Indiana +9 (3u) W / under 207.5 (4u) L
- Everyone's expecting the Cavs to turn it on once the playoffs start but I don't think it'll happen in Game 1 against LeBron's toughest assignment of the playoffs until the Finals. The Cavs have struggled on the defensive end, posting below average opponent eFG% and defensive efficiency and only getting worse as the season went on with 108 points allowed per 100 possessions. Indiana hasn't been an offensive juggernaut by any means but PG13 played extremely well during the final stretch of the season to earn himself the Player of the Month award and should carry that momentum going into the playoffs. The pace should dramatically slow down than the results of the regular season, where both teams scored 100+ in 3 of the 4 matchups, as the defense tightens up on both sides to limit fast break opportunities and play more half court offense. The Cavs have increased their pace this season (98.4) over last season (95.5) but we should see a noticeable decrease in their pace during the playoffs like we saw last season (93.0). In what may be George's last stand in Indiana, I expect the Pacers to hang in there against the Cavs in a low scoring Game 1.
Toronto -7.5 (2u) L / under 197.0 (4u) W
- Giannis is enjoying his breakout season where he led his team in all 5 stat categories but face a tough test against a deep Toronto team that gained a ton of valuable playoff experience last season when they gave the Cavs a run for their money in the Conference Finals. The Bucks might have the length and athleticism to throw at the Raptors but their inexperience and youth might be too much to overcome against one of the best 4th quarter teams in the league. Both teams play at a bottom 6 pace but the Raptors excel at the half court defense, ranking 6th in the league. As long as Carroll and Tucker can slow Giannis down, the Raptors should take care of business at home.
San Antonio -9.5 (2u) W / under 190.5 (3u) L
- Fizdale has done a commendable job with the roster he had to work with but should be outmatched by a Spurs team that can expose Memphis on both sides of the ball. The Grizzlies' second unit is a big weakness for them and it'll be especially apparent against a very talented and deep bench of San Antonio. Both teams already play a defensive minded half court scheme and this should be another low scoring matchup for two teams that can struggle on the offensive end at times. Memphis needs to get some production from guys other than Conley and Gasol if they're going to steal more than a game in this series.
Utah +5.5 (2u) W / under 198.0 (4u) W
- Taking another under for a big play with the league's slowest paced team for each of the past 3 seasons. Utah is also the 3rd best team in defensive efficiency, only trailing the Spurs and Warriors, and should be able to slow this game down to a crawl. With a finally healthy lineup, the Jazz can utilize different pairings in their front court to control Blake and DJ, and Gobert needs to set the tone with his interior presence and effectively defend the pick and roll that the Clippers love to run. This may be the closest series of the first round and there's enough value to grab Utah with the points here.