The Toronto Raptors host the Washington Wizards on Saturday (5:30 p.m. ET) in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. The Raptors are eight-point sportsbook favorites, with the over-under for total points scored set at 210.5.

The Raptors used a strong second half of the season to emerge as the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs as they continue their quest to break through to the NBA Finals. However, they face what is roundly considered a dangerous first-round opponent in the eighth-seeded Wizards, who would love to compensate for an erratic season with a massive first-round upset. 

For optimal analysis on this matchup, you need to hear from SportsLine expert Galin Dragiev. The veteran NBA handicapper emerged as the top expert for SportsLine this season, and he has picked up his winning pace down the stretch.

Dragiev enters the playoffs on a 16-6 run (73 percent) with his NBA spread picks. He also has a laser-like focus on the Raptors, going 5-0 ATS in games in which they are involved.

The Raptors finished off a stellar season with a strong stretch run, going 18-6 in their final 24 regular-season contests to take the top spot in the Eastern Conference by four games over the Boston Celtics. They also won four of their final five, with each victory coming by double figures.

Toronto has been efficient on both ends, as its offense ranks No. 4 in the league (111.7 ppg) and its defense is No. 6 (103.9 ppg).

Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan remain one of the NBA’s top backcourts. They combined to average 38.2 points, 12.1 assists and 9.5 rebounds. They also are durable, missing just six games between them.

They take on a Wizards club that boasts a standout backcourt of its own in John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Washington has been hampered by an injury to Wall, a lack of inside strength and general inconsistency. The Wizards stumbled into the No. 8 seed with losses in five of their final six games, including defeats to the woeful Hawks, Magic and Bulls.

But a 113-101 home victory over Boston in their penultimate regular-season contest showed how dangerous they can be.

They overcame a slow start and early deficit to dominate the second half and pull away, shooting 49.4 percent while draining 15 3-pointers. Wall and Beal combined for 48 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds.

Washington has covered six of the past eight meetings in Toronto, and the road team is on a 5-2 ATS run.

Will the Raptors use their pronounced home-court advantage to inspire a Game 1 win, or will the Wizards put up a fight until the final horn? … Visit SportsLine now to see which side of Wizards-Raptors you should support Saturday, from a seasoned handicapper who has hit 73 percent of his recent NBA picks.

Source link