Yes, March Madness is right around the corner, but the Toronto Raptors are also going to be playing some pretty important basketball games over the next several weeks.
Entering play on Tuesday night against the Denver Nuggets, the Raptors sit ninth in the NBA‘s Eastern Conference with a 32-36 (33-35 ATS) record after a dreadful five-game road trip out west. Toronto went 1-4 (2-3 ATS) on the trip, which had stops in Washington (two games), Denver, and Los Angeles (Clippers and Lakers).
With 14 games remaining, the Raptors find themselves in a Play-In Tournament position in the Eastern Conference. If the regular season were to end on Tuesday, Toronto would be matched up with the Chicago Bulls. And if the Raptors were victorious in that hypothetical first play-in game, they’d move on to battle either the Miami Heat or Atlanta Hawks for a shot at the No. 8 seed.
According to Basketball Reference‘s playoff probabilities report, the Raptors have a 26% chance of failing to qualify for the play-in round with a projected 39-43 final regular season record. Of the possible finishing scenarios, Toronto has the best probability (29%) of finishing ninth in the East standings.
The good news is that the Raptors will now return home to Scotiabank Arena, where they have a 20-13 (19-14 ATS) record this season, for seven of their next eight games. However, they’ll play five of their final six contests on the road (12-23 record and 14-21 ATS) before finishing the regular season with a home date against the Milwaukee Bucks. The good news is that both the Bucks and the Boston Celtics, who sit in the No.1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively, in the East might not have much to play for in the final games of the season and could elect to sit their key starters.
|Date||Opponent||Record vs. Opponent|
|March 14||vs. Nuggets||0-1|
|March 16||vs. Thunder||0-1|
|March 18||vs. Timberwolves||0-1|
|March 19||@ Bucks||0-2|
|March 22||vs. Pacers||0-2|
|March 24||vs. Pistons||3-0|
|March 26||vs. Wizards||1-1|
|March 28||vs. Heat||2-1|
|March 31||@ Sixers||1-2|
|April 2||@ Hornets||2-0|
|April 4||@ Hornets||2-0|
|April 5||@ Celtics||0-2|
|April 7||@ Celtics||0-2|
|April 9||vs. Bucks||0-2|
Raptors won’t meet high expectations
The Raptors have historically been underestimated by oddsmakers, having gone over their projected season win total in 10 of the past 11 seasons. But oddsmakers tightened up their lines for the Raptors this year after being way off on the team’s season win total a year ago.
FanDuel posted a season win total of 46.5 this year, but it’s impossible for the Raptors to eclipse that total with only 14 games remaining. Toronto had -250 odds to make the playoffs, +130 odds to make the Eastern Conference play-in tournament, +4600 odds to win the NBA title, +2100 odds to win the Eastern Conference, and +850 odds to win the Atlantic Division prior to the start of the season.
A trader from FanDuel previously told Canada Sports Betting that the sportsbook took an incredible 97% of bets on the over 46.5 wins, and Caesars Sportsbook opened the Raptors’ season win total at 45.5 wins, but quickly had to move the number to 46.5 wins due to a tremendous amount of action on the over.
Will the Raptors be a good bet down the stretch?
The Raptors front office sent a message to the team at the trade deadline that they intend to compete for a playoff spot by electing to hold on to Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr., two players that likely won’t exercise their player options for next season and will become free agents. Instead, Masai Ujiri and Co. went out and acquired centre Jakob Poeltl to give the squad a true rim protector down the stretch.
Unfortunately, the team is just 6-6 since Poeltl rejoined the fold, but the big man has been as good as advertised, averaging 14.9 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in his second stint with Toronto.
Toronto is a slim 1-point favourite against Denver on Tuesday night. The Raptors are relatively healthy with only Dalano Banton (thumb) questionable for the contest, while the Nuggets could be without Canadian point guard Jamal Murray (knee).
Denver enters play with the best record in the Western Conference at 46-22, but the team is surprisingly just 16-16 on the road and has lost three straight games overall. Despite the team’s recent struggles, Nikola Jokic has -175 odds to be named the league’s MVP. He’s averaging 24.7 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists through 60 games, so Poeltl will have his work cut out for him on Tuesday.
Beyond Tuesday night’s contest, four of the Raptors’ next six opponents currently have records below .500. It’s a good opportunity for the team to string together some wins and position itself for at least a play-in berth.
As for recent betting trends, the Raptors have played over the total in four of their last five games (are 38-30 o/u this season), and they’re 9-3 ATS in their past 12 home games.