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Thursday NBA Playoff Over Unders
By Dan Favale
Something about playing in Wisconsin doesn't agree with the offenses for these two teams.
In the two games the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors have played on the former's home court, they're combining to average 172 points. This is nothing given a two-game sample size, but at the same time, it's something.
The Bucks weren't a particularly strong defensive team at home during the regular season. In fact, they ranked 20th in points allowed per 100 possessions through their 41 outings. When they played those two grind-it-out fests, in Games 3 and 4, the Raptors were still searching for their identity. Head coach Dwane Casey made the starting lineup change ahead of Game 4, but Toronto's offense still wasn't getting enough from its two best players, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, or its supporting cast.
But the Raptors have worked through those hiccups. Lowry and DeRozan won't always have it going on the same night, and the team's three-point shooting is bizarre, but they didn't hang 111 points on the Bucks by mistake in Game 5.
Recency matters in the NBA. And in recent games, it's looked like the Raptors' offense is on the come-up. That alone is enough to draw us toward the over.
The Pick: Over 195
Sportsbooks are really pushing their chips all in right here.
In any other series—or close to it—the line would have moved past 200 total points by now. The San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies are averaging a combined score of 212 over their last three meetings—more than 20 points higher than the listed over/under.
Yes, one of those contests went to overtime, buying each offense an additional five minutes to pile points on the scoreboard. But Mike Conley has been playing like a man alive, and the Grizzlies have one of the worst home defensive ratings in the NBA, according to NBA.com.
Through the two games already played in Memphis, the Spurs and Grizzlies are, on average, tallying 204.3 points—more than 14 points higher than this projection.
Two games is two games, but the Spurs' offense went supernova in Game 5. Kawhi Leonard got help from just about everyone you could imagine. And if the Spurs all of a sudden start brandishing the full weight of their depth, they won't even need the Grizzlies to top 80 points in order for them to push the final bill past 190.
The Pick: Over 190
It makes some sense that this over/under falls noticeably below 200 points. The average score for this series is 198 points, and any time you're dealing with two teams that aren't clearing their own century mark on average, you've got ample incentive to work the under.
But 192.5 is ultimately too low for our tastes.
With Blake Griffin nursing a toe injury that will keep him sidelined for the rest of the season, the Los Angeles Clippers are playing small, with Luc Mbah a Moute, Paul Pierce and Wesley Johnson getting extra burn at power forward. The Utah Jazz, in turn, are playing small themselves. Derrick Favors has become Rudy Gobert's backup, Boris Diaw gets the early ax and both Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson are getting more burn at the 5.
These small-ball lineups are more conducive to higher offensive totals. That wasn't the case in Game 5, when the Jazz won 96-92, but that's the floor on what this final score could be—and it's still right around the 192.5 benchmark.
Expect an even bigger offensive display in Game 6, especially from the Clippers, who are facing elimination. Chris Paul has been playing MVP-level basketball all postseason, and he's bound to ensure his troops put up a potent fight with their season on the line.
The Pick: Over 192.5
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