We’re almost through all the Game 2s in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, and there’s still some value to be found on series prices. As of this writing there are three series that are tied and three with teams holding 2-0 leads.
Here’s a series-by-series look at what’s available to bet at various sportsbooks and some angles to watch as we look to get an edge before matchups shift.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors
I was on 76ers from the start.
I bet them win spread -1.5, -2.5 and straight up for the series. I felt there was too much overthinking the Raptors and their bad half-court offense, too much under-appreciating what the Sixers have done in building out their other weapons offensively and overestimating the Raptors countering Embiid.
I don’t say this as a victory lap. I say it because now I’m nervous.
This was too easy.
A Net Rating of +20? Blowouts in both games? Domination on both sides of the ball? Raising expectations?
This is not where I want the Sixers. James Harden, Joel Embiid, and Doc Rivers fall fastest from great heights.
The Scottie Barnes injury is absolutely unfortunate. Barnes is going to win Rookie of the Year, I believe, based on the votes published online. He’s is a tremendous player in every facet of the game, brings energy and physicality along with real skill on both ends of the floor.
I also do not look at him — yet — as a team cornerstone. He’s not the driving force of the offense and the entire Raptors defense is a thunderstorm of length, athleticism, basketball IQ and superb coaching.
The Raptors were 5-3 straight up without Barnes this season. They were not lost without Barnes. That was the regular season, though, not the postseason.
The idea that Toronto has no chance because a rookie combo forward is out and Gray Trent Jr. has been under the weather is a bit much (especially when the Sixers were already comfortably ahead when Barnes was injured).
The Raptors can win Game 3 with effort and the home cooking that always sees role players shoot better and road players shoot worse. Then it’s a Game 4 and the problem in those spots is variance and pressure. If the Sixers were to lose both in Toronto, now it heads back to Philly with Toronto momentum. Ask the Milwaukee Bucks how that goes.
I don’t want to bet the Raptors here either. The only substantial adjustment to make is to shift attention to Tyrese Maxey and dare James Harden to beat them when he doesn’t look right. They can do a better job on Embiid but they’re still at the mercy of a whistle.
I’ve bet the Raptors in Game 3, light. The Sixers have done everything right so far. We’ll see if they can avoid the banana peels that so often derail them now.
Series Bet: None
Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets
I continue to return to these Celtics notes from Game 1:
- Boston scored more points in the paint
- Boston scored more second chance points
- Boston scored more points off turnovers
- Boston made more 3s
- Marcus Smart shot 4-of-9 from 3
- Jayson Tatum scored 31 on 9-of-18 shooting
- Al Horford had 20 points and 15 rebounds
And the Celtics won by one point. On a buzzer-beater. Off a no-timeout scramble with broken coverage. (Granted, it’s the Nets, broken coverage comes with the package.)
Now, maybe that’s the game that decides the series. Maybe that game changes the series from being 3-3 after six to 4-2 Celtics, or tilts the series to 3-1 and the Nets accept it’s not their year.
However, if you’re like me and liked the Nets to start this series, it doesn’t necessarily dampen your thoughts. Boston played awesome in Game 1, as they will do at times in this series. The Nets still had the edge late until inside the final second.
Kyrie Irving had a sensational Game 1, all for naught. If you think that’s the best Irving can play, it’s reasonable to go the other way.
But the Celtics like to switch defensively, and that style of one-on-one is exactly where Irving and Durant usually thrive. The Celtics did a great job making things hard for Durant, and can do so again. Four times out of seven?
Maybe, but I think it takes seven to get there, at least.
The Nets have some more options at their disposal for adjustments. The obvious one is going small to start and playing Nic Claxton against the Celtics’ big lineup, then countering the Celtics’ small-ball with Andre Drummond who can control the glass.
They have multiple guards — Seth Curry, Patty Mills, Goran Dragic — they can use offensively. Defensively, they’re going to be vulnerable, but this is why Claxton’s resurgence after a rough start to the season matters.
The Nets had a 117.3 Defensive Rating for the game. They had a 109.8 Defensive Rating in Claxton’s minutes. To compare that, the Celtics had a 111.8 Defensive Rating with newly crowned Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart on the floor in Game 1.
I don’t know if Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash can find enough edges. I don’t know if Irving can be consistent against great defense. I don’t know if Horford will just pull out a vintage 2017-era Horford performance for six games.
But I still believe the Net’s chances of forcing a Game 7 or winning outright are better than 55%.
Series Bet: Nets +1.5 Games (-125, BetMGM)
Dallas Mavericks vs. Utah Jazz
On our Buckets Podcast, I said that I was planning to wait on this series for the Utah Jazz to win Game 1 and then bet the Dallas Mavericks no matter the outcome. The number went to +500 and I fired, it’s now down to +180 after the Mavs’ win in Game 2.
I’m not frightened by home court for Utah. Last season, they had home court advantage against the Los Angeles Clippers and still lost the pivotal Game 5 at home.
The problem is the same as it always has been for the Jazz: small-ball. They don’t have a counter, despite adding Rudy Gay this season for just this purpose.
Maxi Kleber is not going to go 8-of-11 from behind the arc every game, but he doesn’t need to with word surfacing that Doncic could be back for Game 3 or 4. (I’m betting it’s Game 4 at the earliest.)
The Mavs will continue to get wide open 3s by spacing the floor, removing Gobert from the paint, attacking against bad perimeter defense, and then kicking to open shooters.
The best way to counter this is by the big punishing the switch on the other end, and Gobert can’t do that.
Doncic will likely be back at some point in this series unless he suffers a setback in practice, and even if he’s out the whole way, I still don’t the Jazz are doomed. Watch the Jazz body language in the fourth quarter of Game 2, the frustration, the finger pointing.
Utah has home court, the opposing team’s best player is out, and the Jazz are favored.
All of this happened in the Clippers series, and we know how that went, Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley injuries or no.
It’s Mavs or nothing here.
Series Bet: Mavericks Win Series (+180, BetRivers)
Miami Heat vs. Atlanta Hawks
Something is off here.
But look at the first two games of this series. The Hawks, two days off an emotional road win to secure the No. 8 seed in Cleveland, go into an early game on South Beach and get walloped after they can’t hit the broad side of a barn in the first half while the Heat have the best shooting performance relative to statistical expectation of any team in the Game 1’s.
In the second game, it takes Jimmy Butler having a career night with 45 points, including four made 3’s for a guy who doesn’t shoot them, and an 0-of-6 night from Danilo Gallinari for the Heat to just press enough to cover the spread.
The Heat are the better team and they’ll win this series. But the market reflects a huge gap between these two teams and we basically have three straight halves where the Hawks have hung in, with the series headed to Atlanta where the Hawks have been way better.
Atlanta had the eighth-best Net Rating in home games this season, just behind the Heat in seventh. People will look at the seedings and the 2-0 lead for the Heat and get ahead of themselves. But I think Atlanta can make this a series; Miami’s ceiling isn’t high enough for it to get clear separation and we’ve seen that in the first two games.
Nate McMillan starting John Collins at center was a great move that paid dividends immediately. They’ll continue to get more comfortable against the Heat’s defense and Miami’s supporting cast will struggle more. I like Atlanta to find its way into two wins to force this series to at least six, though i still think Miami wins the series.
Conceptually you can also wait to see if the Hawks win Game 3 or both Games 3 and 4 and then beat Heat at a shorter number, but I still think you’ll be paying heavy juice.
Best Bet: Hawks +2.5 Games (+172, FanDuel)
Golden State Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets
There’s no value here in this series, it’s a wrap and everyone knows it. But at -215 you’re still getting EV considering the total mismatch this series is.
The Nuggets are exhausted and fighting with each other, the Warriors are locked in and have all the answers. Jokic can’t beat Draymond’s defense one on one which means the Nuggets don’t get clean looks or lanes and they don’t have the perimeter creators to punish it.
Why worry about a fluke Game 4 win for Denver in its last home game of the season when you can just lay the 2.5 and trust that Denver won’t rally to force six games?
Best Bet: Warriors -2.5 Games (-215, DraftKings)