As usual, in day filled with playoff action in the NBA, the two Los Angeles teams were at the center of the basketball universe, and both teams are in much different places in their respective series.
Sure, both are tied with their opponents through four games, but the Lakers just gave homecourt back to the Phoenix Suns and lost Anthony Davis to a groin injury. Meanwhile, the Clippers wrested homecourt back from the Mavericks by going to Dallas and taking both games in dominant fashion. Both teams must now take two of the next three from their opponent, with momentum on opposite ends of the spectrum for both clubs.
For the Clippers, these two games were about maintaining course, making slight adjustments and getting some good old regression to the mean. Through the two games in Los Angeles the Clippers had posted a 121.1 offensive rating, but the Mavericks shot 50.0% from deep in the first two games while averaging 128.3 points per 100 possessions. Yes, Los Angeles needed to clean up some things on defense, but Tim Hardaway Jr. going 17-of-27 on 3-point attempts in the first two games is not something one can prepare for. Sure enough, on Sunday the Mavericks finally hit the wall, going 4-of-26 from the perimeter in non-garbage time and scoring just 0.821 points per possession. The poor shooting allowed the Clippers to take their second straight win in the series.
Dallas is now in some real trouble. Luka Doncic is clearly ailing from that cervical strain, and that showed on Sunday when he went 1-of-7 from 3-point range and missed all of his free throw attempts. If this team is going to shoot like humans for the rest of the series, and Doncic is not fully healthy this is quite the mountain to climb now this is a best of three with two in Los Angeles.
As for the Lakers, their series has been about health. Chris Paul was clearly hampered by his shoulder contusion suffered in Game 1, putting up 20 total points on 8-of-21 shooting from the floor through the first three games. Los Angeles was able to take two straight, and homecourt, but an injury to Anthony Davis in the first half of Game 4 now puts the Lakers’ season in doubt as the Suns took advantage with a 100-92 win to steal back the advantage with three left to play. Davis has officially been designated day-to-day with a groin injury, and if Los Angeles is moving on they need him on the court.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
Updated injury reports for every game can be found here.
Philadelphia 76ers (-7.5, 231.5) at Washington Wizards
Three games into this series the question remains the same for Washington: Where is the offense going to come from? The Wizards have been limited to 104.6 points per 100 possessions in the series up to this point, and over the last two games they are scoring less than a point per possession. Most of Philadelphia’s dominance has stemmed from its perimeter defense.
Washington has shot 29.8% from beyond the arc and two of its best shooters have yet to find their stroke. Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans have combined to make 10-of-37 3-point attempts and only one Wizard has hit more than 30% of their 3-point attempts. Is this going to change tonight? The 76ers were a solid perimeter defense in the regular season which allowed opponents to take 35.3% of their attempts from deep and shoot just 36.7% on those shots. Even if Washington’s shooting reverts somewhat, it is unlikely to get to a point that allows them to threaten Philadelphia.
We also have no idea if Russell Westbrook is healthy. Westbrook suffered an ankle injury in Game 3, but did post a 26 point triple-double in 34 minutes. There is the possibility that time between games makes the injury worse for him. Regardless, the loss on Saturday was Westbrook’s best in a series in which he is averaging 17.3 points on 37.1% shooting. If he is going to be hampered by an ankle injury a tough matchup just got tougher for Washington.
Shooting struggles and injury issues aside the Wizards have also shown no indication that they will be able to defend the Philadelphia 76ers. Philadelphia has the second-best offensive rating in non-garbage time this postseason (128.3), according to Cleaning The Glass. They are shooting 74.0% at the rim, 52.2% from mid-range and 40.5% on 3-point attempts. There is not a single player on this roster that can handle Joel Embiid. The likely MVP runner-up has averaged 29.3 points per game on 66.9% shooting over the course of just 28 minutes per game! Sustainability has been the theme for me this postseason, and Embiid continuing his scoring dominance is something that is sustainable in this series.
Utah Jazz (-5.5, 224.5) at Memphis Grizzlies
This series has probably gone as well as possible for the Memphis Grizzlies against one of the best defensive teams in the league. They have averaged 113.8 points per 100 possessions, and Ja Morant has averaged a magnificent 33.7 points on 51.2% shooting from the floor. Despite that, the Grizzlies have a -11.1 net rating over the last two games and have dropped both by a total of 22 points. As well as Memphis and its young star have played the Grizzlies seem to be behind the eight ball in this series due to simple math.
Utah ended the regular season first in frequency of 3-point attempts, taking 45.35 of its attempts from beyond the arc. They also finished third in accuracy, hitting 39.6% of those shot. Memphis finished 27th in 3-point frequency and 21st in shooting, and those discrepancies have played out over the last two games. In Games 2 and 3 the Jazz made 17 more shots from deep than the Grizzlies did, outscoring them by 51 points in those two contests from that area of the floor alone. In the regular season the Jazz made 5.5 more 3-point attempts per game, and the Grizzlies have no way of making up that difference. That much of a discrepancy is just a math problem that Memphis cannot solve unless it has an insanely hot shooting night.
However, the market has respect for the Grizzlies, so we have not seen the adjustment on this series from a pointspread perspective like we have in the other series. The 76ers closed as 5.5-point favorites in Game 3 but are laying 8.5 in Game 4 of their series with Washington. Brooklyn is laying as much as 12 in Game 5 of their series with Boston due to some lopsided affairs. Why is it that the market has made zero adjustment here? The Grizzlies ranked 20th in frequency of opponent attempts from deep in the regular season, and 19th in opponent shooting (37.4%). Yet, the power rating on Utah has stood pat because of the respect the market has for this team. Memphis is a solid franchise, but sometimes certain matchups are too strong to overcome