With the second round of the NBA Playoffs starting to fall into place and tip-off over the weekend, we have some new matchups to break down. But first, the Clippers will look to force a Game 7 against the Mavericks, battling for the right to face Utah in the next round. Here are some NBA plays to take you through the weekend.
The Clippers choked last season, and they are 0-3 at home in the postseason this season. This team has issues. In fact, the Clips are the first team in 30 years to lose five consecutive playoff games when favored by at least seven points, dating back to the collapse against the Nuggets in the bubble.
But Los Angeles did make adjustments for the games heading to Dallas, and played particularly well on the road. That’s just how this team operates for some reason, only putting forward maximum effort when it’s required. The Clippers were the best team in the NBA off a loss last season, and were also good this season — 18-9 with an average margin of victory of 7.3 points.
I expect this team to show up defensively with the season on the line, particularly on Luka Doncic. On top of that, the Mavericks’ scorching hot three-point shooting is pretty unlikely to continue. Let the cards fall where they may, but eventually Dallas will cool off, and the Clippers should force the issue on defense.
I’ve been backing the Nets to win the Eastern Conference heavily all season, with sprinkles on winning the title. I stand by those, and with the Bucks potentially the toughest test left for them, I think betting those two futures still makes a lot more sense than laying -200 on this particular series.
However, because the Bucks have the ability to play the Nets so tough, there is a prop here that I think leaves the door open for the Nets to win, while giving Milwaukee the appropriate respect. The over on 5.5 games is a bit juicy, but is -152 really enough to keep you away? A 4-1 series either way would be pretty shocking, and a sweep is practically out of the question. As long as it stays healthy, I like Brooklyn to emerge here, but it doesn’t mean the Nets won’t be pushed to six or seven games in the process.
*If Joel Embiid (meniscus tear) is ruled out
Pretty unique circumstances here, with Embiid suffering a more serious knee injury than the 76ers seem to be letting on. Listed as “day-to-day” just seems to be masking the fact that Embiid did suffer a torn meniscus, less than a week before Game 1 is set to tip off. It’s tough to see him returning until the midway point in the series, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if his postseason is already over — which is why the Hawks have so much respect when it comes to these odds.
Embiid, who was my MVP had he not been injured in the regular season, means way too much to this team to make it this much of a favorite against the up and coming Hawks. We just saw Anthony Davis’ injury completely derail the Lakers’ chances in the west, and I see this as a similar situation. Confirmation of Embiid’s absence will mean locking in the Hawks, who deserve credit for dismantling the Knicks, for both the game and series. Simply put, Atlanta is a better team right now than an Embiid-less Philly roster.
If Embiid does happen to return for the series with Philly in a hole, and we believe he’s indeed healthy, we can always come back with the 76ers on the series line, likely at plus-money.
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