NBA Playoffs Odds, Picks & Projections: Betting Analysis for 76ers vs. Heat and Mavericks vs. Suns (May 2)
Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jalen Brunson #13 of the Dallas Mavericks.
Round 2 of the NBA Playoffs tips off Sunday and I’ll be providing projections for both Games 1-2 and 3-4. The totals should remain the same despite the venue change, but there is a difference.
Here’s what you’ll find in my model: projected team totals, projected combined totals, projected spreads for the matchup and the implied odds for the moneyline.
I’ll also be highlighting some of the entire playoff slate with in-depth, game-level analysis that goes beyond the numbers.
NBA Projections Model
NBA Playoffs Odds & Picks
Note: My projections won’t be updated in real-time throughout the day, but Action’s PRO Projections tool is dynamic and will reflect the latest injury and lineup news.
Check out my analysis for a few of the weekend’s Round 2 matchups.
We’ve collapsed Raheem’s picks for Sunday’s games, so you can skip to Monday’s action.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics
Sportsbooks took a ton of money on the under in this matchup as these have been two of the top defensive teams in the NBA postseason this year.
The Celtics have the best defense in the league holding teams to just 106.9 points per 100 possessions and come off a series in which they held Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets to an Offensive Rating of just 109.
The Bucks struggled defensively in the regular season, but flipped a switch in the postseason and held the Bulls to just 95.2 points per 100 possessions. Despite that, I’m not exactly buying the defensive resurgence from the Bucks as I believe it said more about the Bulls and their offensive struggles than it did the Bucks’ defense.
This Bucks team still gives up a ton of open 3-point attempts, ranking 29th in opponent 3-point frequency (41.8%) while the Celtics take the ninth-highest frequency of 3-point field goals (39.0%).
The Celtics will have a lot of opportunities to score from the perimeter and the Bucks are short at the wing position given the absence of Khris Middleton. Wesley Matthews has the potential to get cooked in this series as would any other player they bring in to guard Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
The Bucks may not have Middleton, but they still have Giannis Antetokounmpo and he should cause problems for this Celtics front line, which ranks 16th in opponent field goal percentage at the rim (65.9%).
To the surprise of many, the Bucks actually found their offense post Middleton injury going with the jumbo lineup featuring Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis and Brook Lopez against the Bulls and if Jrue Holiday and Grayson Allen can hit shots, I expect the Bucks to score efficiently.
These are still two elite offenses in the Bucks and Celtics and we’ve seen these teams play to high scoring outputs the last few years. I know this is the playoffs and these teams have changed a bit but during the last 15 matchups between these two teams, the total has gone under 217.5 just twice.
My model makes this game 222 so I think there’s an edge with the over and with the Bucks playing the fourth-fastest pace in the league, I feel good about taking it.
Golden State Warriors vs. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies come off a grueling six game series against the Minnesota Timberwolves where they had three fourth quarter comebacks, including a 26-point comeback in Game 3. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, there’s little rest, or prep time as they had to travel from Minnesota to Memphis for Sunday’s Game 1.
Unlike the Timberwolves, the Warriors will capitalize on a Grizzles team that ranked 22nd in half court points per 100 possessions (93.4) in the regular season and was 12th among all teams in the postseason (94.2) even behind a Wolves team they just defeated.
So much of the Grizzlies’ success was based on a high Offensive Rebound Rate (27.5) and capitalizing on the sloppy Timberwolves who turned the ball over on 15.1% of their possessions.
Now they’re facing a Warriors team with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole that scored 1.18 points per possession overall and 1.11 in the half court in their first round series against the Denver Nuggets.
The Wolves had no problems scoring in the half court and I expect the Warriors to capitalize on that even more and play Jaren Jackson Jr and Steven Adams off the floor with their new death lineup in Curry, Poole, Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green.
The Grizzlies match up with the Warriors better than people think, so this should be a long competitive series, but with them still reeling after their series against the Wolves, expect the Warriors to steal Game 1.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat
When Philadelphia 76ers team president Daryl Morey pulled off the blockbuster deal to trade the disgruntled Ben Simmons, many believed the 76ers may have found their very own Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant with Joel Embiid and James Harden.
But the 76ers won’t have Joel Embiid for at least the first two games of this series after he suffered an orbital bone fracture and concussion.
They were a whopping 11.5 points per 100 possessions better with Embiid on vs off in the regular season and were a +7.5 in their first round series against the Raptors. Most fans, analysts and bettors share the sentiment that the 76ers are done, but I’m not sure that’s the case.
The Heat are dealing with injuries of their own: They’ll miss Kyle Lowry with a hamstring strain with six other Heat players — Jimmy Butler, PJ Tucker, Caleb Martin, Max Strus and Tyler Herr — are listed as questionable. I expect everyone except Lowry to play and none of these injuries match the hole the Embiid’s absence creates for Philly. I believe the market may have overcorrected here making the Heat 8-point favorites.
Much of this handicap lies in the assumption that there will be rational coaching (tough to imagine when Glenn Rivers is the head coach), however, the 76ers have some advantages that could help them compete and potentially win Game 1.
Most notably the 76ers have the ability to go small and place four shooters around James Harden and simply try to outscore the Heat. The Heat rank last in the frequency of opposing 3-point field goal attempts (41.9%). While the Hawks shot just (32.6%) from behind the arc in Round 1, a unit with Harden plus Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, Danny Green and Georges Niang could make this Heat defense pay.
We’ve seen drastic improvements in volume and 3-point shooting percentage from Maxey, Harris, Green and Niang since the Harden trade and that will loom large here. In particular Harris and Maxey have increased their scoring output without Embiid as well, so I think this team can still score efficiently.
While I have concerns about the 76ers’ ability to slow the Heat down offensively, I think they can score enough to make this a close game. I’ll play the 76ers +8 in addition to Tobias Harris over 17.5 points.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Phoenix Suns
This is a really tough matchup, but I think the Mavericks have a real shot at winning this series given their ability to consistently hit 3-pointers and create a math problem for the Suns who thrive in the mid-range. The Mavericks attempted the highest percentage of 3-pointers first round while shooting 37.1% on those shots.
The Suns have been an elite team all season, but they don’t have another gear. They’re a perimeter based team and don’t feature DeAndre Ayton nearly as much as they should. The Suns take the highest frequency of mid-range shots and also convert at the highest rate (48.1%), and will face a Mavericks team that ranks 25th in opponent mid-range frequency (33.2%).
Overall, I expect the Mavericks’ 3-point advantage to loom large and I think you have to give them the edge offensively with Devin Booker just one game removed from his hamstring strain.
While Doncic will likely see a steady diet of Mikal Bridges defending him, we’re likely to see him hunt for switches looking to attack Chris Paul, Devin Booker or DeAndre Ayton. Dating back to last season, we haven’t seen much evidence that the Suns can slow Doncic down as he averaged 28.7 points, seven rebounds and 6.7 assists in three games against the Suns last season.
The Mavericks are actually one of the better road teams, going 25-17 against the spread, while the Suns were just 19-22 ATS at home, which shows us that the Suns have been overvalued at home this season. My model agrees, making the Suns closer to the PK than the 5.5 we see in the market.
While the Mavericks did lose to the Suns three times this season, Luka Doncic played in just one of those games and the Mavericks held an 89-80 fourth quarter lead before collapsing in game where they were playing their third contest in four nights.
I’ll take the Mavericks +5.5 and sprinkle something on the ML.
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