NBA Second Round Betting Preview: All In On The Warriors

Klay Thompson (right) and Stephen Curry (left) of the Golden State Warriors talks with each other against Indiana Pacers during the first half of an NBA basketball game at Chase Center on January 20, 2022 in San Francisco, California.
Image Credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Welcome back to the NBA Betting Dime. If you’re new here, welcome! This is a safe space that combines some of the things that make basketball and NBA betting so special. You can expect to find some analytical deep dives into NBA betting, social media clips, gambling information, and maybe some pop culture references sprinkled in.

This edition will be betting-heavy, including picks for all four second-round series. We did well in the first round overall, posting a 4-2 record for +1.9 units. We’ll take that every day of the week.

This week’s column will also touch on all the drama with the Nets, the future of the Jazz, and Ja Morant’s late submission for dunk of the year.

Let’s dive right in.

1. Boston Celtics vs Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo dribbles the ball down the court with his left hand during a game against the Chicago Bulls
Image Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

This should be one heck of a series. These two teams emerged as my favorite bets to win the Eastern Conference during the season, so I view this series as the defacto Conference Finals. Whoever wins this matchup should be favored heading into the following round.

The Celtics basically played possum for the first half of the year before morphing into a juggernaut. They’re known for their defense – they led the league in defensive efficiency – and they did a fabulous job shutting down Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving during the first round. However, don’t sleep on their offense. They averaged a staggering 121.6 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break, which easily would’ve led the league. Based purely on the metrics, this is the best team in basketball.

Meanwhile, the Bucks are the defending champs, and they feature the best player in basketball in Giannis Antetokounmpo. They breezed through the Bulls in the first round, winning each of the past three games by at least 16 points. Giannis was his usual dominant self on both ends of the floor, racking up averages of 28.6 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 6.2 assists in just 33.6 minutes per game.

The big question is can the Celtics neutralize Giannis in the same way they neutralized Durant? Giannis is a vastly different player than Durant, but the Celtics have the pieces to slow him down. They can throw some size at him with Al Horford, or they can try to pester him with Marcus Smart. They have one of the best rim protectors in the league with Robert Williams. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can use their length to pack the paint and reach in on drives. I’m not expecting Boston to completely shut down Giannis, but they can make life very difficult for him.

Giannis will also be missing Khris Middleton, at least for the early part of the series. With Middleton’s scoring ability, Milwaukee is going to have to work significantly harder to score points.

Fortunately, Bobby Portis is an excellent reserve player, and they moved him into the lineup pretty seamlessly in the first round. In fact, the three-man combo of Antetokounmpo, Portis, and Lopez posted a staggering +29.1 Net Rating during the first round.

Celtics vs Bucks Prediction & Series Bet

I’m ultimately pretty conflicted on this series. I expect the Celtics to win – especially with the benefit of home court – but they’re listed at -210 on DraftKings Sportsbook. That seems like an overreaction to their sweep over a vastly overrated Nets squad. I’m also not willing to count out Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday.

I think the best betting value lies with the Bucks +1.5 games. You can find that bet for around -125, and it covers you if the Bucks win the series or lose in seven games. The Celtics winning in seven feels like the most likely scenario in my eyes, so that’s a big deal.

2. Kevin Durant vs. Sir Charles

Say what you want about the Nets, but they’re never boring. There are still plenty of storylines to dig into with Brooklyn even though they were swept from the playoffs in disastrous fashion.

Let’s start with Durant. He’s one of the most mercurial stars in the league, and he’s known to get into fights on Twitter. Charles Barkley went after Durant on Inside the NBA, so Durant decided to clap back on social media:

If he’s saying Chuck doesn’t get to say a thing about ring chasing because he teamed up with Hakeem Olajuwon and Scottie Pippen, I get it. I wouldn’t compare joining those two over-the-hill greats to joining a team that won 73 games the season prior, but it’s comparable. That said, that doesn’t make Durant immune to criticism.

He played poorly vs. the Celtics. They did a fantastic job against him, but Durant also seemed disinterested at times. In a must-win Game 3, one of the most efficient scorers in league history attempted a paltry 11 shots. How does that happen? He was more aggressive in Game 4, but by that point, the damage was already done. I’m certainly not blaming Durant for the Nets’ struggles this season, but when you enter the year as title favorites and flame out in the first round, you’re going to catch some flack.

For the record, Chuck is also dead wrong about his Warriors’ take. Steph Curry is an all-time great player, but Durant was better. The Warriors arguably didn’t need Durant, but it certainly made their lives a whole lot easier. He outdueled LeBron James in back-to-back years, which is something that shouldn’t be forgotten.

This story would’ve blown over if it ended right there. However, the folks at Inside the NBA decided to clap back:

Let this be a lesson to everyone else on Twitter: don’t show up with a knife to a gunfight. Durant is just one man with a Twitter account. He had no chance against an entire production team. They picked the most perfect clip possible to encapsulate the Nets season: Durant, a disinterested Kyrie Irving, and an absent Ben Simmons. Pure art.

3. Another Chapter In The Ben Simmons Saga

I’m ready to nickname Simmons “General Hospital” because the man is nothing short of a soap opera. It was floated after the start of the series that Simmons would make his team debut in Game 4. That was echoed again as the team entered Game 3, which put some serious pressure on his teammates to deliver. If the Nets lost Game 3 and Simmons returned in Game 4, he could become the first player in league history to play in back-to-back elimination losses. His last game was the collapse against the Hawks in last year’s postseason, which started this whole saga to begin with.

Sure enough, the Nets managed to lose Game 3 with Simmons dressed like a skittle courtside:

You know what happened next. Simmons did not return to the lineup in Game 4, and the Nets were removed from the postseason.

When the Simmons’ news first broke, I thought the Nets were actually trying to protect him. After all, getting knocked out of the playoffs in back-to-back games can’t be good for your psyche.

Turns out, I was wrong:

The team clearly wanted him to try to play through his back injury, even if it meant another embarrassing loss in Game 4. It’s quite possible that Simmons was too injured to play, but at this point, this is getting to be like the boy who cried wolf. After a while, people are going to stop believing you.

Of course, Twitter had their fun with Simmons as well:

It will be interesting to see where the Nets go from here. Kyrie Irving told reporters he intends to re-sign, and as long as that happens, they’ll be among the favorites again next season. They’ll have to reinvent themselves with Simmons in the rotation – hopefully – but that should be a major positive. Add Joe Harris back into the mix, and the Nets could be vastly improved over last season’s squad.

4. Memphis Grizzles vs Golden State Warriors

Golden State Warriors Draymond Green, left, and Stephen Curry look at each other in celebration during their victory over the Denver Nuggets on April 21, 2022, in Denver.
Image Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

This series looks exciting on paper, but it’s a major mismatch in my opinion. The Warriors have a claim as the best team in basketball, while the Grizzlies are still a few pieces away.

The Warriors did drop one game vs. the Nuggets, but I still believe this team is a bit undervalued in the betting market. People forget the first half of the year when a healthy Steph Curry and Draymond Green had this team atop the Net Rating leaderboard. The Warriors didn’t even get a full series out of Curry – he came off the bench in four contests – yet they still rolled through the likely MVP in Nikola Jokic.

With Curry and Green on the floor in that series, the team averaged a ridiculous 136.3 points per 100 possessions. That’s over a sample size of 114 minutes, which is not insignificant. Overall, the team posted a Net Rating of +26.5 in that scenario.

The Warriors also debuted a new starting lineup in Game 5, featuring Curry, Green, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, and Andrew Wiggins. That unit has the potential to be absolute death for opposing defenses, and they averaged 151.9 points per 100 possessions with all five on the floor vs. the Nuggets. They’re more vulnerable than usual on the defensive end, but that doesn’t matter if you’re averaging more than 1.5 points per possession.

Meanwhile, the Grizzlies struggled to overcome the Timberwolves, needing multiple late comebacks to get the job done. Don’t expect them to repeat that formula vs. the Warriors.

Warriors vs Grizzlies Prediction & Series Bet

Ultimately, Warriors -1.5 games at -140 is my favorite wager of the second round. I’ll also have a sprinkle on Warriors to win in five games at +450, and I expect this series to wrap up rather quickly.

5. Dunk of the Year – Revised Edition

Last week, I crowned Russell Westbrook’s hammer over Rudy Gobert as the dunk of the year. Turns out, I’m going to have to revise that to “dunk of the regular season.” Ja Morant reminded everyone that when he’s coming down the runway, you best get out the damn way:

Was it a charge? Honestly, who cares. Morant essentially took off two steps inside the free throw line and dunked Malik Beasley off the face of the Earth.

Also, give Ian Eagle credit for one of the best dunk calls imaginable. I’m not sure if he had that saved up or broke it out on the fly, but “Ja Breaker” was chef’s kiss good. It’s just more proof that Eagle is the best broadcaster on the planet at the moment.

6. Phoenix Suns vs Dallas Mavericks

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball in the third quarter against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on February 05, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Image Credit: G Fiume/Getty Images

This series should be a fun one. The Suns survived a scare in the first round of the postseason, winning a series that was closer than expected vs. the Pelicans. However, they did get Devin Booker back for Game 6, which means he should be a full go vs. the Mavericks.

I still think the Warriors have been the best team in basketball at full strength this season, but the Suns are right behind. They absolutely rolled through the regular season, winning at least eight more games than every other team and leading the league in Net Rating.

However, the Mavs are worthy adversaries. They ranked third in Net Rating during the final 10 games of the regular season, and they got past a Jazz team with plenty of experience in the first round. They even managed to win two games without Luka Doncic, who is obviously their most important player.

Suns vs Mavericks Prediction & Series Bet

From a betting perspective, I’m not sure there’s a ton of value in the series market at the moment. If I was forced to make a pick, I’d roll with the Suns -1.5 games at -135. I do think they’re the better team, and they should be able to get this series done in six games.

However, the best betting value in my eyes lies in the individual games. The Mavericks have been an absolute under machine with Doncic in the lineup recently. Just look at the point differentials from the first round:

  • Games 1-3 (without Doncic): 216.7 points per game
  • Games 4-6 (with Doncic): 190.7 points per game

The total for Game 1 vs. the Suns is sat at 214 points, so let’s take advantage of the under while we still can.

7. Chris Paul Is Perfect

Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns reacts against the Atlanta Hawks during the second half at State Farm Arena on February 03, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Image Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In case you missed it on Thursday, Paul turned in a performance for the ages during the Suns’ closeout win over the Pelicans. The Point God racked up 33 points, eight assists, and five rebounds, and he did it without missing a single shot. He was a perfect 14-14 from the field, 1-1 from 3-point range, and 4-4 from the free throw line.

The list of players to throw a “perfect game” during the postseason is small. There have only been 18 instances of player shooting a perfect 100% from the field with at least eight shot attempts. Of those 18, only six have also been perfect at the free throw line. No one had ever been better than 12 for 12 or scored more than 28 points in a perfect game before CP3.

How people continue to underrate this guy boggles my mind. He hasn’t won a ring, but we need to stop tying people’s legacies exclusively to their number of titles. Paul has benefitted from bad injury luck as well as sharing an era with guys like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry. It goes without saying that he can’t control when he was born.

Maybe he does get his ring this season, but it honestly shouldn’t matter. He’s already one of the best point guards to ever play the game.

8. The New Orleans Pelicans: A New Hope?

Things are looking pretty good for the Pelicans at the moment. Not only did they fare better than expected vs. the Suns, but Zion Williamson recently doubled down on his desire to be there:

Of course, it’s not surprising that Williamson said he’d sign an extension. We’ve seen that re-signing with a team doesn’t preclude players from demanding a trade, and locking in a max extension is a smart move given Williamson’s checkered injury history. Still, this has to be considered good news for Pelicans fans.

Maybe Zion will still try to force his way out of New Orleans during the offseason, but it’s hard to imagine him landing in a better situation than he’s already in. He has two borderline All-Star teammates in Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum, and the Pelicans have a promising core of rookies as well. Herb Jones has already emerged as one of the league’s best defenders, while Trey Murphy III and Jose Alvarado have proven they belong at this level.

If the Pelicans can add a healthy, motivated Williamson to their current group, the sky is the limit. Remember, Williamson established himself as one of the best players in the league in his second season. The Pelicans averaged 5.5 additional points per 100 possessions on offense while allowing -2.2 fewer points per 100 possessions on defense with Williamson on the floor. He averaged 27.0 points, 7.2 boards, and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 61.1% from the field at just 20 years old.

A lot of people have taken shots at Williamson’s weight, desire to return to the court, or general lack of enthusiasm for basketball this season. I can’t wait for him to prove them all wrong, whether it’s in New Orleans or elsewhere.

9. Miami Heat vs Philadelphia 76ers

Kyle Lowry #7 of the Miami Heat is guarded by Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center on January 03, 2022 in San Francisco, California
Image Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

This is probably the least exciting of the second round series, especially after the news involving Joel Embiid. He suffered a right orbital fracture and a mild concussion in the 76ers’ closeout win over the Raptors, and he has been ruled out indefinitely. There’s still some hope that Embiid can return at some point vs. the Heat, but he will at least miss the start of the series.

Meanwhile, the Heat continue to roll. They posted the best record in the East during the regular season, and they were able to dispatch the Hawks relatively easily in the first round. The Heat don’t have a true “superstar,” but they have a lot of quality players. Their most commonly used lineup of Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, and P.J. Tucker posted a Net Rating of +12.7 over nearly 423 minutes during the regular season.

Even if Embiid was at full strength, Miami matches up very well with Philly. Adebayo is one of the few centers in the league who can hold his own against Embiid. The 76ers are also the second-most accurate team from behind the 3-point line, but the Heat own the fourth-best defense in terms of opponent 3-point percentage.

Heat vs 76ers Prediction & Series Bet

Given all the questions with the 76ers, the Heat -1.5 games seems like an appealing wager. I’m still not sold on their legitimacy as true contenders, but they should be able to get the job done against a hurt Embiid and a declining James Harden.

10. The End Of The Road For The Jazz

Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz reacts after a play during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Arena on February 16, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Image Credit: Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Jazz have been fringe contenders for the better part of the last half-decade, but it seems as though their run is officially over. The duo of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert clearly isn’t enough to win the Jazz a title, and the team will likely break up that duo in the offseason.

The team has a few different options with their two biggest superstars. They can choose to build around Mitchell, build around Gobert, or build around neither. I would love to see the Jazz go with the nuclear option and shop both of their best players.

Mitchell should fetch a strong return on the trade market. Teams are always willing to pay top dollar for young superstars, and Mitchell fits that description. He’ll be just 26 years old at the start of next season, and he’s under contract for four more years. That’s extremely desirable. I’m not sure Mitchell will fetch Anthony Davis/Paul George prices, but he should return multiple first-round picks and young players.

Gobert is the more interesting player. He’s one of the best rim protectors in the league, but he has not shown the ability to dominate the playoffs in the same way he dominates the regular season. He’ll also be 30 years old next season, and he’s due $169.5M over the next four years. I’m not sure how much value he’ll carry in the trade market.

Still, if they can move both players and build up a massive war chest of assets, it will allow the Jazz the opportunity to rebuild rather quickly. They’ll obviously need to get lucky with their picks, but they would be picking near the top of the first-round next year if they do move both players. I’m not sure that blowing the team up would be the best course of action for the Jazz, but it sure would be entertaining. I’m ready to live in a world where Jordan Clarkson attempts 30 shots a game.