The Toronto Raptors are flirting with history. No team has ever come back from down 3-0 in a playoff series, and after three games, with Scottie Barnes and Fred VanVleet banged up and Pascal Siakam underperforming, hoops culture collectively wrote them off.
But the Philadelphia 76ers have Doc Rivers, the coach of three different teams that blew 3-1 leads. They have James Harden, a player whose playoff foibles have become downright legendary. They have an injured superstar in Joel Embiid. And Game 6 is in Toronto.
The recipe is there. One home win means a winner-take-all Game 7. And anything can happen once you get it there.
We had a rough one on Tuesday, going 0-3 against the spread to move to 9-10 since I started writing my picks for Sportsnet. It might be time to fade my picks, sickos.
Overall record against the spread: 9-10
Philadelphia 76ers (-1.5, -125) at Toronto Raptors (+1.5, +105) – 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT on Sportsnet
There’s some buzz going around that right now, the Raptors may be better off without All-Star guard Fred VanVleet, who missed Game 5 with a hip injury. I agree, but it’s no slight to VanVleet. In a vacuum, he makes the Raptors a much better team, and he’s one more player who can create a shot for himself when everything tightens up down the stretch of a playoff game.
Injured VanVleet, though? He’s been a liability on defence against Tyrese Maxey’s overwhelming speed. And taking a hobbled defender off the court and replacing him with yet another of Toronto’s many long, athletic, switchable defenders did wonders for Nick Nurse’s defence. That could mean the difference in an elimination game.
The elephant in the room as the Raptors try to push this series to an improbable Game 7 is the history of playoff letdowns this Philly team has. I don’t want to bet on James Harden playing well in a big playoff game. And the Sixers probably need him to play well. I’ve got Toronto (+1.5) and I honestly think they win it outright. I’m all in. This weird series in a weird first round at the end of a weird season demands a Game 7. I’ll take James Harden UNDER 20.5 points and UNDER 2.5 threes made. You know, for old-time’s sake.
I’m probably going to stay away from this game though. This whole series has just been too high variance for my blood.
Phoenix Suns (-2, -130) at New Orleans Pelicans (+2, +110) – 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT on Sportsnet 360
I’m changing my tune. After Game 4, I wrote that this series felt even with Devin Booker out. I neglected to consider how much the Pelicans seem to have angered Chris Paul in that game. He delivered a clean 22/6/11 with three steals and only one turnover. And Mikal Bridges turned into a reasonable facsimile of Booker, knocking down big shot after big shot.
The Point God is playing mad, Bridges is playing out of his mind on both ends, and we still haven’t had the inevitable “Wait, Jae Crowder hit six threes?!?!” game. Phoenix is too good to let this series go on any longer than it has. Suns (-2) is my pick. And I’m parlaying it with my next pick, a combination that pays off at +250.
Dallas Mavericks (+1, -110) at Utah Jazz (-1, -110) – 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT on Sportsnet 360
Even before all-everything guard/forward/wing/post Luka Doncic returned to the Mavericks’ lineup, I thought this was Dallas’ series to lose. Now that he’s back and up to his old tricks? Dallas is no longer a plucky squad playing above expectations. They’re simply the better team, and they’ve got a chance to eliminate the Jazz in Utah in Game 6.
I’m going hard on this game. I think the internal strife the Jazz are dealing with is too much, and I think Doncic is a matchup nightmare for a team with a bunch of small guards who aren’t particularly good defenders in the first place. The Utah homecourt advantage, while strong, won’t be enough to overcome it.
Give me Dallas (+1), in what’s essentially a pick ‘em at most books. I’ll throw in the UNDER (210) on the combined score, as Dallas and Utah both go under in more than half of their games. And I’ll take the OVER on Luka Doncic assists (7.5).
The Sicko Same Game Parlay for Friday Night pays off at +850
• Dallas Mavericks Money Line
• Luka Doncic OVER 7.5 assists
• Luka Doncic double-double
• Game total UNDER 210.5 (alternate game total)
As always, play safe and don’t chase.