The great normalization of the 2020 NBA playoffs is officially at hand. After five days worth of games, only one series underdog (Utah Jazz) currently leads its series. The Lakers, Clippers and Bucks all seem to have regained control of their respective matchups. Despite all of the hubbub, upsets don’t appear to be overly likely at the moment. The better teams are winning.
That is how the first round tends to work, but it’s critical for the sake of evaluating these bubble playoffs. Things haven’t been normal through three weeks in Orlando. That they’re starting to come closer should make betting the rest of the postseason a bit easier. With that in mind, here are Saturday’s best bets.
All lines via William Hill Sportsbook
Milwaukee Bucks at Orlando Magic: Bucks -12
Orlando’s “fire away” game plan worked really well for 48 minutes, but unsurprisingly, the Bucks caught on, adjusted for Game 2 and held the Magic below 100 points. They won Game 2 by 15 points despite getting only two points from Khris Middleton. That is going to improve, but Orlando doesn’t have an alternative here. Their roster is so depleted that they can’t simply change gears and come up with another strategy to flummox Milwaukee. They played their trick and the Bucks figured it out. Now it’s time for them to accept the beatdown we all knew was coming.
Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat: Pacers +5
Indiana has played Miami closer than the final scores suggest, and Miami’s eight-point win in Game 2 relied on unsustainable 51 percent shooting from behind the arc. Not even Duncan Robinson can hit 7 of 8 from beyond the arc every game. Miami may well win Game 3, but the gap between these teams isn’t big enough right now to justify a five-point spread. Take the points and trust Game 3 to be relatively close.
Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Rockets -3
The Rockets won Game 1 by 15 and Game 2 by 13. The circumstances have not materially changed for Game 3. No new players are entering or exiting the lineup. There won’t be a change of venue. Oklahoma City got exactly the sort of defensive performance it needed out of Lu Dort in Game 2, holding James Harden to only 5-of-16 shooting, but the Rockets still won comfortably. Oklahoma City just has no answer for Houston’s switching. It can’t keep up offensively in this series.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers: Under 225
Portland averaged 126 points per game in their eight seeding games. They’re down to 94 per game against the Lakers, and now Damian Lillard is dealing with a dislocated finger. Lillard and CJ McCollum have been Portland’s only consistent scorers, and neither has done so efficiently. The Lakers, meanwhile, just got to 111 on a good day. To call this a defensive struggle would be somewhat inaccurate. The Blazers will struggle with the Lakers defense. The Lakers will struggle with their own offense. They’ll win, and it’ll be a somewhat low-scoring game.