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After Wednesday, May 26th, every playoff series has played two games. Four of the eight opening round series now yield 2-0 leads, with the higher seed holding serve and winning both home games in three of those matchups, and with Dallas surprisingly winning both road games at Staples Center against the Clippers. In this article below we’re going to look at the best betting spots for each series as the teams shift venues. Before doing that, we want to note that only 21 times in NBA history has a team rallied from an 0-2 series deficit to win a best-of-seven series, and never has a team come back from 0-3 down.
1 Utah Jazz vs 8 Memphis Grizzlies
Series Tied 1-1; Game 3 on Saturday Night at 9:30 ET on ESPN
Analysis: I’m sensing a lot of similarities between the Memphis Grizzlies in the West and the Atlanta Hawks in the East. Both teams had similar records this season, with the Grizzlies going 38-34 and the Hawks going 41-31. Both teams are also in the playoffs for the first time since 2017 and have flipped their rosters over considerably since. They each have young stars in the backcourt in Trae Young and Ja Morant too, who appear to be the face of their respective franchises for years to come. And just because the Grizzlies are a bigger underdog in this series doesn’t mean I expect them to roll over against a Jazz team that can certainly look vulnerable. Utah was third in the NBA in defensive rating in the regular season, sure, but that didn’t stop Memphis from dropping 112 and 129 in the first two games on the road and in altitude. An exciting young team that doesn’t appear to be at all afraid of the top seed in the Western Conference, and catching five points at home to boot? Sign me up for Grizzlies +5 in Game 3.
Best Bet: Grizzlies +5
2 Phoenix Suns vs 7 Los Angeles Lakers
Series Tied 1-1; Game 3 on Thursday Night at 10 PM ET on TNT
Analysis: While the Phoenix Suns list point guard Chris Paul as probable with a shoulder injury for Thursday night’s Game 3, I’m taking a believe-it-when-I-see-it approach to this one. After the Sun's Game 2 loss at home to the Lakers, Suns Coach Monty Williams said the following about Paul’s discomfort:
"It was pretty obvious... he’s not able to make the passes he wants. He was laboring tonight.”
I'm supposed to believe Paul is now 100% just 48 hours later? We still a youthful, talented Suns team sans Paul, but not one that I trust to start well on the road with its floor general short of full health. While I do believe Phoenix is getting counted out too quickly in this series, this spot specifically isn’t great tonight considering Paul’s status and heading to Staples Center with the Lakers playing their first home playoff game as the defending champs. I’d rather play the Lakers on the first half spread though here, expecting the Suns to be feeling things out with (or without) Paul and gaining an understanding of what they can and cannot do with a new lineup/rotation. Perhaps they adjust at halftime and make it interesting in the final two quarters, and because of that I like L.A. to be leading by at least two possessions heading into half.
Best Bet: Lakers First Half -3.5
3 Denver Nuggets vs 6 Portland Trail Blazers
Series Tied 1-1; Game 3 on Thursday night at 10:30 ET on NBA TV
Analysis: This 3/6 series also reminds me of the Suns-Lakers series above, except that the betting market doesn’t seem to be pricing it that way. In each matchup the lower seed is the favorite on the series price, but it's the Lakers who are probably too big of a favorite at -365 to beat Phoenix while the Trail Blazers are just -170 to beat the Nuggets. Obviously the Lakers are going to take plenty of action and books have to adjust accordingly, but without Jamal Murray for Denver, Portland is clearly superior here and I believr they should be laying closer to the seven points the Lakers are laying in their Game 3 vs. the Suns. I’m not going to be alarmed by Portland’s double-digit loss in Game 2 against the Nuggets, as Lillard & Co indeed lost each quarter on Monday and the game certainly had the feel that Portland was content to get out of Denver with a split of the first two games - and thus the zig-zag theory once again proves profitable. Now it’s Portland's turn to post a double-digit win, and I believe you’re getting them very cheap at -3.5.
Best Bet: Trail Blazers -3.5
4 Los Angeles Clippers vs 5 Dallas Mavericks
Mavericks lead 2-0; Game 3 on Friday night at 9:30 ET on ESPN
Analysis: Let me be abundantly clear that this is only a lean and not a play I am likely to bet myself. I do believe Dallas is now going to win this series with two road wins in the bag. Despite that, I’m still expecting the Clippers to at the very least get it back to Los Angeles for a Game 5. The Clippers are a tough team to handicap because they’ve now lost five straight playoff games dating back to the bubble last year and there aren’t many reasons to explain why. Doc Rivers is gone. The role players surrounding Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have changed. Yet the results have stayed the same. This is a franchise that has still never been to the Western Conference finals, and even in a season in which they are seeded three spots higher than the Lakers out West, it looks like the Clippers are still playing the role of little brother. So why do I like them here? Well, for starters, Kawhi Leonard did engineer the most recent 0-2 series comeback as his then Toronto Raptors rallied from such a deficit to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals. Had it not been for a bad third quarter in Game 2 in which the Clippers got outscored 30-19 by the Mavericks, this series could be easily tied anyway. Dallas also shot 18/34 from the three-point line in Game 2 and 17/36 from downtown in Game 1, both shooting displays well above the Mavs' pedestrian 36.2% mark in the regular season. And after all, the Clips aren’t about to get swept, right?
Lean: Clippers -2