NBA Picks: Take The Points & Bet Raptors vs. Cavaliers In Game 1

Monday, May 16, 2016 4:00 PM GMT

It's widely assumed the Cleveland Cavaliers will crush the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals. Maybe they will, but covering these NBA odds will be tough.

They took the scenic route, but the Toronto Raptors have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. They destroyed the Miami Heat in Game 7 of their very strange second-round series, winning 116-89 as 4.5-point home faves. They also put another dent in our bankroll; we had Under 189.5 here at the ranch. Thank goodness that round's over.

Now that we've reached the Final Four, maybe we'll finally get to see some quality basketball – and the bigger profit for NBA Pick that come with the added viewership. Casual fans will be pouring tons of money into the Cleveland Cavaliers, who swept their first two series in epic fashion. Should we fade the Cavs? They're 10.5-point home faves on the NBA odds board for Tuesday's opener (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), with a total of 201.5 points if we want to try that dance again.


Married to Jonas
Let's start attacking our hypothesis with an assist from our friendly friends at FiveThirtyEight. They've projected a point spread of Cleveland –6.5 for Game 1. Well, that settles it, goodnight everyone.

Okay, it's not quite that simple. FiveThirtyEight's CARM-Elo projection barely scratches the surface when it comes to the absence of Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, who was crushing fools during these playoffs at 27.7 PER and +4.9 BPM. Valanciunas sprained his right ankle in Game 3 of the Heat series and hasn't played since. He's expected to miss Game 1 of the Eastern finals, and doesn't look good for Game 2 on Thursday. That might be enough to warrant Cleveland's status as a double-digit fave.

I Wish I Were a Little Bit Taller
Or not. The Raptors won their regular-season series against the Cavs, 2-1 SU and ATS; that reduces to 1-1 SU and ATS when you throw out the first game, in which the Raptors didn't have Valanciunas and the Cavaliers didn't have Kyrie Irving (25.2 PER, +4.6 BPM). It was a mixed bag for Valanciunas in those other two games, but his back-up, Bismack Biyombo (17.1 PER, +0.8 BPM), did a number on the Cavs and their relatively soft middle.

Ah, yes, the soft middle. Cleveland has very wisely re-invented itself as a 3-point nemesis, taking full advantage of Kevin Love (20.3 PER, +0.5 BPM) and his 47.7-percent success rate from downtown. The Cavs have dramatically improved their offensive efficiency from 108.1 points per 100 possessions during the regular season to 117.1 points during the playoffs. They've also sacrificed some defense, dropping from 102.3 points allowed to 106.6.

The Cavs might want to play a little less small ball versus Toronto. Once Valanciunas and Hassan Whiteside were removed from the previous round, Biyombo and the Raptors were able to stay big, while Miami was essentially forced to go small. Toronto's capable wing defenders did enough to slow down the Heat while Biyombo did his thing inside, putting up 17 points and 16 rebounds in Game 7. Tristan Thompson (12.5 PER, +3.0 BPM) will have something to say about that Tuesday night, but as it stands, the clash of styles plays in Toronto's favor.

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":3017314, "sportsbooksIds":[93,1096,169,999996,180,139], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]
Free NBA Pick: Raptors +10.5 -105
Best Line Offered: at Heritage
Record: 37-41-1 ATS, 13-9-1 Total