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The smoke has barely cleared on the Cavaliers’ Game 7 win over the Pacers and now they must battle the top dog in the East, the Toronto Raptors, starting Tuesday night. Let’s break this series down and take a peek at the series odds to see if we can make a few bucks on this semifinal matchup.
Are the Raptors for Real?
After the Boston Celtics loaded up with All-Star talent in the form of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward coupled with lottery draft picks Jaylen Brown from last season and Jason Tatum from the 2017 draft, it was considered a two-team race for Eastern Conference supremacy with the other preeminent power being LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. Toronto was almost an afterthought, the distant third-best team in the conference and cannon fodder for either the Celtics or Cavaliers once either met the Raptors in the playoffs.
However, injuries beguiled the Celtics with Hayward being lost in the first game of the season courtesy of a gruesome leg snap and then Irving ended his year with a left knee procedure as the regular season drew to a close. The Cavaliers have been a mercurial team with a revolving door of roster moves leaving King James without a court. Toronto took full advantage and produced a stellar season as evidenced by their 59-23 regular season record (franchise record for wins) and the No. 1 seed in the East.
Over the first two games of their first-round series with the No. 8 Wizards, the Raps looked dominant, beating Washington by an average of 9½ points and taking a commanding 2-0 series lead. But then they flew south to meet the Wizards in DC and dropped two games in which they went from 7½ point favorites at home to a virtual pick’em on the road. Toronto won, as expected, when the series returned to the Great White North in Game 5 but then bucked the trend when they clinched the series in Game 6 at the Capital One Arena and covered the two-point impost for those who like to back their opinions with cold, hard cash.
The question is, are the Raptors the new beasts of the East or merely paper tigers that have been the beneficiaries of adverse conditions surrounding their two most potent rivals? Perhaps a bit of both, but whatever the answer, the Raps will be more rested than their opponents on Tuesday night having closed out their series on Friday while the Cavs ended theirs on Sunday in a grueling seven-game set with the Pacers.
Trends & Odds
The Cavaliers owned a 2-1 regular-season series advantage over the Raptors, defeating them on the road in their last meeting by the score of 112-106 and also 132-129 at home in their previous game. Toronto’s only win was in the first meeting when the Raps decimated the Cavs 133-99 back on January 11 at the Air Canada Centre. A few more trends are in play heading into this matchup.
- Toronto is 25-19 ATS at home this season.
- Toronto is 14-9 ATS versus poor defensive teams — allowing 106+ points per game — in the second half of the season.
- Toronto is 8-4 ATS in April games.
- Cleveland is 20-23 ATS on the road this season.
- Cleveland is 20-27 ATS when playing against a team with a winning record.
- Cleveland is 11-18 ATS when playing against a team with a winning record in the second half of the season.
After a quick search over at Sportsbook Review, the sports betting industry’s watchdog that has a library of the best online sportsbooks replete with rating guides to all the best books on the planet, we see that the Raptors are the third favorite to win the NBA championship at +975, trailing Golden State and Houston, while the Cavs are currently fifth of the eight teams currently still in postseason play at +1800.
As Game 1 approaches, the Raptors are six-point home favorites which means that, in all likelihood, Toronto claims Game 1 and puts the Cavs on their collective heels from jump street. Therefore, it’s not at all surprising that the series price is Toronto -210/+175. The fact of the matter is that Cleveland has stripped its roster of a solid corps surrounding their main attraction, LeBron.
Unfortunately for Cleveland fans it is now incumbent upon James to not only carry the load but do the digging, the rigging, and the excavating in order for the Cavs to be successful. In the seven-game series against Indiana, LeBron was immense and averaged over 34 points and 10 rebounds per game. But that takes a toll and if LeBron has an off night, then the Cavs are toast. Toronto boasts too many weapons and although none may be of the howitzer variety, ala LeBron, they are lethal enough to put the Cavs to sleep. Cleveland has eliminated the Raptors from the playoffs the past two seasons. Not this time. Toronto wins the series 4-2.