In a season that saw an increase in injuries due to its condensed nature, health has been the most important factor for the teams currently chasing a title. Denver learned that the hard way in the Western Conference semifinals, getting swept in unceremonious fashion by Phoenix on Sunday. The loss of Jamal Murray proved to be too much to overcome, and the Suns romped through four games by an average margin of 15.75 points per game. If a team is going to win a title, its stars must be healthy, which means Brooklyn’s title hopes are on life support with the most recent injury to Kyrie Irving.
Irving injured his ankle when landing on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot in the second quarter of the Nets’ 107-96 loss on Sunday, and never returned to the game. According to ESPN’s Malika Andrews, X-rays were negative and Irving had to leave the arena on crutches with a boot on the injured ankle. With fellow superstar James Harden already sidelined with a hamstring injury, Brooklyn finds itself on thin ice back at home for Game 5 -- and the market has turned on the Nets.
As of this morning, DraftKings has Milwaukee as a -129 series favorite, an implied probability of 56.3%, despite facing two of three on the road against Brooklyn. Durant showed the potential of the Nets with him on his own, dropping 16 points in the third quarter, but he ultimately finished with 28 points on only 9-of-25 shooting. During the regular season, the Nets outscored opponents by 14.4 points per 100 possessions in the minutes that Durant played without Irving and Harden. However, regular-season basketball is obviously much different than postseason hoops. Durant might be capable of stealing a game on his own, but winning a title and series without Harden or Irving on the floor will be a nearly impossible task.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
Updated injury reports for every game can be found here.
Philadelphia 76ers (-3, 225.5) at Atlanta Hawks
It is very clear up to this point in the series that the Hawks have no answer for Joel Embiid and the 76ers’ offense. Philadelphia is averaging 123.0 points every 100 possessions, and Embiid has put up 35.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game on 53.0% shooting from the floor. There is no chance Embiid will be slowed by anyone on the Hawks’ roster, so Atlanta must focus on shutting down the pieces around him ... and that is not happening.
As great as Trae Young has been, he is still a poor defender. Nate McMillan has tried to hide him on Seth Curry on most defensive possessions, but that has led to Curry averaging 18 points on 59.6% shooting from deep in this series. Tobias Harris has cooked this defense, too, to the tune of 21.3 PPG on 60.6% shooting from the floor. The poor performance of this defense begins down low with Embiid, and spirals out from there. With De’Andre Hunter done for the rest of the season, this defense is not getting much better, which means bettors need Atlanta’s offense to shoulder the load, something easier said than done.