OK, I promise I'll stop using these intros as an excuse to share war stories after this one. A few days ago, I lamented the loss of my LeBron James over 26.5 points bet for Game 5 of the Los Angeles Lakers-Phoenix Suns series due to an Andre Drummond offensive foul, but the universe paid me back for it in spades on Thursday, when I bet on his under. This time, the line was set at 29.5 points.
Well, James got to exactly 29 as the Lakers attempted a comeback, and with both sides letting up in the closing minutes once Phoenix secured its double-digit lead, I was certain that James would pick up a garbage-time bucket to seal my fate. With 30 seconds left, Jae Crowder picked up a technical foul, and with no competitive stakes, I figured there wasn't a reason for the Lakers to send their best shooter to the line. Who cares? It seemed like an opportunity for James to pad his stats a bit, but fortunately for my wallet, Dennis Schroder grabbed the ball and took the shot.
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Crisis averted. Bet saved. The lesson here is that luck, over a meaningful sample, is usually going to even out. You win through smart plays. Speaking of which, here are Friday's best bets. We have only a single game to discuss today, so I'll throw out multiple picks for Clippers-Mavericks to make up for that lost volume.
All lines via William Hill Sportsbook
- Over a long enough sample, shooting variance tends to even out. The problem that the Clippers now find themselves in is that they don't have a long sample to work with. If they lose one more game, they're out. So yes, in theory, the Mavericks shouldn't be shooting six percentage points better from behind the arc than the Clippers. In the regular season, the Clippers were five percentage points better. But in one game? Anything can happen. Still, the odds of Luka Doncic, who is still playing through a neck injury, being as good as he was in Game 5 again seem fairly slim. He accounted for 31 of Dallas' 37 field goals as either a scorer or passer, and the Mavs needed every single one of them to win Game 5. If he's even slightly less incredible in Game 6, the Clippers have a major advantage. The pick: Clippers -2.5
- The Kristaps Porzingis hoopla has been slightly overblown. At a line of only 16.5 points for Game 6, it's worth noting that he scored 18 in Game 5 without making a single 3-pointer. That throws a wrench in the "he does nothing but shoot 3s" narrative that has surrounded him this series. He's not exactly Joel Embiid in the post, but against a team that is intentionally playing as small as the Clippers are, it's not at all unreasonable to assume Porzingis will take between 10-12 shots in Game 6 purely off height mismatches. Game 5 was his first single-digit shot attempts outing, so trust some volume regression here to help Porzingis out. The pick: Porzingis over 16.5 points
- No player has averaged even 102 touches per game in the postseason. In Game 5, Doncic touched the basketball 120 times. He made 71 total passes with those touches, and with that injury to his neck and shoulder still bugging him, it seems likely that he emphasizes passing in Game 6 as well. Really, though, the Mavericks just don't have any other ball-handlers that they seem to trust right now. Everything is running through Doncic, and that should lead to some gaudy statistical totals. That he also racks up 10 rebounds fairly often is a nice bonus, but really, this is a bet made with assists in mind. The pick: Luka Doncic will have a double-double