Damian Lillard is incredible. That is really all I wanted to say. To score 55 points on just 24 attempts is out of this world, but for two of those to come down three points in order to force overtime and double overtime is just insanity. However, the Trail Blazers’ poor defense and missed opportunities have Portland staring at elimination.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
Updated injury reports for every game can be found here.
Washington Wizards at Philadelphia 76ers (-6.5, 230.5)
Joel Embiid has been diagnosed with a small meniscus tear in his right knee and will not play tonight as he recovers. Without him on the floor Philadelphia becomes an entirely different team that will struggle to find consistent offense. When Embiid is off the floor this season the 76ers have posted an offensive rating of 108.4 and they are outscored by 1.1 points per 100 possessions. Their defense, which has been fantastic all season long, is how this version of Philadelphia gets it done. Without Embiid they hold opponents to 109.5 points per 100 possessions, a defensive rating which ranks in the 81st percentile among qualified lineups. Since this team is so limited on offense they must suffocate opponents on the defensive end of the floor, and they have been able to do that without Embiid.
It’s not all roses on the injury front for Washington either. Davis Bertans was lost for 4-6 weeks with a calf strain and now a team that is shooting 31.5% from the perimeter is now down a 40% shooter. Washington went 9-of-23 from deep in their Game 4 win and Bertans was responsible for three of those makes. If they were already struggling to shoot with him on the floor, where are those makes coming from without Bertans? The perimeter defense has been stupendous for Philadelphia in this series and without him it does seem like the shooting woes of Washington will continue. When you factor in that even without Embiid the 76ers allow only 64.8% at the rim or 39.4% on mid-range attempts you realize that the Wizards will likely still continue to scuffle for points.
Having said that, the Wizards’ defensive game plan gets somewhat easier. Philadelphia has been killing them in all three areas of the floor in this series, ranking ninth or higher in shooting from deep, mid-range and at the rim. Without Embiid the 76ers shoot 60.8% within four feet and only 35.5% from beyond the arc. This squad lacks real shot creation, and there is almost no one who can consistently score on all three levels when Embiid is sidelined. The Wizards finished the season 17-7 SU because of a defense that allowed only 111.4 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time minutes. Without a massive presence to worry about down low this defense should be able to thrive once again.
Atlanta Hawks at New York Knicks (-1.5, 207.5)
Where is the offense going to come from for New York? Derrick Rose is averaging 22.8 points and 37 minutes per game. Outside of his scoring the Knicks have yet to find a consistent outlet of offense. Their 3-point shooting, which ranked among the league leaders in the regular season, has regressed to just 32.2% in this series. Their offensive efficiency is the second worst in the postseason among currently active teams (104.1). If Julius Randle can wake up, like he seemed to in Game 4, then there is an opportunity for New York to stave off elimination.
If Atlanta wants to end this series today, they need to find the offense that eluded them in the first two games of this series. The Hawks put up jut 1.031 points per possession in non-garbage time minutes at Madison Square Garden and shot 31.2% from deep. They blew a double-digit lead in Game 2 due in large part to their shooting woes on wide-open 3-pointers. New York still has no answer for the Trae Young/Clint Capela pick-and-roll and if the role players can take advantage of the open looks generated from that sequence this series will end tonight.
Memphis Grizzlies at Utah Jazz (-9.5, 226.5)
As I stated in the game notes a couple of nights ago, this series has been a numbers game and the Grizzlies are on the wrong side of the equation. During this 3-0 SU and ATS run for Utah in this series the Jazz have made 14 more 3-point attempts than the Grizzlies. That is a difference of 4.6 made shots from deep that Memphis has tried to make up for on mid-range shots, and that just has not been able to get it done. The Grizzlies run an offense that will have success against a Jazz defense that allowed the second-most mid-range attempts in the regular season, and that translates to Ja Morant averaging 31.0 points on 47.9% shooting from the floor. Both teams are built to exploit the other’s defense, and it is why this series is a perfect 4-0 to the Over. If Memphis is going to stay inside this number they have to close the gap along the perimeter.
Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers (-7, 218.5)
Through the first three games of this series the Mavericks were shooting 50.5% from deep on 36.3 attempts per game and averaging 128.0 points per 100 possessions. After Los Angeles evened the series up on Sunday this entire thing has been flipped on its head. Dallas now has a -7.5 net rating and the Clippers have consistently abused their defense for 124.1 points per 100 possessions. Los Angeles has been consistently great against Dallas’ defense but the otherworldly shooting allowed the Mavericks to take what seemed to be an unsurmountable lead. The Clippers have changed their offensive approach, thoroughly dominating inside four 47 attempts in non-garbage time over the two games in Dallas. The Mavericks’ lack of rim protection, and Luka Doncic’s injury, are why the market pushed this to as high as eight points at the Westgate SuperBook today. I believe the Clippers will win this series, but eight is too much of an ask today