Sixers (+6) @ Raptors (222.5)
Pick: Under (222.5)
Before I get started here, I never understood why the NBA starts the second round before the first round is over. The Sixers visit the Raptors Saturday night in Game 1 of their second-round series and the next game on the schedule in the association is a Game 7 in the first round out West. Nonetheless, that’s the schedule and all we can do is pick the games.
The Raptors and Sixers both had three days off after wrapping up their first-round series on Tuesday and we think that will lend itself to a lower-scoring game here. We’d liken it to the first game of the opening round for both teams. The Raptors and Sixers knew for a good chunk of the end of the regular season they were going to be the second and third seeds respectively in the East. That led to a lot of meaningless games and resting of key players for both teams. Not only did both teams lose their playoff openers, but both Game 1s landed under the respective totals.
Another factor here is the difference in playing style that both of these teams experienced in the first round. Toronto’s matchup with Orlando was a slower-paced, defensive-oriented series with totals lower than this one. Philly’s matchup with Brooklyn was more of a track meet with higher-scoring games and totals in the 230s. Ultimately, Toronto’s style is what is going to win games as the rounds go on in the postseason. For that reason, I lean to the Raptors when it comes to the side, but six points is a little rich for my blood given the Sixers turned a corner as the series with the Nets went on. The better play is to take this game under the total expecting Toronto to play on its terms and slow things down. Kawhi Leonard stifles Ben Simmons, Marc Gasol limits Joel Embiid, and it will come down to how well the Sixers can defend the Raptors. The spread is about right here, so I’ll pass on the side, but all five of Toronto’s games against the Magic landed under 222.5 and I think another Raptors playoff game is decided in the low 100s.
Spurs (+6) @ Nuggets (209)
Pick: Spurs (+6)
I’ve been riding San Antonio most of this series so why stop now? The Spurs played like a team that’s been in these kinds of spots before with their backs against the wall in Game 6 on Thursday. This feels like the kind of game where the young players for Denver, especially Nikola Jokic (who had some of his worst games in the regular season against top competition), get tight. That same tightness seemed to creep in during Game 1 in what was the first playoff game for many Nuggets. I also questioned most of the year how good Denver was in the first place and thought Mike Malone’s team might be susceptible to an upset anyway. There were too many games against playoff opponents, especially down the stretch, where the Nuggets did not look like a team that was going to make a deep playoff run. I continue to believe that and like the Spurs to win this elimination game on the road.