NBA Playoff Picks - Tuesday, May 25
Of Tuesday’s three games, one is an absolute must win for a home team down 0-1, but the other two are pretty close.
Normally, you’d say “Easy win for LA.”
Championship contender, didn’t close out the way they wanted to in Game 1, the opposing team shot exceptionally, unsustainably well from long range (17-for-36, for a mark of 47.2 percent, their 6th highest mark of the season) and most of all, the higher-ranked team is at home.
But this isn’t a normal situation.
For one, we’re talking about the Clippers here, perhaps the most snake-bitten organization in the entire NBA, and one for whom if something can go wrong, it usually does. That’s part of why they’ve never made it to the conference finals in five decades of existence, and part of the reason they allowed a 3-1 lead to dissipate with largely the same roster less than a year ago.
Perhaps more importantly, this isn’t a normal lower seed. The Mavs finished the season with the fifth best record in the West, but the 8th best overall, and the 5th best since February 6, which was better than the Clippers in that time frame. They also employ maybe the most dangerous player in the league today in Luca Doncic, who LA had absolutely no answer for in Game 1.
It wasn’t an anomaly. This was Dallas’ third win in four tries against the Clips this season after losing last year’s first round series 4-2. These teams are as evenly matched as you can imagine.
This spread suggests a comfortable win for LA, and the evidence just isn’t there to suggest as much. They may get the W, but it won’t be easy – not against this team, and not against Luca.
The Pick: Dallas +6.5 @ -106
Give the Celtics this: they showed up.
That’s not normally a feather in the cap for a playoff team, but the Celtics aren’t your normal postseason entrant, what with how they collapsed down the stretch of the season, often looking like they had their bags packed for summer break.
Yet on Saturday night, they had an early 12-point lead and a nine-point advantage with about a minute to go in the first half.
From that point forward though, Brooklyn went on a 56-30 run, putting the game away until a too little, too late Celtics run in the fourth.
It was commensurate with what we’ve seen from the Nets all season: when they need to step on the gas, they will, but until then, we often get a version of Brooklyn that is in a malaise.
The bet here is that Boston expended their best effort at the start of Game 1, and while they may have a different story to tell in one of the games at home, the Big Three will put their foot down here.
We still haven’ really seen what a full healthy and committed Nets team is capable of, but on Tuesday night, we’ll start to see just that. This won’t be close.
The Pick: Brooklyn -9.5 @ -109
It’s not quite DEFCON levels for the Lakers just that, but it’s hard to imagine the defending champs feeling great about going down 0-2 to a team as well-oiled as the Phoenix Suns.
That’s what LA faces here, following a 99-90 Suns win on Sunday afternoon.
In short, the Lakers were bad. LeBron James flirted with a triple double but made just six shots all day long, which is one more than Anthony Davis, who admitted afterwards that he played about as bad a game as he’s capable of.
There were some positive performances surrounding those two, but not enough to make the difference, especially considering Los Angeles made just seven 3-pointers as a team.
But the one thing that has been there all season for the Lakers was present yet again: their defense. In holding the Suns to 99 points, they became just the third team all season to limit Phoenix to double digits.
They’d lost the previous three times, so Sunday proved that they can win ugly. While that’s a good sign, it’s perhaps less encouraging that Devin Booker (34 points and eight assists) and Deandre Ayton (21 on 11 shots) were both largely outstanding, and this was still a game down the stretch.
While Chris Paul finished with only seven and we know he has another gear, it’s hard to imagine worse games from the Lakers’ stars. You’d like the Suns to be even slight favorites here, and giving points on the road in the playoffs is never ideal, but this is anything but a normal situation.
Trust the pedigree and the gut feeling that somehow, some way, LA will get this done.
The Pick: Los Angeles -1.5 @ -110
NBA Playoff Picks & Predictions
Dallas +6.5 @ -106 (Click to bet)
Brooklyn -9.5 @ -109 (Click to bet)
Los Angeles -1.5 @ -110 (Click to bet)
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