NBA betting tips: Picks for Friday's playoff games
Jack Green makes his NBA predictions for Friday's action as the Philadelphia 76ers face the Atlanta Hawks and the Denver Nuggets host the Phoenix Suns.
After dropping Game 1 at home, the 76ers bounced back to beat the Hawks 118-102 on Tuesday to level this series at 1-1.
Joel Embiid suffered a knee injury in the previous round of the playoffs but looked back to his best against Atlanta in Game 2, scoring a playoff career-high 40 points to lead his side to victory.
Embiid is clearly the most important player in this series. Philly has outscored Atlanta by 27 points when the big man has been on the court, but the Hawks’ bench has kept them in the series and helped them snatch home advantage.
Shake Milton did score 14 points off the bench in Game 2, however, and if he and the Sixers’ other role players can provide any kind of spark in Game 3 they should be able to win this one on the road.
Philadelphia won back-to-back regular season games against Atlanta 127-83 and 126-104 in late April, and although the Hawks have put up a tremendous fight so far, there’s a gulf in talent between these teams if Embiid is fully healthy.
The 76ers had the best record in Conference games and the joint-best road record in the East during the regular season, so travelling to Atlanta for this crucial contest shouldn’t faze them at all.
The Suns have dominated this series so far, winning Game 1 122-105 before crushing the Nuggets 123-98 on Wednesday to go up 2-0.
After two blowout defeats, it’s perhaps surprising to see Denver giving points in Game 3, but this team has shown that they can battle back from a deficit.
Last year, the Nuggets came from 3-1 down in the Western Conference semis to beat the Los Angeles Clippers. That kind of turnaround is difficult to envisage with the way this series has gone so far, but cannot be ruled out just yet.
NBA MVP Nikola Jokic hasn’t been at his best, but the Nuggets’ three-point shooting has been their biggest problem. They’ve shot 33.7 per cent from beyond the arc so far, but that number should rise given that they are now at home and ranked eighth in the NBA in three-point percentage during the regular season.
The situation is similar to the series between the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, in which the Bucks went down 2-0 after an awful start but managed to grind out a home win in Game 3.
Like Milwaukee, the Nuggets have looked terrible, but they have the league MVP, went 25-11 at home in the regular season and are too good a team to get swept.
Expect a big performance from Jokic in what will be a crucial win for Denver.