Warriors vs. Raptors: Toronto's Defense Improvement Makes the 'Under' our NBA Pick

Jason Lake

Friday, February 27, 2015 12:31 PM UTC

Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 12:31 PM UTC

Golden State Warriors couldn’t get the job done Thursday night in Cleveland. Things might get a little easier Friday night when the Dubs face the Raptors, but NBA odds are still in Toronto’s favor.

Jason’s record as of Feb. 26: 36-35-4 ATS, 2-6 Totals

There’s no shame in losing to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They’ve only won 18 of their last 20 games at 16-4 ATS; on Thursday, the Golden State Warriors tried their luck and fell 110-99 as 3-point road dogs. It wasn’t that poor of a performance from the Warriors. They shouldn’t have any trouble shaking it off in time for Friday night’s game (7:30 p.m. ET) versus the Toronto Raptors.

It’s the Raptors who have the questionable frame of mind at this point. Just when it looked like they were going to go on a nice run, the Raps have dropped three straight SU and ATS. Their best player, Kyle Lowry, called himself “trash” after he was asked about his reduced level of play over the past few weeks. The basketball odds don’t seem to mind too much; Toronto is a 1-point home chalk as we go to press.


Home Warriors
Despite the loss to the Cavaliers, Golden State (44-11 SU, 33-21-1 ATS) still has the best record in the NBA. But all that sweet, sweet cash was made back in Oakland. The Warriors are just 14-15 ATS on the road; seven of their last eight games were away from the Oracle, and the Dubs were 4-3 SU and 1-6 ATS in those seven games.

Ah, but the All-Star break was in the middle of that stretch, so maybe this isn’t a case of travel fatigue. It’s possible that the Warriors have simply peaked in value after crushing the NBA odds during the first half of the season. Or, even more likely, it’s a combination of both. These things don’t have to devolve into binary arguments – we’ll take as many useful betting angles as we can if they’ll help us get paid. We’ll even factor in the hassle of clearing Canadian customs.

Whatever it is, Golden State hasn’t been quite as dominant lately. Heading into Cleveland, the Warriors were third in the league in offensive efficiency (108.2 points per 100 possessions) in the month of February; however, their defense has fallen back to the middle of the pack at No. 15 overall (101.5 points allowed). Casual bettors don’t pay enough attention to defense, so maybe it’ll take a while for the market to react to this downshift.


Johnson Goes Deep, Comes up Large
Meanwhile, the Raptors (37-20 SU, 27-29-1 ATS) have turned their defensive fortunes around quite dramatically. They’re second in defensive efficiency this month at 97.9 points allowed per 100 possessions. Good thing, because the offense has slipped to No. 24 overall at 98.3 points scored. Lowry (19.6 PER) isn’t playing like a fringe MVP candidate anymore – or even an All-Star, for that matter:

November: plus-10.3

December: plus-9.0

January: plus-0.2

February: minus-1.4

This isn’t something that just started happening recently, but it is getting worse. Lowry has seen his numbers fall across the board; he’s only shooting 26.1 percent from long range this month, and 74.2 percent from the free-throw line. Watching him play, I get the sense he’s trying too hard, which might really mean that Lowry’s body is no longer able to cash the checks his mind is writing. He’s started all 57 games for Toronto at 35 minutes a pop, plus the All-Star Game.

As for that defensive improvement, we can’t discuss the Raptors without mentioning James Johnson (18.9 PER). He’s started he past six games for Toronto, and not only is he playing tremendous defense, Johnson is also slashing to the rim like a hot knife through butter, and even hitting a few corner threes for good measure. But not enough threes to keep the UNDER from going 5-1 during his six starts. As long as Johnson’s doing his thing and Lowry isn’t, the UNDER is going to be our preferred NBA pick whenever the Raps play.

Free NBA Pick: Take the UNDER

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