Free NBA Picks: Take The Points With Raptors +4 vs. Heat Game 6

Sterling Xie

Saturday, May 14, 2016 5:39 PM UTC

Saturday, May. 14, 2016 5:39 PM UTC

After seizing control of the series in Game 5, the Raptors look like a good bet to close out the Heat despite being road underdogs. They're +4 on the NBA odds boards.

Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat
By any measure, the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors has been the ugliest in this round of the postseason.  The winning score has exceeded 100 points just once, and it took overtime for Miami to reach that total in Game 1.  By cavernous margins, the Heat and Raptors have been the worst offensive teams in this round, posting offensive efficiency ratings of 97.5 and 96.3, respectively.  For reference, the Philadelphia 76ers were the worst offensive team of the regular season, yet still posted a superior offensive rating at 98.8 points per 100 possessions.

Perhaps because of the series’ low profile, bookmakers have not received much action.  Since Miami opened as fairly standard 4.5-point home favorites for Game 6, the line has barely budged.  A couple books such as Bet365 and Pinnacle have lowered the line to -4 for the Heat, but in general, bettors do not appear to be flooding Friday night’s contest.

That should change in the ensuing hours, as the current line provides terrific value for the visitors looking to close out the series.  The Raptors have covered in four of six games this series, and the Elo model at FiveThirtyEight pegs the Heat as only three-point favorites.  And while those small trends might not change scores of bettors’ minds, they matter in a series plagued by injuries and personnel mismatches.

After both teams lost their starting centers for the series, starting wings Luol Deng and DeMarre Carroll each left Game 5 with left wrist injuries.  With depth dwindling on both sides, the weakest link in the lineup becomes increasingly problematic.  For the Heat, Amare’ Stoudemire has been disastrous and seen his playing time disappear, with Josh McRoberts playing over 18 minutes in consecutive games for the first time since the end of February.  Nevertheless, Bismack Biyombo has done a better job of replacing Jonas Valanciunas on the Raptors’ side, earning a plus-8 on-off rating in 38 minutes of action, his third-highest minutes total of the season.

More than ever, outcomes in this series rest on the shooting strokes of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.  While Lowry continued to struggle in Game 5, shooting just 36 percent from the field, DeRozan shot 50 percent or better (11-for-22) for the first time all series.  He also used 39 percent of Toronto’s possessions in Game 5, the highest usage rate DeRozan has had all series. Given Lowry’s continued cold touch and the likely absence of Carroll, we can expect the Raptors to again lean on their All-Star shooting guard on Friday night.


Betting Analysis
For Miami to extend this series, the Heat must find a lineup that generates offense outside of Dwyane Wade isolations.  Most of Miami’s best lineups in this series have included Deng, and it’s hard to find a feasible solution for Deng’s likely absence.  A lineup with Tyler Johnson in Deng’s stead has generated a plus-six net rating, but has been used just once in this series.  Joe Johnson has gone ice cold in this series, shooting just 37.2 percent while using up an untenable number of Miami’s possessions.  Josh Richardson received his most extended look of the series in Game 5, and after a 5-for-8 shooting performance, the rookie seems likely to eat into some of Johnson’s minutes.

Nevertheless, the Heat’s already limited offense could not afford to lose one of its most versatile wingmen, in addition to its best rim protector in Hassan Whiteside.  Toronto now holds the edge on the boards with Biyombo’s presence, and while their offense has remained stagnant and dependent on the backcourt to create shots, the Raptors’ machinery is a little less broken than Miami’s.

That hardly serves as a ringing endorsement for either team in a conference finals matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but that is a problem for a later date.  For now, the Raptors’ superior depth should allow Toronto to advance to the Eastern finals for the first time in franchise history, making them an excellent value for Game 6.

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Free NBA Pick: Raptors +4
Best Line Offered: at YouWager

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