Last season saw the Raptors lose Game 1 and Game 2 at home before being dismissed in the nation’s capital and the pressure is on the home team to avoid falling into a 0-2 hole again.
It was a bad Game 1 for Toronto as they struggled to shoot from the field and had far too many turnovers. Both Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan couldn’t really affect the game in the way they have for much of the regular season, while the Raptors Defensive unit couldn’t slow down Paul George who had a huge second half.
The momentum might be with Indiana now who have won seven of their last eight games, although the one loss in that time did come here in the regular season. The zig-zag theory might not be as relevant as it used to be, but I think the Raptors will be much better in Game 2 as the Pacers perhaps take a breath having stolen home court. I will back Toronto for a second time in this First Round series and look for them to level the series before heading on the road.
HANDICAP BETTING PICK: Toronto Raptors -7 Points @ 1.93 with Pinnacle Sports
Dallas Mavericks @ Oklahoma City Thunder – Game 2
I thought the Oklahoma City Thunder were being asked to cover too many points in Game 1 but they blew away the Dallas Mavericks. The latter were perhaps a surprising Play Off team for many and they will have to be a lot better if they are going to make this a competitive series although another injury to JJ Barea is a blow.
It was the Thunder who imposed their game on the first one of this series and they will be looking to do the same again while again a double digit favourite. However it is up to Dallas to try and control the boards and to slow things down if they are going to get back into this one and I do think Rick Carlisle is smart enough to make the right adjustments for his team.
The spread doesn’t really appeal to me in this one, but I have been looking at the total points market. The adjustments made by Carlisle are going to try and slow down the possessions each team has and that has shown up in Dallas games following blow out losses.
The under total points is 4-1 off a road blow out loss of 20 points or more and I think the Mavericks will look to lock down on that side of things. That should also make things closer on the scoreboard than Game 1, although Oklahoma City are capable of getting out and scoring points in quick bunches.
In saying that, the under is 2-0 in the last two games between these teams in Oklahoma City and I will look for this to be a third straight time that occurs.
HANDICAP BETTING PICK: Under 200 Total Points @ 2.01 with Matchbook
Houston Rockets @ Golden State Warriors – Game 2
There is plenty of disharmony inside the Houston Rockets locker room and I do wonder how much belief they have to turn this First Round series around. Being blown out by the Golden State Warriors is something many teams have experienced in the last couple of seasons, but the Rockets need to show they have plenty of character if they are going to get back into this series.
Once again they will head into the Oracle Arena as the double digit underdogs, but I think there might be a reason to back the underdog this time around. First there is the question mark surrounding Steph Curry who was a little banged up after Game 1, although the likely MVP of the season has stated he will be suited up for Game 2.
However that might mean Curry is a little limited in terms of minutes he can play and getting off his shots in the manner expected. You also have to think James Harden and Dwight Howard are going to have a bigger impact in Game 2 than they did in Game 1 and this is a lot of points for the Rockets to be receiving considering they are 7-3 against the spread this season off a double digit loss on the road.
Of course going against the Golden State Warriors is never easy, especially in their home Arena, but the home team are ‘only’ 7-6 against the spread when favoured by 12.5 points or more at home this season. With Curry perhaps a little banged up, I will look for the Rockets to make this a much more competitive game than we saw on Saturday.
HANDICAP BETTING PICK: Houston Rockets +13 Points @ 2.05 with Eastbridge Sports Betting Brokerage
Prices correct at time of writing.