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NBA ♦ Playoffs Opening Round ♦ Saturday 4/16/16

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    NBA Playoff Opening Round Betting Strategies
    By Marc Lawrence

    With help from our trusted well-oiled database, let’s examine four proven theories that have lined our pockets during the opening round of the NBA playoffs since 1991. Here’s what the machine has to say.

    No. 8 Seeds Are Behind The 8-Ball

    For the most part, No. 8 seeds in the NBA playoffs are teams that likely scratched and clawed their way into the post-season. Not good enough to be seriously considered threats against top-seeded opponents but just barely better than the dregs of the league.

    Rest assured, their life expectancy is not long at all, as they’ve lost over 70% of time (54-133 SU) in games against No. 1 seeds since 1996. In fact, only the 1996 New York Knicks, the 2007 Golden State Warriors and the 2012 Philadelphia 76ers were good enough to pull the rug on top seeded foes and advance to Round Two of the playoffs.

    And you can virtually write them off in games against No. 1 seeds that are off back-to-back SU and ATS wins. These guys scratch like an roaming 8-ball in the side pocket, going 4-25 SU and 9-20 ATS, including 0-16 SU and 2-14 ATS whenever the 8-ballers are off a spread loss of four or more points in their last game.

    Upset Losers Are Winners

    No, it’s not an oxymoron. Instead, it’s a powerful handicapping edge. It occurs whenever a team was upset as a favorite in an opening round game and is at home in the game immediately thereafter.

    That’s confirmed by the fact that they are 90-24 SU and 68-42-4, a rock solid number. And if they are squaring off against a No. 6 or lower seed they improve to 48-6 SU and 38-16-2 ATS – including 15-2-2 ATS when favored by less than eight points.

    Don’t be afraid of these chalkbusters. They don’t lose their composure, instead they almost always dig down deep and respond with aplomb in games after being embarrassed.

    Double-Digit Dogma

    Surprisingly, in the right role, double-digit underdogs do well in opening round contests, especially when playing off a playoff loss. These overweight puppies are 32-17-2 ATS in this role.

    If these same teams are involved in a game with the Over/Under total set at 193 or higher they zoom to 26-7 ATS, including 19-3 ATS when facing a non-division foe.

    Granted, these dogs are not exactly pedigree puppies, but the fact of the matter is they tend to come up big against disinterested favorites not capable of chopping heavy lumber.

    And Down Goes Frazier

    The psyche of teams that are not playing well comes immediately to the surface during the opening round of the NBA playoffs. That’s evidenced by the fact that teams riding a three game-exact loss skein are wobbly and oftentimes one punch away from being counted out.

    With glass-like jaws, these swirling teams are just 46-63 SU and 44-61-4 ATS away from home this round, including 7-11 SU and 6-12 ATS in lid-lifters.

    Worst of all, road dogs of more than six points on a three game exact losing skid are 3-27 SU and 8-22 ATS on their way to the canvas.


    Defending champions (the Golden State Warriors in this case) are 74-33 SU and 59-44-4 ATS in opening round games the next season, including 16-8 SU and 15-8-1 ATS in Game One of Round One. They are, however, just 5-9 ATS as double-digit chalk in this round.


    With historic regular season in books, Warriors heavy title faves
    By Andrew Caley

    After a thrilling final day of the NBA regular season, all of the playoff matchups are set and it’s no surprise, the 73-win Golden State Warriors are the heavy favorites to repeat as NBA Champions.

    Not only are Warriors the heavy favorites, they are actually laying chalk in the title odds, currently on the board at 5/7 to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy, according to the Westgate LV Superbook.

    The Warriors biggest challenger, at least according to Las Vegas, is the team they faced off in last year’s Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron and the Cavs enter the postseason at 3/1 after finishing first in the Eastern Conference with 57 wins.

    The team with the third best odds to win the NBA title is no surprise, the San Antonio Spurs, who racked up 67 wins this season and are currently on the board at 7/2.

    After those top three, the odds for the remaining teams are noticeably longer. The Oklahoma City Thunder have the fourth best odds at 16/1, followed by the Toronto Raptors at 25/1 and the Los Angeles Clippers at 30/1.

    Check out the complete list of NBA title odds below:

    Warriors 5/7
    Cavaliers 3/1
    Spurs 7/2
    Thunder 16/1
    Raptors 25/1
    Clippers 30/1
    Heat 40/1
    Celtics 50/1
    Hawks 60/1
    Pacers 100/1
    Hornets 100/1
    Trail Blazers 200/1
    Pistons 200/1
    Rockets 300/1
    Mavericks 300/1
    Grizzlies 1,000/1


    NBA Odds: Saturday, April 16 2016 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
    by Alan Matthews

    Remember last year when the Western Conference playoffs looked like a bloodbath? It appeared to be the deepest field in years with any team capable of upsetting the other in the first round except for No. 8 New Orleans over No. 1 Golden State. This year? The West clearly has chasm between the top four teams and the bottom four. I’d be surprised if any first-round series goes past five games, with that one possibility being Clippers-Trail Blazers. The other three could be sweeps. But in the East, it wouldn’t shock me if any team beat a first-round favorite in a series other than No. 8 Detroit over No. 1 Cleveland.

    No. 7 Pacers at No. 2 Raptors (-6, 195)

    Indiana missed the playoffs last season because star Paul George played in just six late-season games due to a broken leg. The Pacers clinched the No. 7 seed and avoided Cleveland with a home win over the Knicks on Tuesday and thus sat their starters in Wednesday’s meaningless game in Milwaukee. Toronto also played with a skeleton lineup Wednesday at Brooklyn but won its fourth straight. The Raptors have set a franchise record with 56 wins. But they have flopped the past two seasons in the playoffs as favorites, losing in seven games to the Nets in Round 1 in 2014 and then getting swept by the Wizards in that round last year. These teams met to open this season and Toronto won 106-99 at home. The Raptors took three of four overall in the series, winning it for the second straight year. They have taken seven of the last eight meetings between the two clubs, including five in a row at home. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry averaged 24.3 and 23.7 points, respectively, in three games against the Pacers this season. They each sat out the most recent game on April 8. George played all four and averaged 16.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists.

    Key trends:
    The Pacers are 7-22 against the spread in the past 29 meetings in Toronto. The “over/under” is 4-0 in the past four there.

    Early lean:
    Raptors and over.

    No. 8 Rockets at No. 1 Warriors (-14, 226)

    Houston was basically handed the final playoff spot in the West on Wednesday night as the Kings were in total quit mode without star DeMarcus Cousins (most everyone else of note as well) and with reports filtering out before the game that Coach George Karl would be fired (he was). It was no contest, with Houston rolling 116-81 for its third straight win and fourth in a row scoring at least 115 points. James Harden had 38 points to finish second in the NBA in scoring at 29.0 ppg. Harden set career marks in points per game, assists (7.5) and rebounds (6.1) to join LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average at least 29 points, seven assists and six rebounds in a season. Golden State routed Memphis on Wednesday, 125-104 to set the NBA record with 73 wins. Steph Curry capped his second straight MVP season with 46 points to win the scoring title at 30.1 ppg. The Warriors beat the Rockets in five games in last season’s Western Conference Finals and swept this regular season.

    Key trends:
    The Rockets are 4-9 ATS in the past 13 meetings. The over is 4-0 in Golden State’s past four at home. The over is 24-9 in Houston’s past 33 vs. the West.

    Early lean:
    Might Warriors be a bit spent going for 73? Take the points. Go over.

    No. 5 Celtics at No. 4 Hawks (-4.5, 207)

    The seeding for these two was decided on Wednesday; they actually finished in a four-way tie with Miami and Charlotte at 48-34. Atlanta could have been the No. 3 but lost 109-98 at a Washington team going through the motions and playing backups. Boston ended a two-game losing streak with a 98-88 home win over Miami on Wednesday. The Celtics set a franchise record by rallying from a 26-point deficit. Yet Boston still won’t have home-court advantage in most likely any series. An Atlanta win would’ve given the Cs the edge in a three-way tie between Boston, Charlotte and Miami. The Hawks won the season series with the Celtics 3-1. Atlanta won the most recent meeting 118-107 on April 9 at home. Atlanta has won four straight at home in the series.

    Key trends:
    The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The Celtics are 3-14 ATS in their past 17 road games vs. teams with a winning home record. Against teams with a winning record, the over is 7-3 in Boston’s past 10 and 5-1 in Atlanta’s past six.

    Early lean:
    Hawks and over.

    No. 6 Mavericks at No. 3 Thunder (-12, 213)

    Dallas’ Rick Carlisle certainly deserves some Coach of the Year consideration with the Mavs back in the playoffs for the 15th time in16 seasons despite that whole DeAndre Jordan fiasco this summer and losing Chandler Parsons for the season a few weeks back. The Mavs lost their finale 96-91 at home to San Antonio even though the Spurs sat four starters. And the Mavs lost reserve forward David Lee to a heel injury; his status going forward isn’t clear. Lee averaged 8.8 points and 7.1 rebounds in 24 games with the Mavericks before the finale. Oklahoma City sat Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka in its meaningless finale Tuesday, losing by four in overtime. Westbrook had an NBA-high 18 triple-doubles this season. The Thunder are 18-0 in those games. Westbrook had an amazing season, averaging 23.5 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds. He might be MVP if not for Curry. Oklahoma City won all four meetings with Dallas this season.

    Key trends:
    The Thunder are 9-2 ATS in their past 11 vs. teams with a winning record. The underdog is 19-8 ATS in the past 27 meetings. The over is 5-1 in the past six meetings.

    Early lean:
    Mavericks cover, go under as Dallas has been great on defense of late and slowing it down.



    10 units Dallas Mavericks +12

    10 units Indiana vs Toronto – Under 195

    10 units Charlotte vs Miami – Under 201.5
    *Sunday 4/17/16*


    “NBA playoffs betting preview and odds”

    The NBA playoffs tip off Saturday, beginning in Toronto and ending in Oklahoma City. Meanwhile, Golden State continues their historic season with a postseason mactchup against Houston.

    Indiana Pacers at Toronto Raptors (-6.5, 194)

    When: 12:30 PM ET, Saturday, April 16, 2016
    Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario

    The Toronto Raptors felt they were ready to take a step forward in last season’s playoffs but were instead swept in four games by the Washington Wizards. Second-seeded Toronto again attempts to climb upward when it opens the playoffs on Saturday against the seventh-seeded Indiana Pacers after winning a club-record 56 regular-season games.

    That horrid showing a season ago lingers over a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff series since 2001. “That experience is huge, and I keep talking about that to you guys, that everybody talks about ‘Oh you got swept, you got whupped last year in the playoffs,'” coach Dwane Casey told reporters. “Yeah we did, but the experience factor was huge. I always say you’ve got to go through something to get to where you want to go, and last year was our something.” Toronto closed the regular season with five wins in six games and Indiana also was stellar down the stretch by winning six of its last seven. Pacers All-Star small forward Paul George struggled in four games against Toronto this season by shooting just 30.8 percent from the field while averaging 16.3 points, well below his season mark of 23.1.

    TV: 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Sportsnet One (Toronto)

    ABOUT THE PACERS (45-37):
    Indiana needs to find some complimentary scoring if George again gets bottled up by the Raptors. Shooting guard Monta Ellis is no longer a bona fide scorer despite ranking second on the team in scoring (13.8) and the best frontcourt option is backup rookie power forward Myles Turner (10.3), who has cooled down recently after a strong six-week stretch that ended in late February. “There is such a thing as the rookie wall and I think he hit that,” point guard George Hill told reporters. “Everybody hits that wall. That wall don’t move. He just has to keep continuing to work on his craft, keep getting up shots, and it will take care of itself.”

    ABOUT THE RAPTORS (56-26):
    Toronto will be relying on the All-Star backcourt combo of shooting guard DeMar DeRozan (23.5) and point guard Kyle Lowry (21.2 points, 6.4 assists) to lead the way out of the opening round. The two standouts mesh well together and may receive a boost from small forward DeMarre Carroll, who recently returned after missing more than three months due to right knee surgery. Carroll is a solid defender when at his best but it remains to be seen how well he will fit in offensively after the long absence.


    * Pacers are 15-3 ATS in their last 18 games playing on two days rest.
    * Raptors are 4-0 ATS in their last four home games.
    * Under is 7-1 in Pacers last eight games following a ATS win.
    * Over is 4-0 in the last four meetings in Toronto.


    1. The Raptors went 3-1 against the Pacers in the regular season, including a 111-98 home victory on April 8.

    2. Backup Indiana swingman C.J. Miles (shoulder) will play after missing the final two games of the regular season.

    3. Toronto set a franchise-record with 1,702 free-throw attempts while DeRozan set club marks for free throws made (555) and attempted (653).

    PREDICTION: Raptors 98, Pacers 92


    Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors (-13, 225)

    When: 3:30 PM ET, Saturday, April 16, 2016
    Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, California

    The Golden State Warriors just finished up the best regular season in NBA history and try to quickly turn the page to the playoffs and defending their NBA Championship. The Warriors will begin their quest for two in a row in Game 1 on Saturday by hosting the Houston Rockets, who barely scraped their way into the postseason after making it all the way to the Western Conference finals last season.

    Golden State picked up win No. 73 in the season finale on Wednesday to break the record set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls and end a final month that featured some uneven play as the pressure mounted. The Warriors repeatedly suggested during the chase for 73 wins that a second championship remained the biggest goal, and the team will enter the playoffs healthy despite pushing hard over the final two weeks. The Rockets pushed to the finish line as well in order to outlast the Utah Jazz for the final playoff spot on the last day of the season and close out a tumultuous regular season. “A lot of people wrote us off and thought we weren’t going to make the playoffs and here we are,” Houston star James Harden told reporters. “So, we’re going to take it one game at a time and we’re facing guys we played in the Western Conference finals, and obviously they’re playing well and we are too.”

    TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

    ABOUT THE ROCKETS (41-41):
    Houston fired coach Kevin McHale less than a month into the season, dealt with trade rumors and reported disgruntlement from center Dwight Howard and battled inconsistency throughout the campaign before posting wins in three straight to close out the season and overcome a two-game deficit for the No. 8 spot. “With any situation any human being is in, when their back is against the wall, you’ll never know how strong you are until you have to be strong,” point guard Patrick Beverley told “That’s the position we were in and it made us play some of the best basketball we’ve played all season.” The Rockets won their final three games by a total of 79 points, though the wins came against non-playoff teams in the Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings.

    Golden State was led all season by reigning MVP Stephen Curry, who capped his historic campaign by burying 10 3-pointers on Wednesday to bring his total to 402. The star point guard, who is the only player in history to ever connect on 300 3-pointers in a season, averaged 30.1 points and prompted his coach Steve Kerr to gush to reporters: “He just had one of the most amazing seasons anyone has had in the history of the league.” Curry and his star teammates are the overwhelming favorites to repeat as champions and won all three regular-season meetings with the Rockets after knocking them off in five games in the Western Conference finals last spring.


    * Rockets are 8-1 ATS in their last nine Conference Quarterfinals games.
    * Warriors are 0-5 ATS in their last five games following a straight up win of more than 10 points.
    * Under is 5-1 in Rockets last six road games.
    * Over is 4-0 in Warriors last four home games.


    1. Harden (29 points) finished second to Curry in scoring.

    2. Golden State is the first team in NBA history to go through an entire season without losing two straight.

    3. Howard averaged 13.2 points on 69.8 percent shooting and 10.8 rebounds in the final five games of the regular season.

    PREDICTION: Warriors 122, Rockets 100


    Boston Celtics at Atlanta Hawks (-5.5, 204)

    When: 7:00 PM ET, Saturday, April 16, 2016
    Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia

    The mad scramble for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference ended with the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and Charlotte Hornets all finishing with identical records, leaving tiebreakers to decide the seeds. The fourth-seeded Hawks will have homecourt advantage when they host Game 1 against the fifth-seeded Celtics on Saturday.

    The Heat took the third seed based on divisional tiebreakers giving them the Southeast and Atlanta landed the No. 4 spot thanks to its head-to-head records against Boston and Charlotte, setting up a series with no clear favorite. The Celtics caused the tiebreaker scenario on the final day of the regular season by overcoming a 24-point deficit to defeat Miami and bring that momentum into Game 1. “We’re just going to play as hard as we can,” guard Avery Bradley told reporters. “We have to be that hard-nosed, grind team that plays hard every single possession.” The Hawks dropped their final two regular-season games and four of the last seven but logged a key 118-107 home victory over Boston in that span and finished with a 27-14 home record.

    TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN, CSN New England (Boston), FSN Southeast (Atlanta)

    ABOUT THE CELTICS (48-34):
    Boston was pushing hard for homecourt advantage and is just 20-21 on the road but did not seem to be fretting about its trip to Atlanta after the win on Wednesday. “What more could you ask for than a chance? Play here, play there, play anywhere – let’s go compete,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters. All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas will need to quickly turn around a shooting slump that caused him to go 16-of-47 from the field over the final three games, beginning with a 6-of-19 effort in the loss at Atlanta on Apr. 9.

    ABOUT THE HAWKS (48-34):
    Atlanta was the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference at this time last spring but took a little longer to get started in 2015-16. The Hawks began to look like a contender again in the second half and ended up leading the league in defensive field goal percentage (43.2) while using a 14-3 stretch from Feb. 26 to March 28 to vault themselves into contention for homecourt advantage in the first round. “It’s time,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters. “Eighty-two games are done. This season starts now. It’s time to keep our heads up and start preparing and getting ready (for the playoffs).”


    * Celtics are 1-5 ATS in their last six road games.
    * Home team is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.
    * Under is 8-1 in Celtics last nine games following a ATS win.
    * Under is 4-1 in Hawks last five games overall.


    1. Hawks G Tim Hardaway Jr. (hamstring) left Wednesday’s finale at Washington and is questionable for Saturday.

    2. Thomas averaged 20.5 points on 38.3 percent shooting in four games against the Hawks.

    3. Boston took the first meeting this season but Atlanta won the next three by an average of 13.7 points.

    PREDICTION: Hawks 103, Celtics 99


    Dallas Mavericks at Oklahoma City Thunder (-11.5, 206.5)

    When: 9:30 PM ET, Saturday, April 16, 2016
    Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    The Oklahoma City Thunder flew under the radar as the third-best team in the Western Conference this season but are ready to make some noise in the postseason. The host Thunder start their quest to out-do Golden State and San Antonio in the West when they open the postseason against the sixth-seeded Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.

    Oklahoma City is expected to roll through the Mavericks after winning all four regular-season meetings. This could be the Thunder’s last chance to make a deep title run as All-Star small forward Kevin Durant is slated to become a free agent and there are clear indications that he’s very much open to leaving Oklahoma City. Durant and All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook have carried the offense but Dallas played solid defense down the stretch by allowing fewer than 100 points in each of its last nine games, winning seven of them. “We stepped up to the occasion, especially shorthanded, so we’ve just got to continue to get healthy,” Mavericks shooting guard Wesley Matthews told reporters. “Everybody is getting back together, and now we’ve just got that one focus of winning one game at a time.”

    TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, FSN Oklahoma

    Dallas is in the postseason for the 15th time in 16 seasons and will be hoping that 37-year-old power forward Dirk Nowitzki can once again step up under the playoff pressure. Nowitzki has a career scoring average of 25.3 in 140 postseason games but his average this season was below 20 points for the third time in four seasons as he finished at 18.3. The top three point guards are all ailing – J.J. Barea (groin) had a recent hot streak prior to his injury and is expected to play, starter Deron Williams (sports hernia) will attempt to play through the ailment and reserve Devin Harris (thumb) is probable.

    ABOUT THE THUNDER (55-27):
    Westbrook figures to test the Dallas point guards in Game 1 to get a feel for their fitness level and assess how much damage he can inflict. He recorded 18 triple-doubles in the regular season, which ties for third all-time with former Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson (1981-82) and trails only two marks put up by legendary Wilt Chamberlain (31 and 24) during the 1960s. Durant and Westbrook will look for scoring help from their teammates and the best bet to step up is backup center Enes Kanter, who recorded a career-best 25 double-doubles despite averaging just 21 minutes.


    * Mavericks are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 road games.
    * Thunder are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games versus a team with a winning SU record.
    * Over is 5-1 in Mavericks last six games following a SU loss.
    * Over is 5-1 in Thunder last six Conference Quarterfinals games.


    1. The Thunder averaged 112.5 points while sweeping the four regular-season matchups.

    2. Dallas backup PF David Lee (foot) appears doubtful to play in the opener.

    3. Oklahoma City backup SG Dion Waiters was just 8-of-33 from the field over the final three regular-season contests.

    PREDICTION: Thunder 108, Mavericks 100



    PACERS +7.5
    *PT BUY* -130


    NBA Basketball Betting Trends – Sat – April, 16

    Indiana at Toronto, 12:35 ET
    Indiana: 20-10 ATS after playing a game as an underdog
    Toronto: 4-13 ATS after covering 5 or 6 of their last 7 against the spread

    Houston at Goolden State, 3:35 ET
    Houston: 6-18 ATS after having won 4 or 5 of their last 6
    Golden State: 23-10 ATS after a blowout win by 20 points or more

    Boston at Atlanta, 7:05 ET
    Boston: 51-34 ATS after playing a game as favorite
    Atlanta: 39-21 UNDER in home games after 1 or more consecutive unders

    Dallas at Oklahoma City, 9:35 ET
    Dallas: 13-4 ATS against Northwest division opponents
    Oklahoma City: 6-14 ATS after game where they made 85% of free throws or better


    Saturday’s Early Tips
    By Kevin Rogers

    (7) Pacers at (2) Raptors – 12:35 PM EST – ESPN

    2015-16 Meetings

    Oct 28, 2015 – Indiana 99 at Toronto 106 (Raptors -5.5, Over 200)

    Dec 14, 2015 – Toronto 90 at Indiana 106 (Pacers -4.5, Under 200)

    Mar 17, 2016 – Toronto 101 at Indiana 94 – OT (Raptors +1.5, Under 203.5)

    Apr 8, 2016 – Indiana 98 at Toronto 111 (Raptors +5.5, Over 195)

    For the second consecutive postseason, things will tip off north of the border as the Raptors (56-26 SU, 45-37 ATS) try to erase last season’s embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Wizards in the opening round. Toronto wrapped up its third consecutive Atlantic Division title with a franchise-record 56 victories, aided by an 11-game winning streak in January. The Raptors were led by the dynamic backcourt duo of DeMar DeRozan (23.5 points per game) and Kyle Lowry (21.2 ppg), while owning the second-best home record in the East at 32-9.

    Indiana (45-37 SU, 41-40-1 ATS) is back in the postseason after missing out in 2015, as the Pacers sewed up a playoff berth in the final week of the regular season. Frank Vogel’s club overcame a sluggish 0-3 start to the season by winning 12 of their next 14 games to firmly remain in the top eight of the East for the entire campaign. Indiana closed the season strong by putting together a 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS record, although five of those wins came against non-playoff teams. Paul George rebounded from an injury-shortened 2015 season to average a career-best 23.1 ppg, as the Pacers have won three consecutive opening round series since 2012.

    The Raptors won three of four meetings from the Pacers this season, as Toronto needed to rally from a 16-point deficit in the first matchup to open the season. Dwane Casey’s team came back to knock off the Pacers on October 28 in a 106-99 victory to barely cash as 5 ½-point home favorites. Following a fast start, the Pacers were held to 37% shooting as DeRozan and Lowry combined to score 48 points. The Pacers picked up revenge in the next matchup in Indianapolis in mid-December with a 106-90 rout as 4 ½-point favorites to snap a five-game losing streak to the Raptors dating back to 2014.

    Toronto and Indiana needed overtime in their third matchup of the season on St. Patrick’s Day at Bankers Life Fieldhouse as the Raptors escaped with a 101-94 win. The Raptors built an early 10-point advantage before the Pacers rallied to lead by three at halftime. Following a back-and-forth second half, the Raptors broke away from the Pacers in overtime by outscoring Indiana, 16-9. Toronto captured the season series with a 111-98 home victory as 5 ½-point underdogs on April 8, in spite of both DeRozan and Lowry sitting out for the Raptors.

    It was tough to figure out the Raptors at home in the favorite role this season, especially when laying nine points or less. In this pointspread situation, Toronto posted an 11-11 ATS record, including early outright losses to New York, Phoenix, and Sacramento. Indiana put together an impressive 6-1 ATS mark this season as an underdog of six points or more, but won only two of those games straight-up against San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

    (8) Rockets at (1) Warriors – 3:35 PM EST – ABC

    2015-16 Meetings

    Oct 30, 2015 – Golden State 112 at Houston 92 (Warriors -1, Under 216.5)

    Dec 31, 2015 – Golden State 114 at Houston 110 (Warriors +3.5, Over 211)

    Feb 9, 2016 – Houston 110 at Golden State 123 (Rockets +13.5, Over 229)

    The path to a second straight championship for Golden State (73-9 SU, 45-35-2 ATS) begins against the team that the Warriors eliminated in the Western Conference Finals last June. The Warriors finished 16-5 in its run to the franchise’s first championship since 1975 last summer, capped off by downing the Cavaliers in six games of the NBA Finals. Now, Steve Kerr’s club has lofty expectations following a record-setting season.

    Golden State eclipsed Chicago’s 1995-96 record for most victories in the regular season by winning 73 games. Reigning Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry set a career-high by averaging 30.1 points per game to capture his first scoring title, while fellow ‘Splash Brother’ Klay Thompson put up 22.1 ppg on 47% shooting from the floor. The Warriors finished with the second-best home record in the league at 39-2 after starting 36-0 at Oracle Arena, while covering 22 times in Oakland.

    Houston (41-41 SU, 37-45 ATS) suffered through plenty of turmoil this season, which included replacing head coach Kevin McHale after only 11 games. Assistant J.B. Bickerstaff replaced McHale as the Rockets went through ups and downs until finally wrapping up the final playoff spot in the Western Conference on the last night of the season by blowing out Sacramento. James Harden finished 1.1 points behind Curry for the scoring title at 29.0 ppg, as the All-Star guard played in all 82 games for the second time in his career.

    Before reviewing this season’s series between the Rockets and Warriors, we need to go back to last season’s Western Conference Finals. The Rockets erased a 3-1 series deficit in the second round against the Clippers to stun Los Angeles in seven games to get a shot at the top-seeded Warriors. Golden State won the first two games at home by a combined five points, as Houston covered as double-digit underdogs each time. However, the Warriors routed the Rockets in Game 3 at the Toyota Center by 35 points before Houston avoided a sweep with a Game 4 victory. Golden State finished the job at Oracle Arena in Game 5 with a 104-90 triumph to cash as 9 ½-point favorites.

    The Warriors captured all three meetings with the Rockets this season, starting with a 112-92 rout as one-point road favorites in the second game of the campaign. Curry paced the Warriors with 25 points, while Harden struggled from the floor by shooting 4-of-18 from the field and connecting on 1-of-10 attempts from three-point range. The two teams met up two months later on New Year’s Eve in Houston as Curry sat out due to injury, but the Warriors overcame the absence of their MVP by edging the Rockets as 3 ½-point underdogs, 114-110. Thompson stepped up by pouring in 38 points, while Draymond Green delivered a triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 16 assists.

    In the only matchup at Oracle Arena on February 9, the Warriors dropped 42 first-quarter points, but led by three points at halftime following a 39-point second-quarter outburst by Houston. Golden State pulled away for a 123-110 victory, but the Rockets cashed as 13 ½-point underdogs. Harden finally broke through against Golden State by scoring 37 points, but Curry nearly matched the Houston shooting guard with 35 points, including seven three-pointers.

    The Warriors were listed as a double-digit favorite on 43 occasions this season, covering 22 times. In last year’s postseason, Golden State cashed in two of seven opportunities when laying at least 10 points at home. The Rockets closed as a double-digit underdog only twice this season, posting a 1-1 ATS mark. Houston struggled on the highway in last season’s playoffs by compiling a 2-6 SU and 4-4 ATS record, while all three games at Oracle Arena finished ‘under’ the total.


    Saturday’s Late Tips
    By Brian Edwards

    **Boston at Atlanta**

    — With Boston’s comeback from 26 points down at home to beat Miami and cover as a four-point favorite on Wednesday, the final night of the regular season, coupled with Atlanta’s inability to win at Washington when the Wizards were playing without Marcin Gortat, Bradley Beal and John Wall, the result is a 4/5 matchup between these bitter rivals in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. In doing so, the winner will have to (we’re assuming a 1/8 upset won’t go down, though there is precedent and isn’t the lock of a 1/16 matchup in the NCAA Tournament) meet top-seeded Cleveland in the second round. In other words, the Hawks really blew their chances of going to the Eastern Conference finals in back-to-back years (after never getting that far previously while in Atlanta) with the loss in D.C.

    — Game 1 at Philips Arena is set for Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. As of late Friday afternoon, most books had Atlanta (48-34 straight up, 42-39-1 against the spread) installed as a five-point favorite with a total of 204.5 points. The Celtics were +180 on the money line (risk $100 to win $180). For first-half wagers, the Hawks were favored by either 2.5 or three points with an ‘over/under’ of 98.

    — 5Dimes has the Hawks’ odds to win the East at 16/1, while they have 100/1 odds to win the NBA title. As for the Celtics, they have 20/1 odds to win the East and 80/1 odds to capture their first NBA championship since 2008. Why Boston would have longer odds to win the East but shorter odds to win in all compared to Atlanta makes no sense, but that’s how it reads at the offshore betting shop.

    — 5Dimes has the series price as Atlanta -165, Boston +145.

    — In the first of four meetings between these teams on Nov. 13, Boston won a 106-93 decision as a 1.5-point home underdog. The 199 combined points fell ‘under’ the 206.5-point total. Isaiah Thomas was the catalyst for the winners, producing 23 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, two steals and only two turnovers. Amir Johnson added 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocked shots. Jae Crowder contributed 15 points, eight boards and four steals. In the losing effort, Paul Millsap led six double-figure scorers with 14 points.

    — Since that first meeting, however, Atlanta has won three in a row over Boston both SU and ATS. The ‘over’ hit in each of those contests. Both encounters at Philips Arena saw the Hawks win by double-digit margins (121-97 and 118-107). On Dec. 18 at Boston, Mike Budenholzer’s squad captured a 109-101 victory as a 3.5-point underdog. Dennis Schroder led the way in Beantown that night with 22 points, four steals and five assists without a turnover.

    — Though it will almost certainly play Cleveland as a decided underdog if it advances, Pro-Handcapper Chris David thinks Atlanta is in good shape in the opening round. David said, “I didn’t like the way the Hawks closed the season with back-to-back losses but I believe it worked out well for them, especially matching up with Boston in the first round. The Celtics are a solid club but they go as point guard Isaiah Thomas goes and he hasn’t played like an All-Star against the Hawks this season, especially on the road. Sticking with that point, Boston hasn’t been a great bet either as a visitor. Even though the Celtics captured an impressive victory at Golden State, the club went 5-8 on the road in the second-half and seven of those losses came by five-plus points.”

    — I would say the Hawks got their money’s worth with the three-year, $60 million contract they signed Millsap to this past offseason. He became just the second player in NBA history (Hakeem Olajuwon being the first in 1992-93) to end a regular season with more than 140 steals, 135 blocks, 700 rebounds and 250 assists. Millsap also averaged a team-high 17.1 points per game.

    — In a contract year, Al Horford averaged 15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 blocked shots per game. Horford played in all 82 regular-season games and shot a team-best 50.5 percent from the field. added another wrinkle to his diverse game. In his eight previous NBA seasons, the two-time national-title winner at the University of Florida made only 21 shots from 3-point range. During this regular season, Horford drained 88 launches from downtown. Before Horford was drafted in 2007, Atlanta had missed the postseason for eight consecutive seasons. With Horford in the fold, the Hawks have now gone to the playoffs for nine straight years. He will be an unrestricted free agent in a matter of weeks, and these could be his final games with the franchise. If so, he’ll go down as the second-best player in the franchise’s history (since moving to Atlanta in 1968 – Bob Pettit played for the Hawks in St. Louis).

    — According to Friday afternoon tweets from Hawks beat writer KL Chouinard, Tim Hardaway Jr. was taking jumpers after practice and looked “fluid” doing defensive lateral movements. Hardaway is listed as ‘questionable’ after leaving the regular-season finale at Washington with a hamstring injury. Since he started getting regular minutes off the bench of Jan. 31, Hardaway has become a key player for the Hawks. During the 15 games in which the University of Michigan product was given at least 20 minutes of playing time, he averaged 11.9 PPG. During a four-game stretch in mid-March, Hardaway scored 21, 20, 16 and 14 points in consecutive games.

    — Atlanta owns a 27-14 SU record and a 22-19 spread ledger at home. The Hawks compiled an 18-12 ATS mark in 30 games as single-digit home ‘chalk,’ going 8-2 ATS in their last 10 such spots.

    — Atlanta hasn’t been as efficient offensively this year compared to last season when it easily took the top seed in the East with more than a month left in the regular season. However, it has been even better defensively, ranking tops in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense (43.2%). The Hawks rank sixth in both scoring defense (99.2 PPG) and defending the 3-point line (33.8%).

    — Boston (48-34 SU, 42-39-1 ATS) was one of the NBA’s biggest surprises in Brad Stevens’s third season as head coach of the storied franchise. After Wednesday’s win over Miami, Stevens wasn’t fretting the team’s seed and lack of homecourt advantage. He told reporters, “What more could you ask for than a chance? Play here, play there, play anywhere – let’s go compete.”

    — Boston is led by Thomas, who averages 22.2 points and 6.2 assists per game. His backcourt mate, Avery Bradley, scores at a 15.2 PPG clip. Four other Celtics score in double figures, including Crowder, who is a terrific defender who averages 14.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.

    — Boston is fifth in the NBA in scoring with its balanced attack, averaging 105.7 PPG.

    — Boston owns a 19-22 spread record in its 41 road assignments. The Celtics have been atrocious in their last nine games as road underdogs, posting a 1-8 record both SU and ATS. However, they are a respectable 9-11 ATS with eight outright victories in 20 spots as road ‘dogs for the year. Most notably, they won outright at both Golden St. and Cleveland.

    — The ‘under’ went 44-38 overall for the Hawks, going 22-19 in their home games. The ‘under’ is 4-1 in their last five overall games and they’ve seen the ‘under’ prevail at a 13-4 clip in their last 17 home outings.

    — The ‘under’ is 43-39 overall for the Celtics, 22-19 in their road assignments.

    — VI’s David likes the ‘under’ in Game 1. David said, “Even though the ‘over’ went 3-1 in the four regular-season meetings between the pair, I believe Atlanta will try to slow this game down at home. The Hawks have dropped 14 games at Philips Arena and 11 of those came when they gave up 100-plus points. If you go back to last year’s playoff run by Atlanta, you’ll notice that they went 5-3 at home and they only allowed one team to bust the century mark. With that being said, I’d lean to the low side on Saturday.”

    — I mistakenly dubbed this a bitter rivalry earlier. The bitterness strictly belongs to the Hawks, who are 0-for-7 in postseason series against Boston going back to 1972. The 1988 and 2008 series were epic seven-gamers. Game 7 in ’88 at the old Boston Garden is considered one of the best playoff games in NBA history, with Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird waging one of the most entertaining scoring slugfests in the fourth quarter.

    **Dallas at Oklahoma City**

    — Oklahoma City (55-27 SU, 37-44 ATS) is the third seed in the Western Conference and has to like its matchup with sixth-seeded Dallas. For starters, OKC swept four games in the season series. Plus, the Mavericks are dealing with injuries that we’ll get to in a moment.

    — Billy Donovan’s first season as an NBA head coach was never going to be judged by what happened in the regular season. Donovan’s success, or lack thereof, will be determined by how the Thunder play in the postseason. For the first time in several years, they are healthy at the most important time of the year.

    — For Game 1, most spots have the Thunder favored by 12 points with a total of 208.5. Gamblers can take the Mavs to win outright for a +700 payout (risk $100 to win $700). For first-half bets, OKC is a seven-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 105.5 points.

    — OKC is -3800 ‘chalk’ for the series price, meaning bettors can get 18/1 odds on the Mavericks to pull the upset and advance to the West semifinals.

    — OKC owns a 32-9 SU record and a 20-20-1 ATS mark at home this year.

    — The double-digit ‘chalk’ role is not unfamiliar to Donovan’s club. VI’s David pointed out those relevant numbers when he said, “I would never advise laying double digits with an average defensive team in Oklahoma City (102.9 PPG) and you might have more value backing the Thunder as a road favorite in Game 3 or 4 instead of the home openers. The Thunder have gone 18-2 as a double-digit home favorite this season but are just 10-10 versus the number, which makes Game 1 look like a toss-up.”

    — OKC is led by its pair of All-Stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant averaged 28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.2 blocked shots and 1.0 steals per game during 72 regular-season games. His shooting percentages were 50.5, 38.8 and 89.8 from the field, 3-point range and the free-throw line, respectively. Westbrook played 80 regular-season games and averaged 23.5 points, 10.4 assists, 7.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game.

    — Dallas (42-40 SU, 45-36 ATS) finished strong to not only wrap up a playoff berth but dodge Golden St. and San Antonio in the opening round. Rick Carlisle’s team won seven of its last nine games, going 6-3 ATS to garner the West’s No. 6 seed.

    — Dallas small forward Chandler Parsons was lost to a season-ending knee injury in mid-March and won’t be able to compete in the postseason for a second straight year since being signed away from Houston. Parsons played in 61 regular-season games, averaging 13.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists while making 49.2 percent of his field-goal attempts and 41.6 percent of his 3-pointers. David Lee is ‘doubtful’ for Game 1 due to a foot injury. The University of Florida product was acquired at mid-season from Boston. Lee has averaged 8.5 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting at a 63.6 percent clip from the field in 25 games.

    — Dallas is led by the ageless Dirk Nowitzki, who averaged a team-high 18.3 PPG at the age of 37 in 75 regular-season games.

    — Dallas has been a road underdog 32 times, going 17-14-1 ATS with 11 outright victories. The Mavs have been better in such spots recently, compiling an 8-3 spread record with five outright wins in their last 11 as road ‘dogs. They are 2-4 ATS with zero outright wins in six games as double-digit road puppies.

    — OKC won all four regular-season meetings against Dallas, but the Mavs took the cash in a pair of those encounters. The ‘over’ went 3-1 in those four contests and is 7-2 in the last nine head-to-head meetings going back to last season. The last time they met was in Dallas on Feb. 24. OKC won by a 116-103 count as a five-point road ‘chalk.’ Westbrook scored 24 points, dished out 13 assists and pulled down seven rebounds. Durant finished with 24 points, eight boards and six assists. Nowitzki dropped 33 on the Thunder by hitting 10-of-16 from the field and 11-of-12 from the charity stripe.

    — The ‘under’ is 43-39 overall for the Thunder, 25-16 in its home contests. The ‘over’ finished on a 5-2 run in OKC’s last seven regular-season games.

    — The ‘under’ is 42-39-1 overall for the Mavs, 21-20 in their road outings. The ‘under’ cashed at a 7-2 clip in the Mavs’ last nine games of the regular season.

    — VI’s David is interested in OKC’s team total in Game 1. He said, I expect the Thunder to sweep this series and I don’t see the offense stalling at all, especially with their huge advantage in the backcourt. OKC has been a solid ‘under’ bet (25-16) at home this season but based on the matchups in this game, a lean to the Thunder team total of 110 going ‘over’ looks solid.”


    Four teams sportsbooks don’t want to win the NBA title
    By Patrick Everson

    The Golden State Warriors just completed the most successful regular season in NBA history, racking up a 73-9 record to best the 1996 Chicago Bulls’ 72-10 mark. So it’s no wonder that the Warriors present some futures liability, with plenty of tickets written on them. Golden State opened the season at around +500 to repeat as champions and now sits at -140.

    As the NBA playoffs begin, sportsbook operators certainly wouldn’t mind an upset of the Warriors sometime between now and June. But as Covers talked to a handful of books in Las Vegas and online, it became clear the Warriors’ incredible season also created liability on other teams.

    “This has been a very strange season because of how good Golden State has been,” said Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology, which operates Las Vegas books at the M, Venetian and the Cosmopolitan, among others. “The Warriors were at -160 all year, so the odds of other teams are all skewed.”

    For example, in the Western Conference, the Nos. 5-8 seeds are all at least 200-1 long shots to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

    “Those are all teams that are in the playoffs,” Simbal said. “It’s crazy to think about, but that’s how it is.”

    Here are four teams the books would like to see foul out of the playoffs at some point this spring:

    Golden State Warriors (Open: +500; Now: -140)

    The opening and current futures lines on the Warriors have varied a bit, but have generally been in the aforementioned ballpark. That hasn’t mattered much to bettors, according to Scott Cooley, odds consultant for

    “The Warriors are easily our biggest liability again this playoffs,” Cooley told Covers. “We opened their futures odds to win the Finals at +475 back in September, and the bettors have hit them every step of their sensational season.”

    When the regular season closed Wednesday night, Bookmaker opened Golden State at -130 for its best-of-7 first-round series against Houston, which begins Saturday. The Warriors have already been bet up to -170.

    Simbal noted that at CG books, the futures action slowed once the Warriors went to minus money.

    Oklahoma City Thunder (Open: +700; Now: +1600)

    An oddsmaker at noted that early this season, last year’s NBA finalists – the Cleveland Cavaliers at plus-300 and Golden State at plus-500 – saw much of the action. But those two teams don’t create the biggest problem for BetNow.

    “The dark horse that had a lot of action and could turn out in large payouts is the Oklahoma City Thunder,” the oddsmaker said.

    Jay Kornegay, executive vice president of race and sports for the Westgate’s Las Vegas Superbook, also had the Thunder among his worst-case scenarios on futures liability.

    Los Angeles Clippers (Open: +1000; Now: +2800)

    The Clippers, the No. 4 seed in the West, are a popular team that saw their odds slide dramatically during the season, particularly with Blake Griffin sitting out a long stint with injuries. Aaron Kessler, race and sports supervisor for the Golden Nugget, said the Clips – along with their first-round opponent, the Houston

    Rockets (Open: +5000; Now: +10000) – created the biggest problem for his shop.

    At CG, the Clippers opened as the fourth favorite at +900, but are now at +3000.

    “Part of the reason is because the Warriors and the Spurs are so good that when you decrease their odds, you have to bump up everybody else’s” Simbal said. “Plus, the Clippers had the Griffin injury. We’ve got a lot of tickets out there in the 25- to 30-1 range.”

    Boston Celtics (Open: +4000; Now: +5000)

    Boston is another popular teams that draws public bets, even as a darkhorse to sniff an NBA championship ring. If the Celts did make such a run, CG would be hit hard.

    “The Celtics are the worst for us,” Simbal said. “They weren’t great the first few weeks, and at one point we had them at 70-1. But they started turning it on. They lost in overtime at home to the Warriors, then beat the Warriors on the road. That’s the only team we actually lose to.”
    Other notables:

    There are some even longer shots that prove problematic in the futures book. At the Superbook, Kornegay said one such team is the Dallas Mavericks, currently a massive 300-1 shot (+30,000), and the Blazers are at +20,000.

    Again, in the West, that’s a product of how good the top of the conference is, particularly the record-setting Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs, currently the third choice for the title at +350 after going a stout 67-15 in the regular season.

    “It just shows how good the favorites are this year,” Simbal said.


    Indiana-Toronto (0-0)
    Raptors won seven of last eight games with Indiana; Toronto has covered nine of last ten series games- six of last eight went over total. Pacers won six of last eight overall, three of last four on the road; they missed playoffs LY but are 5-2 in last seven first round series. Toronto lost its last five first round series; last time they won a first round series was 2001. Raptors won seven of last nine games overall, covering five of last seven.

    Houston-Golden State (0-0)
    Defending NBA champ Warriors had 73-9 regular season, now pressure is on; Golden State won nine of last 10 games (6-4 vs the spread) against Houston, covering last five played here. Rockets won last three games, also covered three of last four tries as an underdog. Warriors won title LY, are in playoffs for 4th year in a row, after making it once in 18 years. Houaton is 2-8 in first round series the last 19 years, but they did make Western finals LY.

    Boston-Atlanta (0-0)
    Celtics are in playoffs for 8th time in last nine years; they lost last two first round series, with last win in 2012. Boston lost last three games with the Hawks, with all three going over total- Celtics are 1-3 vs spread in last four visits here. Atlanta lost four of its last five games; four of its last six games stayed under total. Celtics won five of their last seven games, but covered only one of last six road games. Hawks are 3-2 vs spread in last five at home.

    Dallas-Oklahoma City (0-0)
    Billy Donovan’s first NBA playoff game as a coach; Thunder won last four games with Dallas, but Mavericks are 6-4 vs spread last 10 vs OKC. Seven of last nine series games went over. Dallas won seven of last nine games, covered four of last five as a dog- 7 of last 9 Dallas games stayed under total. Mavericks are 2-6 in last eight first round series, but won NBA title in 2011- they haven’t won playoff series since. Oklahoma City missed playoffs LY but won last four first round playoff series.


    StatFox Super Situations™ – FoxSheets

    Play Over – All teams where the total is greater than or equal to 200 a good team (60% to 75%) playing a team with a winning record, on Saturday games
    62-28 over the last 5 seasons. ( 68.9% | 31.2 units )
    13-7 this year. ( 65.0% | 5.3 units )

    Play Against – Any team vs the money line (BOSTON) off a home win against opponent off an upset loss of 10 points or more as a road favorite
    63-26 over the last 5 seasons. ( 70.8% | 32.1 units )
    9-4 this year. ( 69.2% | 2.7 units )

    Play Under – All teams where the first half total is between 95.5 and 100.5 points good team, winning 60-75% or more of their games on the season, in April games
    347-220 since 1997. ( 61.2% | 105.0 units )
    3-4 this year. ( 42.9% | -1.4 units )

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