Look for Toronto to cash its 7th straight in the 1Q

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Kawhi Leonard has led the Toronto Raptors to a 6-0 spread record for first-quarter wagers in the NBA Playoffs. Our Julian Edlow thinks the Raptors will cover as two-point favorites in the opening stanza again tonight in Game 2.

Monday’s NBA card brings us Game 2 between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Toronto Raptors, along with the beginning of a series between the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets.

The Raptors dominated the Sixers 108-95 in Game 1 at Toronto, turning a new corner for the franchise after going 1-10 both straight up and ATS in 11 previous series openers. While Damian Lillard put on a show for the ages to close out the Thunder, the Nuggets tried their best to give away a Game 7 at home to the Spurs. However, they pulled out a 90-86 victory but failed to cover as 5.5-point “chalk” after a head-scratching sequence to end the game, with San Antonio inexplicably failing to foul.

Here are a couple of plays for Monday’s games (all odds provided by Bovada):

Toronto Raptors -2 (in the first quarter) vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Both teams came out of the gates hot in Game 1, but it was Toronto that won the quarter, 39-31. Even with the Game 1 loss to Brooklyn in the first round, the Raptors have covered the first-quarter spreads in all six of their playoff games to date.

The eight-point first-quarter victory in Game 1 was actually slightly below average for Toronto, which is now averaging a 9.3-point lead through the opening stanza in four home games this postseason. This play isn’t just riding a hot Raptors’ trend, because we can also make the argument to fade Philadelphia in this spot.

Prior to losing the 1Q by eight in Game 1 at Toronto, the Sixers lost the 1Q to the Nets by nine in their last road game — Game 4 in Brooklyn. Even with a Game 3 lead after a quarter, the 76ers are still losing the 1Q on the road in the postseason by an average of three points per game, with the last two coming by a combined 17 points.

Kawhi Leonard, who had 45 points and 11 rebounds in the series opener, has NEVER lost to the 76ers in his career, and I expect him to come out and take another early lead against them.

Denver Nuggets (-170) vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Portland is getting a lot of hype, not just for beating the Thunder, but how it beat them. Lillard was absolutely spectacular throughout the series, but Nikola Jokic’s matchup should allow him to be the best player on the floor in this best-of-seven set, especially during games in Denver.

With Jusuf Nurkic sidelined and Enes Kanter dealing with a serious shoulder injury (“questionable” tonight), Jokic will have a significant advantage in the paint. While Portland did win the last meeting between these teams when Jokic sat out to rest, Denver took the season series 3-1, including both games in Denver by an average of six points per game.

It’s going to take another miraculous 50-point game from Lillard to get a road win for Portland. The Trail Blazers’ role players have been struggling away from home. While it’s possible Dame has that in him again, I’ll bet against it happening. Jamal Murray should improve in this series, while Jokic will dominate the paint against the undersized Blazer backup bigs.
If you prefer not to risk a -170 money-line loss, consider avoiding that by going with a Toronto-Denver money-line parlay. 

Julian’s NBA record on MajorWager.com: 0-4

(We should note, however, that Julian went 6-1 with his NFL Draft props.)

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