The second round matchups in the Eastern Conference are underway as Boston, Miami, Milwaukee and Toronto won four straight games to advance from the opening round.
Only three of those were four-game sweeps as the East’s top seed, Milwaukee, lost its opener to Orlando before winning the next four against the Magic.
Both Eastern Conference second-round series had begun with the underdogs winning their opening games straight up and by double digits. On Sunday, Boston, a 2-point underdog, led virtually wire-to-wire to defeat Toronto 112-94. On Monday, Milwaukee was again upset in its first game, losing as a 5-point favorite, 115-104, to Miami.
Of the four teams remaining in the East, Miami is the most intriguing. After going just 3-5 SU and ATS in the seeding games, the Heat have won five in a row with each win in the range of from 9 to 12 points. Four of those five games have stayed Under the Total.
Miami won both pre-restart regular season meetings with the Bucks, including on the road in the second game of the season. Milwaukee did win the lone seeding game between the teams, but with Monday’s win the Heat are now 3-1 SU and ATS against the Bucks.
I won’t be surprised if Miami is a money maker over the remaining games of this series. Milwaukee’s loss in the opener is a bit of a concern considering they were shocked in the opener in their previous series. And Miami is a much better team than Orlando.
I still expect Milwaukee to emerge from this series and to emerge as the NBA champion (my projection from three issues back). But it might be tougher than expected and the Bucks, depending on their level of favoritism, might continue to be a fade and worsen their current 6-7-1 ATS record.
The setup is much different in the West. Both Los Angeles teams – the Lakers and Clippers – wrapped up their first-round series over the weekend. Similar to Milwaukee, the top-seeded Lakers lost their opening game to Portland before winning four straight. The Clippers needed six games to get by Dallas. Both victims were shorthanded for the latter part of their series with Portland’s Damian Lillard and Dallas’ Kristaps Porzingis injured and missing games as their series wound down.
The Clippers await the winner of the series between Utah and Denver, which played decisive Game 7 Tuesday night. The Lakers await the winner of Wednesday’s Game 7 between Oklahoma City and Houston.
Raptors vs. Celtics: Boston pulled a minor upset winning Game 1. Toronto had the chance to even the series Tuesday. The Celtics will either be up 2-0 entering this Game 3 or the series will have become best of five.
These teams have been the stars of Orlando. Boston is 10-3 SU, Toronto 11-2. Both have been profitable ATS. Six of Boston’s last seven games have stayed Under the total.
Toronto began the restart with six straight Unders, going 4-3 to the Over since. Although there have been more Overs since the restart began, the playoffs have been even with 21 of each. The circumstances surrounding Game 3 game suggest a more deliberately played game between these evenly matched teams.
Of the teams still playing these teams rank first and second in fewest points allowed per game. UNDER
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) September 1, 2020
Jazz or Nuggets vs. Clippers: The Clippers will have had several extra days of rest after clinching their opening series on Sunday while their opponent will have won Game 7 on Tuesday.
The Clippers have the bubble’s best ATS record, 10-4 and have outscored the opposition by an average of 7.5 points per game in going 9-5 SU. Denver and Utah have played a high scoring series with five Overs and just one Under. Even in their seeding round games the Nuggets and Jazz combined to go 13-3 to the Over. Whichever team won Tuesday’s Game 7 will be a very tired and likely sluggish team. CLIPPERS
Rockets or Thunder vs. Lakers: In contrast to the Clippers, the Lakers will have more days off after clinching their opening series last Saturday. Their opponent will have won Game 7 on Wednesday.
The Lakers have been the bubble’s biggest money burners, going just 4-9 ATS, favored in all games. But the Lakers did cover in three of their four wins over Portland after dropping the opener.
Clearly they used the seeding games to get into shape, having needed to do very little to lock up the West’s top seed. Of the teams still playing OKC has the lowest scoring average in the bubble, 106.2 points per game.
Given the disparity in rest, the Lakers would likely try to force the pace against either tired foe. The Rockets are more likely to be compliant, the Thunder less so. Thus the play will be on the Total and depends on the opponent. OVER if facing ROCKETS; UNDER if facing THUNDER.
Last week: No record (Games postponed)