NBA betting: Playoff picks for Friday night
Chris Sheridan makes his picks for Friday's NBA playoff doubleheader, as the Heat face the 76ers and the Suns take on the Mavericks.
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You have to expect that Joel Embiid is going to play tonight for the Philadelphia 76ers, given that he has now cleared the NBA’s concussion protocol despite being listed as "out" overnight.
The Sixers will move mountains to get Embiid back today, and the big fella from Cameroon will likely be wearing a face mask to protect his fractured orbital bone when the game tips off at 7 p.m. EDT.
But will he be enough for Philly to turn the tables and avoid an 0-3 deficit that no NBA team has ever come back from?
That is the million-dollar question that Philadelphians are pondering as they get ready for what is pretty much a do or die game tonight at the Wells Fargo Center. In the city where they once booed Santa Claus (and where they booed the Sixers following a Game 5 loss to Toronto), the wait for a title has been going on since 1983, which means everyone 39 years of age and younger has never seen a championship parade that did not involve the Eagles or Phillies.
That drought will reach 40 years if the Sixers do not get their act together immediately, and the opportunity presents itself tonight with or without Embiid.
For the Dallas Mavericks, the fan base has not suffered the same way. The Mavs won a title 11 years ago behind Dirk Nowitzki, and the ensuing years have been fraught with mediocrity and one superlative trade, the draft night deal that sent the right to Trae Young to Atlanta for the rights to Luka Doncic.
Dallas’ Slovenian superstar had not won a home playoff game until the first round against Utah, and tonight he needs to do it again against the Phoenix Suns to prevent the Mavs from falling into that same 0-3 hole that no NBA playoff team has ever recovered from. But we have learned In Games 1 and 2 that Doncic cannot do it alone, although he is trying his very best with an average of 40.0 points per game. As coach Jason Kidd said after Game 2, nobody else is showing up for the Mavs, and that needs to change tonight in the Lone Star state.
If the Sixers and Mavs lose tonight, the only beneficiaries outside of Arizona and Florida are the fans in Pennsylvania and Texas who will be able to purchase their moms tickets for a Mother’s Day game that nobody among the fervent fan base would want to attend.
So the question of whether we will see a lot of moms and fair-weather fans Sunday will be answered by the results of tonight’s games. And since we want all of our readers to be able to purchase their mothers very nice presents for their special day Sunday, it is time to dive deep into the gambling lines and pick out the ones that seem logical and promising.
Betway has 186 markets up for the Heat-Sixers game and 229 for the Mavs-Suns game, so there is no shortage of opportunities. But we all have to remember that the Suns and Heat finished first in their conferences for a reason: They are the better teams. And that will be our operative thought at we look at tonight’s doubleheader, which will be televised in the U.S. by ESPN.
Miami (-2) at Philadelphia.: The margins of victory in the first two games have been 14 and 16, with the Heat scoring 56 and 59 in the two second halves. The over hit by 13.5 points in the second game, and tonight’s O/U has been bumped up from 208.5 to 210, with the question of whether the over will hit likely a product of how well Philly, not Miami, plays in Game 3. And because we expect Embiid to play, which will alleviate some of the defensive pressure and offensive burden from James Harden and Tobias Harris, we are anticipating that the over (-110) is a good wager tonight. So that is our starting tout, and now let’s look at the player props.
The point total over/unders for James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Jimmy Butler are all 22.5. We like the over for Maxey (-105) because his speed is too much for the older and slower Heat to match up with, and we like the over for Butler (+100) because this is an alumni game for him in which he will play against one of his former teams.
With Harden, it is a tougher call because he is having a very bad postseason by his standards, and one has to wonder if his 145 career playoff games have taken too much tread off of his tires. He has not scored more than 22 points since March 29, and P.J. Tucker has been suffocating him and will likely do more of the same tonight. So stay away from his points over/under, but take a flyer (separate from any parlay) on the bearded one getting a triple-double (+725). The points and assists should not be a problem, but he must get double figures in rebounds for the first time since April 3 when he triple-doubled against the Cavs.
The line on the game should change as the news on Embiid comes out, and it has already moved two points after opening at Miami -1. We caution against taking the Sixers under any circumstances. They are clearly the lesser team. Whether you want to lay three points is on you, but the call here is a Miami victory, Embiid or no Embiid. They are simply a much better team.
Suns (-1) at Dallas: Today is Chris Paul’s 37th birthday, and thus far in the postseason he has refused to age. He is averaging 10.3 points and 2.5 assists in fourth quarters this postseason.
He has not yet had a double-figure assist game in that series. Will that change tonight? Will it matter?
Those are only two of the questions heading into the nightcap of the twin bill, and the most important questions do not even pertain to the Suns but rather the Mavs. Kidd is not exactly exuding confidence, which may ring hollow with his troops or may inspire them. That remains to be seen.
What we know for sure is that Doncic will show up. He has been surpassing his point total over/under fairly regularly and tonight it has been set at 34.5, the highest we have seen for anyone in the two rounds of the postseason. But Doncic cannot continue to be a one-man show, and somebody has to step up. Will it be Jalen Brunson, who is probably most capable? Will it be Spencer Dinwiddie? He is equally capable but does not have the benefit of a position in the starting five. Or will it be Maxi Kleber, whose defense could get him onto the court for longer stretches, and whose 3-point shooting makes him perhaps the Mavs’ best underutilized two-way weapon.
The Mavs are expected to try to win this one from the 3-point line, and it should be noted that Dorian Finney Smith made three 3-pointers in each of Dallas’ last two home playoff games. His 3-pointers made over/under is 2.5, and we like him to bounce back from a bad Game 2 and hit that over at +145. Reggie Bullock should also go over 2.5, but his odds are only +115, so keep that one off your parlay and go instead with Brunson over 1.5 at a price of +145.
The over has hit by 10.5 and 20 in the first two games and has been adjusted upwards by a point to 219, and we like it to hit (-110) for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that the players on Dallas are pros, and they have been challenged by their coach and their fan base to do a whole lot better no matter how outmatched they are. That should translate into some more accurate 3-point shooting after the Mavs were 16-for-39 and 17-for-41 in Games 1 and 2.
On the Suns’ side, we like Devin Booker over 4.5 assists (+125) and DeAndre Ayton over 18.5 points (+100). As for Paul, we like him to win. Period. A Suns sweep was our pre-series prediction, and we are sticking with it.