Jason’s 2018-19 NBA picks record through Apr. 22: 26-29-1 ATS, 0-6 ML (minus-12.63 units), 36-23-1 Totals
Orlando (1-3 SU, 2-2 ATS) at Toronto (3-1 SU, 2-2 ATS)
Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. ET, NBA-TV
Free NBA Pick: Over
Recommended Sportsbook: Heritage
They say you can’t be results-oriented when you make your NBA picks. They’re right, of course, but it still feels kind of dirty to be recommending the ‘over’ for Tuesday’s Game 5 between the Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors. Each of their first four games went ‘under’ the posted total by a considerable amount, including Game 4, where we got burned taking the ‘over’ in Orlando. Final score: Raptors 107, Magic 85 (Under 206).
We gotta do what we gotta do. The basic premise behind Sunday’s pick remains the same for Tuesday: The Magic aren’t likely to miss so many of those high-variance 3-pointers. They shot 7-of-33 (21.2 percent) from downtown in Game 4, which was even worse than their 13-of-44 (29.5 percent) performance in Game 3. The regression monsters are at the door, and this time, the total has opened even lower at 205 points on the NBA odds board.
Clang-Clang-Clang Go The Magic
It certainly looks like the sharp money is on the ‘over’ this time. Although the early consensus reports show 100-percent support for the ‘under,’ Tuesday’s total has already risen to anywhere between 205.5 and 206.5 points as we go to press. We’re clearly dealing with an overly small sample size on that consensus. Other, lesser reports on the interwebs show two-thirds of early bettors on the ‘under,’ so the bigger (and presumably sharper) bets must be on the other side if the total’s climbing – that, and/or the books are trying to trap us into taking the ‘under.’ Naughty naughty.
How much of this bad shooting is Toronto’s defense, though? According to NBA.com, the Magic are actually making their wide-open threes in this series, connecting at a 41.3-percent clip when the closest defender is at least six feet away. However, make it a merely “open’ shot with the defender 4-6 feet away, and that percentage plummets to 14.3 percent – easily the worst of the 16 teams who started the playoffs.
The Raptors have been missing their open threes, too. They’re third-worst in this department at 22.7 percent, and it cost them dearly in Game 1 when they lost 104-101 as 9.5-point home faves. We counted on positive regression to help Toronto (–11) cover the spread in Game 2, which they did in a thoroughly dominant 111-82 victory. There’s every chance they’ll cover again in Game 5, but there isn’t quite enough profit margin there with the Raps priced at –11.5 and the projections at FiveThirtyEight putting Toronto at –13. Let’s hope we hear the sweet, sweet sound of nylon Tuesday night instead of the dull clang of leather on steel.