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Eastern Conference Semifinals
No. 3 Toronto at No. 2 Cleveland (TNT, 7:05 p.m. ET)

2016-17 Regular Season (Cavaliers 3-1)
Oct. 28 Cavaliers (-2.5) at Toronto 94-91 (Under 206)
Nov. 15 Raptors at Cavaliers (-5.5) 121-117 (Over 209)
Dec. 5 Cavaliers (+2) at Toronto 116-112 (Over 214.5)
Apr 12 Raptors (-3) at Toronto 98-83 (Under 201)

The Cavaliers knocked out the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals in six games last season as the two teams meet again in postseason. Cleveland pulled off a four-game sweep of Indiana even though the Cavaliers won those contests by a total of 16 points. The most memorable victory in that series came in Game 3 when the Cavaliers erased a 25-point halftime deficit to stun the Pacers, 119-114, while covering as two-point favorites.

LeBron James put up three double-doubles in the series, while compiling a triple-double in the Game 3 comeback with 41 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists. Point guard Kyrie Irving had a terrific series for Cleveland by scoring at least 23 points in three of the victories, while midseason pick-up Deron Williams posted a 14-point effort in the series clincher at Indiana.

The Raptors rode a roller-coaster in their first round series against the Bucks as Toronto fell behind, 2-1 after three games. However, Dwane Casey’s squad rebounded with three consecutive wins to close out the series in six games, while limiting Milwaukee to 93 points or fewer in those victories. Toronto’s offense scored 83 points or less in its two losses to Milwaukee, but had inconsistent scoring outputs in its four wins by posting 106, 87, 118, and 92 points.

Only two Raptors scored in double-figures in the series clinching win over the Bucks, as the backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined for 45 points. DeRozan stepped up in the final three wins by scoring 33 and 32 points in two of those victories, but Lowry eclipsed the 20-point mark only once. Milwaukee covered in each of the first three games of the series, but Toronto cashed in each of its last three wins.

Cleveland captured three of four games in the regular season against Toronto, as the Raptors won a meaningless contest on the final night at Quicken Loans Arena. In the meaningful matchups, Cleveland picked up the three victories by a total of 11 points. In the first meeting at Air Canada Center in late October, the Cavaliers held on for a 94-91 win as 2 ½-point favorites, while the Raptors were held to 39% shooting from the floor.

The Raptors managed a cover as six-point underdogs at Cleveland in mid-November in a 121-117 defeat. Both teams shot the ball well (Cleveland – 53%, Toronto – 48%), but James took over with 28 points and 15 assists, while Channing Frye chipped in 21 points off the bench for the Cavaliers. In early December, the Cavaliers beat the Raptors for the third time in less than six weeks, 116-112 as two-point underdogs. Cleveland’s big three of James, Irving, and Kevin Love combined for 86 points, while Toronto dynamic duo of Lowry and DeRozan scored 55 points in the defeat.

In last year’s conference finals, the Cavaliers dominated the Raptors in all three home matchups by winning each time by 19 points or more. Toronto picked up two underdog victories at Air Canada Center in Games 3 and 4, but lost the final game of the series, 113-87 at home as 6 ½-point underdogs.

Toronto struggled on the road in the playoffs from 2014-16 by putting together a 3-11 SU and 4-10 ATS record. However, the Raptors won two of three away games in the opening round at Milwaukee. Since the start of last postseason, the Cavaliers own an 11-1 SU and 8-4 ATS at home, but failed to cover in their first two victories over the Pacers in the quarterfinals.

At Sportsbook.ag, Cleveland is the overwhelming favorite to advance at -525 odds (Bet $525 to win $100), while Toronto sits at hefty underdog odds at +400 (Bet $100 to win $400) to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Western Conference Semifinals
No. 3 Houston at No. 2 San Antonio (TNT, 9:35 p.m. ET)

2016-17 Regular Season (Spurs 3-1)
Nov. 9 Rockets (+8.5) at Spurs 101-99 (Under 212)
Nov. 12 Spurs (-1.5) at Rockets 106-100 (Under 208)
Dec. 20 Spurs (+1) at Rockets 102-100 (Under 213.5)
Mar. 6 Rockets at Spurs (-3.5) 112-110 (Push 222)

Plenty of eyes in the Western Conference will be on the Lone Star State showdown between the Spurs and Rockets. The last time these state rivals hooked up in the playoffs came way back in 1995 when Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets eliminated David Robinson and the Spurs in the conference finals in six games. Each of these teams showcase MVP candidates with San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Houston’s James Harden squaring off.

Leonard torched the Grizzlies in the opening round for 31.6 points per game, including 43 points in a Game 4 overtime loss at Memphis. However, the Spurs won the final two games of the series after being locked up at 2-2 after four contests, capped off by a 103-96 triumph in Game 6 as five-point road favorites. Veteran point guard Tony Parker came alive for San Antonio in the series clincher with 27 points, three games after being held scoreless in an 11-point setback in Game 3.

The Rockets advanced past the first round for only the second time since 2010 by knocking out the Thunder in five games. It wasn’t easy for Mike D’Antoni’s club, as the last four games against Oklahoma City were decided by six points or less as Houston went 1-2 ATS in the favorite role. The Rockets cashed in both opportunities as an underdog, while Harden topped the 34-point mark in four of the five contests.

Houston lives and dies by the three-point ball and things didn’t work out well for long distance against Oklahoma City. The Rockets converted on less than 31% of their attempts from three-point range in four of five games, including a dreadful 6-of-37 performance in the clinching Game 5 victory at home. Harden finds way to get his points, but the Rockets’ All-Star guard shot a combined 13-of-41 in the final two games from the floor, while knocking down only 2-of-20 attempts from distance.

The Rockets won the opening matchup against the Spurs on November 9 at AT&T Center, 101-99 as 8 ½-point underdogs, but ultimately lost the next three meetings. Two of the three wins by San Antonio came by two points apiece, including a 112-110 home triumph on March 6 as the Spurs erased a 16-point deficit after the opening quarter. Leonard and Harden cancelled each other out with 39-point performances, but Parker helped lift San Antonio to the comeback win with 19 points.

Since the start of the 2015 postseason, the Rockets have slumped to a 3-10 road record in the postseason, while six of those losses came by double-figures. San Antonio won and covered in all three home games against Memphis, while putting together a 13-game winning streak in home Game 1’s in the playoffs dating back to 2012.

San Antonio heads into this series at 9/1 odds to win the NBA championship at Sportsbook.ag, while Houston sits at 25/1 to capture the title. For the series, the Spurs are -240 favorites to advance to the Western Conference Finals, while the Rockets are listed at +200 to reach the conference finals for the second time in three seasons.

May 1, 2017 by : Posted in NBA No Comments

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