On my Tuesday Opening Line Report story , I wrote that I can all but guarantee you that the Golden State Warriors would have preferred playing the older, Blake Griffin-less Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals over the younger, healthier, more athletic Utah Jazz. I'm standing by that statement from an on-court perspective. Alas, I didn't consider the social aspect. If you have ever been to Salt Lake City - and I have - it's a really beautiful town, but there is nothing to do at night. Some of the Warriors said Monday that they wanted to play the Clippers just because of the nightlife differences in the two cities. "The problem with Utah is that you're just sitting there and your mind is, like, dead, because in L.A., you still got energy for the game," Andre Iguodala said. "Because you're in L.A., you're like, 'Man, this is just the vibe in L.A.' but in Utah, it can kind of lull you to sleep. And then you've slept too long or I'm bored out of my mind and now you got to try to pump yourself up for the game." I would think the coaching staff prefers sleepy Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. You know the players won't be out late getting into potential trouble. The Miami Heat, for example, have a huge advantage in South Beach as visiting players tend to party all night before a game if they are in town. Let's just say you are never going to see an NBA All-Star Game held in Utah. Here's a look at Wednesday's playoff games.
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Game 2: Raptors at Cavaliers ( -7.5, 214 )
A 7 p.m. ET tip on TNT. I don't want to make any blanket statements after one game, but I truly thought the Raptors had a semi-realistic shot to upset the Cavaliers in this series because of how bad defensively Cleveland has played since the All-Star break and in the first-round closer-than-it-looked sweep of Indiana. Also loved the midseason trade additions of Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker to help deal with LeBron James. I thought Toronto would need to win Game 1 to do so, however, just to get a mental monkey off the team's back after getting blown out in all three games of the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. I no longer think the Raptors can win this series.
The Cavs took Game 1, 116-105, on Monday and never were in any jeopardy. LeBron tore up the likes of Tucker, Ibaka and DeMarre Carroll for 35 points and 10 rebounds. Kyrie Irving added 24 points and 10 assists, Kevin Love 18 points and nine rebounds and Tristan Thompson 11 points and 14 rebounds to go with a team-best rating of plus-33. James now needs 25 points to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5,762 points) for second place on the league's postseason scoring list.The only negative for the Cavs was guard J.R. Smith banged his surgically repaired right thumb in the first half. He said the team's medical staff told him there was no structural damage and that he should be fine. Kyle Lowry was the only Raptor to play well with 20 points and 11 assists. The Cavs made it a point to focus on stopping DeMar DeRozan and largely did as he was 7-for-16 from the field for 19 points and a team-worst rating of minus-32. Coach Dwane Casey had started guard Norman Powell the final three games of the Bucks series and Toronto won them all. Powell was back in a reserve role Monday and Jonas Valanciunas starting. He was a flop with six points and six rebounds in 21 minutes. I wonder if Powell is reinserted to the first five.
Key trends: The Raptors are 5-1 against the spread in their past six after a loss. The Cavs are 1-4 ATS in their past five at home. The "over/under" is 8-1 in the Cavs' past nine at home.
Early lean: Toronto does this all the time - lays an egg and then bounces back with a great game. Yeah, the Raptors have lost their past four playoff games in Cleveland by an average of 24.8 points, but I'm taking the 7.5. Go over.
Game 2: Rockets at Spurs (-5.5, 216.5)
Second TNT game at 9:30 p.m. ET. I love the NBA Playoffs, but the lone problem with them - unlike the Stanley Cup playoffs - is that there are rarely series upsets. The best teams have the best players and they usually prevail on a basketball court. So it was a pleasant surprise in a way to see third-seeded Houston destroy No. 2 San Antonio on its court Monday, 126-99. That game was also never in doubt. The Rockets led by 11 after one and outscored San Antonio 35-16 in the second quarter to make the entire second half garbage time. The 30-point halftime lead was the Spurs' largest deficit ever under Coach Gregg Popovich. The Rockets were 22-for-50 behind the arc, the most 3s attempted and made against the Spurs in their long postseason history.
You knew James Harden would do his thing in this series, and he did with 20 points and 14 assists. The main question was whether some others would step up. That was a resounding "yes" on Monday as Trevor Ariza, who did little in Round 1 vs. Oklahoma City, had 23 points. Clint Capela was 8-for-10 from the field for 20 points and 13 rebounds. He completely dominated San Antonio's bigs. It's now time to worry about the Spurs' LaMarcus Aldridge. He looks old all of a sudden. Aldridge averaged just 14.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in Round 1.vs. Memphis and was 2-for-7 for four points and six rebounds in Game 1 vs. Houston. Kawhi Leonard had 21 points and no other Spur more than 11. The Spurs' starters combined to connect on 13 of 42 shots, as the team made just 36.9 percent overall.
Key trends: The Spurs are 1-6 ATS in their past seven following a double-digit loss. The road team is 6-0 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 5-0 in the Spurs' past five.
Early lean: I tend to think the Spurs will win Game 2, but I'm not giving 5.5 points after what I saw Monday. Go over.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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