Saturday's NBA Tip Sheet

Saturday's NBA Tip Sheet

Lakers plus Celtics equals cash
By Chris David

The Celtics-Lakers rivalry is easily the biggest in the history of the NBA and this year’s postseason could see a rebirth of the two teams that share a combined 30 championships.

Not only have Boston (68-16 straight up, 53-38 against the spread) and Los Angeles (59-25 SU, 49-34 ATS) dominated the hardwood this year, but more importantly the casinos and sportsbooks too.

Doc Rivers’ team hasn’t let up all year and gamblers following the Celtics have made some serious cash. The Celtics are a very streaky team, evidenced by their latest 12-2 ATS run. The Lakers are little more suspect, but are currently 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS in their last six tilts.

A lot of people are expecting the two storied franchises to meet in the finals come June, including Sportsbook.com. The offshore outfit allows gamblers to predict the Finals Matchup and the Lakers-Celtics combination is the top choice at 13/10 odds (Bet $100 to win $130).

In case you’re wondering, Boston won and covered both meetings against Los Angeles during the regular season. The two victories were both by double-digits and the Lakers’ high-powered offense was held under the century mark in each of the losses.

After watching the Lakers and Celtics play in their first round battles against the Nuggets and Hawks, it’s apparent that they’re in a much different class than their opponents.

Let’s take a closer look at their Game 3 matchups for Saturday.

Los Angeles at Denver – Game 3

The Lakers have won and covered five straight games against the Nuggets, including the first two battles in this best-of-seven series.

Los Angeles’ offense has done whatever it’s wanted, averaging 120.8 points per game over this span.

Phil Jackson’s team has posted a solid 27-14 SU and 27-13 ATS road record.

Denver has run a lot of teams out of its building by averaging 113 PPG en route to a 33-8 SU and 24-17 ATS mark.

The total has gone 1-1 in the first two games of the best-of-seven series, but Game 2 barely saw the combined 229 points slip ‘under’ the closing total of 230.

Don’t be surprised to see another shootout, with the pace featuring 90-plus attempts by each team. And, each of the first two games saw 60-plus free throw attempts.

The Lakers have hit 21-of-48 (44%) 3-pointers in the first two games, while the Nuggets have connected on just 29 percent (9-of29) of their shots.

Denver has been made a slight one-point home favorite for Game 3.

Boston at Atlanta – Game 3

The Celtics have ripped the Hawks in all five of their head-to-head meetings this year, winning all five by double digits.

Boston has covered four of the five games, plus the ‘under’ has gone 5-0 in all five contests.

The bottom line comes down to Atlanta’s offense and it’s been pathetic against the Celtics this year, posting 83, 88, 89, 81 and 77 points.

Mike Woodson’s team just can’t shoot the ball well, evidenced by a pair of 38 percent efforts in the first two games. The Hawks are a combined 3-of-19 (15.7%) from downtown in the first two games.

The one positive that the Hawks can look to in Game 3 is that they’ve been aggressive. The team has attempted 68 free throws in the best-of-seven series.

Oddsmakers listed the Celtics as eight-point road favorites for Game 3, with the total sitting at 187.

Atlanta is 5-5 ATS this year when listed as a home ‘dog. Boston is 18-9 (67%) against the spread this year as a road favorite.

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Re: Saturday's NBA Tip Sheet

Trends favor Jazz in Game 4
By Chris David

This year’s NBA playoffs haven’t supplied the fans with a lot of drama but Houston spiced up the postseason Thursday by stunning Utah 94-92 as an 8½-point road underdog. The Rockets outscored the Jazz 24-16 in the fourth quarter en route to the win. The team cashed money-line tickets with an eye opening return of plus-400 (Bet $100 to win $400).

Finally, Tracy McGrady showed up the final 12 minutes by scoring seven of his 27 points down the stretch. The return of point guard Rafer Alston was huge too, as the speedster dropped 20 points and five assists.

Deron Williams had an opportunity to give the Jazz a win but the point guard had his shot blocked by Carl Landry in the final seconds. Williams finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds in a losing effort.

After getting dominated in the paint in the first two games, the Rockets outscored the Jazz 40-26 in Game 3. Houston struggled from the free-throw line in Game 1 and 2, but it was Utah that got a case of the “yips” in Game 3. The Jazz were 20-of-33 (61%) from the stripe on Thursday, including a dismal 3-of-8 performance from Carlos Boozer.

Game 4 is slated for 10:35 p.m. EST from Energy Solutions Arena and the books haven’t changed their tune despite the Rockets’ upset in Game 3. Utah is listed as a nine-point home favorite, with the total hovering between 185 and 186.

“When separating contenders from pretenders, I like to see how teams bounce back after losing. In an 82-game regular season, it’s easy to find teams that go through slumps and deal with serious losing streaks,” said VegasInsider.com handicapper Matt Moore.

“Utah dropped six straight games in early December, with five of the setbacks coming on the road. If you take out that horrendous stretch, the club has only lost back-to-back games on three occasions during the regular season, with the last pair of defeats coming on Dec. 28 (L.A. Lakers 123-109) and Dec. 29 (Boston 104-98).”

“Jerry Sloan is arguably the best coach in the league and he certainly knows how to dissect and analyze a game, especially after losing. The numbers don’t lie and he’s dominated teams this year after a loss.”

Looking at the stats closer, the Jazz are 12-0 straight up and 8-4 against the spread in the very next game after a loss since Dec. 29. You can tell that Sloan has focused on defense, with the Jazz holding 10 of the 12 opponents under 100 points during this stretch. The ‘under’ has gone 9-3.

Gamblers should also note that 10 of Utah’s 12 victories after a loss were by double-digits, including a 93-82 triumph in Game 1 last Saturday against Houston. In case you forgot, the Jazz were embarrassed in their season finale to San Antonio, 109-80.

Since Utah owns the league’s best home record (37-5 SU, 27-12 ATS), we decided to see how Sloan’s squad has played at home after losing their previous home contest. Since it’s only happened four times during the regular season, the sample size isn’t that big yet it’s impressive.

The Rockets are 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS, winning all four games by double digits.

If trends hold true, then this best-of-seven series will be 3-1 come Sunday morning.

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Re: Saturday's NBA Tip Sheet

NBA PLAYOFFS

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(3) Orlando (54-31, 51-31-3 ATS) at (6) Toronto (42-43, 41-43-1 ATS)


Having climbed back into their series with the Magic with a victory on Thursday, the Raptors now look to draw even in Game 4 of this best-of-7 opening-round set at the Air Canada Centre.

Toronto scored a 108-94 win Thursday night, easily cashing as a four-point chalk. It was a complete team effort for the Raptors, as they shot 49.4 percent from the floor and had seven players reach double digits, led by T.J. Ford’s 21 points.

The Raptors have now covered the last two games in the series and ended the Magic’s five-game SU win streak. However, Toronto is still just 4-7 SU and ATS in its last 11 games, while Orlando is 8-4 SU and 7-4-1 ATS in its last 11 starts.

The Magic have won four of the last six clashes with the Raptors, but are just 3-3 ATS. Dating back to 2005, the Raptors are now on streaks of 10-3 ATS versus Orlando overall and (8-5 SU) 8-1 ATS versus Orlando north of the border.

Despite Thursday’s pointspread setback, the Magic still are on a plethora of positive pointspread streaks, including 5-2 against the Eastern Conference, 4-2 on the highway, 27-10-1 after a non-cover, 14-6-1 as a road ‘dog, 21-9 when getting less than five points on the road and 10-5 on one days’ rest. One negative note for Orlando: It is just 2-5-1 ATS in its last eight as a playoff underdog.

The Raptors are 38-16-2 ATS in their last 56 against Southeast Division opponents but the ATS trends are all negative from there, including 9-20 overall, 3-8 against teams with a winning SU mark, 4-7 against the East, 3-8 on one days’ rest, 2-7 following a spread-cover and 0-5 on Saturdays.

In this rivalry, the over is on streaks of 5-2 overall (2-1 in this playoff series) and 4-2 in games played in Toronto. In addition, the over is 7-2 in Orlando’s last nine first-round playoff games, 4-1 in Toronto’s last five first-round contests and 5-2 in the Raptors’ last seven against winning teams. Conversely, the under is on streaks of 7-1 for Orlando on the road and 7-2-1 for Toronto at home.

ATS ADVANTAGE: OVER


(1) Boston (68-16, 54-28-2 ATS) at (8) Atlanta (37-47, 37-46-1 ATS)


The Celtics try to take a commanding 3-0 lead when they meet the Hawks in Game 3 of their best-of-7 first-round series, which shifts to Philips Arena in Atlanta.

Boston went up 2-0 in the series with Wednesday’s 96-77 victory, covering as a 15-point home favorite for the second straight time in this series. The Celtics’ defense dominated the game, limiting the Hawks to 38.3 percent shooting and not allowing them to hit a 3-pointer (0-for-5). Boston also outrebounded Atlanta 45-35 and forced the Hawks into 22 turnovers while committing just 14.

Doc Rivers’ Celtics have now won 13 of their last 14 games going back to the regular season, going 12-2 ATS. That includes an ongoing 6-0 SU and ATS winning streak.

The Hawks, who are back in the postseason for the first time since 1999, have now lost five straight games and seven of their last nine, both SU and ATS. In fact, the winner has cashed in each of the team’s last 11 games.

Boston is 5-0 against Atlanta this year (4-1 ATS), easily winning all five games by double digits. Still, the underdog is 7-5 ATS in the last 12 clashes.

The Celtics are on ATS runs of 21-5 overall, 16-5 as a favorite, 48-19-1 on the highway, 35-17 on Saturdays, 4-1 on two days’ rest, 5-1 against the Southeast Division and 7-2 as a road chalk. Meanwhile the Hawks are on ATS slides of 1-5 at home, 0-4 as an underdog, 0-5 overall and 0-5 against the Eastern Conference.

Wednesday’s game stayed under the total, making the under 5-0 in the five meetings this year. Also, for the Celtics, the under is on runs of 9-3 overall, 12-3 against the Eastern Conference, 6-1 against the Southeast Division and 8-2 following an ATS win.

On the flip side, for the Hawks, the over is still on streaks of 9-5 overall, 8-5 against the Eastern Conference and 6-4 against the Atlantic Division. However, Atlanta has stayed under the total in four of its last five against the Atlantic Division, as well as five straight Saturday contests.

ATS ADVANTAGE: BOSTON and UNDER


WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) L.A. Lakers (59-25, 49-34-1 ATS) at (8) Denver (50-34, 44-40 ATS)


The Lakers season-long dominance of the Nuggets continued in Game 2, and now they look to take a decisive 3-0 lead when the two teams meet inside the Pepsi Center in Denver for Game 3 of their best-of-7 first-round series.

Los Angeles got 49 points and 10 assists from Kobe Bryant in Wednesday’s 122-107 home win, cashing as 8½-point favorites. Bryant was 18 of 27 from the field as the Lakers, who shot 50.5 percent from the floor and accumulated 33 assists as compared with Denver’s 12 on Wednesday. Also, Los Angeles has averaged 125 points a game in this series.

Wednesday’s win improved the Lakers to 5-0 SU and ATS against Denver this season and 8-2 ATS in the last 10. In the lone matchup between these squads in the Mile High City this season, the Lakers scored a 111-107 win as nine-point ‘dogs back on Dec. 5, improving to 4-1 ATS in their last five trips to the Pepsi Center.

The Lakers are on a 10-1 SU surge dating to the regular season, but they’re just 6-5 ATS during this stretch.  Meanwhile, Denver, which had to win four of its last five regular-season games to get into the playoffs for the fifth straight year, has now dropped sixth consecutive playoff games both SU and ATS (all as an underdog) going back to last year’s opening-round, five-game loss to the eventual champion Spurs.

Phil Jackson’s squad is on ATS streaks of 6-1 as a road underdog, 19-7-1 on the highway, 20-9 following an ATS win, 7-3 when playing on two days’ rest and 4-1 in conference quarterfinal matchups. Meanwhile, the Nuggets are on positive pointspread runs of 19-8 following a SU defeat, 8-3 at home, 11-4 as a favorite, 9-2 following a SU loss and 4-1 at home against teams with a winning road mark.

Game 2 narrowly stayed under the 230-point posted total, making the over 3-1 in the Lakers’ last four overall and 4-2 in the Lakers’ last six first-round playoff contests. Also, Denver has topped the total in 15 of its last 21 home games and 18 of its last 26 games as a favorite. However, for the Nuggets, the under is still on streaks of 6-1 overall and 17-5 in first-round playoff games.

ATS ADVANTAGE: L.A. LAKERS


(5) Houston (56-29, 48-35-2 ATS) at (4) Utah (56-29, 48-37 ATS)

After dropping two games at home, the Rockets got themselves back into their best-of-7 first-round series against the Jazz with Thursday’s narrow win inside Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City and now look to draw even with another road win.

With their backs against the wall, the Rockets held off Utah 94-92, cashing as a nine-point underdog to become the first time all season to win twice in Salt Lake City. Tracy McGrady led the charge for the Rockets with 27 points and seven assists, while Rafer Alson, who sat out Games 1 and 2 with an injury, added 20 points and five assists.

When these two squared off in last year’s opening round of the postseason, the home team went 6-0 SU before the Jazz stole Game 7 in Houston. Including the Game 7 clincher, the road team is on 6-1 SU and ATS roll in this rivalry (all as an underdog), including 3-0 SU and ATS in this series. However, Utah is still on an 8-2 ATS run against Houston (7-3 SU) and is 6-2 ATS in its last eight at home against the Rockets.

Despite Thursday’s setback, Jerry Sloan’s squad is still 8-3 SU and 9-2 ATS in its last 11 overall. Meanwhile, the Rockets are 2-4 SU and ATS in their last six overall, a downturn that comes on the heels of a 5-0 SU and ATS streak. Finally, the straight-up winner is 13-0 ATS in Houston’s last 13 contests.

The Rockets snapped an 0-7 ATS playoff losing streak with Thursday’s win, all in games played against Utah. Still, Houston remains on pointspread slides of 2-4 as an underdog overall, 1-4 as a playoff underdog, 1-5 as a road pup of five to 10½ points and 1-4 against the Northwest Division. On the bright side, Houston is 7-2 in its last nine Saturday tip-offs and 17-8 ATS in its last 25 on the highway.

The Jazz remain on a bevy of positive ATS streaks, including 25-9 against the Western Conference, 8-2 against the Southwest Division, 38-17-1 against winning teams, 6-1-1 as a playoff favorite, and 37-15-1 at home.

The under for Houston is on runs of 6-2 overall, 4-1 as a ‘dog of any price, 17-6 as a road pup of five to 10½ points, 11-3 against the Northwest Division and 8-4 in first-round playoff games. For Utah, the under is 11-4-1 in the team’s last 15 against the Southwest Division, 15-7 in its last 22 first-round playoff games and 6-3 in its last nine overall. Finally, the under is 2-1 in this best-of-7 series and 10-5 in the last 15 head-to-head meetings in Salt Lake City.

ATS ADVANTAGE: UTAH and UNDER

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Re: Saturday's NBA Tip Sheet

NBA Playoff Gameday

The Celtics and the Lakers can both take a 3-0 strangehold in their respective opening-round series on Saturday, while the Raptors and Rockets will be both looking for an important win to square things up. Here's your Saturday NBA Gameday.

Orlando at Toronto

The Raptors bounced back in Game 3 on Thursday night with a 108-94 win as a 4-point favorite to cut Orlando's series lead to 2-1. Toronto's point-guard tandem of T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon both excelled in the win, as Ford scored a team-high 21 points and Calderon added 18 points, seven rebounds and 13 assists. Hedo Turkoglu led Orlando with 26 points and Dwight Howard had 19 points and 12 rebounds. Toronto is a 3-point favorite in Saturday's game.

LA Lakers at Denver

The Lakers continued their domination of the Nuggets in Game 2 with a 122-107 victory as an 8.5-point favorite. Kobe Bryant netted a game-high 49 points to go along with 10 assists, while Pau Gasol chipped in with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Allen Iverson had another big game in a losing effort for Denver with 31 points, and Carmelo Anthony dropped in 23 points. With the series moving back to Denver, the Nuggets are a slim 1-point favorite in Game 3.

Boston at Atlanta

The Celtics hammered Atlanta again in Game 2 with a 96-77 win as a 15-point favorite to take a 2-0 series lead. Boston spread out the offense again with Kevin Garnett scoring 19 points and Ray Allen adding 15 points. Paul Pierce deposited 14 points and Rajon Rondo had 12 points, six rebounds and eight assists. Josh Smith and Marvin Williams each scored 13 points for Atlanta, as the Hawks failed to hit a single three-pointer in the game. The Celtics are an 8-point favorite in Saturday's game.

Houston at Utah

The Rockets kept the Jazz from taking a commanding lead in the series in Game 3 with a 94-92 win as a 9-point road underdog. Tracy McGrady scored 27 points and added five rebounds and seven assists to lead the Rockets to the win. Houston had Rafer Alston in the lineup for the first time in two weeks due to a hamstring injury, and he contributed right away with 20 points. Deron Williams and Carols Boozer each posted a double-double for Utah, with Williams delivering 28 points and 12 assists, while Boozer had 15 points and 13 rebounds. The Jazz are a 9-point home favorite in Saturday's game.

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Re: Saturday's NBA Tip Sheet

Sevransky on this weekend's NBA action
By TED SEVRANSKY

Saturday's games:

Orlando at Toronto


The Magic led the Raptors by 20 after the first quarter of Game 1, hitting nine three point shots in the first twelve minutes of the game. Toronto cut the lead down to five in the fourth quarter, but could get no closer in a 14 point loss. Orlando led by 17 after the first quarter of Game 2, but that lead was gone before halftime, as the Magic barely survived, escaping with a one point win. After juggling his lineup, Sam Mitchell got a much better early game performance in Game 3, as the Raptors dominated from the get-go, opening up a 21 point halftime lead, and cruising to a 14 point win. With the exception of the first two first quarters, the Raptors have now outscored the Magic by 36 points in the series, but they know that they’re not done yet. Toronto point guard TJ Ford: “We're halfway to our goal, which is to get back to 2-2. We have to take care of business again on Saturday.”

L.A. Lakers at Denver

The Lakers won and covered each of the first two games of this series, using dominating second half runs to beat Denver by double digit margins each time. In the first game, it was Pau Gasol leading the charge; while Game 2 brought a truly special performance from Kobe Bryant, with Denver searching for answers defensively against LA. It’s been the same story all year for these two teams, with LA winning and covering the spread in all five meetings, although it’s must be mentioned that only one of those five games was played at the Pepsi Center in Denver, and that was the tightest decision, a four point LA victory. Denver has been bounced out in five games in the first round of the playoffs in each of the last four seasons.

Boston at Atlanta

The 19 and 23 point Boston victories in the first two games of this series don’t accurately depict how much the Celtics have been able to dominate the Hawks. Perhaps this is a better way of describing the one sided games at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston – the Celtics have outscored the Hawks in every single quarter, even in garbage time in the fourth. Boston’s complete and utter dominance dates back to the regular season as well, with the Celtics winning all three meetings by double digit margins. Their lone previous trip to the Philips Arena came in the final week of the regular season, as the Celtics prevented the Hawks from clinching their playoff berth, with a game ending 21-5 run.

Houston at Utah

Tracy McGrady somehow became a hero in Game 3 as the Rockets pulled off the upset on Utah’s powerful home floor (37-4 SU, 29-12 ATS during the regular season). If you watched the game and didn’t listen to the announcers ridiculous fawning over T-Mac, you know that he might have hit a couple of clutch jumpers, but his fourth quarter performance was again subpar – missing key shots, settling for jumpers against an opponent over the foul limit, blowing defensive assignments – the works. That being said, it marked the second time in the last four games (along with their regular season finale against San Antonio) that the Jazz have played a real clunker, losing by double digits ATS. This is the only series going where the home team has yet to win a game or cover a pointspread.

Sunday's games:

Cleveland at Washington


This bizarre series has just featured back-to-back 30 point blowouts, one for each team on their home floor. It’s the first time in NBA playoff history that a team has lost by that margin in one game, then responded with a win by that margin in the next. No surprise here if Game 4 is more like Game 1, which was tied with under two minutes remaining before a 9-2 Cavs run earned them the victory and pointspread cover. The Wizards missed ten consecutive shots from the floor down the stretch of that ballgame while LeBron James was making huge shots, and Washington’s best clutch shooter, Gilbert Arenas, tweaked his knee in the second quarter of Friday Night’s blowout win. Arenas has been upgraded to ‘probable, but will be limited’ for Sunday’s national TV game.

San Antonio at Phoenix

Game 1 of this series was one of the best first round playoff games in NBA history, a double overtime Spurs victory won with less than two seconds left in the second overtime on a Manu Ginobili drive to the hole. The Suns haven’t recovered from that devastating defeat, blowing a double digit first half lead in Game 2, then returning home only to suffer an ugly blowout loss in Game 3. No NBA team has ever come back from 3-0 series deficit. The defending champs have now won four straight road games in the postseason and nine of their last eleven on the highway dating back to last season. In fact, San Antonio is now 18-4 SU, 16-5-1 ATS in their last 22 playoff games, arguably the single most undervalued team in the postseason betting marketplace.

Detroit at Philadelphia

The prevailing wisdom about the Detroit Pistons is that they don’t start to play their best basketball until their backs are up against the wall. That’s exactly the case here, after they were blown out in a crucial Game 3 at Philadelphia. Philly did all the things that Detroit was supposed to do in this series: hitting clutch shots, playing championship level defense and keeping their composure. Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups: “They just beat us in every category. From the start, they had more energy for whatever reason.” Detroit has been a resilient squad in season’s past, even rallying from a first round 3-1 series deficit against Orlando on their first of five consecutive trips to the conference finals. Yet, somehow, this year’s meltdown feels very different, especially considering the Pistons repeated postseason failures under Flip Saunders.

New Orleans at Dallas

The Dallas Mavericks finally found a way to contain Chris Paul in Game 3, after Paul positively torched them in the first two games of the series. Avery Johnson inserted Jason Terry into the starting lineup, replacing Jerry Stackhouse and gave Terry the responsibility to cover Paul instead of Jason Kidd. The strategy worked for at least one game: Paul missed 14 of his 18 shot attempts, while David West missed 14 shots of his own, hounded by Dirk Nowitzki. Paul, didn’t seem to think that there were any fundamental problems for New Orleans, despite their 44 point drop-off between Games 2 and 3: “I think we got a lot of shots we wanted. We just missed them.” That being said, there was no question that Dallas was the more aggressive team throughout, as evidenced by the enormous free throw disparity, with Dallas taking 38 attempts from the charity stripe in sharp contrast to the Hornets 13 foul shots. Paul certainly hasn’t lost his confidence: “Now we’re trying to win it in five games. This is fun. I love this. We lost tonight, but we get to see them again Sunday. This isn’t the end of the road.”

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