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#2 Phoenix Suns vs. #3 Denver Nuggets
Game 1: Monday 10 PM EST on TNT
Analysis: Did you know that the Phoenix Suns are 26-13 ATS at home in first quarters this season? The Suns have simply been dominant all year in the desert, as they are now a stellar 25-14 ATS in Phoenix in 2020-21. The Nuggets, on the other hand, played one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA in the opening round en route to to a six-game series victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. Now they get a Suns team that just held the Lakers to 97.5 points per game in the first round. As we know, the Nuggets are already down Jamal Murray and potentially Will Barton in their backcourt while Phoenix's Devin Booker just feasted on the Lakers' backcourt in the close-out game 6 at Staples Center dropping 47 points. I do believe the Suns are going to cover the first quarter again here, but I also believe this entire game is a rude awakening for the Nuggets, who will be facing a serious step up in competition in the Western Conference Semifinals compared to what they saw in the opening round.. That’s not to say it’s going to be easy the whole way for Phoenix, but I do like the Suns by double digits in Game 1, so I’ll swallow the four points.
Best Value Bet: Suns -4
#1 Utah Jazz vs. #4 Los Angeles Clippers
Game 1: Tuesday 9 PM EST on TNT
Analysis: The handicap for me is mostly similar here in the other Western Conference semifinal series. My angle focuses on fading Utah in the first quarter of Game 1, as the Jazz closed out the Memphis Grizzlies by winning four straight games, including three by double digits. It’s probably the closest thing to cruise control that you’ll see in a playoff series outside of Memphis' lone win in Game 1, and now this same Jazz squad is returning to action after an entire week off from a first-round matchup that was anything but intense and taxing. I’d expect a bit of a wake up call for Utah here as well, similar to the one the Los Angeles received against the Dallas Mavericks early on in their first round series. There could be some rust as well here that would also lend itself towards a fade of the Jazz in the first quarter of this series opener.
Best Value Bet: Clippers +1 (First Quarter Spread)