They’ve both been here before, very recently. Miami won the East Finals in 2020 and Phoenix won the West Finals in 2021.
Standing in their way of getting back to the pinnacles of their respective conferences are the 76ers and Mavericks, who have not been to the brink of the NBA Finals in quite some time. If Philadelphia or Dallas wins it would force this playoff’s first Game 7.
Regular-season record: 117-113-2
Play-in/playoffs record: 53-53
Time: 7 p.m. ET | TNT
Spread: Heat +2.5 (-110) | 76ers -2.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Heat (+110) | 76ers (-133)
Total: Under 207.5 (-110) | Over 207.5 (-110)
The home team has won every game of this series so far. And only one of the five has been decided by single digits—Philadelphia’s eight-point Game 4 victory. After the Heat allowed the 76ers to tie things up with consecutive wins, they returned home to Miami and scored a 120-85 win, the widest margin of the series. Jimmy Butler finally got the assistance he was looking for as six of his teammates also reached double figures in scoring and the Heat outshot the Sixers from three, 13-9.
James Harden finished with just 14 points after he exploded for 31 points in Game 4 and Joel Embiid was held to 17. Tyrese Maxey had his worst game of the postseason and nothing Tobias Harris or Danny Green did could overshadow Philadelphia’s three best players performing so poorly on the road. The 76ers were outrebounded by 10, shot below 40% from the field and below 30% from three and got to the free-throw line just 15 times. If they play like that at home, this series is over.
Tuesday was Miami’s highest offensive output in the postseason. The Heat were due for some positive regression, especially after scoring an absolutely dismal 79 points in Game 3, but 120 points is certainly on the high end for what this offense is capable of night to night. What’s more important—and likely more replicable,—is the high level of defense Miami played to shut down Harden, Embiid and Maxey. The Heat have also gotten help on the boards from some surprising players in back-to-back games: Tyler Herro and then Max Strus led the team in rebounds the last two games, assisting Bam Adebayo and Butler in that regard.
Nothing about Game 5 was encouraging for Philadelphia. Embiid looked uncomfortable, Harden never got going and the defense that held Miami below 100 points on average in Games 3 and 4 was not present. I still think the 76ers will bounce back to force Game 7 in Miami. Similar to the Grizzlies defending home court Wednesday against the Warriors, refusing to go down in front of their home fans, I think Philadelphia wins on the back of a signature playoff moment from Embiid.
BET: 76ers -2.5 (-110); Joel Embiid Over 25.5 Points (-106); Home Team Total Points Over 104.5 (-110)
Time: 7 p.m. ET | TNT
Spread: Suns -2.5 (+100) | Mavericks +2.5 (-118)
Moneyline: Suns (-133) | Mavericks (+110)
Total: Under 211.5 (-110) | Over 211.5 (-11-)
Each of the Suns’ wins have been dominant in this series, including Game 1 which they won by seven after a very late Mavericks push.
The Mavericks’ wins have been impressive, for sure, though they haven’t blown out the No. 1 seed yet. Phoenix responded to Dallas tying the series with a 30-point victory in Game 5. Now, the team is on the verge of its second consecutive conference finals trip as long as it can win one of the next two games.
The seeming unsustainable high-end three-point shooting that has propelled the Mavericks through one and a half playoff rounds dried up Tuesday. They hit just eight threes in the 110-80 loss after combining to hit 33 across Games 3 and 4. Luka Dončić and Jalen Brunson delivered, but no one else was along for the ride. Dorian Finney-Smith had eight points after hitting eight threes the game prior, Reggie Bullock was scoreless, Spencer Dinwiddie had a playoff-low two points and Maxi Kleber finished with four. Dončić had just two assists in the game and his scoring (28 points) did not make up for that level of playmaking by his standards.
The Suns bounced back offensively on their home court, though Chris Paul did not. He tallied his second straight single-digit scoring game and is averaging eight ppg after Game 2 when he scored a series-high 28 points. Devin Booker had 28 in Game 5, Deandre Ayton added 20 and Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson each finished with 14. Scoring 110 points was not Phoenix's highest-scoring game of the postseason, but holding Dallas to 80 was certainly its best defensive showing.
The Mavericks covered and won each game at home as a one-point favorite and as a three-point underdog. After Game 5’s showing, the oddsmakers have installed Phoenix as a road favorite. I like Dallas to even the series at home, and a few points of insurance doesn’t hurt. Dončić is one of the handful of players who can seemingly will his team to victory and after years of not making it past the first round, he has a chance to break through to the conference finals. That would take a road win in Game 7, but they have to get there first. I think they do.
BET: Mavericks +2.5 (-118), Luka Dončić Over 33.5 Points (-106); Luka Dončić Over 9.5 Rebounds (-124)
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