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NBA Play-off Games Preview 05.05.2019

All semifinals series are in full swing now. We’ll have two games tonight, one of them an early one. What happens in the other two match-ups?

Late yesterday night Game 3 between Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets had been played. Warriors had some hesitant patches through both first games, but eventually found their rhythm and won both. The chance is they win one of these two next road games and then try to close the series at home in Game 5.

On Friday night Giannis Antetokounmpo once again imposed his will over Boston in the Garden. The Greek Freak achieved near triple-double with 32 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists. Thus Bucks regained the home court advantage and lead the series 2-1.

 

Philadelphia 76ers - Toronto Raptors (Games starts at 20.30 UK Time)

Sixers proved it’s way too early to be dismissed in the talk about the Eastern Conference throne after the loss in Game 1 in Toronto. Embiid led his troops to two straight win and Philly took the lead in the series with 2-1. Sixers were dominant in Game 3 on their home floor and won by 21 points. Embiid was once again the leader for his team, finishing with 33 points and 10 rebounds. Kahwi Leonard also finished with 33 points, but he had too little help elsewhere, only Paskal Siakam was a significant factor on the offensive end for Raptors. Sixers had way more balanced and efficient scoring, 22 points from Jimmy Butler and double digits from Tobias Harris, JJ Redick, Ben Simmons and even the reserve Ennis.

All the pressure is on the Canadians now. They play not only to break their play-off curse and finally achieve a deep run, but probably to convince Leonard to really consider staying in Toronto this summer. If they fail again and get eliminated here by Philadelphia, Kahwi will likely pack his suits and get south to sunny California and the Clippers. In this case scenario, Raptors management will have to push the button on a full reset and try to trade Kyle Lowry, rebuilding around Siakam and whoever they might get in exchange then.

Prediction: It’s too early to waive off Toronto just yet though. They won the regular season series 3-1, getting one road win in the process. In this light it’s not so surprising to see oddsmakers setting Raptors as favourites to win Game 4 here on the road. The current money-line odds are something like 2.05 – 1.85 in Toronto’s favour. One way or the other, this will probably be a much closer game than the previous one. It will likely be won by the team which is more focused in defense in the last 2-3 minutes of the game, and hits their fouls and easy looks. Odds above evens for the home team on the money-line seem too good to pass though. Win or lose, the value lies with the Sixers at around 2.05 ML.

 

Portland Trail Blazers - Denver Nuggets (Games starts at 00.00 UK Time)

Game 3 was an epic one and will remain long in memory and forever in the history books! The game finished with 4 overtimes, which happens for the first time in a play-off game in the last few decades. Blazers finally showed the stronger character and nerves and escaped close winners by 3 points, 140-137.

Denver fought very bravely and have every right to be angry with the referees. Two very suspicious foul calls went against them in the first and the second overtime, both in very crucial moments. In addition, the referees rewarded CJ McCollum with a 3-pointer, which should have been only a long 2-point basket, with his foot on the line. Anyway, Denver should look at themselves first though. Center Jokic played for over 60 minutes in the game. The coach didn’t pull him out even when it was clear that the Balkan big guy is tremendously tired and ineffective. Jokic made 4-5 bad turnovers on sloppy passes through all overtime periods, when fatigue took over him.

All credit for McCollum though, who was the big scorer for the home team in this game. Reserve Rodney Hood also made a few deciding 3-pointers in the last two overtimes, when coming off the bench to replace a fouled-out teammate.

Prediction: Portland are deserved favs to win Game 4 tonight. The default spread is 3.50-4.00 points, which is about right. They have the mental edge now, but Nuggets can still retaliate. I see much more value in the OVER line, which is set to some 210-211 points. Oddsmakers probably overreact a bit on the fatigue factor from Game 3, which is logical. Neither team can play decent defense in this series though, nor they are willing to. We can’t really hope for another overtime, no? Anyway, they can make the points in 48 minutes for sure, with just their average shooting percentages.

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