Previewing Tuesday’s NBA playoff games: Unders hold value

There are four games on tap Tuesday in the NBA playoffs, so bettors have plenty of options.

Let’s start with the late game because I’m on both the side and total.

Portland (56-30 straight up, 48-37-1 against the spread) will attempt to close out Oklahoma City when these clubs collide at 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT. As of early this afternoon, most books had the Trail Blazers installed as four-point home favorites with a total of 221. The Thunder were available on the money line for a +150 return.

Terry Stotts’ club took a 3-1 series lead thanks to Sunday’s 111-98 win at Oklahoma City as a 5.5-point underdog. The Trail Blazers hooked up money-line supporters with a +185 payout. Trailing 46-39 with 2:10 left until halftime, Portland went on an 11-0 run to take a four-point lead into intermission. This surge allowed gamblers backing the Trail Blazers in the first half to cash as three-point underdogs and/or +135 on the money line.

Russell Westbrook’s struggles are the story of this series and they continued in Game 4. The perennial All-Star guard made only 5-of-21 field-goal attempts, 2-of-7 launches from 3-point range and 2-of-4 free-throw attempts. For the series, Westbrook has hit only 29-of-80 FGAs (36.3%).

On the flip side, Damian Lillard continued to torch the Thunder with 24 points and eight assists. Lillard and Golden State’s Kevin Durant both are averaging an NBA-best 28.8 points per game in the postseason. The seventh-year veteran guard out of Weber State has drained 44.4 percent of his treys and 87.1 percent of his FTAs. Lillard is also averaging 6.0 assists and 2.3 steals per game in this series.

Portland guard C.J. McCollum injured his knee in mid-March and missed his team’s next 10 games. He returned to play in two games before resting in the regular-season finale, but his health was a concern coming into the postseason. McCollum has alleviated those concerns by averaging 26.8 ppg against the Thunder, tied for sixth among all NBA scorers in the playoffs.

Portland allowed 110.5 ppg during the regular season, but its defensive intensity has been elevated against Oklahoma City. The Trail Blazers have limited the Thunder to 99 points or fewer in three of the four games.

I believe Portland is the play in this spot. The Trail Blazers are 26-16-1 ATS at home this year. When favored by 4.5 points or fewer, they’ve produced a stellar 19-8 spread record. Furthermore, Portland is 25-11 ATS when closing as chalk of 6.5 points or less.

I’m also bullish on the under but for a smaller amount than my play on Portland. The under is 3-1 in this series with combined scores of 203, 208, 228 and 209 points.

For those gamblers who believe Oklahoma City still has a shot to rally from a 3-1 deficit, Sportsbook has the Thunder at +600 for the updated series price. Portland is the -850 favorite.

Toronto will host Orlando in Tuesday’s Game 5 (7:05 p.m. ET, NBA TV). Most books list the Raptors as 11.5-point home favorites with a total of 206. Bettors can take the Magic to win outright for an enormous +600 return.

Since losing Game 1, Toronto has ripped off three consecutive wins while going 2-1 ATS. The Raptors blasted the Magic 111-82 as 11-point home chalk in Game 2, but they blew the spread cover in Game 3. Toronto had an 86-69 lead with 7:20 remaining as a 5.5-point road favorite at Orlando, but the Magic went on a 24-10 run to trim the deficit to three with 36 seconds remaining.

The Raptors added a pair of free throws with 12 ticks left to go ahead 98-93, but it wasn’t enough with Orlando executing a beautiful backdoor cover for its supporters.

Kawhi Leonard was the catalyst in a 107-85 win at Orlando in Game 4. He dominated with 34 points, six rebounds, two steals, two assists and a pair of blocked shots.

Toronto is 11-11 ATS as a double-digit favorite this season, while Orlando has compiled a 3-1 spread record in four games as a double-digit underdog. The side is a pass for me.

The under went 3-1 in four regular-season meetings between these Eastern Conference rivals, and it has cashed in all four encounters during this series. The combined scores have been 205, 193, 191 and 192 points. The totals were 212, 212.5 and 211.5 in Games 1, 2 and 3, but the number dropped down to 206 for Game 4. Even at that lower number, cashing under tickets wasn’t a problem on Sunday. Look for the same tonight with a low-scoring affair producing another thunder under.

Just like Toronto, Philadelphia fell victim to a Game 1 upset at home against Brooklyn. The defeat certainly got the 76ers’ attention, and they have proceeded to win three games in a row both SU and ATS. This has the Nets with their backs against the wall going into tonight’s elimination game as nine-point underdogs. They are +350 on the money line.

Joel Embiid is probable after being listed as questionable or doubtful before each of the first four games. Philadelphia’s All-Star center sat out Game 3 with soreness in his knee, but he was a force in a 112-108 win at Barclays Arena in Game 4. Brett Brown’s team got five points out of Mike Scott in the final 18 seconds to win and post a fortunate spread cover as a 3.5-point road favorite.

Embiid finished with 31 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, six blocked shots and two steals. Down by one, Embiid couldn’t handle a pass down in the paint. As he grabbed the ball on the baseline before it went out of bounds, he found Scott in the corner for a clean look. The University of Virginia product hit nothing but net on the go-ahead 3-ball, and then Scott buried back-to-back free throws to give Philadelphia backers a winner.

Philadelphia has thrived when laying healthy numbers. In fact, the 76ers own a 15-8 spread record when favored by seven points or more. However, Brooklyn is 7-2 ATS in its last nine road games to improve to 26-17 ATS in its 43 road assignments.

Totals have been an overall wash in this best-of-seven set, but the ‘over’ is 5-2 in the last seven head-to-head meetings going back to a Nov. 25 showdown. After Game 1 dipped ‘under’ the 227.5-point tally, the total came down to 224.5 for Game 2. When the 76ers won 145-123 for 268 combined points, the number shot up to 229 for Game 3. Philadelphia won 131-115 to prompt oddsmakers to make the total 231 for Game 4. With that game going ‘under,’ we’re looking at 230 points for tonight’s tally.

The side and total for Philadelphia-Toronto are both passes for me.

Finally, let’s hit on the only first-round series that’s knotted at 2-2. Denver returns home tonight as a 5.5-point favorite for Game 5 vs. San Antonio. The total is 211 points, while the Spurs are +200 on the money line. Sportsbook has the updated series price, listing the Nuggets as -185 favorites with the Spurs at +160.

Denver is 35-8 SU and 26-17 ATS at home, while San Antonio is 17-26 SU and 20-21-2 ATS in its road contests. Nevertheless, the Spurs won 101-96 as 5.5-point road underdogs in Game 1, and they led by 10 points at intermission and by seven going into the final stanza of Game 2 at Denver. But the Nuggets rallied and covered in a 114-105 victory as seven-point home ‘chalk.’

San Antonio won and covered in Game 3 at home, only to see the Nuggets bounce back in a 117-103 Game 4 triumph.

Since the under prevailed in Game 1, the over has hit in the last three games. Those combined scores have been 219, 226 and 220 points.

The under is 48-37-1 overall for Denver, 23-20 in its home outings. The under is 26-16-1 for the Spurs in their road games.

San Antonio at Denver is another pass, leaving me with three plays for Tuesday. Portland is my favorite with some muscle behind it, and I’m also on the unders for Oklahoma City at Portland and Orlando at Toronto for average amounts.

If you viewed my NBA video Monday, you saw I endorsed a future play on the Celtics to win the NBA title at 16/1 odds. Those odds are up to 20/1 at Sportsbook today, clearly making me even more bullish on that wager.

With Milwaukee completing its broom treatment of Detroit last night, Game 1 of the East semifinals is set for Saturday. Most books are listing the Bucks as 7.5-point home favorites, with the Celtics at +280 to win outright.

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