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Man Crush on Kyle Guy
Basketball Betting Analysis: Our Top NBA Picks for June 4 and June 5

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Dallas Mavericks
Friday, June 4, 2021 at 9 p.m. ET (ESPN) at American Airlines Center in Dallas

Only Losing By Five

Many bettors are up in arms because of the Clippers.

After beating Dallas twice in a row, the Clippers seemed to become the stronger team that many future bettors had expect them to be.

But then they lost to Dallas to go down 3-2 in the series.

Even though they lost, I am actually really impressed by the Clippers because they nearly won — they missed a layup with eight seconds left in the game that would have given them the lead — despite encountering some anomalies.

L.A. had to withstand a 16-0 Maverick run at the end of the third quarter that was precipitated by Paul George suffering foul trouble for the first time all series.

The Clippers also had to withstand a 14.3-percent drop in its open three-point conversion rate.

Match-Up

With George on the floor and out of foul trouble, the Clippers can deter the Mavericks from devoting too much attention to Kawhi Leonard — they double-teamed him inside.

In that 3:47 third-quarter stretch, Kawhi was totally ineffective. But he has been great all series — scoring between 26 and 41 points in his previous four games — partly because the defense also has to respect George, especially since George became more aggressive on offense.

Conversely, the Mavericks do not have a player to support superstar Luka Doncic. The offense is essentially a one-man show going up against Kawhi, PG, and a veteran-laden bench.

Defensively, the Mavs ranked 13 spots behind the Clippers during the regular season.

Dallas is one of the worst teams at limiting opposing efficiency inside and at limiting opposing open and wide open three-point attempts.

This is a great chance to back the Clippers because the belief in them has shrunk and because the spread is short.

Best Bet: Clippers -2.5 at -108 with Heritage

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Brooklyn Nets
Saturday, June 5, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. ET (TNT) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn

The Myth of Milwaukee’s Defense

Milwaukee is attracting betting interest partly because people believe in its defense after its first-round sweep of Miami.

So I need to talk about Miami in order to prevent bettors from drawing erroneous conclusions from Milwaukee’s first round series.

During the regular season, the Heat ranked 25th in scoring, one spot better than the bottom-feeder Pistons.

They finished below their regular season scoring average against Milwaukee because leading scorer Jimmy Butler was ineffective and because they underachieved in their open and wide open three-point conversion rates in Games 2 and 3.

Butler was ineffective because he doesn’t shoot efficiently from beyond the arc. He primarily wants to score inside. He struggled against the Bucks because they characteristically like to pack the paint.

So the Heat, by underachieving and matching up poorly with the Bucks, wrongly encourage bettors to have an inflated perception of Milwaukee’s defensive ability.

Regular Season Series

The regular season series between Brooklyn and Milwaukee further substantiates what I’m claiming about the Buck defense.

Both teams played three times during the regular season. The Nets scored 114, 118, and 125 points in three respective games.

Importantly, the big three — Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant — did not play together in any of those three games.

Having these three players is on the court is critical because the Nets are demonstrably stronger when they are all available.

In the first round series against Boston, the Nets’ offensive rating was about 21 points better when all three were on the court than when any one of them was off the court.

What Brooklyn Has That Miami Lacks

One thing that Brooklyn’s offense has that Miami’s doesn’t is an inside-out game.

The Heat, led by Butler, want to drive inside against a Buck defense that packs the paint.

But Brookyln complements its inside scoring with prowess from behind the arc.

During the regular season, the Nets owned the second-best three-point percentage. They ranked this highly despite their star players missing so much time.

Even looking at other players than the big three, Joe Harris is a sharpshooter who converted 47.5 percent of his three-point attempts in the regular season.

Harris isn’t just the catch-and-shoot guy that people pin him as. He can now also dribble in order to create space for his shot attempts.

Milwaukee’s Perimeter Defense

Brooklyn’s ability to thrive from behind the arc with several different players is decisive given the vulnerability — even the porousness — of the Buck perimeter defense.

In the regular season, the Bucks conceded the 10th-most open three-point attempts and the sixth-most wide open ones.

Besides simply wanting to pack the paint with more help defense, the Bucks have a broken ball-screen defense. They allowed the fifth-most points against the pick-and-roll for the ball-handler play type.

They know that their characteristic drop coverage is problematic, but they haven’t been able to discover a solution.

James Harden

When Brooklyn only scored 114 and 118 points, James Harden wasn’t playing.

It’s not like the Nets are limited to shooting from deep. They didn’t just score 114 or 118 points by shooting threes.

But they will score more inside with Harden. Among all NBA players, Harden converted the 16th-most field goals per game in the regular season while driving and he was one of the most efficient doing so.

He’s harder to guard because defenders still have to respect his shooting ability.

Harden is also a top-level distributor who will get others involved inside and outside the arc. He averaged 10.8 assists per game during the regular season.

The Myth of Brooklyn’s Defense

After the big three was formed, people wondered whether the Nets’ defense might be the worst defense of all time.

People still maintain the impression that the Nets don’t play defense.

But they've improved. In the last month of the regular season, the Nets ranked 12th in defensive rating, 11 spots better than Milwaukee.

12th isn’t amazing by any means. But it’s not bad. And not bad is better than the Net defense needs to be considering the ridiculous scoring potential of its offense.

Best Bet: Nets -4 at -108 with Heritage
 

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