Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM

Saturday's Early Tips

Playoff Results | Playoff Projections

Eastern Conference First Round – Game 4 – 76ers lead 2-1
Philadelphia at Miami (TNT, 2:35 p.m. ET)

The NBA is a make or miss league and that mantra has not been more apparent than for this series. The 76ers have won each of their two games against the Heat by knocking down 18 three-pointers in each victory. In the lone loss in Game 2, Philadelphia was limited to 7-of-36 shooting from downtown.

Oh, and having Joel Embiid in the lineup helps, too.

After missing the first two games of this series due to an eye injury, Embiid shook off a slow start by scoring a team-high 23 points, including 10 points from the foul line. The 76ers drilled 18-of-34 three-point attempts in a 128-108 blowout of the Heat as 2 ½-point favorites to capture a 2-1 series lead. The dagger came in the fourth quarter as Philadelphia outscored Miami, 32-14, marking the second win in the series by the Sixers by more than 20 points.

All five Philadelphia starters finished in double-figures, as Ben Simmons scored 19 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for his second double-double in the series. Marco Belinelli emerged off the bench once again as a spark by posting 21 points, while Dario Saric also put up 21 points, as both players canned four treys.

The Heat lost in spite of hitting 16 three-pointers, as Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson each converted on four attempts from downtown. However, Dwyane Wade came back down to Earth following his 28-point performance in Game 2, as the Heat guard was limited to 2-of-10 shooting for eight points on Thursday. Center Hassan Whiteside was a non-factor for the third straight game by scoring five points in 13 minutes, moving his series total to 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Following Thursday’s victory, the 76ers improved to 18-1 SU and 13-6 ATS the last 19 games dating back to March 15. In this stretch, Brent Brown’s squad has covered in five of seven opportunities as a road favorite with the two non-covers coming as double-digit chalk in wins over the Hawks and Knicks. NBA expert Tony Mejia chimes in on this pivotal Game 4 matchup, “What can Erik Spoelstra and his staff do to adjust to Embiid’s presence now that they’ve seen that not doubling to get the ball out of his hands isn’t an option? Kelly Olynyk will likely get the most minutes in small lineups with Whiteside looking like a no-show, which means we’ll likely see the pace continue to favor Philadelphia since Miami won’t be able to get the game slowed down unless the 76ers suffer through another brutal shooting game like they did in Game 2.”

Will it be another shootout in Miami? “The total opened at 217 and has been bet down into the 215 range. The odd-numbered games have gotten into the 230's and reached 216 in spite of Philly’s 7-for-36 effort on 3-pointers this past Monday, so I’m not certain this series can be slowed down to the Heat’s liking,” Mejia notes.

The Heat have one play-on angle for Saturday, at least according to a trend from the 2017 postseason. Home teams trailing a series, 2-1 put together a solid 4-1 record in Game 4’s, with the Rockets winning at Oklahoma City in the first round being the only outlier.

Western Conference First Round – Game 4 – Pelicans lead 3-0
Portland at New Orleans (TNT, 5:05 p.m. ET)

The Blazers closed out the regular season by knocking off the Jazz to grab coveted home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. It seems like that was the worst-possible scenario for Portland, who lost both games at home to New Orleans, followed by a 17-point setback on Thursday to fall into an insurmountable 3-0 series hole.

The Pelicans/Hornets franchise has advanced past the first round only once since moving to New Orleans in 2002, as the Pels knocked out the Mavericks in 2008. Anthony Davis is carrying the torch towards a potential second round appearance for New Orleans after putting together a third straight double-double against Portland. Davis scored 28 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in Thursday’s 119-102 blowout of the Blazers to easily cash as 3 ½-point favorites.

The off-season signing of veteran point guard Rajon Rondo has paid incredible dividends as he put up 16 points and 11 assists in Game 3. Jrue Holiday continues to win the backcourt battle with Portland by registering a +19 rating and scoring 16 points for New Orleans. Alvin Gentry’s squad has shot over 47% from the field in all three wins, including better than 50% in Games 2 and 3.

Damian Lillard’s playoff credentials took another hit as the Blazers’ All-Star guard by hitting only 5-of-14 shots from the floor for 20 points in Game 3. The 20 points was actually a series best for Lillard, but he averaged nearly 27 points per game in the regular season, which isn’t cutting it for Portland. The Blazers fell to 2-15 SU as a road underdog in the playoffs since 2014 with 13 of those defeats by double-digits.

Last season, Portland fell behind Golden State, 3-0 and didn’t bother to show up in Game 4 at home as the Blazers lost to the eventual champion Warriors, 128-103. In the 2017 playoffs, clubs down 3-0 put together a 1-5 record in Game 4 action, but all six teams played at home. In 2015 (the upcoming stat doesn’t bode well for Portland), two road teams looked to avoid the sweep in Game 4 and were wiped out. Washington routed Toronto, 125-94, while Cleveland torched Atlanta, 118-88 as both teams covered with no sweat as a favorite.

Mejia checks in on this potential series-ender in the Big Easy, “Playing with pride is a given from Portland since Lillard and C.J. McCollum are absolutely not quitters, but they’re going to have to make a large volume of 3-pointers late in the shot clock to give the Blazers a chance to get this series back to the Moda Center. New Orleans is pushing tempo at all costs, rendering Jusuf Nurkic as a liability when he’s been so effective down the stretch.

“This is a case of a bad matchup arriving at the worst possible time. We’re going to hear all about Lillard’s ankle and other bangs and bruises that have helped trip up the Trail Blazers all month, but that may not prevent major changes despite a second division title in four years and five straight playoff appearances. That 25-to-1 Exact Game series prop for New Orleans that a few astute bettors are about to hit sounds delightful.”

The Pelicans’ train isn’t slowing down anytime soon, as New Orleans has won and covered eight straight games dating back to April 4. Portland is going the opposite way on the highway by losing six consecutive road contests, while posting a 1-5 ATS record in this stretch.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

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