Clippers vs. Jazz NBA Playoffs Game 2 Preview and Best Bet

Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers reacts after missing a basket. Alex Goodlett/Getty Images/AFP

Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers reacts after missing a basket. Alex Goodlett/Getty Images/AFP

 

They beat the L.A. Clippers and the NBA odds in Game 1, but the Utah Jazz will find it difficult to do the same this Thursday in Game 2.

 

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz

Thursday. June 10, 2021 – 10:00 p.m. EDT  at Vivint Smart Home Arena 

The Utah Jazz are the best team in the NBA. That doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? But anything can happen in this pandemic season; the Jazz (52-20 SU, 41-31 ATS) entered the playoffs with the league’s top overall seed, and they haven’t stopped yet, eliminating the Memphis Grizzlies in five games and taking a 1-0 lead over the Los Angeles Clippers (47-25 SU, 39-32-1 ATS) in their second-round series. Tell that to the bettors, though. Utah (+290) remain second favorites behind the Brooklyn Nets (+120) on the NBA title futures at bet365, with the Clippers tied for third at +750. Apparently the Jazz are still carrying some small-market value into Thursday’s Game 2. But do they have enough value for our NBA picks as 3-point home faves at SBK?

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Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers NBA Playoffs Game 6 Preview and Best Bet

 

Austin Rivers #25 of the Denver Nuggets shoots against CJ McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers. Steph Chambers/Getty Images/AFP

Austin Rivers #25 of the Denver Nuggets shoots against CJ McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers. Steph Chambers/Getty Images/AFP

 

The Damian Lillard hype train makes the Denver Nuggets a solid NBA pick when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers for Thursday’s Game 6.

 

Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Thursday, June 03, 2021 – 08:00 PM EDT at Moda Center

 

Tuesday’s game between the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers was one for the ages. It was a close-fought contest, as you might expect between the Nos. 3 and 6 seeds in the Western Conference; in the end, the Nuggets needed two overtimes to put Portland away 147-140 as 2-point home faves on the NBA lines, taking a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven first-round series. Nobody was talking about Denver after their victory, though. The post-game media coverage was all about Damian Lillard, who forced both overtimes with a pair of classic “Dame Time” threes. Lillard definitely has a nose for the spotlight, but as long as the betting public is focused on his shooting and nothing else, the Nuggets will continue to be the right NBA pick for this series – including Thursday’s Game 6, where they’re getting five points on the road at SBK’s online sportsbook.

 

Indefensible There’s a lot to like about Lillard and the Blazers. They went on an epic late-season run to make the Western playoffs, thanks in no small part to the return of starting center Jusuf Nurkic from the injured list, and the acquisition of two-way wing Norman Powell at the trade deadline. Lillard, though, is the engine that makes Portland hum; he’s one of the most gifted scorers in the game, providing 28.9 points per 36 minutes while dishing out 7.6 dimes. It’s the other end where Lillard’s flaws show up – if anyone cares to look. Defense is very hard to pin down with metrics, but Basketball Reference is trying anyway with their Defensive Box Plus/Minus stats, where Lillard posted a minus-1.6 DBPM during the regular season. So did Carmelo Anthony, another one-dimensional volume scorer and a proto-Lillard both on and off the court. Lillard’s backcourt partner, C.J. McCollum, was a minus-1.5. Reserve center Enes Kanter (minus-1.5 DBPM) and back-up guard Anfernee Simons (minus-1.8 DBPM) were also negative contributors on defense according to the analytics.

 

The Truth Hurts Casual basketball fans hate analytics, of course. And that hatred seems to boil over when it comes to certain NBA stars like Lillard and Anthony. On the flip side, nobody wants to give Nikola Jokic his props. Denver’s do-everything big is almost certainly going to win this year’s regular-season MVP award, but at press time, Bovada’s NBA odds have Jokic priced at +2500 to win Finals MVP. Compare and contrast to LeBron James, who’s available at +1000 even though his hobbled Los Angeles Lakers are down 3-2 to the Phoenix Suns in their Western quarterfinal. For that matter, look at what back-up point guard Facundo Campazzo (plus-1.0 DBPM) has been able to do for Denver since replacing the injured Jamal Murray (minus-1.0 DBPM) in the starting

lineup. Campazzo isn’t nearly the offensive creator that Murray is, but with Jokic in the middle, he doesn’t have to be. All this boring defense from boring players who don’t saturate TV and social media with their personae? It might not make the headlines, but it has Denver up 3-2 SU and ATS in this series. No sense in betting otherwise.

 

Pick: Nuggets +5 (–108) at SBK

Suns vs. Lakers NBA Playoffs Game 3 Preview and Best Bet

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns attempts a shot over Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns attempts a shot over Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

Thursday’s Game 3 between the Phoenix Suns and L.A. Lakers is a golden opportunity to put a 2-team parlay in your NBA picks.

 

Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Thursday, May 27, 2021 – 10:00 PM EDT at STAPLES Center

Technically speaking, there’s only one player on the injured list for Thursday’s game between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers: Abdel Nader, a competent but rarely-used guard in the Suns rotation. However, you don’t need your name on the list to be injured. Pivotal players from both teams will be playing hurt in Game 3 of this Western Conference quarterfinal.

We can profit from their pain. The classic underdog-Under parlay looks like a slam-dunk on the NBA odds board, where SBK have Phoenix getting seven points at press time with a total of 210.5. Or, if you’re worried about looking too sharp, you could make either or both of these single bets and use that to help push your props through. Let’s take a closer look at these wounded warriors heading into this very important Game 3.

 

The Hurt Locker

The Lakers evened this series Tuesday night with a 109-102 victory over Phoenix, cashing in as 2-point road faves, and they just barely made it past the closing total of 210.5. Whether you got paid or not for the over/under depended on which online sportsbook you used, and when. It was still an ugly game, made uglier by the injured superstars on the floor: LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (calf) for Los Angeles, and Chris Paul (shoulder) for the Suns.

It wasn’t their poor play that made the first two games of these series so brutal – although Davis did perform better in Game 2, leading the way with 34 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists while marching to the free throw line. This Lakers-Suns matchup was always going to be a methodical, defensive series – a slobberknocker, if you will. But the added physical limitations placed on these three All-Stars, especially Paul, have made this a war of attrition rather than a work of art.

 

Slow And Steady

This leveling effect benefits Phoenix the most. They were 2-point home dogs in the first two games despite owning the No. 2 seed in the West; bettors naturally assumed the No. 7 Lakers would be superior now that James, Davis and all their players are off the injured list. But the fewer opportunities James and Davis have to work their magic, the harder it will be for them to beat the NBA lines.

Phoenix already make that happen naturally by running one of the slowest offenses in the league. They finished the regular season tied for No. 26 out of the 30 teams at 99.3 possessions per game; L.A. tied for 16th place at 100.8 possessions. Combine those parameters with all the gimpy players on both clubs – it isn’t just the superstars – and you get even more value for your NBA picks with Phoenix and the Under.

 

Pick: Suns +7 (–108), Under 210.5 (–111) at SBK

Pacers vs. Wizards NBA Play-In Expert Analysis and Pick

 

Kelan Martin #21 of the Indiana Pacers on May 18, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.    Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP

Kelan Martin #21 of the Indiana Pacers on May 18, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP

 

The Washington Wizards might be too gimpy to beat the Indiana Pacers and the NBA odds for Thursday’s play-in game.

 

Indiana Pacers vs. Washington Wizards

Thursday, May  20, 2021 – 8:00 PM ET at Capital One Arena

 

It’s not a crime to be critical of Russell Westbrook. That’s our job when we make our NBA picks, and to do our job right, we have to recognize Westbrook’s flaws as well as his more positive attributes. If other people want to get salty about that, too bad. Their hype only adds to the betting value we’ll get picking any team other than the Washington Wizards.

 

We need that value, too, because there probably isn’t much margin otherwise for Thursday’s play-in game against the Indiana Pacers – not on the NBA spreads, at least, where the Pacers are priced as 3.5-point road dogs at Unibet. That’s pretty much in line with what you’d expect from two closely-matched teams on paper, playing in D.C. But if Tuesday’s games were any indication, Westbrook isn’t 100 percent for this contest, and he’s not the only one.

 

It’s A Shoot

 

The narrative around Westbrook that has everyone freaking out is that he’s an inefficient scorer. People have a reason to be upset; Westbrook has always been a good offensive player, and deservedly won the MVP four years ago at the peak of his powers. But the man has limitations, especially when it comes to shot selection from beyond the elbow. It is what it is.

 

Speaking of limitations, Westbrook didn’t seem very much at ease during Tuesday’s play-in game against the Boston Celtics, which the Celtics won 118-100 as 2-point home faves. He put up some eye-popping numbers as usual: 20 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. However, Westbrook also shot 6-for-18, missing all four of his trey attempts, and admitted after the game that he was dealing with some “bumps and bruises.” Bradley Beal (sore hamstring) also needed 25 shots to score his team-leading 22 points.

 

Malcolm Tent

 

The Pacers haven’t been healthy themselves for quite a while, and tensions have been running high between the players and head coach Nate Bjorkgren, but they managed to put that aside and beat the Charlotte Hornets (+1.5 away) 144-117 in Tuesday’s other play-in. This was despite losing Caris LeVert to COVID-19 protocols before the game. He’ll almost certainly have to sit out at least the next week as well.

 

This isn’t a death sentence for Indiana’s playoff hopes – LeVert has performed somewhere around league average since joining the Pacers in that big four-team trade that sent Victor Oladipo to the Houston Rockets. Things get more serious if Malcolm Brogdon (sore hamstring) can’t play on Thursday. Brodgon looked fine against the Hornets, though, scoring an efficient 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting while playing just 21 minutes. The Under might be the better choice on the NBA odds board if Brogdon doesn’t suit up, but I’m going to stick with Indiana ATS until I hear otherwise.

 

NBA Pick: Pacers +3.5 (–109) at Unibet

76ers vs. Heat NBA Preview

Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat shoots while defended. Kathryn Riley/Getty Images/AFP

Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat shoots while defended. Kathryn Riley/Getty Images/AFP

The Miami Heat are the right NBA pick as small underdogs for Thursday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

It might be the last week of the regular season, but there won’t be any tanking in this matchup. The Miami Heat (38-31 SU, 32-25-2 ATS) host the Philadelphia 76ers (47-22 SU, 36-30-3 ATS) Thursday night with plenty on the line for both teams – but more for the Heat. That extra motivation might be enough to push Miami over the hump and into your NBA picks as 2-point underdogs in what looks like a very close contest on paper.

 

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat

at Staples Center

 

 

Motivational Speaking

It’s not a dire situation for either club, mind you. The Heat are fifth in the Eastern Conference at press time and have already clinched a playoff berth, but they also have the same record as the No. 6 New York Knicks with three games left to go. Falling into sixth place would put Miami into a first-round battle with the No. 3 team in the East – which will probably be the third-place Milwaukee Bucks, owners of the best point differential in the conference at plus-5.9. The 76ers (plus-5.5), meanwhile, are 1.5 games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets for the top seed. Brooklyn have just two games left compared to three for Philadelphia, and the Sixers will face the super-tanking Orlando Magic twice at home after they’re done with Miami (minus-0.2). A loss here wouldn’t be a disaster for Philly, but it wouldn’t be ideal, either. The Heat definitely have more incentive to dig deep and beat the NBA odds for this battle.

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