I will be tasked with picking Eastern Conference games throughout the 2018 NBA playoffs, so hopefully I can build on some late season momentum and help you profit.
The attempt to do that starts with Saturday’s showdown in Toronto between the Raptors and Washington Wizards.
The Raptors are the understandable favorites, as they earned the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference and were one of the most balanced teams in the NBA all year.
A focus on sharing the ball and defending helped them improve across the board this season and they finished the regular season with the league’s 3rd most efficient offense and 5th most efficient defense.
As good as Toronto is, it will be hard for bettors to ignore the Wiz. Washington was pretty good before star point guard John Wall was sidelined with a knee injury and now he’s back in the fold. That may not rescue the Wizards in this tough spot, but it could easily have Washington being a much tougher out that betting sites are willing to admit.
Washington Wizards (+8, -110) @ Toronto Raptors (-8, -110) Total: 211 (-110)
Toronto is the obvious straight up bet in this spot. They were a staggering 34-7 on their home floor during the regular season and Bovada loves them (-370) to go up 1-0 in this series. However, history could easily work against the Raptors, who have struggled a lot in the playoffs in the past and are a remarkable 1-11 in their last 12 game one opportunities.
Yikes, am I right?
Obviously Toronto looks different this year and I’m sure they’ll be looking to shed that old playoff image.
Still, the Raptors probably need to show they’re different before bettors can fully trust them. That may put a straight up upset in play (Wizards are a fun price at +285), but Washington beating this +8 spread makes for the more reliable bet.
Toronto wasn’t bad against the spread this past season. They were a respectable 43-38-1 and that might be an even better record when you consider how many times Vegas projected them to blow teams out. That being said, the Raptors were a middling 34-33-1 ATS as a favorite this year and it wasn’t any better (18-19-1) at home.
That isn’t to say Toronto can’t house the Wizards, but judging by their four-game regular season series, it’s not the logical outcome.
Washington stole two of four games against the Raptors this year, while none of those games were decided by more than nine points, regardless of who won.
The Wizards are the inferior team against the spread (37-44-1) at first glance, but they were actually annoying as underdogs. Vegas bet against the Wiz 40 times this year, yet Washington proved resilient, going 19-11 ATS in the process (15-15 as SU underdogs). The Wizards were just as pesky on the road ATS (13-9), too.
So far, everything points to taking the points with the Wiz.
I think the matchup demands it a well. These teams matchup extremely well, as they are both very dynamic offensively and know how to share the ball. They both can kill you from outside and have the ability to defend on the interior as well.
Toronto is the better team and they’re on their home floor, but the Wizards are a lot more dangerous in this first round series than people (and Vegas) seem to be giving them credit for.
In reality, had Washington remained healthy all year, they would probably be a #4 or #5 seed. That isn’t how things shook out, but John Wall and co. know they can hang with Toronto and there’s no doubt they will take pride in giving the Raptors all they can handle.
When you look at Toronto’s past postseason issues, Washington’s talent and the ATS data, I am loving the Wiz at +8.