Free NBA Picks: Thursday, May 9, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Entering these playoffs, it sure looked like Celtics-76ers was back as the East's most important rivalry with both having their most talented rosters in years and each seemingly capable of reaching the NBA Finals. Well, in Wednesday's Opening Line Report story we touched on Boston's uncertain postseason largely surrounding Kyrie Irving. The C's could take a step back next year. So could the 76ers. They went all-in this year by trading for both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, and they are set for unrestricted free agency. So is J.J. Redick. With Joel Embiid on a max contract and Ben Simmons perhaps about to get one (more on him below), it doesn't seem likely that Butler, Harris and Redick are all back. Coach Brett Brown might not be, either, if Philly goes out meekly on Thursday night. Here's a look at the Game 6s, with both home teams looking to force Game 7.
No. 2 Raptors at No. 3 76ers (+1.5, 213.5)
ESPN game at 8 p.m. ET with Toronto leading 3-2. A Game 7, if necessary, would be Sunday. Speaking of Simmons. Fabulous talent and a triple-double machine. However, is he really a franchise player? If you have watched every game of this series, Simmons has seemed incredibly passive - even scared - at times. Maybe he's distracted by rumors that he and Kendall Jenner are kaput? Then again, Simmons never could shoot the ball outside about 10 feet, and I'm just not sure you can have a guy handling the ball most of the time who has no jumper whatsoever. A lot of guys failed to show up in Philadelphia's 125-89 embarrassment on Tuesday. Simmons had just seven points and seven rebounds with five turnovers and four fouls in 25 minutes. Not acceptable.
Embiid, meanwhile, is a franchise talent. But it's starting to get to the point that you can't count on that guy's health, either from an injury or illness standpoint. He has been "sick" with a reported different malady in three games this series and been invisible in four of them. On Tuesday, he looked … disinterested. Embiid had just 13 points with six rebounds and eight turnovers in 31 minutes. Harris and Redick also stunk. That's the type of effort that will get Brown canned. Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard had a bit of an off game in shooting 7-for-16 and 0-for-4 from deep and the Raptors still got their largest margin of victory ever in a postseason game. Pascal Siakam (25 points, eight rebounds), looked much healthier than in Game 4 when he was questionable with a calf injury.
Key trends: The Raptors are 7-3 against the spread in their past 10 road games. The 76ers are 4-1 ATS in their past five after a loss. The "over/under" has gone under in five of the past six meetings.
Early lean: Raptors and under.
No. 2 Nuggets at No. 3 Trail Blazers (-4, 215)
Also on ESPN after Raptors-Sixers with Denver up 3-2. If this is it for the Blazers, they are going to look largely the same next year as they are capped out with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combining to make nearly $58 million. Evan Turner is on a horrible contract. Maybe the Blazers deal McCollum. Tuesday was a lousy night of basketball as Portland largely laid down like Philadelphia did, losing 124-98. The Nuggets are playing fabulous defense on Lillard, who doesn't seem to have the same energy he did in the Thunder series when he and Russell Westbrook were constantly jawing. Lillard was just 9-for-21 and 2-for-9 from deep on Tuesday for a team-high 21 points. No one else had more than 14. McCollum (5-for-15, 12 points) also struggled. The team's other three starters, Mo Harkless, Enes Kanter and Al-Farouq Aminu, combined for 15 points.
The Denver backcourt of Jamal Murray (18 points, plus-28) and Gary Harris (16 points, plus-31) have become the better duo in this series. That's obviously a problem for Portland, which was always going to be dominated in the frontcourt thanks to the genius of Nikola Jokic. He put up 25 points, 19 rebounds and six assists on Tuesday. Jokic now has three 20-point, 15-rebound, 5-assist performances this postseason, tied for the most in any playoffs over the past 10 years with LeBron James (three times). Neither team shot well from deep, but Denver dominated on the boards and outscored the Blazers by 20 in the paint and by 10 in transition.
Key trends: The Nuggets have failed to cover six in a row on Thursday. The over is 7-0 in their past seven road games. It's 8-1 in the Blazers' past nine vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 8-1 in the previous nine meetings.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
Get all of Today's NBA Picks
Get all of Today's Guaranteed Expert NBA Picks