Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, May 7, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
So, what do you do if you are Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins? Over the weekend, Golden State coach Steve Kerr said it was still possible that Cousins could return this postseason from his torn quad muscle suffered in the first round against the Clippers. Cousins, who didn't need surgery, has recently started participating in light shooting drills. First off, do the Warriors even need him? I might argue no. Second, how important is it to Cousins to "earn" a championship ring rather than just get one while sitting the bench? Is it worth potentially risking another major injury - of course, Cousins tore his Achilles last season and probably still isn't 100 percent back - when you are set for free agency this summer? I doubt that Cousins would have any shot at the Western Conference Finals, if the Warriors make it, but perhaps the NBA Finals. Kerr also said there's a shot that Damian Jones (pectoral muscle) could return as well if his team advances deep enough. Here's a look at the two Game 5s on Tuesday.
No. 3 76ers at No. 2 Raptors (-6.5, 211.5)
An 8 p.m. ET start on TNT with the series tied 2-2. The 76ers had won two straight in the series but lost at home Sunday, 101-96. I don't know what's going on with Joel Embiid. He was pretty lousy in Games 1-2, looked like Wilt Chamberlain from a dominance standpoint in Game 3, and then awful again in Game 4 with just 11 points on 2-for-7 shooting on Sunday. Apparently Embiid was sick and texted Coach Brett Brown early Sunday morning that he wasn't sure if he could play. Dude, these are the playoffs. Man up. Remember what Michael Jordan did when he was ill in the NBA Finals against the Jazz (some believe MJ was actually hungover). Jimmy Butler was the best 76ers player again Sunday with 29 points and 11 rebounds. Ben Simmons didn't turn the ball over but looks somewhat passive. He was held to 10 points and was minus-16.
Kawhi Leonard was magnificent again for Toronto with 39 points. Kyle Lowry has had some issues in the postseason in his career but added 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his hometown of Philly. Pascal Siakam - who has clearly surpassed Lowry as the team's second-best player behind Leonard -- was questionable with a calf injury. He didn't look quite right, finishing with nine points on 2-for-10 shooting. Presumably, he will continue to play through it. Serge Ibaka was good off the bench with 12 points and nine rebounds, but he's the only reserve who scored. That should worry Raptors backers because their depth was supposed to be their strength.
Key trends: The 76ers are 1-5 against the spread in their past six in Toronto. The "over/under" has gone under in the previous four games.
Early lean: Sixers and under.
No. 3 Trail Blazers at No. 2 Nuggets (-4.5, 214)
Tips after 76ers-Raptors and is also tied 2-2. Two clear story lines thus far for this series: Denver seems to go as Jamal Murray does, and the Nuggets have having major success slowing Blazers star guard Damian Lillard, who was so dominant in Round 1 against Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. In Sunday's 116-112 home loss, Lillard got his 28 points but was an ugly 9-for-22 and Portland was outscored by eight with him on the court. I'll let Blazers coach Terry Stotts explain what Denver's doing defensively: "I think they're picking him up pretty high. They need to be open. For Dame, an open 3 is a good 3. They are picking him up across half court. They are not giving him a lot of space, so I don't think those same 3s are there." Lillard is shooting 27.1 percent from deep vs. the Nuggets this year, regular season and playoffs. Against the rest of the NBA: 38.2 percent. The Blazers had been unbeaten at home in this postseason.
Murray, meanwhile, had 34 points, five rebounds and four assists on Sunday, less than 48 hours after playing a whopping 55 minutes in the four-overtime loss Friday. Nikola Jokic, who played 65 minutes (!!) on Friday (fourth-most in NBA playoff history), had 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his second straight triple-double. In Denver's six playoff wins thus far, the team is shooting 39.5 percent from deep. In the five loses, 31.6 percent. The Nuggets were at 44 percent on Sunday. Usually teams shoot better at home because they are used to the background, etc., but in their home playoff games so far the Nuggets have only shot 30.7 from deep.
Key trends: The road team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 6-1 in those.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
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