NBA Odds: Friday, April 25, 2014 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 4/24/2014
While all of Thursday's Game 3s of the first-round NBA playoff series saw the road team favored, the sportsbooks favor the home clubs when the three Friday series shift to the lower-seeded teams' court for the first time. Here's a look at each matchup.
Raptors at Nets (-5, 191)
This series has been the opposite of Rockets-Blazers in that it's been pretty slow-paced and boring unless you like defense. The Raptors made this a series with a 100-95 home victory on Tuesday, scoring 13 more points than in a Game 1 loss. The big difference was Toronto leading scorer DeMar DeRozan. He was lousy in the opener, shooting 3-for-13 from the field for 14 points. In Game 2 he was 9-for-21 for 30 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter when the Raptors outscored Brooklyn by seven. Toronto also killed the Nets on the boards, winning that battle 52-30. The Raptors, who had four guys with at least nine rebounds, had as many offensive rebounds (19) as the Nets had defensively. That can't happen.
Paul Pierce didn't do much in Game 2, shooting only 2-for-11 from the field and 0-for-6 from long range. That said, the Nets were plus-7 with Pierce on the court. The only Nets starter with a negative rating was Shaun Livingston at minus-5. Everyone on the bench had a negative rating. Livingston missed practice Thursday with an illness but will play in Game 3. The Nets were 22-4 at home since Jan. 1, the third-best home record in the league in that stretch. They had a 15-game winning streak there before losing their last two when it didn't really matter. Toronto was 1-1 in Brooklyn.
Key trends: The Raptors are 1-4 ATS in their past five road games against teams with a winning home record. The Nets are 5-0 ATS in their past five at home against teams with a winning road record. The "over" is 5-1 in Toronto's past six after a win.
Updated Sportsbook.com series line: Nets -185, Raptors +160
Early lean: Brooklyn has been a different beast at home. Give the points and the under.
Bulls at Wizards (-3, 182)
Now you see why the Washington Wizards were more than happy to take the No. 5 seed from Brooklyn on the final night of the regular season: The Wiz knew they matched up great against the Bulls, and they are right. Chicago could have won both games at home but went cold down the stretch in each. It lost 101-99 in overtime on Tuesday as Kirk Hinrich missed two free throws (the second intentionally) with just a few seconds left. The Bulls had led by 10 points in the fourth, but once again their offense bogged down. Washington often put 6-foot-8 Trevor Ariza on D.J. Augustin, and that all but eliminated the Bulls' leading scorer. It's rare the Bulls will lose when they get three guys with 20 points: Augustin had 25, Taj Gibson 22 and Joakim Noah 20 (no one else did anything). However, Augustin didn't score after 8:08 remained in regulation.
The Wizards have been attacking Noah, and Nene is clearly a matchup problem for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He had 17 points and seven boards in Game 2. Bradley Beal had 26 points, including nine down the stretch as the Wizards closed on a 14-4 run to force overtime. Only three teams have failed to finish off a series when taking the first two games on the road. This isn't a fluke. Washington was 21-11 since the all-star break and closed 8-3 in its final 11. The Wizards also tied for the best overall road record in the East. They did have the worst home mark (22-19) of any playoff team. Washington was 1-1 at home vs. the Bulls, and Nene missed that 18-point loss on April 5. It was also the second of a back-to-back, and Ariza was very sick.
Key trends: Chicago has covered two of its past 10 following an ATS loss. The Wizards are 5-0 ATS in their past five after an ATS win. The "under" is 6-1 in Chicago's past seven road games against teams with a winning home record. The under is 9-2 in Washington's past 11 home games.
Updated Sportsbook.com series line: Wizards -525, Bulls +400
Early lean: The Wizards are simply better at every position other than center. Chicago's hustle and determination can win in the regular season but not the playoffs. Take Washington and the under.
Rockets at Trail Blazers (-3, 216)
The exact series result for Rockets-Blazers with Portland winning in a sweep paid out at 20/1 before the playoffs started at Bovada. I surely wish I had put some money down on that. The NCAA Tournament has a breakout star every year. The NBA playoffs not so much, but it does so far in 2014: LaMarcus Aldridge. The guy has always been a great player, but he plays in the relative obscurity of the Pacific Northwest. He's not even the most popular player on his team as Damian Lillard is. Aldridge followed a 46-point Game 1 with a 43-point Game 2 in the Blazers' 112-105 victory in Houston (yet another over between these two). He joins Tracy McGrady and Michael Jordan as the only players in NBA history with at least 40 points on the road in Games 1 and 2 of a series. A random stat but still pretty impressive. The Rockets simply have to alter their defense and double the guy. Generally they have been using Omer Asik to guard him, and Aldridge keeps making mid-range jumpers against him.
Meanwhile, Dwight Howard showed up again in Game 2 with 32 points and 14 rebounds, but he battled foul trouble for the second straight game. Howard actually led the team in shots, which is rare. Usually that's James Harden, but he has not been good in this series. He was 6-for-19 in Game 2 with five turnovers. He's shooting 29.8 percent in the series. Harden needs to drive more as he's just 8-for-32 on jumpers. The Rockets were 1-1 in Portland this season, both games early in the season.
Key trends: The over is 4-0 in the past four meetings in Portland. Houston has covered five of the past seven there. The Blazers are 1-4 ATS in their past five home games.
Updated Sportsbook.com series line: Blazers -460, Rockets +360
I've gotten the side wrong in both games but the total right. Anyone who takes the under between these two isn't paying attention.
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