NBA 9/1 betting preview. September basketball

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#NoDaysOff. We’re right back to the grind with another two-game slate on Tuesday.

It starts with Game 2 of the Raptors vs. the Celtics and wraps up with our first Game 7 of the 2020 NBA playoffs. That game features the Jazz and the Nuggets, who have both put up some insane numbers during this series.

Let’s break down both contests to try and identify some potential betting value.

Toronto Raptors (-1.5) vs. Boston Celtics — 217.5 total

Everyone expected this to be a close series, but the Celtics blew the doors off the Raptors in Game 1. They jumped out to a 19-point lead in the first quarter and never relinquished it, ultimately winning the game by a final score of 112-94.

The Celtics defense has been excellent during the postseason, but this result had more to do with the Raptors’ inability to make shots. Their shot profile was pretty good, resulting in an expected effective FG% (eFG) of 55.5%, but they actually posted a mark of just 39.7%. That leaves a lot of room for improvement moving forward.

The Raptors in particular were brutal from behind the 3-point line. They put up a ton of shots in that area — 42.7% of their attempts came from behind the arc — but they connected on just 21.1% of them. That performance ranks in just the second percentile for 3-point shooting accuracy.

It’s not like all of those shots were heavily contested either. 34 of their 40 3-point attempts were classified either as “open” or “wide-open” according to NBA.com, and the Raptors made just nine of those shots (26.5%). The Raptors ranked eighth in 3-point shooting accuracy during the regular season, so I wouldn’t expect a repeat performance today.

As for the Celtics, they’re probably due for a bit of shooting regression. They posted an eFG% of 59.9% in Game 1 compared to an expected eFG% of 55.0%. Marcus Smart in particular shot 6-10 from the field and 5-9 from 3-point range, both of which were well above his regular season averages.

I still like the Celtics to win this series — and potentially the entire Eastern Conference — and getting Game 1 was a huge step for them. That said, this game should be much more competitive.

The Raptors also fit one of my favorite postseason trends. They’re coming off a loss in their previous game and are favored vs. a lower seed, and teams in that situation have gone 200-162-10 against the spread in their following game. That’s good for a return on investment of +7.5% over a pretty significant sample size.

However, I’m not entirely sure that the Raptors deserve to be favored. The Celtics were the superior team during the regular season in terms of Net Rating, and they certainly looked like the superior team during Game 1. They definitely have the best player in this series in Jayson Tatum.

It appears the sharps like the Celtics in this situation. They’re garnering just 44% of the early spread bets, but those bets have accounted for 67% of the money wagered. Those numbers could change throughout the day, but the early indications are that the significant, big money bets are coming in on Boston.

I’m leaning towards the Celtics in this contest, but I’m ultimately going to stay away. I fully expect the Raptors to shoot better in Game 2, but I just can’t back them as favorites.

The Pick: Pass

Real Kyper

Denver Nuggets (-1) vs. Utah Jazz — 218.0 total

This series seriously hurts my brain. The shooting numbers are absolutely ridiculous, which has caused the over to hit in five of the first six games.

It started with a bonkers performance from Donovan Mitchell in Game 1, and Jamal Murray has been on fire over the past three games. Overall, both players have scored at least 50 points twice in this series, which is something that has previously been done by only Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson:

Think about that. Having two-games with 50+ points in the same series had only been done twice in the history of basketball by two of the greatest scorers of all-time, and Mitchell and Murray have now done it in the same series.

It’s not just those guys either. The shooting numbers in general for these teams have been crazy good. They’ve averaged a combined 252.6 points per 100 possessions, and they rank first (Jazz) and second (Nuggets) in eFG% during the playoffs.

Both teams have outperformed their expected eFG% by a wide margin during this series. The Jazz have exceeded their eFG% by +7.4%, while the Nuggets have beat their number by +6.0%.

These numbers scream regression, but they’ve been screaming regression since the first game of the series. At this point, I’m starting to wonder if these teams may never miss again.

Still, I have to back the under in this contest purely on principle. The pace in this series has ground to an absolute halt recently. These two teams have played at a snail’s pace, posting an average mark of just 91.2, which would be the lowest mark in the league by a considerable margin if it occurred during the regular season. To put that in perspective, the Charlotte Hornets were the slowest team in this season, and even they averaged a mark of 96.24.

I am hoping that Gary Harris will be the white knight that the under bettor’s deserve in this situation. He returned to the Nuggets lineup in their last contest, and he’s one of the best wing defenders on the team. They allowed an average of -5.6 fewer points per 100 possessions with Harris on the court this season, and opposing teams also decreased their eFG% by -2.0%. Both of those numbers rank in at least the 80th percentile for all players this season.

I have already been burned by the under a few times in this series, but I’m going back to the well once again. Maybe these teams have both evolved into the best shooting teams in league history, but I’m going to continue to trust the math and bet on some regression to the mean.

The Pick: Under 218.0

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