TGIF: Start Your Weekend Off With Moneymaking NBA Playoff Bets
The Cavs and Spurs on Friday night
By Liam Davis
Toronto Raptors (+2.5) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (-2.5)
It's hard to imagine this Toronto Raptors team falling down 3-0 in a series, even when they are playing the Cleveland Cavaliers. They finished the regular season in the top 10 of both points scored and allowed per 100 possessions. They were the better two-way team.
But, relative to this series, it's equally hard to envision them pulling out a victory in Game 3. They are playing in front of their home crowd, which should give them an emotional boost. They also found a way to top 100 points in Wednesday's loss despite shooting like crud from three-point range. Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas each turned in a tidy shooting performance—all good things.
And yet, the Raptors still lost by 22 points.
DeMar DeRozan has yet to get going this series, and it's hard to give him 30-plus minutes when he's not making shots. He's a defensive liability, and the Cavaliers aren't giving him the opportunity to make passes off the bounce.
We have to remember that these Raptors are still new to each other. P.J. Tucker and Ibaka only arrived at the trade deadline, and Lowry barely got to play with either of them, as he was tending to a wrist injury out of the All-Star break.
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, are just too potent on offense. Even when they aren't allowed to get out in transition, the Raptors have no answer for LeBron James drives or post-ups. If they collapse, he'll fling passes to wide-open three-point snipers. If they stick only one body on him, James will overpower said defender en route to an easy look around the basket.
This isn't a dilemma the Raptors can just solve. They can run smaller and hope to force the Cavaliers into uncomfortable adjustments, but after watching Games 1 and 2, we have to roll with Cleveland until Toronto proves we shouldn't.
The Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers (-2.5)
Houston Rockets (-4.5) vs. San Antonio Spurs (+4.5)
Early in the fourth quarter of the San Antonio Spurs' Game 2 victory over the Houston Rockets, Tony Parker left with a leg injury. As it turns out, the worst was confirmed: He is done for the season.
Statistically, this wouldn't appear to be a problem. The Spurs are posting a first-place offensive rating without him, according to NBA.com, and he isn't a defensive upgrade over any other guards on the roster.
Strategically, though, this changes things.
The Spurs now need another playmaker to run the show. Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili will each shoulder some of the residual load, but we can expect to see the ball in Kawhi Leonard's hands even more as well. This isn't a terrible development, but you worry about Leonard doing more. He's already been everything to the Spurs' offense, and he officially began defending James Harden in Game 2.
While San Antonio could pull him from that assignment, the move comes with a risk. Sticking him on someone else allows the Rockets to stash that person so far away from the action, Leonard gets pulled with him. If Leonard helps onto others, he's giving up a wide-open catch-and-shoot three. If he doesn't help, he's leaving lesser-talented teammates out to dry.
See the problem? Leonard has to stay on Harden, if only because it lets him remain in the thick of the defensive action. So playing without Parker is going to be an adjustment—one the Spurs are fully capable of mastering.
It won't be easy, but the Spurs proved they're ready to lean more on Jonathon Simmons, who injects extra athleticism into the rotation. He helps in just about every area of need right now, both as a possible ball-handler and one-on-one defender. He represents the depth that has come to define the Spurs, who, despite Parker's absence, really shouldn't be the underdog in this game.
The Pick: San Antonio Spurs (+4.5)
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