups, shooting 38 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from 3-point range in averaging just 11.5 points and 7.0 assists.

James Harden wasn’t slowed down. Although the 33.5 points he averaged against the Jazz is a lower figure than the 36.1 he managed to lead with the NBA this season, he shot 46 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range and wasn’t shut down in any way by one of the league’s top defensive teams, so the Rockets are confident he’ll be able to get himself and teammates off at home to secure a good start to this complicated series. Houston went 31-10 at the Toyota Center, which was tied with Philadelphia for the league’s sixth-best home mark. The Jazz went 21-20 outside Salt Lake City, making them one of nine teams that finished above .500 on the road.

Donovan Mitchell helped land Utah in the No. 5 seed with a 118-108 win over Denver in which he tied a career-high with 46 points on Tuesday before sitting out the regular-season finale. Considering his streaky perimeter range and uncanny ability to use his body to get to the line, comparisons to Harden and the now retired Dwyane Wade have been made in regards to the second-year Jazz star, who already has one series victory under his belt after leading his team to a series upset of Oklahoma City as a rookie.

Mitchell has scored 30 or more in 17 games this season, which is obviously nowhere near Harden territory but certainly eye-catching. After struggling from the perimeter early in the season, he’s shot 45 percent from 3-point range since the All-Star break and can therefore get wherever he wants with defenders no longer being able to simply sag on him.

Ricky Rubio has been dealing with a quad contusion but he and backup point guard Raul Neto (ankle) practiced on Saturday and should be fine to play without limitations. The lone injury concern for either team involves Jazz shooter Kyle Korver, who is dealing with a knee injury.

Both teams have averaged 119.4 points over their last 10 games, each winning eight times. The Rockets are 25-2 when they win the rebounding battle, but that’s because they often struggle so much to close out possessions. The Jazz are one of the top teams on the boards and can therefore really do damage by convincingly winning on the glass.

The expectation here is that this will be a long series. The Rockets run more isolations than anyone, while the Jazz run the fewest. There will be games that should swing on whether officials swallow their whistle when Harden and Mitchell go trolling for contact in the paint, so this matchup is really one to break out the magnifying glass on. This first chapter may include feeling one another out, but could also swing on who shoots the 3-ball more accurately or who draws the most fouls. Harden shot 12 free throws in the Rockets’ losses and got to the stripe 31 times in their wins.

Utah will use Rubio and Royce O’Neale on Harden when it can dictate the defensive matchup here, while Eric Gordon will be tasked with dealing with Mitchell so the “Beard” doesn’t have to. It’s unlikely either team speeds the other up, so the total is back to 214, the neighborhood where it was for the first three meetings between the teams.

The ‘over’ has prevailed in three straight Jazz games, but the late-season atmosphere might have had something to do with that. The ‘under’ had gone 14-6 from Feb. 27-April 5. The low-side in 14-5-1 over the Rockets’ last 20 contests since the beginning of March.

NBA-Playoffs 2019- Surprises at the season openers

 D’Angelo Russell flashed some postseason magic, playing like the All-Star leader Brooklyn needed with 26 points, and Caris LeVert scored 23 to lead the Nets to an impressive 111-102 win Saturday over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

The sixth-seeded Nets turned Philly in the city of 20,000 boos – and that’s just counting the ones echoing throughout the Wells Fargo Center – as they smoked a Sixers team that resembled one straight out of the early Process era.

Jimmy Butler scored 36 points and saved the Sixers, widely considered a favorite to at least reach the East semis, from losing by 25. Joel Embiid slogged his way through 24 forgettable minutes on his bum left knee. Ben Simmons was a postseason dud against Russell, his high school teammate.

Russell, LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie gave the Sixers fits off the dribble, buried open looks from 3-point range, and suddenly a team that got hot late just to make the playoffs has the upper-hand on the road over a 51-win team stocked with stars.

MAGIC 104, RAPTORS 101

TORONTO (AP) – D.J. Augustin scored 25 points, including the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left, and Orlando beat Toronto in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.

Kawhi Leonard got a final shot for Toronto, but missed the rim with his 3-pointer from the top.

Aaron Gordon had 10 points and 10 rebounds, Evan Fournier scored 16 points and Jonathan Isaac had 11 as the No. 7-seeded Magic became the latest team to beat Toronto in the opening game of a playoff series. The Raptors are 2-14 in playoff openers.

Leonard scored 25 points, Pascal Siakam had 24 and Fred VanVleet had 14 for the second-seeded Raptors, who reclaimed the lead after trailing by 16 points in the second quarter, but couldn’t hold on down the stretch.

WARRIORS 121, CLIPPERS 104

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Stephen Curry scored 38 points and made eight 3-pointers to give him the most in postseason history, and top-seeded Golden State began its quest for a three-peat by running away from frustrated Los Angeles in their playoff opener on a night tempers flared.

Kevin Durant and Patrick Beverley were ejected with 4:41 to go, just 19 seconds after they received double-technicals when Durant stripped Beverley and the Clippers guard fell into the scorer’s table. They both became enraged again and official Ed Malloy immediately sent them both to the locker room. Durant high-fived fans as he exited and the home crowd went into chants of ”Beat L.A.!”

Curry shot 8 for 12 from deep to pass Ray Allen (385) for career postseason 3s with 386, had a postseason career-high 15 rebounds, seven assists and the 31st 30-point postseason performance of his career.

Montrezl Harrell scored 26 points and fellow reserve Lou Williams contributed 25 points and nine assists as Los Angeles returned to the playoffs after missing last season following six straight appearances.

SPURS 101, NUGGETS 96

DENVER (AP) – DeMar DeRozan scored 18 points and Derrick White had a key steal in the closing seconds in San Antonio’s victory over Denver in Game 1 of their playoff series.

White stole the ball at midcourt from Jamal Murray with 1.3 seconds left after LaMarcus Aldridge sank a pair of free throws following his key defensive rebound of Murray’s errant shot that would have given the Nuggets a 98-97 lead with seven seconds left.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Denver, where the second-seeded Nuggets failed to parlay the NBA’s best home-court record (34-7) into a win against the seventh-seeded but much more seasoned Spurs.