By Sam Quinn CBS Sports
Ah, small sample-size theater. It is one of the greatest allies of the informed bettor. The public overreacts to a single game and the lines move too far in response. We’ve now seen Game 1 of all eight first-round playoff series. Both No. 1 seeds lost. Several lower seeds hung around longer than expected. Chaos has a foothold in the bubble.
It just isn’t the be-all and end-all. Trust the last two weeks over the last two days. Wednesday’s lines are littered with opportunities to capitalize on what happened during the first two days of the playoffs. With that in mind, here are today’s best bets.
All times U.S./Eastern
- Brooklyn Nets vs. Toronto Raptors (-11.5), 1:30 p.m. on NBATV
- Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets (-4.5), 4 p.m. on TNT
- Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics (-4.5), 6:30 p.m. on TNT
- Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Clippers (-6), 9 p.m. on TNT
There’s a temptation to say that Game 1’s blowout was merely the result of the undermanned Nets, one of the darlings of the seeding games, turning back into a pumpkin. That seems grossly unfair to a team that not only thrived in its first eight Disney games, but put up a stronger fight than the final score of Game 1 indicates. The Nets cut a 33-point deficit down to eight at one point on Monday. Even if the Raptors severely outplay them, there is enough garbage-time potential to give Brooklyn a nice cushion. The Raptors would have to decimate the Nets twice in a row to cover this line.
If the Jazz couldn’t cover this spread with Donovan Mitchell scoring 57 points, what happens when he falls back down to around 27 in Game 2? Where do the 30 points or so they’re going to lose come from with Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic out? Utah would need either a monster game from someone like Jordan Clarkson or Georges Niang or unpredictably strong 3-point shooting to keep up with the Nuggets at this stage.
Just about everything surrounding Philadelphia’s (lower-case “p”) process in Game 1 was bad. Joel Embiid took only 15 shots despite having an enormous advantage over practically everyone Boston can throw at him. Brett Brown still sounds uncomfortable with the idea of surrounding him with shooting. It is unclear if Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia’s only prayer of stopping Jayson Tatum will start this game. Yet they lost Game 1 by only eight points, and Gordon Hayward is out for the series. This is a closer matchup than it has any right to be, and while Boston may still win, the 76ers aren’t going to make it easy on them.
Clippers-Mavericks Over 229.5
Game 1 got the 228 points despite neither team hitting 35 percent of their 3-pointers and Kristaps Porzingis getting ejected in the third quarter. Presumably, Porzingis will play this whole game, and considering these are among the two best shooting teams in basketball, odds are at least one of them is going to have a better night from behind the arc. The argument against the over in any game in this series is Luka Doncic struggling against the incredible Clippers’ wing defenders. He scored 42 points in Game 1. He’ll have to work for his points, but he’s getting them.