Thursdays’ Results: 3-2
All-Time Results: 72-76-1. -0.9 Units
San Antonio Spurs +220 @ Denver Nuggets – 1 Unit
San Antonio Spurs +2 1Q @ Denver Nuggets – 1 Unit
From 1984 to 2004, home teams in NBA Game 7’s went 35-4 SU. Naturally, over those 20 years, it became inherited wisdom that Game 7’s were a mortal lock for the squad that slept in their own beds and had their home crowd behind them.
Over the past 4 seasons, however, home teams are 3-4 SU & 1-6 ATS. It’s a new league. I talked yesterday about the propensity of the 3-point shot leading to big road favorites covering over the last few years and I think we have a similar phenomenon here. The game is not as taxing physically as it once was, and perhaps the mental aspect of maintaining focus and intensity on the road in a Game 7 has become that much easier. Any team – home or road – that can get it going shooting-wise can win these clinchers.
I like the money-line more than the +6 here partly because of this trend: So far in these NBA Playoffs, the team that has won the game has also covered the spread in 35 out of 38 games (35-2-1). As variance has increased in the league, partly due to the 3-point shot, it has become more profitable to ignore the number and pick the team providing more value to win.
This game and series reminds of the 2008 Spurs/Hornets match-up. That year Chris Paul had broken out as an MVP candidate, only to be quelled in the most pivotal game of the season when the Spurs held the Hornets to 81 points. 24-year-old, future HOFer, Nikola Jokic is Chris Paul in this scenario. Popovich appreciates everything he brings to the game and will coordinate a game-plan to take away his best tendencies. I look for him to take away his scoring and make the other Nuggets beat them.
Jamaal Murray is probable with a thigh contusion, after a collision with Jakob Poetl in the 3rd quarter of game 6. After he took that hit, Murray shot only 2-8. If he is significantly compromised, the Spurs instantly become the more talented offensive team.
This series has been crazy – with either team looking dominant and dreadful for stretches. My gut tells me it’s a coin flip and I want to be on the side getting paid 2:1.
The Spurs have dominated 1st quarters this series and the Nuggets have dominated 2nd quarters. If the Spurs get up big early, I wouldn’t mind betting the other side if I can get plus money.
Spurs are 5-1 SU & ATS in 1st Quarters, with an average scoring margin of +5.7 points.
Nuggets are 4-2 SU in 2nd Quarters (including winning 4 straight), with a +3.3 average scoring margin.
None of the Nuggets outside of Paul Millsap had any playoff experience coming into this series. If the moment rattles them even a little, the Spurs could easily pounce and be up 15 in the first half.
Tip In: Spurs are 3-3 SU & 4-2 ATS Under Greg Popovich in Game 7’s. You know the Spurs players and organization would love nothing more than to deliver him a winning lifetime record in double elimination games. The league might not mind the story either.
Philadelphia 76ers +230 @ Toronto Raptors – 1 Unit
The Toronto Raptors are 1-9 SU & ATS in Game 1’s since the beginning of 2014 playoffs, with an ATS margin of -11.3.
Kyle Lowry has been the one constant and the principal culprit of this trend. Lowry in Game 1’s as a Raptor has shot 27% from the floor and averaged under 10 points per game. Part of is a bad stretch and a small sample size. Part of it is that Lowry has struggled in the playoffs in general. And another part is that Lowry has struggled to immediately adapt to the novel challenges brought by each new team in each new series. I cannot imagine a more jarring change of environment than going from playing against DJ Augustine to playing against Ben Simmons, who is 10 inches taller and at least 50 pounds heavier than the Magic PG. Lowry might break out of this trend. But he also might throw up another Goose Egg. Again, I’m riding the side with the plus money payout.
A recap of the Philadelphia/Brooklyn series I read noted that Joel Embiid “can still be dominant at times” for the 76ers. That’s the understatement of the playoffs and indicative of the current sentiment about Embiid, who has quietly been a top 3 performer so far in the post-season. Embiid has a league-best 39.0 PER in the playoffs, which would be a league record. He has cumulative +/- of +53 in 5 games. More importantly, he has gotten better as the playoffs have progressed. With a couple more days rest in hand, I think the minutes restriction will be lifted and Embiid – at least to start the series – will be the best player on the court.
Former Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol is not the physical specimen he used to be. Embiid might keep him in foul trouble all night.
Tip in: Raptors are 13-0 SU & 10-3 ATS since 2013 playing Philadelphia in Toronto. The trend doesn’t scare me off the play for several reasons: 1. None of those games were in the playoffs. 2. Few of those games involved Joel Embiid. 3. All streaks end at 12, 13 or 14 – it’s practically a law of nature.