Smart Money NBA Playoff Picks For Saturday 7/17/2021
There’s nothing quite like Game 5 of a 2-2 series. In what is now a best-two-out-of-three situation, the team that wins tonight will end up winning the series 82.8 percent of the time, per NBA.com. This one should be a dog fight.
There have been all sorts of twists and turns and uncertainties in this NBA series – How healthy is any given player on either roster? What will the Bucks’ rotation look like? How is Chris Paul’s hand? We may not have all the answers to those questions. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still make money off of it. Here are my picks for Game 5.
Smart Money NBA Betting Picks for Tonight’s Action
As strange as it sounds given that they’ve won two straight games at home, it doesn’t feel to me like Milwaukee has cracked any sort of code that would allow them to pull away in the rest of this series. Jrue Holiday is still a wreck, offensively. They still aren’t 100 percent sure what their rotation will look like. More so than anything, the past two games have been the result of Giannis Antetokounmpo and then Khris Middleton dominating the hell out of Games 3 and 4, respectively.
Ipso facto, I feel confident in the Suns being able to bounce back at home. If they get anything resembling the normal Chris Paul, they win Game 5 handily. With a couple of days to rest and regroup, I’m expecting better performances out of not only Paul but also Deandre Ayton. Similarly, Mikal Bridges is also due for a bounce-back game after two disappointing showings on the road. Take the Suns to cover.
Top Player Props for Tonight’s NBA Action
Bridges scored 14 and 27 points in Games 1 and 2 at home, followed by combining for 11 points across two games on the road – confirming the old adage: role players play better at home. Now returning back to Phoenix for Game 5, I’m expecting Bridges to break back out with a respectable offensive performance. Unlike most of the Phoenix roster, we’ve seen no indications that Bridges is banged up in any way. He simply had a bad couple of games on the road, and getting some home cooking will get him out of his funk.
Last week, I went under on Ayton’s props because I sensed that the Bucks would be going to bigger lineups that featured Brook Lopez more often. While that pick was correct, the reasoning was not. The Bucks have played Lopez a combined 40 minutes across the last two games. Ayton hasn’t been able to punish the Bucks for going small(er). But my bet here is that playing at home, that will change. At some point, the Suns have to figure out how to crack the code on Milwaukee’s pick-and-roll defense. As great as Jrue Holiday is, I have to think that the Suns will use some creative strategies to get Paul and Devin Booker moving downhill, thus freeing up Ayton.
Going small has been an effective strategy for the Bucks, and I’m not saying that the Suns should counter by posting up Ayton. Rather, I think that through some better pick and roll execution and sheer activity, Ayton should be able to get free a bit more easily in Game 5.
Holiday has crossed the 18-point threshold just once in this series (in Game 3). Simply put, he is a mess offensively right now, and I don’t feel the least bit confident in him rebounding. I can’t see Holiday being able to crack the code this late in the series; it feels like his confidence as a shooter may be fading. I’d feel comfortable going under here even if the line were a point or two lower.
Here’s my thinking: If Ayton is able to up his production, the Bucks will want to go with a bit more size. But instead of going all-in on Lopez, they’ll give Portis some of those minutes to maintain more versatility defensively. As a result, Portis’ production will increase.
Also, I’ve made a killing in this series betting off of the “role players play worse on the road” adage. But I almost feel like it doesn’t apply to Bobby Portis. That dude isn’t afraid of anything; he will welcome the hostility of a road environment and will put up some solid numbers in Game 5.
Mike’s Year to Date Record: 59-82