Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:53 AM
NBA Bubble Bets - Monday
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Phoenix Suns
- Time/Venue: 2:35 p.m, HP Field House
- Records/Bubble Records (SU/ATS): Thunder 43-26/3-2 (43-26, 3-2); Suns 31-39/5-0 (34-35-1, 5-0)
- Line: PHX -5/225, PHX ML -205, OKC +172
Line Analysis: The Thunder cruised past Washington on Sunday afternoon and find themselves working 24 hours later for the second of a back-to-back. Although the more rested Suns are undefeated in seeding games, it was still a surprise to see Oklahoma City as a five-point underdog after opening at plus-3.5/4. It remains to be seen whether Billy Donovan chooses to be cautious with veterans Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari but his team is only a half-game up on Utah for the No. 5 seed. How Donovan treats this game may provide a hint as to whether the Thunder prefer the Nuggets or Rockets in a first-round series.
Phoenix hasn’t beaten a Paul-led team since December 2013, which is quite the run of futility. The Suns have defeated the Wizards and Heat as a favorite in Orlando, covering the spread in both. They’ve been a slight underdog in both matchups with OKC this season and are 0-2.
Injuries/Rotational Adjustments to Watch: Learning whether Paul will be available is crucial since super sub Dennis Schroder remains away from the team on paternity leave, although he’s expected back for the start of the playoffs next week. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would likely handle the bulk of the ballhandling duties if Paul is out. Centers Steven Adams (leg contusion) and Nerlens Noel (ankle soreness) were late scratches on Sunday but could be counted on here. Defensive wiz Andre Roberson (foot soreness) should be available. The Suns have been working without starting small forward Kelly Oubre and backup center Aron Baynes in the rotation and neither is likely to participate here.
Handicapping Notes: The Thunder bounced back against the Wizards after scoring just 92 points in becoming the only team to lose to the eighth-seeded Grizzlies thus far. They’ve posted lopsided wins over the Jazz and Lakers and have been fantastic when veterans Paul, Adams and Danilo Gallinari are out on the floor. OKC closes against the Heat and Clippers, with that last game against L.A. potentially rendered meaningless.
The Suns need every win they can get their hands on since their perfect run has only made what once looked seemingly impossible – making the playoffs – a potential reality. Phoenix remains behind Memphis, Portland and San Antonio in the West and closes against injury-riddled Philadelphia and Dallas. The Suns averaged 106.5 points in this season’s losses to OKC but are averaging 118.4 points in seeding games.
Nothin’ But Bet: Rookie Cam Johnson came through on Saturday night in a prop that called for him to surpass the 12.5 points. He’s averaging 15.6 points over five games in the bubble, scoring in double-figures in four of the five contests. We’ll ride his hot hand again on the over 12.5 points expected from him at FanDuel (+100).
Dallas Mavericks vs. Utah Jazz
- Time/Venue: 3:05 p.m. ET, ESPN Wide World of Sports Arena
- Records/Bubble Records (SU/ATS): Mavs 42-30/2-3 (36-33-3, 1-4); Jazz 43-27/2-4 (33-35-2, 3-3)
- Line: UTA -6.5/XXX, UTA -270 ML, DAL +220
Line Analysis: The Jazz and Mavs might have been close to a pick’em by the time they tipped off if not for Rick Carlisle’s announcement that stars Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis would sit this one out, joined by scrappy forward Dorian Finney-Smith. They’ve all played significant minutes over the past few weeks and need the rest with a second game of a back-to-back on tap against Phoenix on Tuesday. The Jazz will need to take care of business here and in their finale against the Spurs on Thursday in order to have a shot at the No. 5 seed in the West.
Injuries/Rotational Adjustments to Watch: With Doncic, Porzingis and Finney-Smith out, shooters Tim Hardaway Jr. and Seth Curry will likely become the focal point of the offense. Boban Marjanovic and Maxi Kleber could see the bulk of the minutes up front against Rudy Gobert and the Jazz.
Donovan Mitchell was a game-time decision due to peroneal strain on Saturday and struggled before finding his rhythm late in regulation to force a pair overtime periods that he excelled in. Backup point guard Emmanuel Mudiay sat with left knee soreness, while starting forward Royce O’Neal played through calf soreness. All hands are expected to be on deck for Utah.
Handicapping Notes: The Jazz pushed San Antonio for 48 minutes despite playing only Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson among guys in the top-seven of Quin Snyder’s rotation, so they’re aware of what can happen when you overlook a team of pros. Utah beat Dallas on Jan. 25 and Feb. 10. The ‘over’ has connected in four straight games involving Utah.
Nothin’ But Bet: From the “somebody has to rebound” for Dallas department, we expect a big game from Kleber, who typically plays whatever role he’s asked to on the floor by Carlisle, be it setting screens for Doncic or being tasked with guarding much bigger forwards in the paint. He’ll get a little shine today and surpass the 8.5 rebounds they have set for him at FanDuel (+100).
Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks
- Time/Venue: 6:35 p.m. ET, HP Field House
- Records/Bubble Records (SU/ATS): Raptors 50-19/4-1 (39-29-1, 4-1); Bucks 55-16/2-3 (38-32, 2-3)
- Line: MIL -5.5/XXX MIL -235 ML, TOR +194
Line Analysis: This number is a little lower than I expected it would be considering the Raptors are playing the second of a back-to-back and suiting up for a third time in four days. I’d hop on the Bucks once there’s clarity that Mike Budenholzer isn’t giving anyone the day off because Raps head coach Nick Nurse may go that route with Toronto having wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the East.
Injuries/Rotational Adjustments to Watch: Brook Lopez comes off a brilliant game against Dallas in the OT loss on Saturday night and took the game over for stretches. Sharpening his tenacity could be a focal point this week, as is continuing to get Eric Bledsoe comfortable after he joined the team late due to COVID-19. He still doesn’t look like he’s found a rhythm.
Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet have terrorized opposing backcourts all season and have done so even more resoundingly in the bubble, but we’ll see if one or both get a break here. Pascal Siakam’s rebounding has been way down of late but his perimeter shooting helped foil a Grizzlies’ comeback bid on Sunday, picking up a cover.
Handicapping Notes: With their next loss in Orlando, the Bucks will have dropped as many games at Disney’s Wide World of Sports than they did all season at home inside Fiserv Forum. Defense has been an issue and rotations are a bit off due to guys being out of the lineup, so it will be interesting to see whether Budenholzer looks to build up his team’s confidence this week or takes his foot off the gas completely since Milwaukee will be heavily favored against Orlando, its likely first-round opponent.
Nothin’ But Bet: Backing the Bucks to win by 11 or more points at FanDuel pays out at +185. Given the likelihood that multiple Raptors are given the night off, I’d take a shot at this before the numbers are altered.
Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat
- Time/Venue: 6:05 p.m. ET, HP Field House
- Records/Bubble Records (SU/ATS): Pacers 43-27/4-1 (38-29-3, 4-1); Heat 43-27/2-3 (35-33-2, 2-3)
- Line: MIA -2.5/XXX MIA -138 ML, IND +118
Line Analysis: Miami has been without its leader, Jimmy Butler, for the past few games but he’s expected back for his duel with T.J. Warren here, landing the Heat back in a favorite’s role after they closed as an underdog against Phoenix for Saturday’s loss. The Pacers are a perfect 3-0 SU and ATS in an underdog role in Orlando.
Indiana lost both regular-season meetings against Miami, doing so as a 1-point favorite at home in the most recent matchup (Jan. 8) after a memorable 113-112 result in South Florida on Dec. 27. These teams will play one another twice this week, squaring off on Thursday too. It remains to be seen whether there’s anything to play for that night but it would appear all systems are go for all hands to be on deck here, setting this up as the game of the night.
Injuries/Rotational Adjustments to Watch: While Warren is listed as questionable with a foot injury, he carried that designation on Saturday before suiting up to torch the Lakers in an upset win. Even if he’s not 100 percent, sitting this one out would be perceived as ducking the matchup with Butler, who has seemingly been getting himself healthy in missing the past few games just to ensure he’d be fine for this one.
With Domantas Sabonis out due to plantar fasciitis, the Pacers have become dependent on Warren as the go-to guy while employing three guards and center Myles Turner around him.
The Heat lost on Saturday night despite a huge game from rookie guard Tyler Herro, who did his best in helping replace the production of guard Goran Dragic (ankle), who is also likely to return this evening. Fellow rookie Kendrick Nunn is isolating after leaving the bubble on Friday and is listed as “self-quarantining.”
Handicapping Notes: Malcolm Brogdon has had some health issues over the past few weeks, from battling COVID-19 to being scratched before the bubble opener due to a neck issue, but he’s looked increasingly like his usual self over the past few games and will be the x-factor here given Miami’s issues defending opposing guards.
Victor Oladipo has looked spry but isn’t 100 percent, so anything he can give Indiana here, even as a decoy, has to be looked at as a plus. Miami’s Bam Adebayo can probably be more aggressive on the defensive end without Sabonis to worry about and should be able to avoid foul trouble as a result. If this one’s close down the stretch, it will indeed come down to Warren vs. Butler. The Heat star is an elite defender who has studied Warren’s game to ensure he slows him down after the two got into it earlier this season.
Warren, the bubble’s MVP by a resounding margin based on his play to date, is averaging 34.8 points in Orlando, a figure weighed down by scoring just 16 points against the Suns in the game in which he hurt his foot. He’s clearly also been working on his game, setting this up as must-see TV. Unfortunately, this game is only available via League Pass.
Nothin’ But Bet: Oladipo comes off a 22-point game against the Lakers where he also produced five assists, his high for the bubble. He played 35 minutes but committed six turnovers and may take a backseat against a tougher Miami defense. Ride the under on his points prop at FanDuel (17.5 -122).
Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
- Time/Venue: 9:05 p.m. ET, ESPN Wide World of Sports Arena
- Records/Bubble Records (SU/ATS): 46-24/3-2 (32-34-4, 3-2); Lakers 51-18/2-4 (36-32-1, 1-5)
- Line: LAL -5.5/221, LAL ML -225, DEN +188
Line Analysis: The Lakers are laying a larger number than I expected them to considering the Nuggets got point guard Jamal Murray back for Saturday’s OT win over Utah in which his scoring and the threat he presents on the floor made a major difference.
The total is in the neighborhood of where I had it, a bucket lower than the 223 I projected. The ‘under’ is 4-2 in Lakers games in Orlando. If this figure closes where it is, it will represent the most points L.A. has been favored by against Denver all season, coming off a 120-116 win in Denver just before the All-Star break on Feb. 12 that gave it a 2-1 series edge entering this fourth and final regular-season matchup.
Injuries/Rotational Adjustments to Watch: Since the Lakers don’t play again until Thursday’s matchup with Sacramento, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are expected to participate in one final playoff-like tune-up prior to opening the playoffs as the Western Conference’s top seed next week.
Lawrence Frank will have to replace starting guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who has been ruled out with an ankle injury, and potentially Danny Green, who missed Saturday’s night’s loss with a hip injury. Since Avery Bradley opted out and Rajon Rondo won’t be ready for at least another week, the Lakers are depleted at guard. Denver got Murray back but is still going to be without starts Will Barton (knee) and Gary Harris (hip), who have yet to play in the bubble. As a result, Michael Porter Jr., Torrey Craig and Jerami Grant will continue getting more touches and extended minutes.
Handicapping Notes: James shot just 18.5 percent from 3-point range in two regular-season wins over the Nuggets but still averaged 28.5 points and 11.5 assists. Count on him attempting to get his shot back on track here after struggling from the perimeter in losses to the Thunder and Pacers last week. Anthony Davis scored just eight points on Saturday in a brutal shooting game and has looked bothered by an ankle injury. Following a 42-point outburst last Monday night in a win over the Jazz, Davis has averaged just 11.3 points per game and has put together a pair of sub-30 percent shooting performances.
Beyond continuing to get Murray back up to speed following a hamstring issue, the Nuggets hope to keep Porter Jr. from deferring since he’s emerged as a major part of their rotation. He scored just a bucket in five minutes of action against the Lakers this season but is averaging 29.3 points and 12.5 rebounds over the last four games in a breaking out as a focal point of the offense. The ‘over’ is 5-0 in Denver’s seeding games.
Nothin’ But Bet: Without a top defender to try and keep him from getting a rhythm, look for Murray to pick up where he left off against Utah considering he did the bulk of his damage in the second half and OT, finishing with 23 points, 12 boards and eight assists in his first game in nearly five months. Ride the ‘over’ on his points-rebounds-assists prop at FanDuel (28.5, -122).
As stated above, the expectation here is that Raptors’ head coach Nick Nurse will start more evenly dispensing minutes and will probably give vets like Lowry and centers Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka time off. The Bucks blew it when overlooking a depleted Brooklyn team that rested its best players, so I wouldn’t expect them to make the same mistake again. Coming off a loss and looking to rediscover their killer instinct, look for Milwaukee to beat Toronto by double-digits tonight and lay the points.
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