NBA Playoffs Best Bets: Sunday, May 15
This Sunday, we have two huge Conference Semifinal Game 7s on the schedule.
The Celtics won on the road in Game 6 off of Jayson Tatum’s heroics. As a result, the Bucks return to the TD Garden to face the Celtics at 3:30 PM EST. The Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks have won all their home games and lost all their away games in their playoff series. The Mavs’ take on the Phoenix Suns on the road at 8:00 PM EST tonight. Let’s take a look at the best bets of today’s amazing NBA action. The stakes couldn’t be higher for each of these four teams.
Best Bets of the Night
Game: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics -5 (Series Tied 3-3)
Following a heart-wrenching loss at home in Game 5, the Celtics bounced back in Milwaukee in Game 6. The Bucks’ hopes of closing out the series at home were crushed by Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum who scored 46 points (17-32 FG).
Though Giannis scored 44 (14-30 FG), the Bucks lost Game 6 by 13 points. Boston’s defense held the Bucks to 40.9% shooting from the field and a disastrous 24.1% from downtown. The Bucks only converted seven of their 29 three-point attempts on Friday night. While Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pat Connaughton, and Jrue Holiday played well, they combined for 75 of the Bucks’ 95 total points. The rest of the team only combined for 20 points. Brook Lopez only saw 19 minutes on the floor to score 6 points. The Bucks’ opted to five Bobby Portis more minutes, yet he only scored four points on two-of-eight shooting. Though the Celtics’ as a team combined for a mediocre 43.7% shooting on the night, they hit 17 three-pointers which allowed them to easily outscore the highly inefficient Bucks in Game 6.
Expect the Bucks to play better Sunday afternoon. Still, Ime Udoka's defense has been highly successful against Milwaukee throughout the series. This Celtics’ team is playing with outstanding confidence fueled by the desire to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2018. With the home crowd’s support at the TD Garden tomorrow, Boston should take Game 7 by five or more points.
The Pick: Boston Celtics -5
Game: Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns -6.5 (Series Tied 3-3)
The trend throughout this series has been winning comfortably at home. Each team has won all of their games at home and lost all of their games on the road. In Game 6, the Suns only scored 86 points and played abysmally. Phoenix got into foul trouble early, and finished with 27 personal fouls as a team. As a result, the Mavericks scored 27 points from 36 FT attempts in Game 6. The Suns also had 22 turnovers throughout the game, with 13 of them coming from Devin Booker (8 TOs) and Chris Paul (5 TOs). In contrast, the Mavericks only produced six turnovers throughout the contest. Game 6 was over by the third quarter.
The Suns will certainly play better in Game 7 as they look to secure another ticket to the Western Conference Finals. Nonetheless, this game will not end in a blowout. Expect the Mavericks to lose by six points or less on Sunday.
The Pick: Dallas Mavericks +6.5
NBA Player Props
Game: Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns -6.5 (Series Tied 3-3)
Prop: Reggie Bullock, Over 9.5 Points
After going scoreless in Game 5, Reggie Bullock bounced back in Game 6 to score 19 points (7-15 FG). He knocked down five three-pointers in the game. Bullock has played a crucial role in the Mavericks’ success this postseason. He’ll step up again to easily hit 10+ points in this massive Game 7.
Prop: Devin Booker, Over 28.5 Points
D-Book only scored 19 points (6-17 FG) and shot very inefficiently from the field in Game 6. At home in a must-win Game 7, expect Booker to bounce back for 35+ points. He will be Phoenix’s main scorer.
Two first-round series in the West are all tied up heading into Game 5's tonight.
After an abysmal collapse in Game 3, Minnesota was able to win Game 4 at home. Likewise, the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Suns by three points in Game 3 but won by 15 points in Game 4. Phoenix will look to bounce back tonight. Finally, Miami will look to eliminate the Atlanta Hawks at home tonight after blowing them out in Atlanta in Game 4. Let's take a look at some of tonight's best NBA bets.
Best Bets of the Night
Game: Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat -7 (MIA Leads Series 3-1)
While the Hawks have fought valiantly to make their way through the play-in games, they now have to win three games in a row including two on the road to move past the Heat. With such an unlikely scenario for the Hawks and Miami’s desire to get some rest before the second round of the NBA playoffs, the Heat are looking hot going into tonight’s game. Game 4 ended in a 110-86 blowout victory, led once again by Jimmy Butler’s dominance. He produced a 36-point (12-21 FG), 10-rebound double-double and recorded four steals in Game 4.
In addition, Miami completely locked down Trae Young in the last game, holding him to nine points (3-11 FG) in 36 minutes of action. Young shot six-of-14 in Game 3 and was also held to eight points (1-12 FG) in Game 1. Although the Raptors are fighting back and have won two games after losing the first three of their first-round series, the Hawks' outlook is much bleaker. The Hawks' 2021-22 season ends tonight in South Florida.
The Pick: Miami Heat -7 (-110)
Game: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies -6 (Series Tied 2-2)
Karl-Anthony Towns went from producing eight points and five rebounds in Game 3 to recorded a 33-point and 14-rebound double-double in Game 4 to help his team even the series up. Game 5 will be tonight in Memphis, and the Grizzlies will defend the home floor. The way Desmond Bane erupted in Game 3 on the road gives me all the confidence that he has a huge game at home in Game 5 tonight. This is a very tough series to predict, but Memphis remains one of the best teams in the league, and they should bounce back big after a stinger of a loss in Game 4.
The Pick: Memphis Grizzlies -6
Game: New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns -6.5 (Series Tied 2-2)
Chris Paul was special in Game 3, but rookies Herbert Jones and Jose Alvarado created nightmares for him in Game 4. Though he scored 28 points and dished out 14 assists to carry the Suns in Game 3, CP3 was contained to only four points on two-of-eight shooting from the field in Game 4. It’s crucial to remember that Devin Booker is still out and that Phoenix will likely be without him for the remainder of the series. In Phoenix tonight, the Suns will bounce back. In turn, expect the Pelicans to be the favorites at home in Game 6. This is one series that I feel will head to a Game 7. One team wins, and the other bounces back. The Suns will win by 10+ points tonight after a 15-point loss in Game 5.
The Pick: Phoenix Suns - 6.5
NBA Player Props of the Night
Game: New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns -6.5 (Series Tied 2-2)
Prop #1: Cameron Johnson Under 14.5 Points
Cameron Johnson has played great all season and now that Devin Booker is out of the rotation, his scoring opportunities per game are elevated. However, he’s scored 11, 8, and 13 points respectively in the last three games. While D-Book has been out, Johnson has played efficiently, but hasn’t scored more than 14 points in any game since March.
Prop #2: Mikal Bridges Over 4.5 Rebounds
Mikal Bridges' Over in rebounds hits frequently, but not always. The reason he will grab at least five boards off the glass tonight is that the Phoenix Suns will be having a resurgent defensive game. The Pelicans will be missing more shots than they did on Sunday night when they scored 118 points.
Paul George Keeps Clippers Alive
In a must win game for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George was finally able to look like the best player on the floor in a playoff game.
After a slow start, George poured it on in the second half on his way to a game high 41 points in Game 5. The performance elevated the Clippers over strong outings from the likes of Devin Booker and Chris Paul as L.A. outlasted Phoenix 116-102.
The Clippers don't have much time to bask in their win however as they have to turn around and play two more elimination games just to make it out of the West. The Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead as Los Angeles struggled to find their identity without Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers are to stave off elimination any longer, George has to continue this level of play.
It should also be stated that Reggie Jackson has been really good for Los Angeles throughout the playoffs and is someone that the team leans on to take and make tough shots in crunch time. His fearlessness attacking the rim provides a lot of space for his teammates.
Reggie Jackson after getting his free agency bag this summer https://t.co/kgR7AUeQZ5— Josiah Johnson (@Josiah Johnson) 1624936925.0
The Suns have dropped two of the last three games, and their win came in Game 4 which saw a final tally of 84-80 so it's tough to gauge how much stock to take in that victory. What I'm trying to say is the Clippers have definitely looked the part of a Western Conference Champion the past three games, and the Suns are at risk of flaming out.
Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac (MCL sprain) will not play tonight in Game 5 of the WCF against the Phoenix Suns.— Chris Haynes (@Chris Haynes) 1624923130.0
The Clippers' starting big man, Ivica Zubac, was out with a knee injury while Los Angeles out scored the Suns by 26 in the paint. So far in every game but one (Game 3 when L.A. beat Phoenix 106-92) the team that has scored the most points in the paint has ended up winning. Both teams are good from the free throw line and it gets the opposition into foul trouble so it is a sound strategy for either side. But Deandre Ayton wasn't able to get much going offensively in Game 5 finishing with only 10 points in 37 minutes.
For the Suns, they were quick to point out their own shortcomings following the loss. Coach Monty Williams noted, "It's just unacceptable the way we started the game," he continued on to compare the Suns and Clippers in Game 5, "We showed up in the first quarter, and they played with desperation."
Monty Williams: “Leadership is tricky - if you can’t get people to follow you, you’re just walking by yourself”— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel Nichols) 1624922492.0
Chris Paul who had 22 points and eight assists talked about Phoenix's inability to hold onto advantages, "We've got to close quarters better," Paul goes on to say, "that's been a problem for us all series long."
Paul has been a leader both on and off the court helping this young team to play far above the level anyone expected them to this season, but he's also been a part of many teams that fell short in the playoffs.
A championship run is the one knock on his hall of fame resume, and it seemed destined to happen this year especially after the Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead. But he isn't the only player who has had their reputation affected by playoff performances.
The nickname Playoff P isn't an endearing one. It has become synonymous with Paul George and his failures in the postseason up to this point. Any success that the Clippers were going to have this year was always likely to be attributed to Kawhi Leonard, but now that he is sidelined it's all on PG to carry the load.
George entered rarified air Monday night joining the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant as players who scored 20 or more points in each of the first 18 games in a postseason. All of their teams reached the Finals. George is hoping to follow suit as the Clippers are headed back home to host Game 6.
Just How Good Is Ben Simmons?
Following a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers and coach, Doc Rivers, are questioning if Ben Simmons is the right guy to be running their offense through moving forward.
Offense being the key word here.
Simmons is an all-world defender possessing the ability to guard virtually any opponent on the court from the perimeter to the rim. But it was his lack of offensive help throughout this playoff season that stood out beyond any accomplishments this year. Simmons joined Rudy Gobert as unanimous selections for the NBA's All-Defensive First Team this year and also finished fifth in the NBA in assists per game with 8.8 per contest.
For a player that relies so heavily on driving to the basket to get shots off close to the hoop, it's expected for that player to draw plenty of contact resulting in a lot of free throw opportunities. That was certainly indicative of what we saw from Simmons in the first two rounds of the 20-21 playoffs.
He got to the line 45 times against the Hawks in their second round matchup, but only converted 15 freebies which equates to a 33% free throw percentage in the series. Simmons shot just 34.2% from the stripe if you include their first round games against the Wizards, which accounts for the worst free throw percentage by a player with at least 70 attempts in a postseason in NBA playoff history.
With a minimum of 70 attempts, Ben Simmons' 34.2% free throw percentage this postseason is the worst in a postseaso… https://t.co/EvEcQxEe8m— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPN Stats & Info) 1624244835.0
In the four games that Atlanta beat Philly in this series, they lost by a combined 17 points. If Ben Simmons shoots just 70% from the line and makes 31-45 during this series, that adds 16 to Philadelphia's series point total. Obviously, the attempts might not directly impact the losses, but from a very broad overview, it would draw the series significantly closer — especially taking into account that three of the four losses the 76ers took in the series were lost by four points or fewer.
Also let's not allow people to say that the free throw stat is overblown and out of context. It's not. Shaquille O'Neal, who is notoriously one of the worst free throw shooters in league history, still managed a career playoff free throw percentage of 50%. That's why we saw the conception of "Hack-a-Shaq" where teams would intentionally foul O'Neal to put him on the line rather than allowing him to hurt them in other ways.
We've begun to see teams adopt this practice now with Simmons, which is just flat out embarrassing for a player of Simmons' pedigree. We have seen what he's able to do with the ball. He flies down the court on fast breaks, is a brilliant creator for teammates, and is one of the better finishers at the rim that we have in the league today.
We've already touched on his defensive prowess that has elevated him to becoming NBA All-Defense multiple times and a three time All-Star. But what do the Sixers do with Simmons before next season?
The 24-year-old point-forward still has plenty of time to work on his game. We've seen other players add a jumper later in their careers to great success; just ask Vince Carter how that works. But, usually, in order to develop a perimeter shot, there is at least a solid foundation to build on — that being the ability to consistently hit free throws.
Simmons is a career 60% free throw shooter, and he shot right around the mean during the regular season. The decline in made shots from the charity stripe in this postseason is cause for concern that this isn't the beginning of a trend.
Add to that Simmons' reluctance to take shots further away from the basket, and defenses have the luxury of ignoring Simmons in the half court set. We have seen teams (like the Jazz and 76ers) that rely heavily on the pick and roll get shut down in these playoffs, and it's teams like Atlanta and Phoenix that are able to spread defenses thin by putting multiple shooters on the court at one time succeed.
In 34 career playoff games, Ben Simmons has made 5 shots outside of 10 feet (from the basket).— Paul Hembekides (@Paul Hembekides) 1624277710.0
Joel Embiid was phenomenal in the postseason, so let's not ignore that fact. Also, he was playing on one knee and still almost willed the Sixers to a win. But again, Embiid was not 100% in the playoffs, which limited his abilities.
Doc Rivers answers a question whether Ben Simmons can be the point guard of a championship team https://t.co/8xL35u98RC— Rob Perez (@Rob Perez) 1624244460.0
Following their loss, Doc Rivers was asked if he thought Ben Simmons could be the point guard of a championship team, to which he responded, "I don't know that answer to that question right now," which doesn't provide a whole lot of confidence in Simmons' status with the team next year. Trade rumors have already begun to circulate, and it would make sense for this Philly team to hit the reset button now.
If Simmons continues to be exploitable in big moments, as we've seen him be so far in his career, his value is only going to go down. Adding further complications into the situation is the team just agreed to a new contract extension with Simmons and is due to make between $33 and $40 million per season over the next four years.
As the two cornerstone pieces of The Process appear to be two Scotties without a Mike, the early departure for the East's top seed will likely mean a big shakeup in the near future. If Embiid is healthy, he is elite without question. Maybe Philadelphia will go out and add around their two stars, but unless the organization is confident that Simmons can avoid another atrocious offensive performance in future playoff series, all they have is a really good regular season team.