Warriors-Rockets, Blazers-Nuggets tight series

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The second round of the NBA Playoffs are nearing completion with one series possibly ending as soon as Wednesday night.

After dropping the opening game of its series with Boston, the Milwaukee Bucks have won the next three games, which included both Games 3 and 4 in Boston to set up the possibility of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals with a home win on Wednesday. Three of the first four games were decided by a dozen points or more and the fourth by seven points.

The other Eastern Conference series between Philadelphia and Toronto was tied at 2-2 as the teams met on Tuesday night in Toronto in Game 5. In this series two games were decided by 13 points or more and the other two by exactly five points each.

Both series in the Western Conference were also tied at 2-2 after Denver won in Portland on Sunday and Houston won at home on Monday. Both of these series have been extremely ­competitive.

All four games in the Golden State-Houston series have been decided by six points or less. The Denver-Portland series has seen each game decided by eight points or less. Each series has seen one game go into overtime with Game 3 of the Portland-Denver series needing four overtimes to produce a winner.

But for the fact that Portland’s 140-137 quadruple overtime game started at 10:35 Eastern time and ended at roughly 2 a.m., this game would be hyped as an instant classic. That would have happened if the game were played in prime time on the east coast when there would have been a much greater number of viewers from start to finish.

Here are some brief thoughts on each series:

Bucks vs. Celtics: After dropping the opening game of their series the Bucks have won three straight and are prohibitive -7000 (and higher) favorites to win the series. They are also favored by 9.5 points to end the series at home Wednesday night.

The points are attractive with Boston in Game 5 but if they happen to win the game outright the call would be for the Bucks to end the series in Boston in Game 6.

Raptors vs. 76ers: With this series assured of going at least six games, Toronto is favored -280 to advance with Raptors favored by six points to have won Game 5 Tuesday night.

This series has been marked by inconsistency by both teams but ultimately Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard remains the best player on the court. He has scored 45, 35, 33 and 39 points in the first four games which suggests playing the over in his individual prop bets might be the best betting option to consider.

Regardless of which team advances, it will be tough to make a case against what should be a well-rested Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Warriors vs. Rockets: Of the 12 playoff series to date this is the only one in which the home team has won each of the first four games. For Houston to pull the upset the Rockets will have to win at Golden State in either Game 5 or a potential Game 7 with the former likely the easier task than the latter.

Golden State is favored by from -220 to -250 to win this series and is favored by 6 points to win Game 5 at home on Wednesday. My preference is to take the points with Houston. 

Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers: This series is also tied at two games apiece and remains the most competitively priced with Denver -160 to advance. Each team has won once at home and once on the road.

Portland’s backcourt of Damian Lilliard and CJ McCollum have combined to score 215 of the team’s 462 points in the series. The Nuggets have enjoyed the rebounding edge with Nikola Jokic putting up a triple-double in both Games 3 and 4 (and four such games in this season’s playoffs). Jamal Murray has also come up big for Denver, tallying 34 points in both Games 3 and 4.

Just how competitive has this series been? Of the 16 quarters of regulation play, only twice has one team outscored the other by more than seven points.

Both teams are capable of giving either Golden State or Houston competitive series in the Western Conference Finals and each, especially Portland, would be nicely priced underdogs against either the Warriors or Rockets and would make for attractive underdog plays on a game by game basis.

Celtics +9.5 at Bucks (Wednesday): My preferred play on Wednesday will be to take the 9.5 points with Boston as they seek to stave off elimination in Milwaukee.

Prior to their Game 2 loss in Milwaukee, the Celtics had won six in a row on the road, covering in each and were favored in only one of those games.

Thursday’s play might be dependent upon the results of Tuesday’s games but given my thoughts on the series between Portland and Denver my preference would be to back the loser of Tuesday’s Game 5 to extend the series to seven games with a Game 6 win in Portland on Thursday. 

Last week: 1-1

Season: 44-32

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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