The Breakfast Spread: Portland, Toronto Punch Tickets To Conference Finals After Wild Game 7s
Kawhi Leonard proved too much for Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers, while the Portland Trail Blazers made a historic comeback against the Denver Nuggets. Here’s a sports betting recap of Sunday’s Game 7s and a lookahead to the Conference Finals.
What a treat it was Sunday. Hopefully the pair of Game 7s didn’t keep you away from what was really important (Mother’s Day), but it’s certainly understandable if you were a bit distracted during dinner.
Both games came down to the wire as the Portland Trail Blazers first closed the deal to beat the Denver Nuggets 100-96, followed by a game-winning buzzer-beater to knock out the Philadelphia 76ers from none other than Kawhi Leonard.
Comeback in Denver
It was CJ McCollum, not Damian Lillard, who carried the Trail Blazers to the largest Game 7 comeback in NBA playoff history.
McCollum had 37 points on 17-of-19 shooting and added 9 rebounds. Lillard was active on the glass himself but struggled offensively. Lillard added 10 rebounds for the backcourt duo but shot 3-for-17 from the field with only 13 points — arguably Lillard’s worst performance this postseason.
Enes Kanter came up big again with 12 points and 13 rebounds to adequately fill in for injured Jusuf Nurkic. Kanter, a devout muslim who is currently fasting for Ramadan, did this all without having a single sip of water during the game and without eating during the day. Only Lillard and McCollum played more minutes for the Trail Blazers in the series.
Comeback aside, it wasn’t the wildest outcome. At +125, Portland had an implied 44.4% probability of reaching the conference finals when the series began. The Golden State Warriors now await the No. 3 seed with the status of Kevin Durant, who suffered in calf strain in Game 6 against the Rockets, still unknown.
Kawhi, Raptors Get the Bounce
The firework show was just beginning with Portland’s win. Game 7 of the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers held its own and more.
Though the game got off to a slow start and went significantly under the closing 209.5 point total, it was as an exciting of a game as we’ve seen all playoffs.
The Sixers only scored 13 points in the first quarter but would go on a 16-0 run to take a 57-50 lead in the third. That wasn’t enough to fend off Kawhi Leonard, who outscored the Sixers 13-12 on his own over the final six minutes of the game.
Leonard’s historic series wasn’t finished until the very last second. It was the bounce seen around the world as Leonard used every inch of his 7-foot wingspan to get off a shot as time time ticked off. It took not one but two bounces for the basket to fall, but it would count all the same. Toronto won 92-90 and is heading to their second Conference Finals in franchise history.
Often seen either laughing or taunting, the loss brought out a side of Embiid that is rarely seen. The big man was left emotional after the game, crying and distraught from the loss.
Sitting next to Jimmy Butler, Embiid told reporters “I don’t give a damn about the process.” It was certainly Embiid’s most serious press conference after playing more minutes than he ever had in a game.
The Sixers trade for Butler, Tobias Harris and Mike Scott didn’t go as planned, but without Butler the Sixers may not have even made as far as they did.
Stat of the Day:
Leonard’s 243 points is the most points in a single round since Michael Jordan’s 246 in 1993. Only Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have scored more in a series.
The Breakfast Pick
For the first time in NBA playoff history two brothers will meet in the Conference Finals, as the Portland Trail Blazers seek their first NBA Finals appearance since 1992.
That’s not the only storyline in the Western Conference Finals.
Don’t forget it was Kevin Durant who laughed in McCollum’s face for calling the Trail Blazer’s “contenders” last offseason.
Durant is expected to be re-evaluated early this week but one orthopedic surgeons warns Warriors fans that Durant will likely be forced to sit out for at least two weeks in a best-case-scenario.
Still, oddsmakers aren’t giving Portland much of a chance. FanDuel Sportsbook has Golden State -500, Portland +360 for the series and opened the Warriors at 8-point home favorites (Over, Under 218) in Game 1.
The two teams split during the regular season 2-2, but three of the games were decided by more than 10 points. Since 2016, the Warriors are 8-1 against the Trail Blazers in the playoffs.
There is simply too much unknown to take a position on this one beforehand. Who knows what happens with Durant, though it sounds like the Warriors could be very conservative in hopes of keeping him healthy for the NBA Finals. The Warriors are favorites with or without No. 35. Afterall, it was Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green who led the Warriors to 73 wins when Durant was still playing for a Western Conference rival.
The Warriors showed what they could do without Durant in Game 6 against Rockets, but -500 seems too steep when they’re just an ankle sprain away from being without two former MVPs.
Whatever the case maybe, McCollum and the Trail Blazers aren’t just worried about ‘what goes on at the top of things’ anymore.
Instead, I prefer to put my series action on the Eastern Conference Finals.
Giannis Antetokounmpo will probably be the regular season MVP, but Kawhi Leonard is MVP of the playoffs up to this point.
In fact, Leonard is the most efficient scorer in NBA playoff history. The Raptors will need every bit of Leonard’s conference semifinal performance against the Milwaukee Bucks who have the No. 1 defensive rating in the league.
The Raptors have been my Eastern Conference pick from the beginning and the Bucks 4-1 domination over the Boston Celtics hasn’t changed my mind. I particularly like the +215 value at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Right now there are some price discrepancies around the industry and more shops should put out numbers later today, so feel free to wait if you aren’t comfortable with any early numbers. Breakfast Pick: Toronto Raptors to win the Eastern Conference Finals +215 (FanDuel Sportsbook).
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