NBA Playoffs Picks: Back Raptors -6.5 Over Pacers In Game 1

Jason Lake

Friday, April 15, 2016 7:38 PM GMT

The NBA odds say the Toronto Raptors should advance to the second round this year. But they still have to play the Indiana Pacers one game at a time, starting this Saturday.

Jason's 2015-16 record as of April 15: 33-36-1 ATS, 6-3-1 Total

The 2016 NBA playoffs get underway this Saturday with four games on the schedule. Guess who gets to play in the early afternoon game (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)? That's right, the Toronto Raptors. As usual, the “foreign” team gets the shaft, but this time, they'll have to look in the mirror: Sportsnet, the Canadian sports channel that owns a piece of the Raptors, apparently wanted this game as a lead-in to their coverage of the Toronto Blue Jays playing the Boston Red Sox at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

As inconvenient as this may be for the Raptors, it'll be just as bad for their opponents, the Indiana Pacers. So enough kvetching already; let's get to this Eastern Conference game itself, which sees Toronto laying 6.5 points at home on our NBA odds board as we go to press. We recommend you take a gander at our quick preview of the series as a whole, but in brief, we took the Raptors at what should be a bargain series price of –337.

Stormin' Norman
Since this is one of those rare occasions where the basketball odds are available days in advance of the game being played, we have some consensus numbers to work with, and the numbers look good for Toronto supporters. The Raptors (56-26 SU, 45-37 ATS) opened Wednesday afternoon as 6-point favorites, then moved to –6.5 after 59 percent of first responders climbed on board. They've still got 55 percent support at press time.

Brilliant. If we follow the rule of thumb that early money is sharp money, the consensus numbers fit the narrative that the Raps are undervalued in the larger marketplace, and therefore belong in our NBA picks. But let's see what the usual gang of hoopheads has to say:

FiveThirtyEight (CARM-Elo): Toronto –8
Basketball-Reference (SRS): Toronto –5.96

Very interesting indeed. Neither projection will be aware that DeMarre Carroll (11.9 PER, +0.2 BPM) is active for Toronto after missing most of the regular season. But FiveThirtyEight's Elo formula will at least partly reflect the ongoing development of players like Norman Powell (13.3 PER, –0.4 BPM), and the late addition of Jason Thompson (14.7 PER, +0.9 BPM) to the lineup.

At the other end of the floor, the Pacers (45-37 SU, 41-40-1 ATS) saw their performance level drop after the All-Star break, and while we haven't run the numbers here at the ranch, we suspect it has to do with the decision to move Paul George (20.9 PER, +4.6 BPM) back to the 3-spot and start rookie Myles Turner (15.4 PER, –2.3 BPM) at power forward. This might even be best for the Pacers in the long run, but George was playing at an MVP level at the start of the regular season, and Indiana's going to need more of that to upset Toronto in this series.

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NBA Picks: Raptors -6.5  
Best Line Offered: at Heritage