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Tuesday NBA Playoff Better Bets
By Liam Davis
Chalk this line up up to "The San Antonio Spurs are playing at home" effect.
While the mean score for this best-of-seven set is 197 through the first four outings, the combined totals through Games 1 and 2 in San Antonio average out to 185.5. Only over the last two contests has the average really enjoyed a boon, thanks mostly to the Memphis Grizzlies figuring out how to hang 100 points on the Spurs defense.
Still, betting on the under feels like a big stretch. Just one of the first four games failed to hit the 190-point mark, and we cannot bank on the Spurs limiting the Grizzlies to sub-80 point totals after seeing their fortress get rocked on the road.
This isn't to say we should discount the possibility. But if the Grizzlies end up with a score in the 70s, it's likely because the Spurs are blowing them out and they've thrown in the towel, in which case the final tally should still be able to clear the 190-point plateau on the back of San Antonio's theoretical offensive explosion.
As for the overall result, it feels like a bad idea to pick against the Spurs after they've just lost two straight games. They'll want to prove their mettle in a bad way. Plus, the supporting cast around Kawhi Leonard has nowhere to go but up.
The Pick: San Antonio Spurs (-9.5), over
With all due respect to the Houston Rockets, the difference in this series comes down to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the minutes they have played without Russell Westbrook.
Consider Oklahoma City's plus-minus through the first four contests.
Game 1: With Westbrook, -25; without Westbrook, -6.
Game 2: With Westbrook, +11; without Westbrook, -15.
Game 3: With Westbrook, +3; without Westbrook, -1.
Game 4: With Westbrook, +14; without Westbrook, -18.
With the exception of Game 1, in which the Thunder were crushed after the second half, Oklahoma City is a noticeable plus whenever Westbrook is on the floor but a demonstrative minus whenever he takes a seat.
Even if we strike Game 3 from the record, because it was too close to call, the Thunder's minutes without Westbrook have cost them a game—which, as it turns out, is the difference between being knotted up at two games apiece and the 3-1 hole they find themselves in now.
The Thunder, quite clearly, aren't going to win this series. And their fate in Game 5 is tied to whether head coach Billy Donovan wisens up and staggers Victor Oladipo's minutes so that he can run the offense when Westbrook sits. We'll bank on him adjusting enough to make this one close, but the over is a tad too aggressive for us.
The Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder (+7.5), under
A stagnant fourth quarter killed the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 4. They made just five shots, only one of which was a three-pointer. That cannot happen against a Jazz team that didn't have Gordon Hayward.
To the Clippers' credit, they don't have Blake Griffin, and they're not getting him back. The Jazz also got Rudy Gobert back from a sprained knee, and he looked pretty good. That spells a great deal of trouble for them—especially with Joe Johnson coming up so clutch for Utah. But they will be at home in Game 5, and they built up a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 4 before imploding. They should be able to hold serve.
As for the over/under, keeping investing in the over if it's staying below 200. The Clippers are running more small-ball lineups with Griffin out, and the Jazz are doing the same to counter. Those are, and will always be, more conducive to higher-scoring totals.
The Pick: Los Angeles Clippers (-3), over
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