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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:04 PM

Thursday's Playoff Essentials

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Playoff Results | Playoff Projections

Eastern Conference First Round - Game 3 - Series tied 1-1
Philadelphia (-1.5/217) at Miami, TNT, 7:05 p.m. ET

It's not wise to expect another virtuoso performance from Dwyane Wade on Wednesday. It’s also not smart to write him off entirely.

Wade will be home for the first time since his highest-scoring game in over 14 months. The ovation he’s going to get when he checks in off the bench will be a blow the 76ers will have to withstand, which makes for an interesting curveball for a team playing their first road playoff game in since 2012.

Wade won’t go 11-for-16 again. Another mid-range shooting spree to make analytics devotees run to the nearest trash can isn’t coming, but that doesn’t mean he won’t find away to big-boy these kids he’ll be up against. Consider that this will also be, at least logically, his best opportunity to excel going forward in the series.

Only one more situation exists where the 36-year-old will get multiple days between playing, but that will include a trip back to Philly before Game 5.




Although its easy to use the "regression to the mean" take since it does seem inevitable for Wade, his highest-scoring game of the regular-season did come against the 76ers in Miami (Feb. 27), so maybe he’ll just duplicate the 10-for-16 he shot that night.

He came out and shot 61 percent two nights later against the Lakers, which also marks the last time he’d hit more than half of his shots in consecutive games before the first two in the series. Wade is streaky, capable of going on runs when he feels right, so what he’s able to give Miami beyond the first-quarter emotional lift will be a major x-factor here.

The largest one won’t be known for sure until close to tip-off, although the current expectation is that Joel Embiid is doubtful to play. The terrific 7-footer packed his bulky black mask in case Philadelphia is ready to stop “babying” him, so considering that he’s expressed his feelings on wanting to be out there, the team clearly would be taking a responsible approach if he sits again because there’s a threat of further damage.

This is a situation that’s an absolute must to monitor, though obviously if you like the 76ers whether Embiid plays or not, getting in early is a must since the expectation that he’ll be held out has trimmed the line a half-point already. The road money line is an option to weigh at a good price, available at -120 in some spots. If he plays, it’s only going to increase, which is why prospective Miami-backers may want to wait.

His team has certainly proven capable of winning without him, dominating Game 1 with 130-point outburst and nearly coming back to hold serve in Game 2 before Wade denied them. Their ability to make waves from beyond the arc will dictate their success in Miami. The 76ers shot a brutal 7-for-36 at home on Monday night, even blowing some easy ones since they were clearly thrown off rhythm by the length and athleticism of Josh Richardson, James Johnson and Justise Winslow. That will need to continue from Miami, which knows the 76ers are as likely to push on the road as they do at home since their pace data is similar.

The total for Game 3 opened 216 ½ and most books are holding 217 as of Thursday morning. Chris David of VegasInsider.com has leaned on a solid total angle with the 76ers and it might be in play again.

He explained, “Seasonal trends are a great way to handicap a game and if the 76ers close as favorites, I would certainly give it a look. When laying points on the road this season, Philadelphia has gone a respectable 13-6 SU and 10-9 ATS while the ‘over’ is 15-4. For whatever reason, the 76ers have relished in that ‘chalk’ role as visitors and they’ve also scored triple digits in all 19 games. To be specific, they’re averaging 113.8 PPG. Miami’s defense has been better at home but based on what we’ve seen this season, a lean on Philadelphia’s team total ‘over’ (107 ½) seems doable.”

Getting Embiid back wouldn’t necessarily slow this tempo down either, but it would effect what Miami counters with at the five. It's clear that head coach Erik Spoelstra is most comfortable with Kelly Olynyk out there spreading the floor and doing his best contesting along the perimeter in spite of his slow feet than he is riding with inconsistent Hassan Whiteside or raw rookie Bam Adebayo, who would be in line for more playing time if the 76ers have their masked man in the mix.

Western Conference First Round - Game 3 - Pelicans lead 2-0
Portland at New Orleans (-3/216), NBATV, 9:05 p.m. ET

The Pelicans look to apply a knockout blow in this series, which will be a lot easier to do if the Smoothie King Center can provide anything close to the boost that they persevered against in Portland. Players even said so, which is why it was disappointing to hear there were still a few thousand tickets available a few days ago when teams normally sell out as soon as postseason seats come up for grabs.

Fortunately, the hype of getting off to such a great start has available tickets dwindling, so a terrific boost would be provided considering the Pels had an identical 24-17 record at home as it did on the road and poor attendance was obviously one the reasons.

On the floor, Nikola Mirotic’s ankle will likely be tender, although he wasn’t even listed on the injury report and is expected to go. The lift he and Darius Miller offered from beyond the arc since New Orleans when the Trail Blazers had no other recourse but to play off shooters due to an inability to contain Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis without guys running at them – which didn’t work either.

Portland did get a great boost from Moe Harkless, who played his first game since March 25 after getting his knee scoped and made all five of his shots, playing 27 minutes. His role would be similar if the Blazers are without Evan Turner, who is listed as questionable with a toe injury.

Center Jusuf Nurkic should start, but he hasn’t been effective at all against the Pelicans thus far, shooting 8-for-19 from the field. He’s by far his team’s biggest concern since Holiday and Rajon Rondo have dominated their higher-regarded counterparts as visitors and now get to try and impose their edge in length at home.

“It will be hard for the Blazers to dig out of this 0-2 hole since they are headed to the Big Easy. It will be anything but in Game 3 as Portland has lost five consecutive contests away from the Moda Center,” said VegasInsider.com NBA expert Kevin Rogers. “However, the last road victory for Portland came at New Orleans on March 27 in a 107-103 triumph as Damian Lillard torched the Pelicans for 41 points. Lillard’s backcourt mate, C.J. McCollum, struggled in that game by shooting 3-of-19 from the floor for 7 points, but the former Lehigh standout has scored in double-figures in the past 10 games.”

Getting Lillard and McCollum off and comfortable in the same game will be the Blazers’ mandate here. McCollum is shooting under 40 percent since erupting for 42 points in Memphis the night after his struggles in New Orleans referenced by Rogers above, but that was a game Lillard missed due to paternity leave.

Portland’s All-Star guard, who will rightfully land on one the three All-NBA teams, has shot 39 percent or worse in five of his team’s last eight games. He likes to point to his imaginary watch at crunch time, so my advice would be that he breaks that out in the first quarter here. It’s vital that he finds a rhythm early to settle his teammates and the situation for his Trail Blazers doesn’t get much dire than the one they’re in if they want to keep hope realistically alive.

The Blazers are +380 to comeback and win the series at [...] and are averaging just 98.5 points per game in the series after averaging 105.6 during the regular season. Despite this, the total is hovering at 216 at most books despite the under coming in rather easily in the first two games.

Western Conference First Round - Game 3 - Warriors lead 2-0
Golden State (-3/206) at San Antonio, TNT, 9:35 p.m. ET)

With the Spurs mourning the loss of Gregg Popovich’s late wife, Erin, human nature certainly plays into anticipating what will happen in the night’s late tip-off. There’s certainly going to be a somber atmosphere in play in an arena where San Antonio has dominated this time of year for two decades. A season that has been clouded by Kawhi Leonard’s quad injury and the subsequent will-he-or-won’t-he regarding his return now has a new, far more sobering obstacle in place as this series swings to Texas for Game 3.

Will Pop coach? If he does, his team will certainly leave it all out there. If he doesn’t, his team will certainly leave it all out there with Ettore Messina or James Borrego in the head seat. The question is how much they’ve got left after such awful news. Remember, Spurs culture is a very real thing and a lot of the players who have been a part of so much success over the years are dealing with the loss of someone who played a role in their lives too.

On the flip side, Steve Kerr also spent significant time with San Antonio and has also been touched by the loss. Kevin Durant had a genuine reaction of complete and utter shock when notified of the news by media on Thursday. All those guys have to be pros and try to stomp out a dangerous team’s hopes by taking a commanding 3-0 lead. That’s their job.

Similarly, even though it feels trite to break down the series, that’s what you’re reading for. LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay have had excellent moments thus far and it has still resulted in double-digit losses. What can change here?

One huge key would be slowing down Klay Thompson, who is shooting about 70 percent from the field, including 10-for-14 from 3-point range. Having a fire extinguisher nearby has been necessary. Durant is shooting over 52 percent and averaging 28 points per game through the first two, one behind Thompson’s clip. If San Antonio can slow down one of them, it would put more pressure on Quinn Cook, who has been sharp in doing what he can to fill Stephen Curry’s shoes, to continue to flourish on the road.

Even though Golden State captured the first two wins in this series, VI’s David believes the right lean in Game 3 is with the home underdog.

“Losing the first two games by double digits at Golden State wasn’t surprising for many, especially when you looked at the road tendencies for San Antonio. The Spurs own the largest disparity of wins (17) in the NBA when it comes to their home (33-8) and away (14-27) records,” said David. “That home mark includes a run of 11 straight wins and eight of them came against playoff teams albeit a couple were playing short-handed. Of the remaining games, I expect Game 3 to be the most competitive and the oddsmakers are telling you so with such a short opening number as well.”

The number has only moved one-half point at a few places since Popovich’s availability came into question. The total remains right around where it was set for the action in Oakland, where there were split results. Regardless of what goes down, count on an emotional environment at the AT&T Center.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at [email protected]

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