Monday, May 29, 2023

NBA playoffs, betting odds, picks: Expect a shortage of offense in Lakers-Suns series; are the Heat broken?


I typically don’t advise doubling down on your bad decisions. Just eat the losses and move on. But I’m going to make an exception in this case for a pick of mine that is currently on life support. For the second postseason in a row, I chose the Clippers as my champion, and for the second time, they’re imploding before our very eyes. I have money on the line here in addition to my credibility, so I don’t take this suggestion lightly: I would be betting the series price on the Clippers despite their 0-2 deficit. Yes, I know the odds. Only around 6.3 percent of teams down 0-2 win their series. Only four teams have ever overcome an 0-2 deficit after losing the first two games at home. The current price on a Clippers comeback, currently plus-220 at the William Hill Sportsbook, doesn’t quite reflect the severity of their situation. But I’m betting on the following.

  • In the regular season, the Clippers shot 44.4 percent on wide-open 3-pointers. The Mavericks shot 37 percent. In this series, the Clippers have fallen to 36.4 percent. That’s a reasonably small sample dip. The Mavericks have jumped to 57.7 percent. I can promise you, that is not sustaining. Their 42.9 percent mark on tightly-guarded 3’s probably isn’t either. This is some of the most egregious “make or miss league” nonsense in recent history. The Clippers just had the greatest shooting regular season ever. They’re going to improve. The Mavericks are going to regress because nobody stays this hot forever.
  • The American Airlines Center is far from impregnable. Dallas had the same home record and road record at 21-15 this season, which also happened to be the Clippers’ road record. Compare the two by point-differential and they aren’t close: the Clippers outscored opponents by 3.9 points per 100 possessions on the road, while the Mavericks outscored opponents by only 0.1 points per possession at home.
  • Luka Doncic is incredible. I’m not denying that one bit. But in a span of 15 days in April and May, he lost to the Sacramento Kings three times. The Kings literally just had the second-worst defensive rating in NBA history. If they can overcome Luka, so can the team with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. There are obvious issues in pick-and-roll that the Clippers need to work through. Their rotation needs something of an overhaul. But this notion that Doncic has irrevocably broken the Clipper defense is overblown, and even if it wasn’t, the Clippers have the weapons to outscore Dallas if necessary.

I’m on the superior team, and I’m not going to let two games of bad shooting luck scare me away from that team. I might reconsider my championship pick if given the chance, but for this series at least, I’m riding the Clippers. Now, onto today’s games. 

All lines via William Hill Sportsbook

Date: Thursday, May 27 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET | Live stream: TNT

Featured Game | Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks

The Mavericks may not have broken the Clippers, but the Bucks have broken the Heat. The Heat averaged 26.3 2-point shots made per game this season, but in this series, they are averaging just 20.5. They’re down from 44 points in the paint to 39, and many of the ones they did get came in the second half of a Game 2 blowout. Now, the Heat could get hot from behind the arc and make this a game, as they did in Game 1, but that also required the Bucks going cold. Given the confidence Milwaukee played with in Game 2, that seems unlikely. If the Heat can’t score inside the arc against Milwaukee’s stellar rim-protection, they just don’t have any other way of beating the Bucks. Pick: Bucks -1.5

Date: Thursday, May 27 | Time: 10 p.m. ET | Live stream: TNT

Featured Game | Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns

Game 1 of this series didn’t come close to this total. Game 2 crossed it by half of a point … but only through some of the more egregious game lengthening and shot-cluck you’ll ever see. The total was at 194 points with one minute left in the game. But the both sides kept fouling and a total of 17 points were scored in a meaningless final minute. That isn’t the norm here. With Chris Paul and LeBron James both clearly playing at less than 100 percent, there is an offense shortage in this series. Pick: Under 210.5

Date: Thursday, May 27 | Time: 10:30 p.m. ET | Live stream: NBATV via fuboTV (Try for free)

Featured Game | Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets

The gaudy 3-point and individual numbers in this series thus far have masked an even more appealing statistic: Game 2 featured a total of 58 free throws. Is that number going to repeat itself? Of course not, but remember, these are two teams with absolutely no alternative means of defending the other right now, and after a chippy Game 2, they don’t particularly like each other either. Expect the whistles to keep on coming and the over to hit in this one. Pick: Over 227.5


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