Toronto Raptors at Indiana Pacers (+1.5, 193)
Raptors lead series 2-1
Toronto’s All-Star backcourt showed signs of life and the Raptors will again count on the duo when they visit the Indiana Pacers in Saturday’s Game 4 of the first-round series. Guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan each scored 21 points on Thursday as the Raptors posted a 101-85 victory for a 2-1 lead and another win on Indiana’s home floor would leave the seventh-seeded Pacers in a serious hole.
DeRozan scored 12 points in the first quarter in Game 3 as he quickly set the tone that he was going to erase the 10-of-37 shooting funk he experienced in the first two games. Lowry also was more at ease while putting a 7-of-26 start to the series behind him as second-seeded Toronto finally looked like the team that won a franchise-record 56 games in the regular season. “We’re playing more to our identity,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters. “I don’t think in Game 1 we played to our identity and even Game 2. There’s so many things we can do better. I won’t be happy until we (advance).” Indiana All-Star forward Paul George had 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and once again carried his club, but he suffered through a 6-of-19 shooting effort.
TV: 3 p.m. ET, TNT, Sportsnet One (Toronto), FSN Indiana
LINE HISTORY: The Pacers opened as 1.5-point home dogs for Game 4 and have yet to move off that number. The total remains at the opening number of 193. Check out the complete line history here.
ABOUT THE RAPTORS (58-27, 47-38 ATS, 42-42-1 O/U): DeRozan was breathing a sigh of relief after Game 3 as he rebounded from a benching in the fourth quarter of Game 2 to have his best game of the series. “We just have to keep building, keep continuing to get better at both ends,” DeRozan told reporters. “(This series) is going to be tough. But that’s why we take it so serious when we are at practice, at shootaround and watching film.” Center Jonas Valanciunas had 14 boards in Game 3 and he has been a rebounding dynamo by averaging a league-wide postseason best 16 rebounds.
ABOUT THE PACERS (46-39, 42-42-1 ATS, 37-48 O/U: George is averaging 28.7 points in the series and being blown out at home was deeply disappointing to him. “We didn’t do our job,” George told reporters. “It sucks. We didn’t take care of business on our home court. We were in the driver’s seat. We have to stay positive. Still have a chance to even this up 2-2, make it a best out of three series.” Indiana coach Frank Vogel cited the 17 turnovers as a major issue and allowed that the Raptors “outplayed us in all aspects of the game.”
* Raptors are 9-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings in Indiana.
* Underdog is 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings.
* Under is 5-1 in the last 6 meetings.
* Under is 5-0 in Pacers last 5 overall.
Miami Heat at Charlotte Hornets (-2.5, 200.5)
Heat lead series 2-0
The Miami Heat have put on an offensive clinic in breezing to a 2-0 lead over the Hornets and hope to keep the points coming when the series shifts to Charlotte for Game 3 on Saturday. The Heat scored a franchise playoff-record 123 points in Game 1 and tallied 72 in the first half of a 115-103 triumph in Game 2.
Miami is shooting 57.8 percent from the floor through the first two games and Dwyane Wade is averaging 22 points and 7.5 assists to lead the way. “We can’t expect to take this same offensive game on the road,” Wade told reporters. “If that ever happens praise God, thank you. We got to expect to win these games with our defense, and our defense has to be better.” The Hornets got strong performances from Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson in Game 2 but went 1-of-16 from 3-point range and could not match the Heat’s pace. Charlotte’s outside shooting took another hit when starting guard Nicolas Batum went down with a foot injury, and he is not expected to play in Game 3.
TV: 5:30 p.m. ET, TNT, FSN Sun (Miami)
LINE HISTORY: The Hornets opened as 3-point home favorites and have been bet down to -2.5. The total has been bet down a point from 201.5 to 200.5. Check out the complete line history here.
ABOUT THE HEAT (50-34, 45-38-1 ATS, 36-47-1 O/U): Miami believes it has a team that can contend for the Eastern Conference title, and the veterans are making sure the younger players are aware of what’s at stake. “A couple of our veterans spoke up in the locker room — Dwyane, (Luol Deng), (Udonis Haslem),” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters. “They have been in these situations before. They can be precarious. You have to say on edge. That’s the toughest part. I said it before, I said it yesterday. I wish we could all just go to our caves and wait and quiet (the noise) and get ready for the next battle.” Deng was a remarkable 11-of-13 from the field in Game 1 and was solid again with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting in Game 2.
ABOUT THE HORNETS (48-36, 42-41-1 ATS, 42-40-2 O/U): Batum was one of the keys to the Charlotte offense in the regular season while averaging career highs of 14.8 points and 5.8 assists and scored a team-high 24 points in Game 1 but will likely miss the rest of the series. His absence sets the Hornets back on offense and does not do much to boost the team defensively with Jeremy Lin likely to absorb some extra minutes. “I know my team,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford told reporters. “I watch my team closer than anybody. I’m going to look and figure out what the problems are. If we need to make an adjustment, we’ll make it. But this isn’t they’re running stuff that we’re having trouble guarding. We’ve got to keep the ball out of the middle. We’ve got to be cleaner with our basic coverages. We’ve got to make sure we’re not turning the ball over and staying organized on offense.”
* Heat are 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings in Charlotte.
* Hornets are 1-5 ATS in their last six games versus a team with a winning SU record.
* Over is 4-0 in Heat last four versus Southeast Division opponents.
* Over is 7-0 in Hornets last seven overall.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks (+9, 201.5)
Thunder lead series 2-1
Oklahoma City All-Star forward Kevin Durant rebounded from a horrific game to help the Thunder gain control of the series and he aims to produce again in Saturday’s Game 4 against the host Dallas Mavericks. Durant was 7-of-33 shooting as the Thunder fell in Game 2 but rebounded to score a series-best 34 points as third-seeded Oklahoma City rolled to a 131-102 win on Thursday to take a 2-1 series lead.
Durant is averaging 26 points in the series but shooting just 34.2 percent due to the porous Game 2 outing and he said the horrific performance had no effect on his psyche. “When I play well, I don’t throw a party for myself afterward,” Durant told reporters. “If I play terrible, I’m not going to go out and change anything up. I’m going to go out there and do the same thing I’ve been doing.” The sixth-seeded Mavericks had threatened to make it a series after the 85-84 road win in Game 2 but were totally outclassed back on the home floor. “Look, their talent is a significant problem,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle told reporters. “We know that. The way you mitigate it is to be really tied together and play extremely hard. … They are beatable, but we’ve got to come out with a better disposition. It’s as simple as that.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, FSN Oklahoma, KTXA (Dallas)
LINE HISTORY: The Mavericks opened as 10-point home pups, but have been bet to +9. The total has yet to move off the opening number of 201.5. Check out the complete line history here.
ABOUT THE THUNDER (57-28, 39-45-1 ATS, 40-45 O/U): Durant’s mood was certainly better after his 34th career postseason game as he had some tense moments of reflection after his poorest playoff performance. “Now I know how fighters feel when they lose the fight and they know the rematch is coming, but it’s a year later,” Durant told reporters. “That’s how it felt for me. I was just so anxious to go out there and try to help my team win and give them a better effort on both ends.” Point guard Russell Westbrook had 26 points and 15 assists in Game 3 and is averaging 23 points and 10.7 assists in the series.
ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (43-42, 46-38-1 ATS, 40-44-1 O/U): Point guard Deron Williams (sports hernia) missed Game 3 and is doubtful for Saturday’s game and could be out the rest of the series but J.J. Barea returned from a groin injury and had 15 points and seven assists. Forward Dirk Nowitzki played despite a bruised right knee and had 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, but he was dismayed with the pace of Thursday’s contest. “The way we won Game 2 was it was a slower-paced game for us, kind of grind it out,” Nowitzki told reporters. “It’s going to be tough for us to win a game if they score 131 points. I don’t think we can score 131 right now with the team we roll out there, (due to) the injuries.”
* Thunder are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games versus a team with a winning straight up record.
* Mavericks are 0-6 ATS in their last six home games versus a team with a winning road record.
* Over is 5-1 in Thunder last six road games.
* Under is 6-1 in Mavericks last seven games playing on 1 days rest.
Los Angeles Clippers at Portland Trail Blazers (+1.5, 207.5)
Clippers lead series 2-0
The Los Angeles Clippers appear to be firmly in control of the series as it shifts to Portland for Game 3 on Saturday. The fourth-seeded Clippers rolled past the fifth-seeded Trail Blazers by an average of 20.5 points in the first two games at home and were consistently able to put their foot on the gas in the second half and close out each game strong.
Portland was within six points early in the fourth quarter in Game 2 and feels like it improved from game to game. “Game 1 we were in the game and then they had a stretch where they got on a run, we couldn’t score the ball, and we just couldn’t close that gap for the rest of the game,” Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard told reporters. “(Game 2) we took it a step further and the game was closer for a little bit longer than it was last game, and then the same thing happened. We went cold and they started to knock down shots.” The Clippers aren’t taking anything for granted and are hoping to close the series out quickly. “The one thing, I don’t think I’ve ever won a series that wasn’t a Game 7, so that’s kind of the next step is closing out a series,” forward Blake Griffin told reporters.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Prime Ticket (Los Angeles), KGW (Portland)
LINE HISTORY: The Trail Blazers opened as 2-point home pups and have been bet down to +1.5. The total is currently at the opening number of 207.5. Check out the complete line history here.
ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (55-29, 42-39-3 ATS, 34-50 O/U): Los Angeles leaned on its bench in Game 2 and was rewarded with 43 points from the reserves. “One thing about our bench, what they’ve been doing in this series is that if we come out of the game up six, when we go back in the game, we may be up 10 or up 12,” star point guard Chris Paul told reporters. “We just need those guys to keep playing with that confidence, and that’s why we’re a team.” Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford led the bench with 11 points in Game 2 and all five reserves to log at least 12 minutes were plus-15 or better.
ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (44-40, 44-40 ATS, 44-40 O/U: Portland could use more from its bench as well but really needs to get more out of Lillard and C.J. McCollum in the starting backcourt. Lillard is 13-of-39 from the field in the series while McCollum is 9-of-28, but the two aren’t lacking confidence. “Tonight I just didn’t make those shots,” Lillard told reporters after Game 2. “Our coaching staff did a great job of watching film and putting myself and C.J. in different positions to where they couldn’t really take a lot away from us. I just got to make the shots. I think that’s what it comes down to. There are really no excuses. … The ball just didn’t go in.”
* Clippers are 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall.
* Trail Blazers are 0-5 ATS in their last five games overall.
* Under is 4-0 in Trail Blazers last four games overall.
* Under is 5-1 in the last six meetings.
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