Thursday's Playoff Notes

Thursday's Playoff Notes

Thursday's Playoff Notes
By Chris David

Thursday’s NBA card features all three home teams laying points and two of the ball clubs, Toronto and Washington, face a difficult 2-0 deficit.

The Raptors haven’t won a playoff series since they defeated New York in 2001, while the Wizards have only advanced past the first round once (Chicago – 2005) in their last nine appearances.

Head coach Jerry Sloan and the Utah Jazz are in a fortunate position, holding a commanding 2-0 lead with two straight home games at home. Of all the eight first round series, this one will probably be over the quickest.

All three games will be televised nationally, so let’s take a closer look at the matchups.

Orlando at Toronto

Inside the Numbers: Orlando goes as Dwight Howard goes and the young superstar has dominated Toronto in the first two games. Howard posted his second consecutive 20-20 spot in Game 2 as the Magic held off the Raptors 104-103. For the second straight game, the Magic jumped out to a quick first-quarter lead (35-18) before the Raptors stormed back with a 39-point effort in the second quarter. Toronto kept fighting all the way to the end of the game and had an opportunity to steal the game, but a Chris Bosh jumper came up short.

Howard finished with 29 points and 20 rebounds, which was needed desperately since Rashard Lewis (18) and Hedo Turkoglu (12) were a combined 11-of-36 (31%) from the field, including 0-of-13 from 3-point land. Bosh led the Raptors with 29 points and 10 rebounds, but it was their bench that posted an impressive 57 points, led by Jason Kapono’s 20 points. Toronto head coach Sam Mitchell is expected to change the starting lineup for Game 3, noting that his club can’t fall into an early hole – again.

After shooting 53 percent in Game 1, Orlando came back to earth with a 42 percent effort in Tuesday’s thriller. The Magic connected on just 29 percent (9-of-31) of their shots from downtown, while Toronto drilled 11-of-29 (37%) from beyond the arc.

Gambling Notes:

-- The Magic failed to cover in Game 2 as 6½-point favorites, which snapped a four-game winning streak against the spread.

-- The ‘over’ is 2-0 in the first games, plus the ‘over’ has cashed in the first half of both tilts as well.

-- Toronto has been inconsistent on one day rest, going 22-27 SU and 21-27 ATS.

-- The Raptors are 2-8 all-time in road playoff games.

-- Last year in the playoffs, Toronto was 2-1 SU at Air Canada Centre versus New Jersey but 1-2 ATS. The ‘under’ went 2-1, with the Nets and Raptors both unable to crack the century mark in the three meetings.

How to Bet: If I knew point guard Jose Calderon was starting instead of T.J. Ford, then I would feel comfortable backing Toronto. Despite his speed, Ford can’t buy a bucket (2-of-17) in the first two games and that’s not going to change. It’s hard to wager against a Magic team that has been lights out on the road (27-14 SU, 27-14 ATS). Toronto plays much better defense at home and while the first two games went ‘over’, the total is a bit inflated. Both clubs have been attempting way above their averages from 3-point land and most would expect the teams to look for a better shot in a crucial Game 3. Look for another tight contest played in the nineties.

Cleveland at Washington

Inside the Numbers: After two games it appears that Washington’s bark is bigger than its bite. The Wizards were routed by the Cavaliers 116-86 in Game 2, trailing by five after the first 12 minutes and 13 at the break. Things got even worse in the second half, as Cleveland outscored Washington by 17 points (63-46). The Cavs shot a blistering 52 percent from the field and flourished with 10 treys. Eddie Jordan and the Wizards struggled again from the outside and are shooting a combined 23 percent (8-of-35) from 3-point land in the first two games.

The Wizards’ offense has been in disarray and a large part of that falls on the shoulders of Caron Butler (13 PPG) and Antawn Jamison (16 PPG). Plus, nobody on Washington has been able to slow down LeBron James (31 PPG) in the first two games. Brendan Haywood was ejected for a flagrant-2 foul in Game 2 for slamming James to the ground. He won’t be suspended for Game 3 even though most viewed the hit as intentional.

Gambling Notes:

-- The Cavaliers have covered both of the battles and now stand at 4-2 both SU and ATS against the Wizards this year.

-- The combined 202 points jumped ‘over’ the closing total of 187, which was helped by 109 points posted in the second half.

-- Cleveland had saw its previous seven games go ‘under’ the total.

-- Washington has gone 25-16 SU and 22-19 ATS at home, while Cleveland is 18-23 SU and 22-19 ATS on the road.

How to Bet: Not surprisingly, the books make Washington a favorite (-5) in Game 3. The Wizards do play better at home, both offensively and defensively. And, Cleveland does have a losing record on the road this year, plus it lost in its two trips to the nation’s capital. The total on this game was pushed up a few points (187-190) for Game 3 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see both teams crack the century mark. The Cavs’ offense came around in the second half of Monday’s win, while the Wizards are still searching for answers. The one stat that sticks out is free throw attempts, with both teams getting to the free throw line 54 times in Game 1 and 73 trips in Game 2. They haven’t hit a good percentage, but if they catch 60 attempts again – then expect the ‘over’ to cash.

Houston at Utah

Inside the Numbers: Houston put up a much better effort in Game 2, yet it still fell into a 2-0 hole to Utah. The Rockets had opportunities to tie the game but Luis Scola was called for an offensive foul away from the ball, which could’ve been viewed as questionable. Still, the Jazz made clutch shots late including a put back jumper by Kyle Korver that all but sealed the team’s 90-84 victory.

The Rockets’ Tracy McGrady was easily the best player on the court in Game 2, finishing with 23 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. However, McGrady faded late and only scored one point in the fourth quarter. Houston’s outside shooting (21%) continues to struggle, plus the team missed 10 free throws (16-of-26). Carlos Boozer (16 points) was held in check but Deron Williams paced Utah with 22 points and five assists. The Jazz have hit 12-of-27 (44%) of their shots from 3-point land in the first two games.

It’s been reported that Houston will have Rafer Alston (hamstring) back in the lineup on Thursday after missing the first two games.

Gambling Notes:

-- The Jazz have covered both of the first two games as one-point underdogs, while the ‘under’ has cashed in both as well.

-- Most books have Utah listed as an 8 ½-point favorite for Game 3, while the total has dropped to 181.

-- Utah has held seven of its last eight opponents under 100 points, which has helped the ‘under’ go 6-2.

-- Last year, Utah won and covered all three home battles against Houston in their first round best-of-seven series. The Rockets couldn’t buy a shot, posting 67, 85 and 82 points in the three setbacks.

-- The Jazz are 9-1 SU and 8-2 ATS in their last 10 at home, winning eight of the games by double digits.

-- Houston has been a solid wager on the road, going 24-17 SU and 23-17 ATS.

-- Also, the Rockets own a solid 7-2 SU and 6-3 ATS when playing on two days rest.

How to Bet: It’s very hard to make a case for Houston right now and I thought that even before the series began. Even though the Rockets are one of four teams to win in Salt Lake City this season, you’re asking a lot for them to repeat that feat not once but three times. Laying less than nine points doesn’t really look scary, considering Utah has outscored opponents by 10 PPG (109-99) this year. Not to mention, it’s hard to back an underdog that has struggled shooting the long ball (10-of-41) and more importantly free throws (34-of-55) in the first two tilts. This could be a very ugly game, especially if Houston’s offense puts up a comparable effort.

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Re: Thursday's Playoff Notes

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(6) Toronto (41-43, 39-44-1 ATS) at (3) Orlando (54-30, 51-30-3 ATS)


The Magic take a 2-0 series lead north of the border when they meet the now-desperate Raptors for Game 3 of this best-of-7 opening-round series at the Air Canada Centre.

Behind another dominant effort from Dwight Howard, Orlando narrowly held off Toronto 104-103 Tuesday night, failing to cover as a 6½-point home chalk. Howard had 29 points and 20 rebounds, giving him back-to-back 20-20 efforts in this series. Although the Magic had their four-game ATS run halted, they are still on a 5-0 SU tear and are 8-3 SU and 7-3-1 ATS in their last 11 starts. Toronto, meanwhile, ended a four-game pointspread slide but is still just 3-7 SU and ATS in its last 10 games.

The Magic are on a 3-0 SU run against Toronto (2-1 ATS), with all three games in Orlando. However, dating to 2005, the Raptors are now 9-3 ATS against the Magic (7-5 SU), and they are on a 7-1 ATS stretch when facing Orlando in Toronto.

Despite Tuesday’s ATS setback, the Magic still are on a plethora of positive pointspread streaks, including 5-1 against the Eastern Conference, 4-1 on the highway, 27-9-1 after a non-cover, 14-5-1 as a road ‘dog, 21-8 getting less than five points on the road and 10-4 on one days’ rest. One negative note: Orlando is just 2-8 ATS in its last 10 Thursday starts.

The Raptors are 37-16-2 ATS against Southeast Division opponents and 5-1 ATS on Thursday, but the ATS trends are all negative from there, including 8-20 overall, 2-8 against teams with a winning SU mark, 3-7 against the East, 2-8 on one days’ rest and 1-7 following a spread-cover.

The over has cashed in the first two games of this playoff series and is also 5-1 in the last six meetings between these two teams and 4-1 in the last five when Toronto hosts Orlando. In addition, the over is 7-1 in Orlando’s last eight first-round playoff games, 4-0 in Toronto’s last four first-round games and 5-1 for the Raptors against winning teams.

Conversely, the under is on streaks of 6-1 for Orlando on the road, 14-5 for Orlando after a SU win, 6-2-1 for Toronto at home and 8-3-1 for the Raptors after a SU loss.

ATS ADVANTAGE: OVER


(5) Washington (43-41, 46-38 ATS) at (4) Cleveland (47-37, 39-45 ATS)

The defending Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers, who are coming off an impressive Game 2 victory, take their show on the road to the Verizon Center against the Wizards, who are in a must-win situation trailing this best-of-7 series 2-0.

LeBron James & Co. led Washington by 13 points at halftime Monday and poured it on from there in a 116-86 rout, with Cleveland easily cashing as a 1½-point home favorite. The Cavs have cashed in both games in this series and are 3-1 ATS in their last four starts after going 2-8 ATS in their pervious 10 outings. Meanwhile, the Wizards have followed up a 4-1 SU and ATS surge with a three-game SU and ATS slide.

The Cavs have now beaten the Wizards eight straight times in the playoffs over the last three postseasons (6-2 ATS), including a 4-0 sweep in last year’s first round (3-1 ATS). In 2006, the Cavs won in six games, going 3-3 ATS.

Including Monday’s contest, Cleveland is now 4-2 SU and ATS against Washington this year (3-0 ATS in the last three), with the home team winning all six contests (4-2 ATS). Finally, the favorite in this rivalry is on a 6-2 ATS run.

The Cavaliers are 4-0 ATS in their last four first-round playoff games – all against Washington – and are 12-5 ATS in their last 17 as a playoff underdog and 31-15 ATS in their last 46 as a road pup. However, they carry negative ATS trends of 2-5 against teams with a winning record, 1-4 after a pointspread win, 2-9 after putting up more than 100 points and 1-6 after a SU win of more than 10 points.

The Wizards are on negative ATS runs of 1-6 after a SU loss, 1-4 against winning teams and 2-5 as a home favorite. On the bright side, they’re 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games played on two days’ rest and 11-4 ATS in their last 15 as a home chalk of five to 10½ points.

Although Monday’s game sailed over the posted price of 188½, the under for Cleveland is still on runs of 7-1 overall, 4-0 as an underdog, 5-0 as a pup of 5 to 10½ points and 13-3 as a playoff ‘dog. On the flip side, for Washington, the over is on streaks of 13-3 at the Verizon Center, including 11-0 as a home chalk, 9-4 overall, 5-1 after a SU loss, 22-8 against the East and 6-3 in the playoffs (all against Cleveland). Finally, the over is 6-2 the last eight clashes between these rivals in Washington.

ATS ADVANTAGE: WASHINGTON and OVER


WESTERN CONFERENCE

(4) Utah (56-28, 48-36 ATS) at (5) Houston (55-29, 47-35-2 ATS)


The Jazz, who took complete control of this best-of-7 series by winning the first two games in Houston, head home to EnergySolutions Arena – where they have lost just four times all season – for Game 3 against the Rockets.

Utah edged Houston 90-84 Monday, covering for the second straight game as a one-point underdog. The Jazz have cashed in nine of their last 10 starts overall (8-2 SU), while the Rockets have slid to 1-4 SU and ATS in their last five after a 5-0 SU and ATS streak. The straight-up winner is 12-0 ATS in Houston’s last 12 contests.

Jerry Sloan’s club has now beaten Houston in four straight playoff games, covering in all four, going back to last season’s seven-game first-round series. Utah is on an 8-1 overall ATS run against Houston (7-2 SU) and is 6-1 ATS in its last seven at home against the Rockets. On the flip side, the road team is 5-1 ATS in the last six clashes in this rivalry, all as an underdog.

The Rockets are on an 0-7 ATS freefall in the playoffs – all against Utah – and are on several more pointspread slides, including 1-4 as an underdog overall, 0-4 as a playoff underdog, 0-5 as a road pup of five to 10½ points and 0-4 against the Northwest Division. However, Houston is 4-1 ATS in its last five when playing on two days’ rest and 23-8-3 ATS in its last 34 Thursday starts.

The Jazz are on a bevy of positive ATS streaks, including 25-8 against the Western Conference, 8-1 against the Southwest Division, 38-16-1 against winning teams, 6-0-1 as a playoff favorite, 7-1 after a spread-cover, 6-1 after a SU win and 37-14-1 at home. On the negative side, Utah is 7-15 ATS in its last 22 playing on two days’ rest and 4-10 ATS in its last 14 on Thursday.

The under for Houston is on runs of 6-1 overall, 4-0 as a ‘dog of any price, 17-5 as a road pup of five to 10½ points, 11-2 against the Northwest Division and 8-3 in first-round playoff games. For Utah, the under is 11-3-1 in the team’s last 14 against the Southwest Division, 15-6 in its last 20 first-round playoff games and 6-2 in the last eight overall. Finally, the under is 2-0 in this series and 10-4 in the last 14 meetings in Salt Lake City.

ATS ADVANTAGE: UTAH and UNDER

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