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GAMBLING AGAINST GREATNESS: RAPTORS LOOK TO TIE CELTICS WHILE NUGGETS SEARCH FOR ANSWERS TO THE CLIPPERS

@TheWillBaldwin

Toronto Raptors vs Boston Celtics

Line: Boston -1.5

Pick: Raptors +1.5

The Boston Celtics made one of the biggest mistakes you can make in pro-basketball. Up 2-0 and literally 0.5 seconds from the insurmountable 3-0 lead, they could virtually taste the conference finals.

One miscommunication in a zone defence later and the Celtics now hold a much more believable 2-1 lead and have none of the momentum. Series on.

Yes, the Toronto Raptors saved their season on Thursday night when OG Anunoby hit the shot over a desperately stretched Jaylen Brown. The look on Kyle Lowry’s face said it all, they now have a chance.

If there was one thing Boston could not do against this Raptors team, it was let them off the canvas. The Raptors were down for the count and sputtering but managed to re-gain their feet and save the round.

Now, it’s a whole new fight.

As I said before the game, Kyle Lowry’s driving ability was key to a Toronto win and it proved out. This game, Lowry needs to remain aggressive or as Raptors Twitter likes to call it “Game Six Lowry” after his performance in last season’s final game of the NBA Finals.

For Boston, now that they’ve relinquished some hope to the Raptors, it’s up to them to stay the course. After Milwaukee blew game three in last season’s conference finals, they were never the same team. If the Celtics hope to advance, they must find a way to put that game in their rear view mirror.

To do that, they’ll need Jayson Tatum to act a whole lot older than the 22 it says he is on his birth certificate. If Tatum is ready to be the capital S star he clearly has the potential for, tonight will be a dominant performance that leaves no doubt who the best player in the series is.

The Raptors counter to a great Tatum game has to be their own young all-star, Pascal Siakam. It’s time for a breakout performance. No more missed bunnies, no more early fouls that take him out of the flow of action. It’s time for the real Siakam, who gave Draymond Green fits in last year’s finals, to make an appearance.

This is the first game all series Vegas has favoured Boston and I get it, the better team always wins game four up 2-1. But after a momentum shift like game three, I feel a Raptor tidal wave coming in fast. As much as I love the young Celtics, I don’t think they’re ready to handle it quite yet.

Give me the Raptors to not only cover but win game four.

Denver Nuggets vs Los Angeles Clippers

Line: Los Angeles -9.5

Pick: Clippers -9.5

The Washington Generals watched game one and they even thought this series was a mismatch. Much like the Gens to the Globetrotters, it feels like this Nuggets team was brought in to make the Clippers look good in every way.

Denver has zero people who can guard Kawhi Leonard which is an especially big problem since Leonard’s team also features another all-star wing in Paul George. If that isn’t bad enough, Jokic may be the last person in the world I’d want defending a Trez/Lou pick and roll and yet, the Nuggets don’t really have a choice.

The Nuggets only real shot in this series comes on the offensive end where they can maybe find a way to just outscore the Clippers. Even then though, George and Patrick Beverly are built perfectly to make Jamal Murray’s life hell for 48 minutes and without Murray being effective it leaves Jokic on a virtual island. Sure he can take Trez and Zubac one on one once in a while but that’s not Jokic’s best gift.

He’s the kind of guy who’s at his best and who’s team is at its best when he is setting up his teammates. Los Angeles is built perfectly to make sure that doesn’t happen. Their bet is Jokic can’t beat them by himself in the post and guess what, they’re probably right.

This series has all the makings of a sweep barring some crazy three point display from Denver randomly. If not for that one outcome, we seem headed for four straight blowouts in the favour of the Clippers.

There’s no evidence after game one for them not to be the pick, even if the line is 9.5. Simply, it’s hard to have any faith Denver can keep it close.

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