The second round continues on Sunday. The action gets underway at 3:30 p.m. ET with the Dallas Mavericks hosting the Phoenix Suns. In the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers face the Miami Heat at 8:00 p.m. ET. Let’s survey the slate and pick the best bets for Sunday.
76ers -2 (-110)
We’ve got a series, but it’s not because Joel Embiid is back. It’s not because Jimmy Butler had a bad game (33 points and nine rebounds in Game 3). The 76ers were led by unlikely heroes with unbelievable performances in Game 3. Danny Green hit seven of nine 3-pointers and Tyrese Maxey hit five of six. If they shoot like that again, they can win without Embiid.
The Heat must find a way to answer the threat of the secondary scorers. This is a tall order because shifting focus to Green and Maxey will open up James Harden and Embiid. As if that wasn’t a big enough problem, the Heat also need to find a way to score points. The Heat put up an NCAA score in Game 3 — 79 points isn’t going to cut it. The Heat had two players score in double digits — Butler and Tyler Herro with 14 points (33% FG%).
Green and Maxey will not replicate their Game 3 shooting, and the Heat can survive one of those two getting hot again. They cannot survive if Embiid or Harden wake up, nor can they survive with another anemic offensive performance. Someone has to step up for the Heat, and with Embiid on the floor that becomes much more challenging as witnessed in Game 3. It wasn't just that the Heat were cold on Friday. Embiid was back and the Heat’s offense went into hibernation.
Mavericks +1.5 (-110)
Dallas will not go away. The Jazz made the fatal mistake of overlooking this team and paid the price in round one. The Suns looked past the Pelicans and nearly made an early exit from the playoffs. Phoenix learned from that mistake and won Game 1 and 2 of the Western Conference semifinals, but they got too comfortable heading into Game 3. The Mavs grabbed a double-digit lead in the first quarter and the Suns never got within striking distance.
The Mavs are not a good team on paper. They are not a good team on the court. Dallas has the one thing that beguiles the analytic community: heart. There’s no way around it. It’s not quantitative and you can feel it more than you can see it. This is the most Mark Cuban Maverick’s team ever. Throw out the stats and the record books. Their passion efficiency rating is off the charts. This sounds cliché, but there is not a better explanation for why the Mavericks won Game 3. The Suns shot better from the field and from beyond the arc, and they out rebounded the Mavs. They turned the ball over more than the Mavs, but that hardly explains why Game 3 was never close. The Mavs simply wanted it more. At home again on Sunday, the Mavericks will want it more, again.
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