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Raptors set as underdogs in Miami for Game 6 of playoff series

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The Toronto Raptors can advance to the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history with a win on Friday when they visit the Miami Heat for Game 6 of their second-round series as 4-point underdogs at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Toronto rebounded from a stunning 94-87 overtime loss in Game 4 to take command of the series with a 99-91 win at home on Wednesday, lifting them to -350 chalk on the NBA series prices ahead of Friday night’s Raptors vs. Heat betting matchup at American Airlines Arena.

Game 5 featured a long-awaited breakthrough for the Raptors’ all-star backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who combined for 59 points after previously underachieving in the postseason.

Toronto covered as 4.5-point home favorites in Game 5, marking just their second against the spread victory in their past nine games, and their first ATS win at Air Canada Centre since Game 2 of their opening-round clash with the Indiana Pacers.

While the Raptors have struggled to put up points, they have proven effective at containing opposing offenses, surrendering just 92.33 points per game in their past six, and have seen the point total play UNDER in nine of their past 13 games, according to the OddsShark NBA Database.

With their loss on Wednesday, the Heat must now overcome a 3-2 series deficit for the second time this spring.

Miami came up big when facing elimination in their first-round series with Charlotte, handing the Hornets a pair of straight up and ATS defeats to take the series in seven games, but face an uphill battle against a Raptors squad which they have been unable to string consecutive SU wins against over their past 11 meetings.

The Heat are a meager 2-3 SU and ATS in their past five home dates with Toronto, but look to build on their current 10-2 SU and ATS run on home court.

Following their four-game sweep of the Atlanta Hawks, the Cleveland Cavaliers await the winner of the Raptors vs. Heat series trailing only the Golden State Warriors on the odds to win the NBA championship, sporting a strengthened betting line of +250.

The Warriors continue to lead the way as -150 chalk ahead of their Western Conference Finals matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who advanced with a 112-97 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of their second-round series but are just 1-6 SU in their past seven games against the Warriors.

Toronto sits well back of the NBA championship betting favorites at +4000, but remain ahead of the Heat, who trail as distant +10000 longshots to claim their third NBA title since 2011.

NBA All-Star Weekend Odds: Slam Dunk, Three-Point, Skills Challenge

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One man having serious slam dunk contest buzz means better prices for the other three heading into NBA All-Star Weekend at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Dallas Mavericks rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. is a +170 favorite on the slam dunk contest odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (+220), Cleveland Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. (+265) and Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo (+400) are also in the running.

Smith has taken every opportunity this season to try to “posterize” some of the NBA’s biggest names, which might explain his low price. Mitchell was a late entry who has come on strongly for the surging Jazz and is capable of the upset. As the only forward in the contest, Nance could have a hard time getting the benefit of the doubt from the judges.

The three-point contest is unpredictable by nature but has some familiar faces with favorite Klay Thompson (+210) and defending champion Eric Gordon (+450). Devin Booker (+550), Paul George (+650), Wayne Ellington (+700), Bradley Beal (+750), Kyle Lowry (+1000) and Tobias Harris (+1100) complete the eight-marksman field.

Thompson is converting threes at a career-high 45.4 percent rate, so the Golden State Warriors guard will likely draw a lot of interest. However, Gordon outlasted him in 2017 and will also be in his former home arena. Ellington, who scores more than 75 percent of his points from beyond the arc, stacks up as the sleeper from deep.

The skills challenge lacks the cachet of the other two competitions, but is wide open due to its format that guarantees a guard vs. center matchup in the final. The Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams (+350) is the favorite, but it might be wiser to favor a younger competitor, such as the Denver Nuggets’ second-year guard Jamal Murray (+400), in an event that is staked on speed and shooting.

Al Horford (+500) has the best price of any big man, but the Chicago Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen (+700) might have the skill-set more suited for the event. Murray, Markkanen and the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid (+600) will each be out to be third international player in a row to win the event.

For more odds info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Cavaliers Shaky Betting Favorite Against Celtics on NBA Opening Night

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While the sample might not be big enough for a true trend, the Cleveland Cavaliers go into opening night with a dubious track record as a narrow favorite at home.

With some uncertainty over whether – or how much – LeBron James will play after missing most of the preseason with a sprained left ankle, the Cavaliers are listed as 3.5-point favorites against the Boston Celtics with a 212.5-point total in their NBA opening night matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Interestingly enough, the OddsShark NBA Database shows that the Cavaliers are 0-6 straight-up and against the spread since January 2016 when favored by four or fewer points in regular-season home games.

Both Boston and Cleveland had offseason turnover that included trading point guards, with Kyrie Irving heading to the East Coast while Isaiah Thomas moved to the shores of Lake Erie. On top of having their new running mates Irving and SG Gordon Hayward, Boston returns only four of its 10 most-used players from last season.

However, under coach Brad Stevens they are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven road games against the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers, who were just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 home games of last season, have eight new players. James has had little practice time with the Cavaliers’ three new starters, PG Derrick Rose, SG Dwyane Wade and PF Jae Crowder, but with James’ talent and court sense chemistry can come pretty quickly (Thomas is out with a hip injury).

The total has gone over in four of the Celtics’ last five road games against the Cavaliers.

Later on Tuesday night, the defending champion Golden State Warriors are 9.5-point favorites against the Houston Rockets with a 230.5-point total in a matchup between the two highest-scoring teams from last season.

Due to new PG Chris Paul’s various injuries (bruised left shoulder, bruised left knee), the Rockets have had scarcely little time to see how Paul and SG James Harden will work together on the floor. If Paul is good to go in this one, though, he will face the Warriors’ Stephen Curry at each end of the court for the entire game.

The Rockets are 1-11 SU and 4-7-1 ATS in their last 12 road games against the Warriors, but any team that shoots threes as frequently – and often efficiently – as Houston is always a threat.

Golden State, with its big four of Curry, PF Kevin Durant, SF Draymond Green and SG Klay Thompson, almost always lays big-time points at Oracle Arena. While the Warriors infamously laid an egg in their home opener last season, they are 19-1 SU and 14-5-1 ATS in their last 20 regular-season home games with a closing line between 8.5 and 10.5 points.

The Warriors, unlike the other three teams in action on Tuesday, had minimal offseason turnover with 12 players returning from their championship team.

The total has gone under in six of the Rockets’ last nine road games against the Warriors.