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May 1, 2016

There are two NBA selections today. The pick on Portland was released yesterday.

1) Take Indiana Pacers +6 spread against Toronto Raptors for 3% of the bankroll.

With the exception of Game 5 which also took place at Air Canada Center, these two teams have taken turns blowing each other out in the first 6 games of the series! They both have multiple double-digit victories over the other team but will find tonight's pivotal Game 7 much different. This is a matchup that should be a tightly contested back-and-forth battle. That's because there is no 'next' game to rally and respond back. This is it. It's all or nothing, do or die, one team gets eliminated while the other advances to the East semi-finals! Neither club will cruise to a win here. It'll likely get decided in the final minute and go right to the wire! When that's the case, the 6 extra points that we're getting here often come into play even if the underdog falls short.

The Toronto Raptors have far more pressure on them in this contest than the Pacers! Indiana was supposed to be in rebuilding mode this year and did well just to make the playoffs. Dwane Casey's Raptors, on the other hand, have the entire Canadian nation supporting them and as the #2 seed in the East! That comes with a great deal of expectation. Given Toronto's recent and historic struggles in getting out of the first round, an enormous amount of pressure is on the shoulder of each and every player and while some are equipped to deal with it, some aren't. Even All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan has found it tough to get going and has allowed the big stage get to him. He's shooting just 32% after 6 games in this series and needs to step up for the purple dinos to get exercise their demons.

In a matchup that we believe is more or less a 50-50 and could go either way, the 6 points being handed out are extremely precious. Paul George and company are a live underdog in this spot and should be in it right until the end. If things don't spiral out of control for them in the dying minutes, we forsee them staying with this generous spread, if not win outright. Given that Toronto has exited the playoffs after the first round in each of the last 2 years, memories of failure are still fresh in their minds and hunt them in their sleep. That has greatly motivated this squad but also makes them likely to panic when shots aren't falling. This is a more mature team than in past years but the fact that the Raptors have NEVER won a 7-game series in their history continues to be a huge mental block. It might be one that they finally get rid of tonight but win or lose, we don't see it coming by a big margin! It also helps that Raptors are 0-4 ATS after scoring 85 or less points this season!

The Pacers have won the battle on the boards (rebounding) in the last 3 games and have certain matchup advantages. They do need Monta Ellis to do what he's done for much of his career though and that is to be a clutch scorer! He's not played well in this series and could be due for a good performance, just when it matters most. Let's not forget that the Raptors are 4-12 ATS in post-season games over the last 3 seasons! This is a team that 'chokes' under pressure and while we actually think they have a decent chance of finally winning tonight and progressing, we don't believe it'll come easily. In a tight Game 7 that may well get decided in the final possession or two, this is an inflated spread on the favorite and the value is with the plucky underdogs.

2) Take Portland Blazers +8 spread against Golden State Warriors for 3% of the bankroll.

Too much rest leads to rust and that is a factor that that can't be overlooked. Any professional athlete will tell you that their performance, especially the fast-paced intensity and style of NBA has a lot to do with 'rhythm' and being in the groove. Teams are used to playing every other day or at most with 2 days of rest usually and when that becomes more, they often struggle with their timing and in particular their jump-shots. The Warriors made easy work of the Rockets by winning the series in 5 games and that means they've been off since last Wednesday! We believe they won't be at their best in the opening game of this series against Portland for various different reasons.

Unlike Golden State, Portland did not have an easy time in their last series and that actually bodes well for them in this spot. That's because there is no accumulated rust on their legs and they are already in 'competitive playoff mode'. What does that mean? That's when teams have already been pushed to the limit and have been involved in tough recent battles. The Warriors for the most part blew out the Rockets and could get away with some lapses in concentration and defensive assignments whereas Terry Stotts' Trail Blazers had little margin for error and had to be disciplined and organized to make it this far. It's not uncommon for elite teams to lose some of their sharpness after cruising through games against dysfunctional opponents like the Rockets. That's because Houston hardly plays defense! They have been a lazy team on that end of the court all season long and when a quality club like the Warriors brushes them off so easily, they sometimes develop some bad minor habits along the way and make the mistake of thinking future games, especially against a big underdog, will be similar.

The Blazers are far from perfect but they are a much more cohesive group than the Houston Rockets. It isn't without reason that they finished 5th in the West standings while Dwight Howard and company just barely got through as the 8th seed! Portland played excellent defense in the second half of the season and has turned into a very organized and effective team! They have a number of players able to shoot the 3-ball and for all the media attention that the excellent back-court duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum get, this is actually a deep squad that has some very under-rated talent. There are players that are hardly household names but have produced on a consistent basis this season as the entire roster has fully bought in to what Terry Stotts and the front office have in mind. They play hard for each other and are plucky underdogs!

This is a team that actually cherishes its 'underdog' role as it puts very little pressure on them (all the pressure is on the hosts) while secretly, they are an ambitious bunch and in their mind, know they are capable of beating any team on their day. The fact that they handed the Warriors their most lopsided defeat of the season with Steph Curry on the court back in February is proof of that! Golden State is a well-oiled machine even without the MVP but there's no doubt that against a more disciplined opponent like the Trail Blazers, Curry's creativity and magic will be missed more than it was against the Rockets. We expect a tighly contested affair and while the defending champs may find a way to edge the game deep in the 4th quarter and open the series with a 'W', it would surprise us if this was a double-digit win! The points are extremely precious and are likely to come into play. This should be a closer game than the betting public anticipates. Take the generous points.

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