The Cavaliers might lose to the Pacers! Even if they win this series, no way they beat the Raptors! The Pelicans are incredible and will give their next opponent trouble! The Thunder still have not figured out their fourth quarter offense! These are some of the initial reactions people will feel if they only listen to recency bias. Some teams are making baskets at unsustainable rates and others are missing them more than anyone should expect. Other teams are playing opponents that are tougher matchups than future opponents. Diving deeper into these initial games can provide valuable knowledge for bettors as the playoffs march forward. We’ll look at the Eastern Conference in this update.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers outscored the Cavaliers by 15 points through two games. In game one LeBron made 7 of 17 FG (41%), and the rest of the team was 23 of 61 (38%). In game two LeBron was 17 of 24 (71%), the rest of the team was 20 of 59 (34%). Total that up and LeBron has shot 58% compared to his teammates 36%. Putting that into perspective, the Chicago Bulls had the worst field goal percentage in the league at 44%. Betting against the Cavaliers shooting at their current pace is betting the Cavaliers will shoot 8% worse than a team that spent half the season tanking with G league players on their roster. I have the Cavaliers pegged as a buy low candidate for the rest of round one after the Pacers covered the first two games of the series.
Toronto Raptors vs Washington Wizards
Barring a miracle transformation by the Wizards, the Cavaliers will be playing the Toronto Raptors in round two. The Toronto Raptors’ heralded bench unit cannot have the same impact they had in the regular season because starters play more minutes in the playoffs. That does not mean they are not a huge advantage. If Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry are struggling from the field, the bench players provide enough spark to maintain small leads. John Wall makes the Wizards better, but they have not had enough time since he returned to find the chemistry that rocketed them to game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals last year. Combining these two factors has allowed Derozan to play with full confidence. I expect the Raptors to continue running the Wizards ragged and to cover spreads on the road and finish this series in no more than five games.
Possible Round 2: Cavaliers vs Toronto Raptors
Monitoring the performance of Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry is vital to having a strong understanding of the impending round two matchup with the Cavaliers. If both struggle to finish the Wizards off, their chances of unseating LeBron look slim. To prepare for the Round two matchup I will be observing the Raptors star guards. In order to beat the Cavs, Demar and Lowry need to keep the game close when LeBron is on the court. If he has his way running through the Raptors defense, the Raptors will win the game when LeBron is on the bench. There are two huge edges to follow for bettors before a Cavaliers and Raptors round two matchup. The first is the Cavaliers players not named LeBron need to find confidence in their shot and the second is the Raptors star guards playing at a level where they can be trusted to protect leads their bench builds. My bets during their round two matchups will be dependent on those factors.
Rest of the Eastern Conference
The Milwaukee Bucks are an uncoordinated disaster with drama all over the roster. Eric Bledsoe has gotten burned by a younger version of himself. Jabari Parker played less than fifteen minutes in a blowout game 2. If they come out with enough energy to win game 3 at home I expect the Celtics to bounce back and take care of business the rest of the series.
The Miami Heat put out a valiant effort in game 2 led by hall of famer Dwayne Wade. With Joel Embiid back they face all types of issues against a 76ers team that is mostly lights out from deep. The 76ers are a team on fire right now and are a team I will not be fading in this series. Eric Spoelstra is a great coach, but so is Brett Brown and I will be backing the 76ers explosive offense for the rest of this series.
Expected Round 2 Matchup: Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers looked fantastic heading into the playoffs winning 16 games in a row and have lived up to the hype against a good Miami Heat team. The Boston Celtics are a totally different beast. Brad Stevens is on a different level than the other coaches in the Eastern Conference. Couple that with an incredible defensive roster, limited tape to study and Boston is an incredibly hard team to game plan for. The Boston Celtics do not allow other teams to control the tempo under Brad Stevens with the exception of peak LeBron. Even against the Golden State Warriors both scores went under the total. Now you have a very playoff inexperienced 76ers roster. I expect this series to be filled with very close games. I will be playing the underdog in any games with large spreads.