NBA Playoff Picks — Game 1: Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors
There could hardly be a more interesting matchup in the NBA playoffs – at least so far – than the Cleveland Cavaliers and their superstar of all superstars, LeBron James, against the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors. For the winner, it’s a date with either the Philadelphia 76ers or Boston Celtics in the conference finals. And Game 1 is Tuesday night, beginning at 8:05 PM ET at the Air Canada Centre, north of the border. If you are a BetAnySports customer, you can get reduced juice before the game to give you better odds, and then, after the game is underway, you can continue with your own action, in real-time, with Live Betting Ultra.
One operative factor in the opening game might be the fact that the Raptors, who beat the Washington Wizards in six games, have had more rest than the Cavs, who had to go an intense seven games to bet by the Indiana Pacers. Cleveland had to deal with a great guard in Victor Oladipo in the last series, and now it has two All-Stars to deal with – Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
The Raptors were on the short end of a four-game sweep by the Cavs last year, and they resolved themselves to change their approach to offense. And so they have placed a much greater emphasis on shooting three-pointers, to the point where they are among the top five in the nation in triples both attempted and made. And despite the fact that DeRozan’s Usage figure in the Washington series was almost as high as that of LeBron’s, they have also shown a lot more ball movement this year, and certainly a lot more than the Cavs have in their isolation-oriented offense.
In the NBA playoff lines posted on Game 1 of this series at BetAnySports, Toronto is a favorite at home:
Toronto Raptors -6.5
Cleveland Cavaliers +6.5
Over 214.5 points -110
Under 214.5 points -110
Even though Cleveland made a load of player moves this season, bringing aboard the likes of George Hill, Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood and sending a lot of people (including Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose) out the door, they may look somewhat similar to the team Toronto faced in the playoffs last year, because LeBron isn’t altogether comfy with the new people and when it came time to play the seventh and deciding game against Indiana, the holdovers from last year’s team got the extended playing time.
Perhaps some of this works to the Raptors’ advantage, since they would appear to be the team that is operating with the more productive bench. Certainly the core of this team includes the All-Star backcourt of Lowry and DeRozan, and big men like Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka, but the reserves are also critical, especially since they provide some of the three-point power. They are hoping that Fred VanVleet, a nifty guard who used to play at Wichita State, is sufficiently recovered from a shoulder injury to contribute in a big way.
Naturally, a big key is going to be how they deal with LeBron. They could chase him off the three-point line – Toronto was pretty good at that this season – but they have to make sure they force him to pull up and shoot jumpers rather than just cruise to the hoop. There will be a lot of pressure on rookie forward OG Anunoby from the defensive standpoint.
The Raptors seem to be the better team – at least the team that exhibits the “team” concept better – but this is too many points to lay in this particular game against a star who hasn’t lost a conference finals series since 2010.
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