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NBA expert Eytan Shander closes out the work week with his picks for Friday's action in the bubble

We start our trek toward closing some teams out while looking at another series that could easily extend to seven. The NBA playoffs have been as tough to call as the bubble restart itself, but there is some solid value out here especially with the first game. Looking at the Jazz/Nuggets game as the big one, and another team later on who is simply out of gas. Good luck today!

Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets

BET: Under 220.5 @ -110

The Nets actually had the lead after three quarters the last time they battled the Raptors. A big part of that is no longer with the team, as Joe Harris left the bubble for non-medical reasons. His absence is going to hurt Brooklyn’s ability to consistently score and keep with the Toronto. The Raptors didn’t get much from their frontcourt, relying a ton on their top two guards in Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry. Expect a little more out of Pascal Siakam. The Raptors should cruise to victory, but how tough they play Brooklyn on defense will dictate the pacing. I don’t trust the Nets to consistently be able to keep up, nor stop a big run. We just saw Orlando go through something similar with the Bucks. Brooklyn will rely on Caris Lavert for everything today, not a good recipe for scoring a ton of points. 

Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers

BET: Celtics -5.5 @ +100

This series is over, it’s just a matter of time right now. Philadelphia quit pretty early against Boston in their last game, blown out of the gym by the C’s. The Celtics ran the same P&R play for two straight games as the Sixers made little to no adjustments. They didn’t even make adjustments on offense as guys struggled outside of Joel Embiid. Even the big man’s career-level performance was barely enough to make a blip on the radar, as Boston controlled every aspect of that game. They have four different guys who can beat the Sixers including Marcus Smart coming off the bench. The loss of Gordon Heyward has yet to hurt the Celtics at least in this series.

Expect more of the same here and that line is too easy for Boston to cover, mainly because Philadelphia is lacking serious offense from behind the arc. This one might be a little closer than last game, but Boston is truly focused on moving on and might just pound the Sixers again to move this series along. I expect nothing from Philadelphia outside of another big day from their big man.

Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets

BET: Jazz Moneyline @ +110

Donovan Mitchell has been the story here, even when the Jazz lost game one. Things look different in this series after Utah blew Denver out last game, and even had a commanding feel in game one before costly mistakes in the fourth and overtime. This game should play out like the majority of this series so far, Mitchell taking over the game. He’ll have help as Mike Conley is expected back today, putting even more pressure on Denver’s undermanned backcourt. Both Will Barton and Gary Harris remain out. The Nuggets haven’t looked good – or even average – on defense so far, one of the worst teams in that area in the entire bubble. I think this is the game where Utah goes up and never looks back. The Jazz had a better defensive unit and even got more out of their bench than the Nuggets. Not great combinations for Denver to bounce back, especially since even in their win they failed to truly dominate Utah. That’s the difference here, domination, we’ve seen it from Utah for 7/8 quarters played. I like the Jazz outright today and to win the series!

Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Clippers

BET: Over 232.5 @ +100

While Kawhi Leonard was the only bright spot for the Clippers starters in their loss to the Mavs, the focus – rightfully so – was on the lack of show by Paul George. The Clippers got nothing out of their second star and little from the rest of their starting 5 outside of Leonard. That should change this time around as Dallas has yet to really establish themselves on defense. Expect the same amount of firepower on offense they provided in their game 2 victory, as Kristaps Porzingis played ejection-free. Luka Doncic is on another planet right now with his offensive productivity, which seems to be enough to push the Mavs to a high score.

I love both teams locked in a shootout with more Clippers starters coming alive, at the very least more from George tonight. The tempo of the game won’t shift despite an off quarter by Dallas or even LA. Expect the Mavs to come out firing. They ride momentum coming off their last W, and should probably come out and win the first quarter, but the real play is even money back on both teams cruising to a high scoring affair!


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