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Tuesday Underdogs Preview Article


Man Crush on Kyle Guy
Daily Upset Alert: NBA Underdog Picks

Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat
Tuesday, May 4, 2021 at 8 p.m. ET at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami

Dallas’ Offense: Read-and-React

Dallas’ offense is largely predicated on read-and-react and on numbers.

The Mavericks will run actions early in the offense that force the defense to react.

When the defense reacts, defenders will rotate or shift out of position. This defensive movement will create a numerical advantage for the offense.

Reading defenses and locating places where the offense can take advantage are things that point guard Luka Doncic excels at.

Go to 12 seconds in the following video to see what I mean:

Dallas is running its five-out offense without Kristaps Porzingis, who will likely miss tonight’s game.

So all five Maverick players are located behind the perimeter.

Backup center Willie Cauley-Stein sets a screen and then rolls to the basket.

Doncic notices that the opposing team is committing a defender to Cauley-Stein.

This commitment compels Doncic to look elsewhere than to Cauley-Stein.

Teammate Tim Hardaway Jr. positions himself behind the perimeter in order to catch a pass from Doncic and shoot an open three.

Dallas Offense vs. Miami Defense

Largely through these early-offense actions, the Mavs attempt a lot of three-pointers.

They attempt the sixth-most threes and rank ninth in three-pointers made per game.

This ability to produce and convert open three-point attempts is something that Dallas can maximize tonight against Miami’s defense.

Defensively, the Heat are most vulnerable along the perimeter, where the Mavericks are relatively strong on offense.

The Heat rank 29th in limiting opposing three-point attempts.

Moreover, they allow by far the highest frequency of open three-point attempts as well as the seventh-highest frequency of wide open three-point attempts.

No Porzingis, No Problem

Porzingis’ absence may be lamented because of the floor-spacing that he provides.

I think that, for reasons stated above, the Mavericks can still execute effectively on offense without him.

But nobody doubts that the Maverick defense will be stronger tonight because Porzingis is absent.

As measured by defensive rating, Porzingis is the worst defender on the team.

With him, Dallas will employ more drop coverage against ball-screens.

But even when he hangs back towards the basket, Porzingis is liable to have opposing ball-handlers blow by him because he lacks sufficient mobility and foot speed.

So his backups will create an improvement in Dallas’ rim protection.

As measured by defensive rating, the Mavericks improve considerably when only Doncic is on the floor and not Porzingis.

Miami Offense vs. Dallas Defense

The Mavs already form a unit that is great at limiting opposing field goal attempts within five feet of the basket.

By being more able to limit opposing efficiency at the basket, Dallas can account for Miami leading scorer Jimmy Butler, who likes to score primarily by attacking the basket.

Other Heat players — like Tyler Herro, who will miss tonight’s game with a foot injury — Kendrick Nunn, catch-and-shoot threat Duncan Robinson, and others — are more inclined to attempt three-pointers.

I like the Mavs’ defense tonight because they are more effective than Miami at limiting opposing three-point attempts and at limiting opposing open and wide-open three-point attempts.

The Verdict

Dallas, primarily through its read-and-react offense, will generate a characteristically high number of favorable three-point attempts, which they can more easily convert against Miami’s more vulnerable perimeter defense.

Defensively, the Mavs will be a lot better than the season-long numbers suggest because they miss weak link Porzingis.

Improved interior defense will help account for Butler while stronger perimeter defense will limit Miami’s plethora of shooters.

Best Bet: Mavericks ATS (Odds TBA)

Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Tuesday, May 4, 2021 at 8 p.m. ET at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans

Warrior Offense vs. Pelican Defense

Limiting opposing scoring continues to be a problem for a Pelican defense that has allowed 123 points in two consecutive games (excluding overtime).

One area in which New Orleans’ defense is weak is along the perimeter.

The Pelicans are terrible at running teams off the three-point line. Moreover, they concede the eighth-highest rate of open three-point attempts and the fourth-highest rate of wide open three-point attempts.

Obviously, star Steph Curry is someone who can take advantage. But he also has a host of teammates like Andrew Wiggins who are efficient from behind the arc.

With guys like Curry, Golden State ranks sixth in three-pointers made per game.

New Orleans Offense vs. Golden State Defense

Offensively, the Pelicans are one-dimensional in a sense that will harm them especially tonight.

They rank 27th in three-pointers made per game.

Instead of being able to shoot threes, they are limited to scoring inside.

Especially when the Pelicans fail to be efficient from deep — which they normally fail to be and they’ve also suffered especially awful performances from deep lately — they fail to space the floor.

So defenses are able to sell out and commit to solidifying their interior.

Interior defense is particularly important against a Pelican offense that primarily wants to attack inside.

The Pelicans attempt the most field goals within five feet of the basket.

This reliance on scoring inside is worrisome against a Warrior defense that, led by the high-level communication, rim protection, perimeter defending, and switching ability of Draymond Green, ranks 10th at limiting the opponent’s field goal efficiency within five feet of the basket.

The Warriors are also great at limiting opposing field goal attempts at the basket.

The Verdict

Golden State will be comfortable doing what it wants to do most on offense because it can more easily make three-pointers against New Orleans’ porous perimeter defense.

Conversely, the Pelican offense will struggle to be comfortable against Golden State’s higher-quality interior defense.

Best Bet: Warriors ATS