NBA Picks: Take +4½ Points & The Cash In Heat vs. Raptors Game 1

Jason Lake

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 3:00 PM UTC

Tuesday, May. 3, 2016 3:00 PM UTC

In theory, the Miami Heat are the right NBA pick for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal versus the Toronto Raptors. But is Tuesday's total the better choice?


God bless the NBA playoffs. Over the past couple of weeks, we've pounded the Under non-stop here at the home office. It's working out pretty well: 7-1 after eight games, in fact. Each of the last four games in the Charlotte Hornets-Miami Heat series went Under the posted total. So did two of the last three between the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors. We hope you've enjoyed the ride as much as we have.

Conveniently enough, Miami and Toronto are playing each other in the second round. Should we keep plucking that chicken? Maybe not; we've already identified the Heat as a value NBA pick to win the series at +140, so Miami's probably the right call as a 4.5-point road dog for Tuesday's opener (8:00 p.m. ET, TNT), down from +5 when the first lines hit our NBA odds board.


Tyler Makes Pancakes
Let's bring in the usual gang of hoop nerds at this time to give us their projections:
FiveThirtyEight (CARM-Elo): Toronto -3.5
Basketball-Reference (SRS): Toronto -6.08

Our nerds seem to have a difference of opinion here. But really, it's a bit of a stretch for me to use the Simple Rating System figures from B-R, given that their numbers are from the regular season only. Miami (4-3 ATS) was by far the stronger of the two teams during the first round, outscoring Charlotte by 10.1 points per 100 possessions. Indiana outscored Toronto (2-5 ATS) by 4.4 points per 100 possessions. The Hornets (+2.36 SRS) rated higher than the Pacers (+1.62 SRS) during the regular season.

Here's something else to consider: The Heat only used Tyler Johnson (13.8 PER, +0.5 BPM) for six minutes in their series with Charlotte, and that was during garbage time in Game 7. That was Johnson's first action since undergoing shoulder surgery in early February. If there's one obvious advantage Toronto has in this series, it's depth, but that advantage will be smaller now that Johnson has returned to active duty.

Banana Splits
Okay, so Miami's a lovely value pick in this situation. But more lovely than the Under? We're looking at a total of 191 points for Game 1, down a smidge from 191.5 points at the open – and that's despite 100 percent of bettors hammering the Over, according to our very early consensus reports. Hmmm. Maybe we need some more data to come in before making any decisions based on those numbers.

Miami and Toronto split the totals 2-2 during their four regular-season games, and still would have split them had the over/under been set at 191.5 every game. These playoffs have been lower-scoring, of course, but it seems prudent at this juncture to stick with the Heat against the spread and see what unfolds in Game 1.

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Free NBA Pick: Miami +4.5 -105
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle
Record: : 36-40-1 ATS, 13-4-1 Total

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