Despite the Dallas Mavericks' inexperience and struggles to close out opponents this season, they find themselves tied 1-1 in the first round against the championship favorite Los Angeles Clippers entering Game 3 on Friday.
After prevailing 127-114 on Wednesday, Dallas overcame an opening defeat to make this a legitimate series. Oddsmakers don't seem rattled, since they still have L.A. as the +310 favorite to win the NBA Finals. Is that too generous a futures forecast? We'll know more by Friday's end.
Read on for abe Insights' betting preview for Clippers-Mavs, which has advanced stats to bear in mind, analysis of how the primary lines should trend and the best odds available among the major sportsbooks.
Date: Friday, August 21
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Clippers 67%; Mavericks 36%
Spread: LAC -5
Moneyline: LAC -200; DAL +180
Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley is a devil on the defensive end, and his absence from Game 2 due to a calf injury was very evident. Unfortunately, he's doubtful to play tonight as well, which really hinders LA's prospects of keeping the Mavs in check more often.
Dallas reserve Trey Burke has a sprained right ankle, yet is probable for Game 3 after scoring 16 points the last time out, leading an impressive bench effort. Hopefully Burke can hold up health-wise to give the Mavs more instant offense.
.361 vs. .330: The Clippers are letting their foe get to the free throw line at a higher clip than any other first-round playoff team other than Boston. Dallas is also yielding a high rate of charity stripe trips to L.A., so whichever side avoids foul trouble best should have the best chance to win Game 3.
56.2 vs. 52.2: Isn't it the Clippers who have the more revered defense? Well, in the first two meetings with the Mavs, their effective field goal percentage allowed is four points higher than that of Dallas, which is another cause for alarm.
38.9 vs. 31.9: To dig a bit deeper into the above figures, check out the playoff 3-point FG% defense for both teams here. Surprisingly, the Mavs are far better after ranking 10th during the 2019-20 season, while the Clippers ranked in the NBA's top five.
In addition to Beverley's absence, what should make the Clippers uneasy is the fact that the Mavs haven't really put together a complete game yet. Kristaps Porzingis got ejected early in the third quarter of Game 1, and Luka Doncic made history with a record 42 points in his playoff debut, yet coughed up 11 turnovers in the loss.
Despite Doncic's improved ball security in Game 2, he sat for 20 minutes of action due to foul trouble. Imagine if he and Porzingis can get through an entire evening without any technical foul shenanigans and more disciplined play. It could spell serious trouble for L.A.
More discouraging yet for the Clips is how their renowned depth in Game 2 didn't really reveal itself. Instead, it was the Mavs bench who rose to the occasion, outscoring coach Doc Rivers' squad 47-37 in that area — despite 23 points from Lou Williams. Who's the deeper team again?
To play devil's advocate to those narratives, the Clippers have a ready-made rebuttal if All-Star Paul George can rediscover his form. George has been bad in both games against Dallas, averaging 20.5 points on 35.9% shooting, 6.5 rebounds and four fouls. His reputation as a stopper on defense is taking a hit, too.
Can PG-13 step up and carry his weight as a championship-caliber complement to Kawhi Leonard? Or will it be Porzingis asserting his will on the undersized Clippers, teaming with Doncic to push the Mavs to a 2-1 series lead?
Going off of Thursday's postseason action, the NBA had a lot of lower-scoring battles. Defense generally tightens up as the playoffs progress, so even though the first two in this series averaged 234.5 total points, look for bettors to buck the trend and bet more on the Under in Clips-Mavs Game 3.
Unless it's a parlay or teaser bet, there's not much reason to invest a ton in L.A. to win outright. The return on investment isn't great, and considering Dallas won Game 2, look for more bets to ride the momentum and go for the Mavs moneyline and spread.
Note: Odds current as of 11:50 a.m. ET on Friday, August 21.
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