Moore’s Monday Angles: Lakers’ Defense is Holding, Magic Have Pride, Pacers Feeling the Bubble Effect

Credit:

Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images. Pictured: Damian Lillard (right) guarded by Alex Caruso.

  • Matt Moore breaks down the Trail Blazers' offensive struggles (and Lakers' defensive prowess) in his Monday NBA angles.
  • L.A. and Portland tip off at 9 p.m. ET in the bubble, with the Blazers looking to even the first-round series at two games apiece.
  • Read Moore's full betting analysis and pick for Lakers vs. Blazers Game 4 below.

Angles based on matchups and trends for the Game 4s on Monday, Aug. 24.

Angle: The Lakers’ Defensive Wall is Holding

The Trail Blazers won Game 1 in shocking fashion, and with Damian Lillard scoring 34 points, it certainly felt like the All-Fireworks Blazers were lighting it up.

In that game, Portland shot 38% and scored 36 points in the first quarter, and then scored 63 in the remaining three. Over the next 11 quarters of the series, Portland only scored over 30 once, in garbage time of Game 2.

With Lillard, the electric, explosive, phenom of the bubble on the floor, the Blazers are scoring 96 points per 100 possessions, shooting 40% from the field. That’s absurd.

Jusuf Nurkic is shooting 33% from the post.

Here’s a huge key. Everything with the Blazers is generated from the pick and roll. They force the defense to react, and if they don’t, Lillard nails it. If they do, he kicks to shooters.

The Lakers know how big of a deal Lillard is. Watch them absolutely stay glued to him here, and when Anfernee Simons doesn’t slip immediately, they crowd until it’s an ISO. Then it’s Alex Caruso one-on-one vs. Dame, who is 7-of-17 with Caruso defending in this series:

If this were just bad shooting, I’d lean towards the over. But the Blazers are averaging the second-fewest catch-and-shoot opportunities and are second-to-last in unguarded catch-and-shoot opportunities via Synergy Sports. They’re just not getting good shots.

Portland’s also getting the fourth-worst expected eFG%. The Lakers’ defense is forcing them into bad shots and contesting everything.

Carmelo Anthony, who has the internet lighting up with criticism of those who criticize his game whenever he scores, is shooting 6-of-21 in this series from mid-range. The Blazers average 95 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor.

The Lakers have the bigs to counter Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside, they have the length to challenge shooters, and the on-ball defenders to counter Dame enough to slow him down. With CJ McCollum suffering with a fractured back (ow), they don’t have enough weapons against a Lakers defense that pretty much found itself after the first quarter of Game 1.

The Play: Blazers under 108.5 (-109, DraftKings)

Angle: The Magic Have Pride

The Bucks, like the Lakers, shrugged off their first game and got things back under control by getting their defense right. Milwaukee has a 96.7 defensive rating through its last two games.

But here’s what’s interesting: The Magic have held the Bucks below their expected team total in two of the three games in this series, and the one game the Bucks broke through, Game 3, they only cleared the over by 2 points, and shot 58% eFG% vs. a 54% expected. They got quality shots, but they also shot the lights out, and that can come and go with the Bucks specifically.

The Magic are also built a little differently than most teams. They’ve built a professional team, and Steve Clifford’s teams have a tendency to play the right way all the way through. The Magic are good consistently on the defensive end, they’re just limited offensively (outside of Game 1, their outlier offensive performance).

The series is only 2-1, so Orlando isn’t facing the sweet release of getting out of the bubble. I expect a good fight from them and for the Bucks to put up less than 120 with favorable juice, even if the Bucks’ defense wins out.

The Play: Bucks team total under 119.5 (-106, FanDuel)

 

 

Angle: The Letdown Effect in the Bubble is Real

The Pacers have played the Heat tough in all three games, and it’s just not enough. They just don’t have enough against a Heat team firing on all cylinders that takes so many 3s. It’s impressive that Miami has gotten to this point.

On Sunday, we saw two sweep opportunities pay off, and the Celtics nearly covered before an unbelievably soul-breaking backdoor by the Sixers despite them largely quitting in the fourth.

Here’s the theory: You’re down 3-0. You’re not in front of your home fans, giving them one last good memory of the season. You’ve been in the bubble away from your life and family for a month and a half now. And if you lose, you’re out on the first flight that night.

The psychological effect has to be real on some level. Certain teams can get past it, and the Pacers are pretty solid. But there was enough body language in Game 3 to suggest Indiana hit that point where the players just know Miami is better. Domantas Sabonis’ injury sapped the Pacers’ confidence and reshaped the offense. They’re just not built for it.

Miami has all the confidence and aren’t in a hostile environment. Usually I like the home team to set up the gentleman’s sweep (“You give ’em one, you know, to be polite.”)

The Play: Heat -7

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