NBA picks: Raptors vs. Celtics, Nuggets vs. Clippers
Expect plenty of fireworks from Orlando on Thursday as the Toronto Raptors try to dig their way out of an 0-2 hole against the Boston Celtics, and the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers kick off their highly anticipated second round series. We have betting odds and picks for both marquee match-ups below.
Thu, September 3 2020, 10:35 PM
The Raptors had the Celtics on the ropes in Game 2 and appeared to be on their way to evening the series 1-1. And then Marcus Smart happened. With five three-pointers in the final quarter, the Celtics came roaring back to surprise the Raptors and their backers with an 11-point swing in the deciding quarter. Down 78-70 entering the fourth, the Celtics ended up winning 102-99 and covered the spread as 1-point underdogs.
In Game 3, the Raptors are once again listed as favorites, sitting at -1.5 vs. a team they have failed to defeat in two tries. The Celtics also handled the Raptors convincingly in a pre-playoff bubble match-up on Aug. 6th with a 122-100 victory. Quite clearly, the Celtics have the Raptors’ number these days. Not only are the Raptors 0-3 against Boston in the last month, but they’ve managed to outscore the Celtics in just three of 12 quarters during that span.
Jayson Tatum continues to excel offensively, putting in 34 points and shooting 14/14 from the line. Adding eight rebounds and six assists, Tatum is a two-way All-Star that is seeing the court more impressively with seemingly each passing game.
On defense, Smart continues to be a complete pest for Raptors guards Kyle Lowry and Fred VanFleet. He’s even capable of switching off to defend Pascal Siakam. Lowry and VanFleet went just 3-19 from three after going 3-16 in Game 1. The Celtics are a better, more rounded team that have the length on the perimeter to slow down the Raptors’ backcourt, and with no travel or Toronto home court to worry about, I like the Celtics to continue their winning ways in Game 3.
NBA pick: Celtics +1
Fri, September 4 2020, 1:05 AM
It was just two days ago that the Nuggets sealed their first-round series in dramatic fashion with a Game 7 win over the Utah Jazz. The Nuggets were down 3-1 in the series before they came roaring back behind their two stars, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Their opponents in the second round, the Los Angeles Clippers, dropped a couple games against the Dallas Mavericks but ultimately leaned on their stars in Games 5 and 6 to win by double-digits and find their way into the second round.
The Clippers are deserving 9-point favorites in Game 1 on Thursday night. In their last matchup in the regular season, the Clippers won 124-111 to seal up their No. 2 seed in the playoffs. In the last game of the pre-COVID 19 regular season, the Clippers routed the Nuggets 132-103.
Kawhi Leonard is playing his as-expected elite basketball, having scored at least 32 points in each of the last five games against the Mavs. And while his presence on the court is undeniable, it felt like a quiet 32+ each night. His counterpart, Paul George, struggled with some mental health roadblocks through four games, but broke out of his slump in Games 5 and 6.
The Nuggets never looked overly productive on offense against the Jazz, ending up with decent efficiency numbers overall but they were mostly reliant on some hot shooting from Murray. They will be getting no class relief in their next round, and are almost certain to have some emotional letdown after an intense seven-game series comeback. The Clippers are 22-8 in their last 30 games with more than three days rest and have been the most efficient offense in the postseason thus far. Bank on L.A.