NBA Playoff Pick for Thursday April 27
The 2017 NBA Playoffs keep moving along on Thursday night, when the Toronto Raptors take on the Milwaukee Bucks and the Spurs are in Memphis taking on the Grizzlies. Round one of the playoffs is starting to draw to a close, with the Cavs, Warriors and Rockets all putting early ends to their initial series.
That naturally has other series following them out the door and into round two and if the Bucks aren’t careful tonight, they could pave the way for the Raptors to do the same on their home floor.
Milwaukee has regressed over the last two games after taking a commanding 2-1 lead in this series, as Toronto has tightened up defensively and gotten the scoring they were hoping for out of star guards, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. With those two focused on avoiding a game seven, the Raptors are one more win from advancing and realizing their dream of working their way back to the Eastern Conference Finals.
A , but Toronto will gladly take on that challenge if it means they can dispatch the Bucks tonight. Although that’s a very real possibility, Vegas is still handing the Bucks a mild edge at home, where they were a strong 23-18 during the regular season.
The Buck and Raptors have to this point split both of the playoff games previously played in Milwaukee, while fans of The Deer will be loud for what could be their final playoff game at the Bradley Center this season. Let’s take a look at the spread, Total and Moneyline to see if Vegas is right to back the Bucks, or if this series might wrap up tonight. Also, will Memphis rally at home and force an unprecedented game seven, or will Vegas have called it right by favoring the Spurs to close this thing out?
After seeming to be in control for largely the first three games in this series, the Bucks looked like a real threat to upset Toronto in round one. A lack of effective scoring options outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo have derailed those hopes, of course, as the Raptors have looked like a different team in their last two games.
Toronto has a chameleon approach, as they love to play at a slow pace and defend at a high level, but they’ve proven they can adapt to any game setting and still enforce their will at either end. More importantly, they’ve been big in the clutch in this series, three different times finding ways to win when they absolutely had to.
That could understandably come in pretty handy if this series gets to a game seven, but Toronto can’t want that. The Bucks are poor bets to rip off wins in two straight games to close this thing out (although this sports a tempting +450 Moneyline bet at Bovada to do so), so what’s the point in letting this thing drag on? It’s not always as simple as that, but the Raptors have to chief concerns at this point; allowing the Bucks to win here and believe they can stage the upset in a huge game seven, and also not stroll into their round two series overly fatigued.
Considering Kyle Lowry has been dealing with back tightness, the Raptors need to be very focused in this game to ensure they can get some much-needed rest before their next series. Giving Milwaukee any kind of life early could work directly against that, so the early expectation is the Raptors will be on top of their game defensively and make sure The Greek Freak has to beat them with a perimeter-based game.
Their defense on Antetokounmpo has certainly been touch and go, but when they keep him out of the paint, the Bucks don’t seem to know what to do offensively. That jams up their fluidity, while Toronto’s ever capable perimeter defense also seems to be more on point.
Toronto arguably lucked out in a big game five win at home. Their offense was ridiculous (44% from deep and 57%, overall) and they were fortunate to watch the Bucks miss 11 of 26 free throw attempts. Milwaukee’s offense wasn’t the issue in that game (50% from the floor, 45% from three), but they didn’t defend efficiently and they couldn’t hit their foul shots. The Raptors turned those miscues into a blowout win, but if they can’t tighten up defensively, the Bucks remain a very real threat at home.
Perhaps the key to this series , though. Powell went off for 25 points in game five and has played a key role in each of Toronto’s last two wins. Powell’s ability to attack and hit the outside jumper has spread out the floor for the Raptors, forcing the long and athletic Bucks to account for more than just Lowry and DeRozan on defense.
Powell seems to be the missing link for the Raptors in this series, and even if the Bucks stop them, they still need to hope both Lowry and DMR aren’t catching fire. Milwaukee plays their best ball at home and will likely give the Raptors a fight, but the Raptors seem to have them figured out and they have round two in the crosshairs. We like the Raptors to fend them off one last time as they push on, while there should be just enough offense to hit the Over in this one.
The Spurs understandably come in with a mild 4-point advantage per most online sports betting sites, but as obvious as it is that they’re favored, we can’t just ignore that Memphis isn’t projected to get thrashed on their home court. As noted, there’s good reason for that. Memphis not only is 4-0 against these Spurs at home this year, but they were solid on their home floor all year, going 24-17.
Memphis isn’t just a team that can hold their own against the Spurs at home, but they play a similar style of basketball and can put the clamps down defensively when they’re locked in. We saw that in games two and three, when Memphis allowed just 96 and 94 points. The name of the game has been grinding and defending for Memphis, who still does not get much outside help beyond Conley and Gasol. The only game in this series where they won win the Spurs cracked 100+ points was in overtime, where their clutch play and home court edge pushed them over the hump.
But we’ve seen the Grizzlies give efforts like this before. Two years ago Memphis gave a surprisingly solid fight against a Warriors team that would go on to win the NBA Finals. Golden State took a 1-0 lead at home and watched as the Grizzlies rode their gritty style to a disturbing 2-1 series lead.
The problem is Golden State adapted and the lack of scoring within Memphis we always talk about popped up more and more through that series. We saw that happen again in a huge game five on the road and now the Grizzlies in in full blown desperation mode with the series shifting back to their home base.
The home court edge is real and Conley is playing fantastic ball. But the bet here has to be we believe the Grizzlies are and it’s going to happen in a game where the Spurs can end the series. That doesn’t feel very promising.
So, how do the Spurs end this thing? They need to stay true to themselves with elite team defense and use their bread and butter on both ends; Kawhi Leonard.
Not stretching Leonard too thin should be key in this game, however. LaMarcus Aldridge has been severely underrated defensively in this series, and perhaps that’s kept him from busting out with a big scoring effort on the other end. I don’t think San Antonio can’t end this series tonight without that, but the easiest path to a 6-game series is Ridged helping Leonard with his scoring load. I also think another strong game out of Tony Parker is in order.
Defensively, the Spurs have done a solid job down low and their main objective needs to be keeping Leonard on Conley for as much as possible. Parker trying to stick with Conley is laughable and Patty Mills and Danny Green haven’t gotten the job done consistently enough. Memphis doesn’t have enough scoring threats to get away with Conley struggling in this game. Look for the Spurs to exploit that, lean on their strong defense and grind a tough one out to move onto round one. That has the Spurs just barely covering and with the pace and defense in this matchup, we can go back to betting the Under.