Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:53 AM
NBA Bubble Bets - Saturday
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Portland Trail Blazers
- Time/Venue: 1:05 p.m, HP Field House
- Records/Bubble Records (SU/ATS): Clippers 46-22/2-2 (37-31, 3-1); Blazers 32-38/3-1 (30-37-3, 3-0-1)
- Line: LAC -3.5/233, LAC ML -156, POR +132
Line Analysis: The Blazers have yet to be taken down against the spread but still aren’t getting much respect here since I expected this line to be closer to a pick’em considering the Clippers remain shorthanded and don’t need this game as much as Portland does, essentially being locked into the No. 2 or No. 3 seed with another win since they’re unable to catch the Lakers for No. 1.
Injuries/Rotational Adjustments to Watch: The assumption is that reserve forward Montrezl Harrell will soon join the team upon exiting quarantine since he’s been away from the bubble due to a family crisis, but he won’t play here. Patrick Beverley is also sidelined by a calf injury, so he won’t be available to try and slow down a sizzling Damian Lillard. Kawhi Leonard will be getting the day off today as well, so Portland will have to guard against complacency.
Handicapping Notes: The Clippers have lost both games that came down to the wire, falling when Paul George’s game-winning attempt against the Lakers failed on the opening night of bubble action and losing on Devin Booker’s impressive game-winner earlier this week. Portland lost both regular-season meetings against the Clippers, but the teams last played on Dec. 3. Having Nurkic for the first time against another of the West’s top teams provides a great litmus test for this suddenly deep Portland squad.
Nothin’ But Bet: A slimmer Carmelo Anthony has been really active throughout his time in Orlando, which includes posting a double-double with 11 boards against Houston. That’s given the Blazers’ forward a 6.5-rebound average. However, a prop that he’ll surpass 5.5 boards, available at FanDuel (-142) sounds like a loser to me given the talent L.A. has up front. Ride the under there.
Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets
- Time/Venue: 3:35 p.m. ET, ESPN Wide World of Sports Arena
- Records/Bubble Records (SU/ATS): Jazz 43-26/3-1 (37-28-4, 3-0-1); Nuggets 45-24/2-2 (31-34-4, 2-2)
- Line: DEN -2/221, DEN -130 ML, DEN +110
Line Analysis: The Jazz are favored here on the second day of a back-to-back since they rested most of their main rotation in Friday’s loss to San Antonio. Only Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson really saw significant action while the others rested. Injury-riddled Denver has been an underdog in all but one of its games in this bubble and have seen the ‘over’ prevail in all of its outings.
Injuries/Rotational Adjustments to Watch: Will Barton (knee) and Gary Harris (hip) haven’t played at all in Orlando and will again watch from the sidelines. Point guard Jamal Murray (hamstring) and shooter Troy Daniels (hip) are considered questionable and have been for the past few games. Murray has been warming up and appears close, but the Nuggets could continue to exercise caution with him since they’ve still got all of next week to get him ready for the playoffs.
Handicapping Notes: Although they’re still playing through Nikola Jokic, this Nuggets squad has a much different look with Michael Porter, Jr. aggressively looking for his shot and thriving with heavier usage. It’s also clear that Jerami Grant has improved his shooting over the hiatus and is setting himself up for a nice payday since Paul Millsap is taking a step back to rest and the absence of Murray, Barton and Harris has freed up considerably more touches. Utah can close within a game of Denver for the Northwest Division lead and move to 3-3 in the bubble following a rough start. These rivals didn’t play one another until Jan. 30 and Feb. 5. Utah won a pair of tight, low-scoring games as a favorite, failing to cover each time.
Nothin’ But Bet: Look for Donovan Mitchell to aggressively drive to the paint and facilitate for teammates, particularly early. Sucking defenders in to set up kickouts remains effective for Utah despite the absence of injured sniper Bojan Bogdanovic. Mitchell averaged 4.5 assists in the two wins over Denver. Not coincidentally, that’s the number FanDuel is using for its prop on him. Expect him to surpass that in this one at a nice return rate of +114.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Indiana Pacers
- Time/Venue: 6:05 p.m. ET, HP Field House
- Records/Bubble Records (SU/ATS): Lakers 51-17/2-3 (36-31-1, 1-4); Pacers 42-27/3-1 (37-29-3, 3-1)
- Line: LAL -6/216 LAL -250 ML, IND +205
Line Analysis: The return of LeBron James from a sore right groin was baked into the original line, but he’s still listed as questionable as of Saturday morning. The Lakers went from -8 to -6 and downgraded from -340 to -250 on the money line. Indiana went from +275 to +205. L.A. is going to be the top seed out West, so there isn’t much reason for him to push through an injury that set him back in his first season in Purple and Gold when he tried to return to soon. The Pacers were a one-point home underdog when L.A. came through Indy on Dec. 17 and won 105-102. That game went ‘under’ the posted total of 213.
Injuries/Rotational Adjustments to Watch: In addition to the uncertainty surrounding James, Alex Caruso is also listed as ‘questionable’ with a neck injury and Rajon Rondo still isn’t ready to return from his thumb fracture. Avery Bradley opted not to join the team in the bubble, so L.A. is without its top three point guards from earlier this season. Center JaVale McGee received a DNP-Coaches Decision in the loss to Houston but would play here unless something is up. Anthony Davis scored 42 points against Utah earlier this week but hasn’t looked as decisive without James at the controls. Pacers head coach Nate McMillan hinted that a number of Pacers would have to sit this one out, so it’s not really safe to take the points until you know who will be missing. Domantas Sabonis remains out with plantar fasciitis.
Handicapping Notes: The Pacers have seen Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo ramp up after injuries and both have performed better than expected. Goga Bitadze also returned and is moving around well, while T.J. Warren has been the MVP of Indiana’s bubble experience, averaging over 36 points and seven rebounds. The Pacers would certainly be a live dog here unless they’re down multiple key players since they’re in a race for the No. 4 seed, just one game back of Miami while even with Philadelphia.
Nothin’ But Bet: Props at FanDuel weren’t available due to roster uncertainty.
Miami Heat vs. Phoenix Suns
- Time/Venue: 7:35 p.m. ET, Visa Athletic Center
- Records/Bubble Records (SU/ATS): Heat 43-26/2-2 (35-32-2, 2-2); Suns 30-39/4-0 (33-35-1, 4-0)
- Line: PHX -1.5/224.5, PHX ML -120, MIA +102
Line Analysis: The Suns not being favored here initially is a credit to the respect oddsmakers have for Miami’s depth, but injuries have definitely taken away some of the Heat’s bite. Before adjusting things, Miami was a 2.5-point ‘chalk’ with a money line of -142. The Suns were getting +120 before being switched to a 1-point favorite. With the Suns coming in unbeaten in Orlando and plenty to play for as they chase down a berth in the play-in for the West’s No. 8 seed, they look like an extremely live dog.
Injuries/Rotational Adjustments to Watch: The Heat will likely be cautious with injured leaders Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic, who they should have back for the playoffs provided they’re given ample time to rest. Kendrick Nunn left the bubble on Friday and returned, so although details are just surfacing on that, the reality is he won’t be available as he serves a quarantine period following his departure. Look for Heat rookie Tyler Herro and shooter Duncan Robinson to continue serving in large roles.
Handicapping Notes: The Heat surrendered 130 points to the Bucks, squandering an impressive first-half performance that saw them up double-digits at the break on the East’s top seed. We’ll see what that collapse does to their confidence, particularly in a depleted state. Between Booker’s heroics and the steady, effective play from key young cogs like Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and rookie Cam Johnson, there’s no need to be worried about where the Suns currently are from a morale standpoint. They held a team under 100 points for just the second time since Jan. 26, a span of 24 games, in beating Indiana on Thursday.
Nothin’ But Bet: While many Suns deserve credit for this wonderful run they’re on, the improvement of rookie Cam Johnson is being overshadowed by bigger names. Look for him to surpass the 12.5 points expected from him at FanDuel (+100).
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Dallas Mavericks
- Time/Venue: 8:35 p.m. ET, ESPN Wide World of Sports Arena
- Records/Bubble Records (SU/ATS): Bucks 55-14/2-2 (38-31, 2-2); Mavs 41-30/1-3 (35-33-3, 0-4)
- Line: MIL -5.5/XXX, MIL ML -250, DAL +205
Line Analysis: The 5.5-point spread is exactly where I had this line opening before multiple books put it out there. As of this writing, there still wasn’t a total, but I set it in the 233-234 range provided everyone that has been playing for both teams suits up.
Injuries/Rotational Adjustments to Watch: The Mavericks have struggled in the bubble but are working without Seth Curry, who really added a dimension with one of the more unheralded seasons a shooter has put together in 2019-20. Tim Hardaway Jr. has also been fantastic but teams have been able to concentrate on defending him more with Curry unavailable. The Bucks rested starters in the second half of the Nets game and have nothing to play for as the East’s top seed but seem to be playing everyone their normal minutes to get Eric Bledsoe back on track after he reported late following a bout with COVID-19.
Handicapping Notes: The Bucks are a pedestrian 4-6 in their last 10 and have seen the ‘over’ cash in three of their four games in Orlando thus far, topping 116 points each time out. Dallas is surrendering 126.5 points per game and have failed to cover in eight of its last 10 games dating back to early March.
Nothin’ But Bet: Luka Doncic and Dorian Finney-Smith have been far more active on the glass during bubble play. Look for Doncic to flirt with a triple-double against the Bucks by securing more than 8.5 rebounds (-138, FanDuel).
Although I expect Herro to have a big game as he continues to blossom and Bam Adebayo to make Ayton work hard in the post, the fact the Suns were an underdog up until this morning means there’s still significant value in riding them to move to 5-0 in Orlando. Ride Phoenix on a short money line to avoid laying a point or two.
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