Today's Free Picks for
Posted on Saturday April 14 before Game 1
Washington +450 over TORONTO
Series pick – Begins Saturday, April 14
5:00 PM EST. The Wizards find themselves as the eighth seed after falling down the standings with a 3-9 record down the stretch. Washington was a trendy preseason pick in the East because it is loaded with talent like John Wall. Wall is a franchise player, but he did miss significant time this season with an injury. In his absence, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter were the go to guys for scoring. Beal is a threat from downtown, but also led the Wiz in points-in-the-paint while Wall was out, which makes him dangerous anywhere on the court. Beal is also a Raptors killer, as his 28.8 points per game against Toronto was his highest versus any Eastern Conference opponent. There is a lot to like about Washington, which includes its swagger. The Wizards have not been shy about their eagerness to face the Raptors. While they have not played Toronto with Wall in the lineup this season, Washington has had success against the Raps after going 2-2 and posting its second-best three-point shooting percentage against an opponent this year. The Wizards were also just one of two teams to limit the Raptors to less than 10 three-pointers made per game in those contests. In a game on February 1st, the Wiz had eight players put up double-digits in scoring in a 122-119 win. Even the bench is getting in on the action with backup center Jason Smith saying, “We are looking forward to the matchup with Toronto. I, personally, am a little relieved not to have to go against the hottest team in the league, Philly, That’s not a team we want to see." Those might seem like fighting words, but the truth hurts.
This was one of the best seasons in Raptors' history. 59-wins was a team high and their +7.8-point differential was the best in the East by a mile. In fact, this first round matchup with Washington is the most lopsided in terms of the differential with the Raps holding an edge of +7.2. However, the Raptors are vulnerable here for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the Raps are not a true number one seed. Injuries in Boston and the early season mess in Cleveland allowed Toronto to take advantage of the situation. For comparison's sake the Rockets, who are the number one seed out West are an 11½-point favorite in Game 1 and -2500 chalk to win the series over a Timberwolves team that actually had more victories than the Wizards. The Raptors are just -600 to knock of Washington, which are similar odds to that of both number three Philadelphia and number four Cleveland to win their respective series. The Cavs are no doubt under-seeded in the four hole and a presumed second-round matchup with Cleveland has the Raptors in a curious spot. Drawing LeBron James in round two doesn't seem like much of a reward for finishing the year on top of the conference. If the Raptors take the Wizards as lightly as the market is, they may not even get the chance to blow it against Cleveland. This whole series with Washington might just be one big look ahead spot. Even if it isn't, the Raptors are in tough against a Wizards side that can shoot and score, which means they can also win. The Raptors posted their second-fewest rebounds, third-fewest block and fifth-fewest steals against these Wizards in 2017-18. History is also not on the Raptors side after they were swept by Washington in 2015. While those games have no bearing here, if the Raps go down, those ghosts of playoff failures past might come back to haunt them. At a price like this we'll take our chances that the Raptors will crumble under pressure with another early playoff exit.
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Washington +450 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 9.00)