Raptors to Blaze an Upset in Rip City
Raptors to Blaze an Upset in Rip City
It's not often that a team that has won four straight against another is the underdog but that's the case here as the Toronto Raptors (+2) visit the Portland Trail Blazers (-2) at the Moda Center. The Raptors are 4-0 against the Blazers in their last four meetings although the Blazers also won four-in-a-row against the Raptors before and are one of the NBA's best three-point shooting teams.
The teams are deadlocked at five games apiece in their last 10 games with the Blazers holding a slight edge against the spread with a 6-4 record. Seven of their last eight games were decided by single digits including two that were decided in overtime. Regardless of the outcome, expect a tightly contested game between the red-hot Blazers and the deep Raptors with a slight lean towards the underdogs.
With point spreads like this, it's best to just play the money line especially when picking the underdog: the Toronto Raptors. At +115, the Raptors are a nice dog play to extend their winning streak against the Blazers. They lack the three-point efficiency and rebounding of the Blazers but have the X-Factor: team chemistry. Chalk the Blazers' 1-5 against the spread record at home and this is a "dog-or-pass" scenario.
Toronto Raptors at Portland Trail Blazers Preview
The Blazers are on fire. The Northwest Division leaders currently sit third in the NBA in offensive rating (109.9), first in three-point percentage (43.9%), and fourth in free throw percentage (82.8%). More impressively, they rank in the top-seven in most major defensive statistics like rebounds (40), opponent field goal percentage (42.71%), and opponent three-point percentage (30.61%). Yet the Blazers are only 1-5 ATS at home and it's due to one major category: field goal percentage.
At home, the Blazers rank second-last in field goal percent at 40.30% and effective field goal percent at 46.8% and are fourth-last in true shooting percent at 52.5%. It's partly due to playing the NBA's top-defensive rated team, the Clippers but is an indicator why they have a tough time covering the spread. The Blazers are just not as efficient at home and ball movement is a factor.
Overall, the Blazers' passing stats haven't been as hot as their shooting. They're in the bottom-seven in the NBA in assists (20.3), assist percentage (52.6%), and assist ratio (15). On the flipside, the Blazers are great at taking care of the ball ranking sixth overall in turnovers (14.5). This is key against a defensive-minded Raptors team, which ranks fourth in steals at 9.6.
The biggest discrepancy here is the three-point efficiency. The Raptors are jacking a lot of three-pointers at 34.6 a game, second only to the Houston Rockets but only making 29.5% of them, second-last in the league. Starters Kyle Lowry (35.5%) and Norm Powell (21.4%) will have to resharpen their shooting touch. Both also have horrendous PERs: 13.2 and 6.1, respectively.
Another mismatch is the frontcourt. The Blazers lead the NBA in rebounds for a reason. The big man combos of Jusuf Nurkic (8), Ed Davis (9.7), and Al-Farouq Aminu (8.7) are killing the boards but its contributions from backcourt players Damian Lillard (5.2) and C.J. McCollum (4.6) that really help out. The Raptors will need Jakob Poeltl (8.3) to continue playing big in starter Jonas Valanciunas's absence while all-stars DeMar DeRozan and Lowry need to beat their backcourt rivals in rebounding.
The bad news for the Raptors is they'll likely lose the offensive battle from an individual player basis but the good news is, this is a team sport. The Raptors should continue sharing the rock and getting that extras pass. They'll need to maximize their scoring opportunities and minimize their turnovers. And of course, defense. The Raptors should cut off passing lanes and apply constant pressure on Lillard and McCollum, who dominate the offense.
The Blazers are looking like a legitimate contender early this season but the Raptors can take one out of the Clippers' playbook and stifle their scoring chances. Speaking of defense, betting the under in this game (213) is an alternative play to the point spread. The unders have cashed in seven of Toronto's last nine road games and in four of Portland's last six games.
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