Two games are in the books for each first-round series, and results are starting to normalize. Both No. 1 seeds avenged ugly Game 1 losses with big Game 2 wins. Opponents are starting to get used to one another, and weaknesses are becoming more and more apparent. The basketball we're starting to see is, essentially, playoff basketball, not bubble ball.
So what does that mean for Friday and beyond? Trust your eyes. If you notice structural problems that lead to mismatches, trust that playoff-caliber coaching will exploit them. Understand the rosters that you're betting on. The deeper we get into the playoffs, the more information teams can work with. Information is power in the playoffs, and that is the basis behind many of today's best bets.
All lines via William Hill Sportsbook
Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets: Raptors -10.5
Game 2 was Brooklyn's last stand. The Nets have done their job in Orlando. They were great in the seeding games and played the Raptors closely for four quarters on Wednesday. But with Joe Harris gone and nothing really left to play for, this is the point in any first-round series in which the feisty lower seed folds. They put up a great fight, but now it's time for the Raptors to move on to bigger and better things.
Denver Nuggets vs. Utah Jazz: Over 218
Denver's offense has been one of the biggest stories in the bubble, but its defense has been truly terrible in Orlando. Donovan Mitchell has exploited it in this series, and will continue to do so. The Nuggets can't switch because their big men can't defend guards off of the dribble. They can't drop because Nikola Jokic is a terrible rim-protector. They can't hedge because the rotations break down and they wind up leaving a shooter open. Denver has to win with offense, because it isn't capable of stopping anyone right now.
Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers: Celtics -5
This spread is a gift. Philadelphia hung around in Game 1, but Game 2 was proof of just how outmatched the Ben Simmons-less 76ers are against Boston. They're feeding Joel Embiid in the post, they're letting Matisse Thybulle defend Jayson Tatum, and they're still getting decimated. There isn't a tactical adjustment to make here. Philadelphia doesn't have enough perimeter defenders to take out Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker. It doesn't have enough scoring, period. Boston will take care of business again Friday.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Dallas Mavericks: Over 232.5
With Patrick Beverley out, the Mavericks just have too many bad defenders to hunt on switches. It's more than just Luka Doncic. Trey Burke and Seth Curry killed Lou Williams and Reggie Jackson in pick-and-roll. At less than full strength overall, the Clippers seem hesitant to let Kawhi Leonard and Paul George fight over screens for 40 minutes. If they're going to keep switching, this is going to be a high-scoring series. The Clippers can still score with Dallas, so picking a winner would be precarious, but the points are going to keep rolling in until Doc Rivers takes the plunge and throws Kawhi at Luka for an entire game.