Eastern Conference First Round – Game 2 – Bucks lead 1-0
Milwaukee at Toronto (NBATV, 7:05 p.m. ET)
The Bucks put forth a full 48-minute effort on Saturday as they captured a 97-83 win over the Raptors in Game 1 as eight-point underdogs. Bettors feeling confident with Milwaukee could have taken advantage of a generous money-line payout as high as 3/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $300).
Toronto actually led this contest 51-45 despite falling behind 30-22 after the first quarter. Then, things unraveled for the Raptors in the second-half as they couldn’t buy a shot. Toronto was 7-of-35 (20%) in the final two quarters and 27-of-75 (36%) for the game.
The Bucks didn’t have a great night shooting (44.7%) as a team but Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly stood out as the best player on the floor. The All-Star finished with 28 points and eight rebounds while the Raptors top pair of DeMar DeRozan (27) and Kyle Lowry (4) combined for just 31 points.
The Lowry issue in the playoffs is tough to figure out and certainly not getting better for Toronto. After Saturday’s effort, the point guard is now the second-worst 3-point shooter amongst active players in the postseason at 30.1 percent and his overall field goal percentage is tied for worst at 37.9 percent.
Losing Game 1 of a playoff series has become a familiar trend for the Raptors and this was the eighth consecutive loss in an opening game.
Will Toronto bounce back in the second installment?
In last year’s playoffs, the Raptors answered the bell at home in Game 2 versus the Pacers (98-87) and Heat (96-92) after losing the opener but only went 1-1 against the spread in those games. As I mentioned in Saturday’s piece, Toronto has not been a sound investment in the playoffs at home. Since the club made its return during the 2014 postseason, the Raptors have gone 8-7 at the Air Canada Centre as home favorites. More importantly, they’re only 3-11-1 against the spread in those games.
Toronto has been installed as a 7 ½-point favorite for Game 2 and even though Milwaukee has now won two straight versus the Raptors, it did drop 13 of the previous 14 encounters. Another reason that could have you leaning to the chalk is the fact that the Raptors went 28-13 at home in the regular season and they only dropped back-to-back games once.
After watching Game 1 go ‘under’ (197 ½) on Saturday, the oddsmakers sent out a total of 193 ½ for Game 2 and that number has dipped to 193 as of Monday. Including the outcome from the opener, the Bucks have seen the ‘under’ go 5-0-1 in their last six on the road.
The Raptors (-160) still remain the series favorite over the Bucks (+130) at Sportsbook.ag.
Game 3 is scheduled for Thursday from the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
Eastern Conference First Round – Game 2 – Bulls lead 1-0
Chicago at Boston (TNT, 8:05 p.m. ET)
Handicapping emotion is never easy and that played a major factor on Sunday in Game 1 of this series as Boston point guard Isaiah Thomas was grieving with the tragic loss of his 22-year-old sister, which occurred a day earlier.
The floor general put for a great effort as he scored 33 points but Chicago outlasted Boston 106-102 in the opener as a seven-point road underdog. The Bulls closed plus-255 on the money-line.
Boston forward Al Horford summed up the night for the Celtics and it appears that the tragedy took a toll on the entire club. “’We’re never going to make excuses, but this is hard,” Horford said. “This was difficult, and I felt like our guys really dealt with it best. We knew (Thomas) was hurting…we have a lot of respect for him that he was able to come out.”
Horford wasn’t spectacular on Sunday, but he put forth a decent effort with 19 points, eight assists, seven rebounds. Outside of the two All-Stars, the rest of the Celtics shot a combined 19-of-55 (34%) from the field and that’s not going to cut it in the playoffs. Thomas is expected to play in Game 2 on Tuesday for Boston.
Chicago got a monster night out of Jimmy Butler, who stepped up with 30 points and nine rebounds. Forward Jimmy Portis also came up huge, with 19 points off the bench as the reserves for the Bulls outscored their counterparts 35-22. Chicago also had a tremendous edge on the glass (53-36) with Portis and Butler both pulling down nine a piece while Robin Lopez added 11 rebounds.
Whenever you see the home team losing Game 1 of a series, the line usually spikes up in the rematch. That wasn’t the case in Game 2 as the Celtics opened as 6 ½-point favorites and the line has been bet down to 6 at most betting shops on Monday afternoon. However, Boston went up to a seven-point ‘chalk’ after the team announced Thomas would play.
A lot of pundits believe the top seed is in trouble but it’s hard to ignore the fact that they went 30-11 at home in the regular season. Unfortunately for bettors, they only managed to go 17-24 ATS in those games and they’re now 1-7 ATS in their last eight games played at home after Sunday’s result.
Oddsmakers still have the Celtics (-145) listed as the series favorite over the Bulls (+125) but that number has been trimmed down a lot after the Game 1 outcome. Perhaps some bettors are starting to realize that head coach Brad Stevens is now 2-9 in the postseason and Chicago is the more experienced squad in this matchup.
I don’t believe Chicago is more talented than Boston but you can’t overlook its current form. The Bulls closed the season with a 9-4 record and the defense only allowed 97.9 points per game during this run. They’re 6-0 in their last six when holding teams below 100 and Boston barely got there on Sunday.
As a visitor, the Bulls have gone 7-2 ATS (5-4 SU) in their last nine away from home and the two non-covers came when they were favored against the lowly Nets and Knicks.
With the help of a 60-point fourth quarter, the combined 208 points in Game 1 barely went ‘over’ the closing number of 206 ½. The oddsmakers opened 207 for Game 2 and savvy bettors dropped that number quickly to 204 ½ but most shops are holding 205 or 206 as of Monday evening.
The Bulls are tied with the Warriors as the best ‘under’ teams in the NBA (50-33).
Game 3 of this series will take place on Friday from the United Center.
Western Conference First Round – Game 2 – Jazz lead 1-0
Utah at Los Angeles Clippers (TNT, 10:35 p.m. ET)
The 4-5 matchup in the Western Conference was expected to be tight and Game 1 lived up to those expectations as Utah captured a 97-95 win over Los Angeles as a six-point road underdog last Saturday. Veteran Joe Johnson hit a running floater as time expired for the Jazz as they cashed on the money-line at a plus-205 price.
The victory was bitter-sweet for the Jazz, who lost center Rudy Gobert in the opening minutes of Game 1 to a knee injury. He’s been ruled ‘out’ for Game 2 and forward Derrick Favors is expected to start in his place.
Even with Gobert missing 47 minutes on Saturday, the Clippers were unable to take advantage of his absence. The trio of Chris Paul (25 points, 11 assists), Blake Griffin (26 points, 7 reblunds) and DeAndre Jordan all had (10 points, 15 rebounds) all had decent games for the Clippers but the rest of the team was outplayed. The Jazz bench outscored the reserves of the Clippers 47-20 with Johnson leading the way with 21 points and Favors chipped in with 15 off the pine as well.
The Game 1 loss for the Clippers snapped their seven-game winning streak and it was just their third setback in their last 14. Los Angeles hasn’t dropped back-to-back games since mid-March and it has gone 3-0 both SU and ATS after a loss during this span. Make a note that Los Angeles is 10-0 in its last 10 games when scoring over 100 points.
Without the defensive menace Gobert roaming the middle, more than 95 points should be expected from Los Angeles on Tuesday. He only missed one game this regular season and Utah dropped a 112-104 decision at Oklahoma City.
Including Saturday’s result, Utah is now 2-3 both SU and ATS versus Los Angeles this season. Prior to those outcomes, the Clippers were 13-1 against the Jazz in the previous four seasons.
Los Angeles opened as a 7 ½-point favorite for Tuesday but the Gobert injury status has pushed the line up to nine. The Jazz have gone 8-8 on the road in the second-half of the season, but are just 4-5 when listed as a road ‘dog. They managed to cover one of the losses but it’s still rare to see them cover when catching points in these spots.
Despite the loss on Saturday, the Clippers are still expected to win the best-of-seven series (-150) over the Jazz (+130).
The total on Saturday closed at 198 ½ and Johnson’s winner likely saved ‘under’ bets. The low side has gone 3-2 between the pair this season and Game 2 is expected to be another slugfest with the number hovering between 195 and 196 at most betting shops.
After this game, the pair will head to Salt Lake City on Friday for Game 3.