Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, May 1, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
My condolences if you bet on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday in their home Game 7 victory over the Indiana Pacers to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals (I assure you that executives at TNT and ESPN both breathed huge sighs of relief that LeBron James wasn't knocked out. He's a ratings monster). That line closed at most sportsbooks as Cleveland -5. The Cavs led by seven, but Pacers star Victor Oladipo hit a 3-pointer as time expired to make the final score 105-101. Most guys don't even bother taking that shot with the result of the game not in question. "It was probably a swing of $3 million to $5 million in Nevada," said Johnny Avello, head of race and sportsbook for the Wynn in Las Vegas, to ESPN. Here's a look at Tuesday's conference semifinal action around the NBA.
Game 1: Cavaliers at Raptors ( -6.5, 215)
An 8 p.m. ET start on TNT. Toronto surprised me with a 102-92 victory in Washington on Friday to close out that series in six - the lone road victory in the series. The Raptors entered that game 0-23 all-time in road playoff games when trailing at halftime and were down three at the break. But Toronto's strength all season has been its bench, and that unit outscored Washington's 21-6 and outrebounded the Wizards reserves 15-3 in the second half. Fred VanVleet, who had played just three minutes the whole series (in Game 2) due to a shoulder injury, was a catalyst with five points, four rebounds and four assists in 19 minutes. Kyle Lowry led with 24 points, while DeMar DeRozan had a series-low 16. This is the third straight season the Raptors have faced the Cavaliers in the playoffs. Last year, Cleveland swept Toronto in this round. The year before, the Cavs won in six in the conference finals. During the regular season, Toronto was 1-2 vs. Cleveland but did win the lone one at Air Canada Centre. Toronto was +10 on three-pointers made against Cleveland during those games. The Cavs were +58 on three-pointers made during 10 playoff games against the Raptors the past two seasons.
LeBron James was stellar again Sunday in his fifth straight Game 7 victory as Cleveland knocked off Indiana. LeBron had 45 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals - yet Cleveland was outscored by two points with him on the court. It was James' third 40-point game of the series, only the third time he has had three 40-point games in one. James' teams had been 0-2 in those series. The 45 points were the second-most ever in a Game 7 victory by any player. The record is 47 by the Celtics' Sam Jones in 1963. LeBron is now 13-0 all-time in first-round playoff series. Coach Ty Lue unveiled this starting lineup for Game 7: LeBron, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith, Kevin Love & Tristan Thompson. It's the first time all year he started that group. Thompson had barely been playing at all but had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
The Raptors are -192 on the series line with the Cavs at +167.
Key trends: The Cavs are 1-7 against the spread in their past eight games. The Raptors are 8-20 ATS in their past 28 on Tuesday. Cleveland is 4-1-1 ATS in its past six in Cleveland. The "over/under" is 5-2 in the previous seven meetings.
Early lean: Cavs and over.
Game 2: Pelicans at Warriors (-10.5, 226.5)
Any shot New Orleans had to win this series, in my opinion, was for the well-rested Pelicans to steal Game 1 with Steph Curry still sitting out. Didn't happen as Golden State rolled to a 123-101 victory. The Dubs blew it open by outscoring the Pels 41-21 in the second quarter. The Pelicans have now lost their last 55 games (regular or postseason) when trailing by at least 20 points, including 12 this season. Kevin Durant led six Warriors in double figures with 26 points, chipping in 13 rebounds. Draymond Green had his fourth career playoff triple-double (breaking a tie for most in franchise history with Tom Gola) with 16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists. Golden State went 11 of 14 for 26 points off passes from Green. Klay Thompson had 27 points. In a bit of home cooking, the Warriors attempted 32 free throws to just 11 for the Pelicans. I was frankly surprised Curry didn't return. Coach Steve Kerr does expect him for Game 2. Curry has not played since March 23 due to sprained left knee. In three games against New Orleans this season, Curry averaged 28.7 points, 8.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds.
Anthony Davis had 21 points and 10 rebounds in the Game 1 loss but was a team-worst minus-27. The backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo, so good in the sweep of Portland, combined for 20 points on 8-for-24 shooting and a combined rating of minus-38. That simply won't cut it. The Warriors dared Rondo to hit midrange jumpers. Nikola Mirotic had only nine points.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The Warriors are 4-12 ATS in their past 16 following a win. The over is 5-1 in the previous six.
Early lean: Pelicans and over.
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