The second day of the 2020 NBA playoffs has arrived. Will LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers look like the No. 1 seed against the feisty Portland Trail Blazers? What will the Houston Rockets look like without Russell Westbrook?
In this column, we'll give an analytical preview of a few of the day's top games and give game notes on the rest to help bettors with their wagers.
Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder (-2, 225.5)
The absence of Westbrook obviously looms large here for Houston, but has the market overreacted the loss of the star point guard? Current series prices have the Rockets as a -155 favorite, but when lines for Game 1 first appeared it was the Thunder opening a 1.5-point favorite. One of those numbers is incorrect; the question is which one.
I tend to believe it’s the initial Game 1 line that needs to be adjusted. When Westbrook is off the floor and James Harden is on this season, Houston has a + 5.9 net rating. The Rockets’ frequency of transition drops off without Westbrook, but their points per play in the halfcourt (103.7) ranks in the 97th percentile among NBA lineups with at least 100 possessions played. Even without Westbrook, I believe Houston is a point better than Oklahoma City.
Lean: Houston 2
Russell Westbrook, Quad (Out)
Oklahoma City Thunder
Luguentz Dort, Knee (Out)
Miami Heat (-4.5, 216) at Indiana Pacers
This just seems to be a poor matchup for Indiana. In four regular season meetings with the Heat, the Pacers have gone 1-3 and averaged only 106.3 points every 100 possessions. Miami’s defense has been one of the best this season at defending mid-range shots, and Indiana’s entire offensive identity is built around that area of the floor.
The Pacers take the fourth-most mid-range shots per game in the league, and shoot the second-best clip in that area at 43.6 percent. However, in the regular season Indiana shot above 40.9 percent just once against Miami, and that was in the seeding game finale in which Jimmy Butler and multiple starters rested. Indiana already plays an inefficient style of basketball, and its weaknesses are amplified against Miami.
Lean: Miami -4
Derrick Jones, Neck (Questionable)
KZ Okpala, Personal (Out)
Gabe Vincent, Shoulder (Out)
T.J. Warren, Foot (Questionable)
Domantas Sabonis, Foot (Out)
Jeremy Lab, Knee (Out)
Tuesday’s game observations
Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks (-14, 225.5)
- After Orlando’s hot start in the bubble, the Magic really cooled off, finishing their seeding games 1-5 SU (2-3 ATS) with a -5.3 net rating.
- Milwaukee finished 10th in defensive rating over its eight seeding games (110.2), which is 7.7 points higher than the Bucks’ regular-season mark.
- The Bucks crushed Orlando in the regular season, going 4-0 with a + 16.3 net rating. The Magic managed just 94.2 points every 100 possessions.
Aaron Gordon, Hamstring (Questionable)
Michael Carter-Williams, Foot (Doubtful)
Mo Bamba, Post-Covid Evaluation (Out)
Jonathan Isaac, Knee (Out)
Ersan Ilyasova, Elbow (Out)
Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers (-6, 230)
- Portland finished the seeding games with the best offensive rating in the bubble (122.5), and shot 41.4 percent on 37.1 3PA per game. Can the Trail Blazers sustain those numbers?
- Los Angeles finished 20th in the seeding games in offensive efficiency (104.5), but face the 20th-ranked defense in Orlando (120.4).
- The Trail Blazers’ betting value seems to be washed up. They are 2-3 ATS against the closing number in their last five games, 0-5 ATS against the opening number during that same stretch.
Portland Trail Blazers
Zach Collins, Ankle (Out)
Nassir Little, Dehydration (Out)
CJ McCollum, Back (Available)
Los Angeles Lakers
Anthony Davis, Knee (Probable)
LeBron James, Groin (Probable)
Rajon Rondo, Thumb (Doubtful)