At what point does an anomaly become a regularity? With another win, this one coming in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, this run for the Hawks is no longer an abnormality. There are some who have believed in this Atlanta team for a while now, but that has not been me. Sure, I took the eight points last night, and I already took 7.5 for Game 2, but it has been from the mindset that the Hawks will be on the wrong end of very competitive games. That is not the case through the first game of this series.
Trae Young exploited Milwaukee’s drop coverage on pick-and-rolls, obliterating them for 48 points on 17-of-34 shooting. His floater made up most of the Hawks’ 23-of-43 shooting night the mid-range area of the floor, and there is not much room for improvement for the Bucks unless they adjust from their main defensive philosophy. We saw Mike Budenholzer roll out a lineup with Giannis Antetokounmpo at center, but while that was more effective defensively it did allow Atlanta to pound the offensive glass. Either way, Bud has some questions to answer about his defense, and his offense which managed just 1.13 points per possession.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
Updated injury reports for every game can be found here.
Phoenix Suns (-1, 221.5) at Los Angeles Clippers
In an eerily similar fashion to the previous series the Clippers find themselves down 2-0 and back at home after two perfectly winnable games on the road. Los Angeles has had a very tough time containing Devin Booker and the Suns so far, allowing 120.4 points per 100 possessions through the first two games of this series. Their own offense, 116.0 points per 100 possessions, and 3-point shooting (40.7%) has made these contests competitive so far, but the defense needs to do its job. Something that has been hard with Ivica Zubac playing 26 minutes per game through the early part of this series.
One would think Zubac’s role will be limited today with the announcement that Chris Paul is available to return after missing time due to a positive COVID test. Paul thrives by pulling big men out into space and torching them with his elite mid-range game. Zubac opens that door for Phoenix, so it would follow that the Clippers return to the small-ball style that got them to the Western Conference Finals. Marcus Morris was not listed on the morning injury report, and if he is fully healthy then Los Angeles has its small-ball center back in the fold. His presence will eliminate an exploitable weakness with Zubac in a big role. Eliminating Zubac’s minutes should also mean more for Nic Batum, Terance Mann and Luke Kennard and less for Rajon Rondo. Batum and Kennard offer more shooting for an elite shooting team and Mann is another ball-handler that can rebound and defend, something Los Angeles needs more of.
The Clippers hopes also depend Paul George finding himself yet again. George missed every shot in the fourth quarter of Game 1 and posted a 10-of-23 shooting line (1-of-8 from 3-point range) on Tuesday night. Still, the Clippers held a one point lead with less than a second to go. If George finds his form and Ty Lue commits to going small then Los Angeles has a perfect opportunity to cut this series deficit in half.
The market has been pretty static despite the official announcement of Paul's return, but Clippers bettors might find themselves a 1.5 if they hold out until close to tip-off. I should also note that there is little value in playing Los Angeles in the first quarter and first half trend. Many will tell you that betting a team in Game 3 down two games is a profitable strategy, but that is a fallacy. Teams in those situations are 2-4 ATS in the first quarter and 2-3-1 ATS in the first half. On top of that, bettors are getting no value in those numbers, as oddsmakers have adjusted in a massive way.