Why Raptors are an intriguing pick to beat Sixers, win East

Jay Croucher remembers exactly when he fell in love with the NBA.

“Basketball was my first sporting love outside of Australia,” Croucher said in his Australian accent this week. “I started watching the 2006-07 Knicks with Stephon Marbury, (Jamal) Crawford, Channing Frye, Eddy Curry (and managed by Isiah Thomas). And then Kevin Garnett’s Celtics.

“I really got into it with that Celtics-Lakers final in 2008 (when Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce led Boston to a six-game win over Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and the Lakers). I took days off from college to watch those games.”

On the eve of the start of the 2022 NBA playoffs, the 29-year-old COO of PointsBet USA spoke with the passion of a die-hard basketball fan about the opportunities for bettors in the newly regulated gambling industry. Ontario. And while Shaquille O’Neal earlier this week on TNT predicted a sweep of the Toronto Raptors by the Philadelphia 76ers in their Eastern Conference first-round series, Croucher agrees with O’Neal’s TV partner Charles Barkley, that there could be a surprise here. As of Thursday, the Raptors trailed by +160 to win the series, meaning a $20 bet would pay $52.

“I’d rather be on the Raptors than the Sixers (-190 as of Thursday morning),” Croucher said. “Joel Embiid will be the best player in this series, but this Philly team has more disaster potential than most teams of its ilk given how bad (James) Harden looks. The Raptors are much better than anticipated … they’re very much alive against Philly.”

An advantage in training and the lack of availability of the Sixers’ Matisse Thybulle for games in Toronto because he’s not fully vaccinated also have Croucher eyeing a potential first-round upset.

“We see Nick Nurse clearly as the best coach in the NBA and that comes at a price in the Toronto markets. The Raptors would be a slightly longer underdog if they still had Dwane Casey in charge. Nurse brings out the best in the team from him, he’s won a title and he’s shown a lot of weird creativity.”

While the Milwaukee Bucks are favored (+450) as the team most likely to come out of the East and repeat as champions, the Raptors are an intriguing pick at +8000.

“Toronto has a legitimate chance to win the East because they have Philly first, and Miami is very easy to beat in the next round,” Croucher said. “We think the top three teams in the conference are Milwaukee, Boston and Brooklyn, and the Raptors dodge all of them in the second round.”

However, O’Neal and others who bet on the Sixers have data on their side, even though the Sixers lost three of their four regular-season games with Toronto. Quarter4, the Waterloo-based analytics firm that uses artificial intelligence to make predictions about the NBA and other NCAA and professional sports, only gives the Raptors a 23 percent chance of beating Philadelphia, though the probability of a surprise rises to 44.1 percent. if the Raptors win Game 1 of Saturday’s series on the road.

FanDuel will provide in-game betting information to TSN for its coverage of the playoffs, and on Thursday introduced a “Spread the Love” promotion that moves the line one point in favor of the Raptors for every 200 bets placed on Game 1.

Noor Zainab, who covers the NBA for Parleh Media Group, has a few suggestions for Raptors fans looking to win a bet or two without betraying their team allegiance.

“You don’t just have to bet on the outcome of a game,” Zainab said. “There are teams throughout the NBA known for cruising in the first half, like the Raptors and (Phoenix Suns, favorites to win the West). So, I’ll bet against the Raptors leading at halftime. If you don’t want to trust the Raptors to win or lose, place an over/under (total points) bet. And check out the player accessories.”

PointsBet has marketed itself as a leader in offering an expanded menu of live in-game betting opportunities, including last month in select US states for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament when it allowed customers betting on which team will score the next point along with markets around the next minute and the next four minutes. The company partnered with NBC Sports Chicago last month to produce a live sports betting broadcast during a Bulls-Sixers game.

“You can bet on total points over or under Pascal Siakam, and that will update after every play,” Croucher said. “If the Sixers are firing Scottie Barnes and giving him open shots because that’s the poison they’re looking for, you can get ahead of the curve.”

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Steve McAllister is the editor-in-chief of The Parleh sports betting newsletter, a NorthStar Bets partner. NorthStar Bets is owned by NordStar Capital, which also owns Torstar, the parent company of Star. Follow him on Twitter: @StevieMacSports

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