The NBA playoffs pick back up on Monday night, following a fun two-game Sunday slate where we saw the Cavs advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and the Thunder officially give the Spurs a tough series, trying things up at 2-2.
The East isn’t that problematic, but things could still get hairy tonight with the Heat and Raptors duking it out in South Beach. Can Toronto withstand a Jonas Valanciuns injury and take a 3-1 lead, or is this series destined to get to 2-2 and eventually run a full seven games? After Portland stole game three from the Dubs at home, the same question can be asked when the Warriors travel back to try to keep the Blazers from notching things up at 2-2.
We could officially have three very intense playoff series, or we could take one more step toward finalizing the Eastern and Western Conference Finals. Let’s take a closer look at both games and see which way we should be leaning in regards to NBA betting:
Golden State Warriors (1) @ Portland Trail Blazers (5)
Line: Warriors -5 Total: 214
Stephen Curry is highly unlikely to suit up yet again in game four, which would make zero appearances for the league MVP in this second round series.
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) May 9, 2016
Golden State can and still should win game four, provided they actually show up on defense. That wasn’t the case in game three, but little could be done with Damian Lillard going off with 40 points.
Things will have to be different tonight, as the Dubs got terrific offense from Klay Thompson and Draymond Green again last game, but may need more from the rest of their supporting cast. With the likes of Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguoadola just waiting to chip in, there’s a good chance we see more help from the role players tonight.
The big dark cloud continues to be Curry’s sprained knee, which isn’t going to have him ready for this one and there has to be a serious thought toward the Dubs not playing him at all for this entire series. In knowing that, the Warriors are going to be hard-pressed to buckle down and take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Doing so on the road could be difficult, especially against a pretty potent Blazers offense that took advantage of similar injury issues and won four straight games to upend the Clippers in round one.
Golden State isn’t the Clippers, of course, as Thompson and Green are two fine two-way players and will once again bring maximum effort. The key will be limiting Lillard this time and also getting some help for the supporting cast. Portland is at home and certainly is capable of evening this thing up, but even without Curry the Warriors are still the better team. Curry or no Curry, let’s also keep in mind that this Warriors team didn’t lose back to back games all year.
Pick: Warriors 109, Blazers 103
Toronto Raptors (2) @ Miami Heat (3)
Line: Heat -5.5 Total: 191
Both Toronto and Miami are down two key stars going into game four, as both are likely going to be without their starting centers. The Raptors have already ruled big man Jonas Valanciunas out for the remainder of post-season play, while the Heat are likely going to be without Hassan Whiteside for at least game four.
THIS JUST IN: Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas will miss rest of series vs Heat with a sprained right ankle. pic.twitter.com/jMyVUOUivp
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 8, 2016
That should strip both squads down to a small ball approach, but the edge remains with Toronto, who can easily slide DeMarre Carroll over to the four spot and have the better backup center to turn to in Bismack Biyombo. With Biyombo, Toronto loses nothing on the defensive end, as he can alter and block shots, while also cleaning the glass at a high level. The real issue will come on the offensive end, where Jonas V was starting to clean up over the past couple of games.
This was always going to be a hard-fought series, and we saw that right away with Miami stealing game one in Toronto and both of the first two games going into overtime. Needless to say, the center injuries could be a total wash to start out and Miami may come away with a narrow edge with game four going down in South Beach. I still find it very tough to fully buy into the Raptors, especially since they haven’t really slowed down Dwyane Wade and Miami is quite good at home. A close game should be expected and the Raptors have a shot at beating the spread, but Miami should tie this thing back up, 2-2.
Pick: Heat 101, Raptors 98