The last of the Games 3s and the first of the Game 4s during round one of the NBA playoffs will take place on Saturday, with a total of four contests on offer—two in the Eastern Conference and pair in the West, as well. The Milwaukee Bucks will try to finish off the Miami Heat, while the Philadelphia 76ers hope to seize a commanding 3-0 lead over the Washington Wizards. Both Western Conference series are more competitive at the moment; the Denver Nuggets hold a 2-1 advantage over the Portland Trail Blazers, while the top-seeded Utah Jazz are deadlocked with the Memphis Grizzlies at 1-1.
Let’s take a look at the best bets for Saturday’s action on the professional hardwood.
Milwaukee Bucks at Miami Heat
It is true that the last two games have been an unmitigated disaster for Miami. However, the Heat are still the defending Eastern Conference champions and they mostly have that same team intact from their 2019-20 postseason run. They are too proud of a unit both on the floor and on the bench (head coach Erik Spoelstra) to just roll over and waive the white flag simply because they are trailing 3-0. The Heat may not win the series and perhaps not even Game 4, but five points should be enough to cover. When was the last time the Bucks closed out a playoff series in routine fashion? They lost a game to a lowly Orlando squad in last year’s first round and were ousted the past two seasons by Toronto (2019 conference finals) and Miami (2020 second round). The Heat forced overtime in Game 1 of this series and a similarly competitive contest should be expected on Saturday. Miami +5 looks like a smart NBA pick.
Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers
The Nuggets have been staying afloat despite losing Jamal Murray for the season because of a torn ACL on April 12. They are 15-6 since Murray went down, including 2-1 so far in this series against the Trail Blazers. Denver has all of the momentum, too, having bounced back from a Game 1 loss with victories by scores of 128-109 and 120-115. Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. have been especially outstanding in Murray’s absence. Jokic, who is a lock for NBA MVP, has scored 34, 38, and 36 points so far this series. Porter Jr. averaged 19.0 ppg during the regular season and is contributing 19.3 ppg so far in the playoffs. It should also be noted that Portland was worse at home (20-16) than it was on the road (22-14) this season. Denver +4 has to be considered one of the NBA best bets of the day.
Philadelphia 76ers at Washington Wizards
The 76ers mostly played Game 2 at their pace (slower than the Wizards would want) and they held the visitors to 95 points. Now that Washington returns home, look for the underdogs to speed things back up and produce something more along the lines of Game 1—which resulted in a 125-118 victory for Philadelphia. The Wizards led the league in pace of play (possessions per game) during the regular season, were third in the league in scoring, and worst in the league in scoring defense. Philly has scored 125 and 120 points so far, and if more of the same continues
Game 3 will soar over the total because you have to think Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook, and the Washington offense will get back on track. You can often find good value on NBA odds and this 227.5 total number is no exception. Go with the over.
Utah Jazz at Memphis Grizzlies
Without Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz lost Game 1 by a 112-109 margin. With Mitchell finally back on the court in Game 2 after missing more than a month, Utah dominated Memphis 141-129 on Wednesday. The all-star shooting guard scored 25 points in just 26 minutes. With a game under his belt, Mitchell should only improve on Saturday—while also logging a lot more minutes. The Jazz have regained momentum and are quite simply a far superior team than the Grizzlies, so a -5 point spread really is not a lot. Memphis did extremely well just to make the playoffs, but Game 2—and Mitchell’s return—was probably the beginning of the end. Utah should win and cover.
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