NBA Playoffs Series Bets: Our Picks for 2 Conference Semifinal Underdogs Entering Game 6
NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured (L-R): Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz, Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers, Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks.
In all three Game 5 matchups in the Conference semifinals, the three teams with a lead at halftime — Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz — managed to blow said lead in spectacular fashion.
With added context, each blown lead was arguably worse than the one that preceded it.
The Bucks were on the road facing a hobbled version of the Brooklyn Nets who were missing Kyrie Irving and had cleared James Harden to play just before game time despite him being out for the first four games of the series. The Bucks led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter, but were outscored 60-37 (Kevin Durant had 31 of those 60) in the final 19 minutes.
Not to be outdone, the 76ers had 26-point lead at home against the Atlanta Hawks and led by 18 entering the fourth quarter. The Hawks scored 40 points in the fourth quarter and went on a 23-8 run in the final 6:30 to complete one of the most improbable playoff comebacks in league history.
The Jazz, also at home, took a five-point lead into halftime of a game that did not feature Kawhi Leonard, who is out indefinitely with knee injury. That lead was also short lived as the Jazz could not counter the hot shooting of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Entering their Game 5 matchups, the Bucks (-180), 76ers (-310) and Jazz (-135) were all favorites to win their respective series and each team has a chance to push things to seven games as series dogs with a win over the next two days.
So which team is our NBA crew most confident in betting to win back-to-back eliminations games?
NBA Playoffs Odds & Picks
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz
Brandon Anderson: This reopened at +165 last night, so the price is already slipping but I still see value here. I honestly think this series is still close to a coin flip.
Yes, the Jazz have to win two in a row, including a potential closeout game for the Clips at Staples Center. The Clippers have to view that one as a Game 7, knowing it’s going to be insanely difficult to return to the Utah elevation and steal another road game with a crazed Game 7 crowd.
I’d make the Jazz significant favorites there: They’re the better team, they aren’t missing their best superstar, they were the best home team all season, and home teams are 105-28 historically in Game 7s, winning nearly 80% of the time.
That means I really need the Jazz to win one game to flip this series again, not two. And my case against the Clippers is easy: Kawhi Leonard is missing.
Leonard has been as awesome as anyone these playoffs, and instead of 40-plus minutes for Leonard, the Clippers will have to give those minutes to Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, Patrick Beverley, and Rajon Rondo. That’s a big downgrade defensively and an even bigger one on offense.
I’m not shocked the Clippers won Game 5 — I picked them, in fact. There can be an adrenaline letdown for a favorite after the opponent’s superstar is ruled out. It literally happened with Leonard in 2017 with the Spurs up 3-2 in Houston. The Rockets got blown out at home, looking totally lifeless in a series they thought was theirs for the taking.
In this case, the Jazz didn’t exactly have time to come out flat in Game 5 when they were busy hitting every shot, starting 15-of-22 on 3-pointers mid-way through the second quarter, a blisteringly unsustainable 68% on those attempts.
But Utah fell in love with the 3-ball and then went ice cold, missing 27 of its final 32 attempts beyond the arc. That included 0-for-10 in the third quarter, when the Jazz scored just 18 points. Utah nearly won anyway, even with huge shooting nights from Paul George, Reggie Jackson, and Marcus Morris.
If you were going to make a checklist for how the Clippers steal a game without Leonard, Game 5 hit every box. All the streaky Clips shooters made shots. The Jazz went ice cold for over a half. Rudy Gobert was in the torture chamber defensively. Utah shrank in the moment. It all happened — and still, the Jazz looked several times like they’d steal the game back late.
I know Donovan Mitchell isn’t whole, but he’s apparently pretty good on one leg anyway, and we may or may not get Mike Conley. I also know how awesome Leonard has been, and without him, we’ve got a Clippers team with one star, against the team that’s been the best in the NBA all season.
I expect Game 6 to be hard fought and close, but trust the Jazz to find a way, then go home and close the Clippers out in Game 7. Give me Utah +150.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Brooklyn Nets
Raheem Palmer: The Milwaukee Bucks have been one of the league’s best franchises over the past three seasons. They’ve held the best record in the league two out of the last three seasons and are led by two-time MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Unfortunately, the Bucks have absolutely nothing to show for it after heartbreaking losses to the Toronto Raptors in 2019 and the Miami Heat in 2020.
Now they’re on the verge of yet another devastating exit from the playoffs after blowing a 17-point lead against the Brooklyn Nets in Game 5.
The Bucks caught a break when James Harden re-aggravated his hamstring just 40 seconds into Game 1 returned in Game 5 without any ability to move or drive to the basket. They caught an even bigger break when Kyrie Irving left Game 4 with a sprained ankle and missed Game 5.
Still, the Bucks managed to lose this game as Kevin Durant proceeded to put the Nets on his back, scoring 49 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and dishing 10 assists while playing all 48 minutes.
It was an all-time great performance from perhaps the league’s best player and you have to wonder if there’s some kind of psychological impact of losing a game in such a devastating manner.
This Bucks team is battle tested and they’ve suffered enough defeats that you have to expect a bounce back in a Game 6, which could alter the franchise forever. With Durant playing 48 minutes on Tuesday and Harden on a bad set of wheels, the Bucks should have a huge edge for the rest of the series.
With the Nets needing an all time great performance from Durant just to win a close game, I think the Bucks should easily take care of business in Game 6 and thus the value lies in betting the Bucks on the series at +195 as they’re the healthier team and they have an edge inside.
In a long series where there’s a potential Game 7, I want the healthier team that can defend and rebound to generate extra possessions. The Bucks have an Offensive Rebound Rate of 17.7 compared to the Nets 12.2 in this series and that could loom large against a banged up Nets team.
With the Bucks being huge favorites in Game 5, we’re looking at a scenario in which the line for Game 7 could be close to a PK and we could let it ride or look for an arbitrage opportunity in-game.
Using our betting calculator, Milwaukee’s current odds in Game 6 translate to a 69.23% implied probability but probably should be higher. I think the Bucks have more than the 33.8% chance that oddsmakers are giving them to win this series. I’ll back the Bucks at +195 to win this series and figure out what to do with my position from there.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Brooklyn Nets
Joe Dellera: Of all the teams down 3-2 that I have faith in, I’m still on Milwaukee. The 76ers’ collapse was devastating, and while the Jazz are the top seed in the West, the 3-point variance in that series has me backing the Clippers to win at least one of the final two games there.
The Bucks are admittedly tough to back here. They have looked confused on offense at times and have lost games they should have won with ease. But that’s also why I’m willing to bet them to win this series.
They have blown leads in multiple games, and it has felt more like the Nets are fortunate that the Bucks are blowing it, rather than the Nets are dominating this series.
Durant is the lone healthy star for Brooklyn and just played every minute of Game 5. James Harden clearly is not healthy yet was pushed to play a whopping 45 minutes as well. Harden can’t drive with the hamstring injury, and unless it has dramatically healed in two days, he will continue to be limited offensively, and a liability on defense.
The Bucks are shooting just 29.9% from 3 point range during this series, which is a sharp departure from their regular season mark of 38.8%. Even though they lost Game 5, they shot 40.6% from 3 point range — this is an area they can continue to build on. If not for a classic performance from Durant, we’re looking at a Bucks 3-2 series lead and them likely being title favorites.
I will continue to back the Bucks here, I think they’re the healthier team, they’re the deeper team, and they are better defensively. With the home crowd behind them tonight, I think there’s significant value on them to win this series at +195 considering they’re 5.5-point favorites in Game 6.
I expect them to take care of business at home, and force a Game 7.