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Philadelphia 76ers’ Jimmy Butler, left, tries to get past Toronto Raptors’ Patrick McCaw during the first half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series on May 9, 2019.
Philadelphia 76ers’ Jimmy Butler, left, tries to get past Toronto Raptors’ Patrick McCaw during the first half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series on May 9, 2019.|Chris Szagola | Associated Press
NBA

NBA Playoffs: Game 7 questions – Can Lillard carry the day? Is Embiid healthy? Frank picks Trail Blazers vs Nuggets and Sixers vs Raptors

Greg Frank

Greg Frank

Trail Blazers (+5.5) @ Nuggets (213)
Pick: Under 213
I think you can count on one hand the number of players in today’s today Game 7s that have played in one before. For the majority of the players taking the floor, today is the biggest basketball game of their lives. They might be getting paid millions of dollars, but they’re still human and some early tension would only be natural. Game 7 unders have been historically profitable and the one seventh game we’ve seen so far in this year’s NBA playoffs was a surefire under. The Nuggets defeated the Spurs 90-86 in the first round in a game that landed 31.5 points under the closing total. This series between Portland and Denver has also seen four straight overs which seems hard to sustain anyway. However, three of those last four games were in Portland which is significant because Portland’s role players stepped up in those home games playing better than they have in Denver in this series. The Game 3 over should be thrown out anyway because the game was safely under the total at the end of regulation but happened to have four overtimes. Expect most Trail Blazers not named Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to be held in check today. Of course, Denver’s role players could rise to the occasion at home, but we’re banking on a competitive game in the high 90s or low 100s here.

Sixers (+6.5) @ Raptors (209.5)
Pick: Under 209.5
A lot of the same concepts about nerves apply in this one. The Sixers are a roster of mostly young players who got their first taste of the playoffs last year and played a pair of five-game series against Miami and Boston respectively. Granted, it’s a little bit of a different story for the Raptors as Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green played in lots of big playoff games in San Antonio. Marc Gasol has been a part of playoff runs before with Memphis, as has Serge Ibaka in Oklahoma City and Kyle Lowry with previous Raptors teams. The playoff experience and the home court advantage do have me leaning to Toronto on the side here and if you like the Raptors, you should lay the points. The winning team has covered all six games in this series. However, I think the Sixers are better than the Raptors which makes me hesitate on backing Toronto at this number greater than two possessions. So, I’ll look to the total again for value and go under based on the fact that Toronto is the best defensive team remaining in the postseason. In 11 Raptors playoff games, the under is 8-3. In this series, when Toronto has had success, it was due to making Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid essentially non-factors. That said, I’m still not ruling out the Sixers winning tonight in the same way they did in Game 2 which was a lower-scoring game that the Sixers got out early in and hung on late. I’m expecting a similar score to what we’ll see in Denver.