Moore’s Angles: Resetting Each Series After Game 2
Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Luka Doncic (77) of the Dallas Mavericks.
Some takeaways off the NBA first-round series after two games…
Angle: The Clippers Are Reaping What Their Bad Habits Sewed
At the 8-minute mark of the first quarter of Game 1, the Clippers led 18-2. From that point on this series, they have been outscored by 21 points, 235-214.
This, despite Kristaps Porzingis being (very questionably) ejected in Game 1. Despite the Clippers being considered by many to be the title favorites. Despite the Mavericks missing Dwight Powell as a pick-and-roll threat.
The thought process going in was that because the Mavs are so dependent on Luka Doncic, perimeter creator, and the Clippers have perimeter defenders in Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Beverley (who missed Game 2), that they would be able to stifle him. Doncic has instead averaged 35 points and 8 assists per game through the two games.
The biggest difference is that Doncic is figuring out playoff style offense, where you attack specific weaknesses, consistently and repeatedly. The Clippers are still playing drop coverage with Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell, and switching with any other combination.
In Game 1, Marcus Morris on Kristaps Porzingis caused problems on the switch when he guarded Porzingis and then Doncic. So the Mavericks started targeting Lou Williams over and over in Game 2, including on this dagger bucket.
The Mavericks also really found life with their bench. Harrell has to drop so far and Boban is so big it forces a switch when the guard gets caught … which means Boban is then matchup against a lil’ guy, and, well …
Seth Curry and Trey Burke carved up the Clippers off pick and rolls and ISO’s. Morris in particular had more trouble with those two than he did with Doncic because of their speed. And the Mavs’ wings played beautifully together, even catching Kawhi Leonard napping:
The Clippers missed good looks, their offense has better capacity. Having Beverley back takes away some of those weakpoints. However, Williams will still play as will Harrell and Zubac. Doncic is getting better at figuring out the coverage and attacking weakspots.
The spread has tightened to 4.5 as of this writing, which is too short to take. But the Mavericks are still at 114.5 for their team total. I’m taking that over, and looking at their moneyline closely.
If the Clippers win Game 3, I’ll be back on the Mavericks if the Game 4 spread is longer.
Angle: The Thunder Are Once Again Playing Into Their Opponent’s Hands
Last year, the Thunder should have beaten the Blazers. They had a better team, they had a better defense, they had advantages. But instead of blitzing Damian Lillard to get the ball out of his hands, they decided to challenge him to a shooting contest and you know how that worked out.
This year, it’s more of the same. OKC was a great value pick against the Rockets with Russell Westbrook out to start the series, but find themselves down 2-0.
The Rockets switch everything in isolation. They want you to play one-on-one basketball. But the Thunder play with three guards, Chris Paul, Dennis Schröder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The Thunder in this series are scoring .75 points per possession in isolation, shooting 35%.
This plan can work; the Thunder have underperformed on these shots, especially Dennis Schröder, who is 1-8. But so much of it is crossover pull-ups instead of pressuring the defense and attacking the rim.
There has to be a higher level of aggression, or they have to start creating opportunities for others to get the Rockets moving. Right now, the Thunder are running into a brick wall.
I’m staying away from Game 3, but I am interested to see if Russell Westbrook is back for Game 4 and how that impacts the defense. Houston’s defense has been stellar for two games. Can it really sustain?
Angle: The Heat Have Hit Another Gear
Something might be going on with Miami, in a good way. The Pacers took more 3’s than Miami in Game 2 and the Heat cruised because of their shooting. Jimmy Butler’s feel for the moment — when to run offense and when to be an aggressor — has been flawless.
We’ve been circling the Heat in a potential Round 2 matchup vs. the Bucks for some time. This is only looking better with the Bucks looking very unimpressive vs. the Magic. The Pacers are actually playing well … and the Heat are just lapping them.
If the Heat upset the Bucks, I thought that might be where they stop. But their defense is so much better now that they’re only playing veterans and Butler has raised his game. They have Bam Adebayo go feast on a Celtics frontline if it’s Boston, and Butler to attack the Raptors as well as shooting to keep up.
The Heat are coasting under radar, they’re still +800 to win the East. I know it’s recency bias, but they looked good in the restart and their chemistry seems top notch. I think there’s a little value there.
Angle: Jazz-Nuggets Is All Offense
The Jazz have the best effective field goal percentage in non-garbage-time in the playoffs, per Cleaning The Glass. The Nuggets have the second best.
The Nuggets responded to Donovan Mitchell’s 57-point explosion in Game 1 by hedging to shut off Mitchell on the perimeter, and it resulted in him reversing the ball to shooters, and Utah shot 57% on 3-pointers through three quarters, and shooting 44% overall for the game.
Denver is likely to return to the drop scheme that it played in Game 1 vs. Mitchell. Nuggets coach Michael Malone joked about that on Thursday, but there was likely some truth to it; making Mitchell score all their points is exhausting and keeps the three-point rate lower.
The Jazz can’t stop Nikola Jokic. The Jazz get Mike Conley back in Game 3.
There’s reason to take team total overs for whichever team you like, or the full game total. Neither team can stop the other and both are shooting great on open looks.
Utah’s team total for Game 3 is below 110, inexplicably. I love that over.
Angle: I’m Ready to Sell the Sixers … BUT
The Sixers look completely and totally cooked. They play like a team that has quit on their coach and the season. It’s 1-2-3, Cancun season.
My only hesitation for hammering the Celtics in Game 3 is Boston’s offense. The Celtics’ expected eFG% based on shot location is 54.2%, 10th best in the playoffs. Their actual eFG% is 59.7%, third best. They’re just red hot offensively.
The Sixers’ complete offensive incompetence with getting Joel Embiid post opportunities aside, that shooting is probably unsustainable.
I’m taking the under in Game 3 based on an expectation of a depressing, ugly Boston win.
Angle: Joe Harris’ Departure Seals the Deal
The Nets’ only chance of beating the Raptors was based on their shot selection. They take a bunch of 3’s, they prevent a bunch of 3’s.
But Joe Harris left the bubble for a personal reason, taking away yet another perimeter threat. There’s just no one left for the Nets except Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen.
Raptors to win in four games at around -280 is still on the board and has value.