Friday is quite the day in the NBA. Two teams have an opportunity to punch their ticket to their respective conference finals, but both are underdogs at home. We also saw Milwaukee force a Game 7 with a dominant win at home over Brooklyn on Thursday night. This postseason is shaping up to be quite dramatic, so let’s not waste any time today and dive right in.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
Updated injury reports for every game can be found here.
Philadelphia 76ers (-2, 222.5) at Atlanta Hawks
It is hard not to just copy and paste my write-up from two days ago, but the last two games of this series have gone so similarly that the analysis remains almost the same. For the fourth consecutive game, the Philadelphia 76ers built up a monstrous double-digit lead, but for the second time in two games they blew that lead and allowed the Hawks to win. This time, the loss resulted in a 3-2 series deficit for the 76ers and now there is zero room for error.
Everyone would like to blame Ben Simmons for the failures of Philadelphia, and he deserves a great share of it, but let’s just focus on 76ers’ offensive execution. This week in Point Spread Weekly I wrote about the issues with Philadelphia’s offense and the tendency it has to bog down late in games due to the way it is run. Sure enough, the 76ers have a -27.0 net rating in clutch time this postseason with a 1-4 SU record in those contests. Atlanta has no answer for Joel Embiid or Seth Curry, but when those are the only two players contributing to the scoring for this team in the fourth quarter there is a problem. The 76ers need more contributions from the pieces around Embiid and Curry. Tobias Harris cannot go 2-of-11 from the floor, and Furkan Korkmaz needs to better than just 1-of-5 from beyond the arc.
The majority wants to focus on the negative, but I would agree with the market move here from 76ers -2 to -3 at most shops. Despite being down 3-2 in this series, the 76ers have a + 4.3 net rating because of how dominant they have been at times. They have throttled Atlanta in transition, adding 4.2 points to their offensive rating every 100 possessions through transition and are averaging 1.31 points per play in the fast break. All of those matchups are still there, they just need better performances from the other pieces -- something I believe they will get.
Utah Jazz (-2, 218.5) at Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are on the verge of their first conference finals appearance in franchise history, but in their way is a team favored to win with a star on the way back from a long-term injury. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported today that Donovan Mitchell will likely be a game-time decision and Mike Conley is making his way toward a return to the court. It is no surprise that the betting market has reacted to the news of Conley’s potential return, pushing Utah to -2 at almost every shop. Conley is obviously a massive piece that helps the Jazz improve their depth, but does help solve the problems the Clippers have presented on both ends of the floor?
Utah’s offense thrives on drive-and-kick opportunities, which allows their roster full of elite catch-and-shoot snipers to thrive. However, Los Angeles isn’t letting them into the paint with their zone/switch-all defense. In Games 1 and 2 of this series, Utah attempted 34.5 shots per game inside 14 feet, but in Games 3-5 they only got 28.3 attempts within 14 feet. Their shooting on those attempts dropped off in Games 3-5 from 53.6% to 49.4%. Compare that to Los Angeles, which has greatly increased its efficiency inside 14 feet. The Clippers already shot a solid 53.3% on 39.5 attempts per game in Games 1-2; in Games 3-5, they’re taking six fewer attempts inside 14 feet per game, but their shooting percentage is up to 58% in the last three contests.
Conley is a massive piece to have on the floor, but we also do not know if he is fully healthy. Anthony Davis and James Harden both rushed back from soft tissue injuries in order to help their teams which were on the brink of elimination. Davis did not finish the game and Harden looks like a shell of himself. Is Conley ready to return, or are the Jazz ready to bring him back? There is a key difference there. Conley does not negate what the Clippers have done to eliminate Rudy Gobert’s presence in this series.
The betting market is nearing the power rating it had for Game 5 between these two clubs, and we know now that was a mistake. It is certainly possible the market is overreacting yet again.