Money Monday

May 8, 2023

Three suggestions for early-in-the-week action

New York Knicks at Miami Heat
Kaseya Center – Miami, FL
7:30 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Miami -4.5

There have been some special players during these NBA playoffs, but perhaps none more so than Jimmy Butler. Coming off his 28 points in a Game 3 blowout against the Knicks, Butler is now averaging 34.4 points per game this postseason, trailing only Phoenix’s Devin Booker.

The Heat are 6-1 in the seven games Butler’s played in throughout the playoffs, with an average margin of victory of 11.33 points per game in the six victories. They’re up 2-1 on New York in this series, and coincidentally the only loss was in the contest Butler missed, Game 2 back at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks looked like they enjoyed South Beach a little too much on Friday night, as they slept-walk through a Saturday matinee in Miami. New York managed to lose every single quarter, trailing by eight points after one, 14 at the half, 17 after three and losing by 19.

R.J. Barrett, one of New York’s best players, was a ridiculous -32 in his 25 minutes on the floor. Julius Randle went just 4-of-15 from the field, stunningly bad for a big man, and Jalen Brunson was 0-for-5 from three-point land.

Not only do the Heat have the best player in Butler, but their stifling defense gave the Knicks fits. As mentioned, Miami is winning by big margins, so the 4.5-point spread feels way too low. The Heat are 3-0 at home in the playoffs, including triumphs by 22 points and 19 points.

Even in its other victory against Milwaukee, Miami prevailed by five and still would’ve covered this spread. Take advantage of the oddsmakers keeping this number low because a lot of Knicks fans are suckers. Miami covers with no issues, as another blowout feels imminent.

Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Miami -4.5 (-110)


Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers Arena – Los Angeles, CA
10:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Los Angeles -3.0

Golden State has won a road playoff game in an NBA record 28 straight postseason series, a stat that gets more mind boggling every time the Warriors do it. Their two road wins in Sacramento (Games 5 and 7) saved their season and are the only reason they’re still playing in these playoffs.

Sure, Game 3 against the Lakers was an absolute dud, but let’s look at some of the positives. Because they lost by 30 points, Steph Curry only had to play 32 minutes. That’s a far cry from the guy who played 40-plus minutes three times against the Kings. Klay Thompson was out there for just 33 and Andrew Wiggins logged 28, while Draymond Green only played 23.

As miserable as Golden State’s 11-30 road record was during the regular season, the Warriors have been much better during the playoffs. Entering Saturday’s Game 3, they were 2-2 away from San Francisco and had outscored opponents by a net +10 points during those four games.

The Warriors’ road issues weren’t because they forgot how to play basketball, they were a lack of focus for a team that got bored during meaningless games while they polished their four championship rings. They know they can’t fall down 3-1 to a Lakers team that possesses two Hall of Famers — and one victory at Arena means they’ve stolen homecourt advantage back in this pivotal series.

While some may say LeBron James is the GOAT, Curry still has a 16-9 career playoff record against “The King,” including the three games in this series so far. The last time Golden State had its backs against the wall, Curry dropped 50 in Sacramento.

Look for him to do something special again, as the Warriors not only cover this spread, they take Game 4 outright to knot it up 2-2 as things shift back to the Bay Area.

Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Golden State M/L (+140)


Vegas Golden Knights at Edmonton Oilers
Rogers Place – Edmonton, AB
8:30 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Edmonton -180

Everyone’s entitled to a dud every once in a while, right? That’s what Vegas did on Saturday night, getting down 4-0 to Edmonton in the first period and never giving themselves a chance in Game 2. It tied the series up 1-1, as two of the biggest superstars on the planet, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, both found the back of the net twice in a 5-1 victory for the Oilers.

But don’t bury the Golden Knights just yet, as this feels like more of a one-off than a trend. Vegas dropped Game 1 at home to Winnipeg in Round 1, before becoming perhaps the most dominant team in the playoffs. In a five-game winning streak that followed, the Knights outscored opponents 24-13 to send the Jets home in five games and take a 1-0 lead on the Oilers.

While teams like Boston and Colorado lost pivotal Game 7s in the first round, Vegas did what great squads are supposed to do. The Knights took care of business with relative ease.

Yes, the series is shifting back to Edmonton, but the Oilers haven’t had a strong home-ice advantage at Rogers Place over the last two postseasons. Including the entire 2022 playoffs, they’re just 6-5 in that building during their previous 11 playoffs games. They’ve also lost at least one game in Edmonton in five of their last six playoff series dating back to 2019.

The Oilers may have the stars, but the Golden Knights have better depth. Vegas has five different guys in these playoffs with at least four goals. Edmonton has just two, and we can all guess who they are. The Knights have nine skaters with at least five points, the Oilers have six.

Having all-world players is great, but it burned Edmonton last year when their lack of depth caught up to them against the Avalanche in the Western Conference Final, a clean four-game sweep. The same issue will eventually plague them at some point in this postseason, and Vegas could present that problem.

The Knights had no issue hanging five goals on Stuart Skinner in Game 1 (plus an empty-netter) and should be peppering him with pucks again. Game 2 was an outlier because of the lopsided first period. So don’t read too much into it.

Look for the Knights to exploit Edmonton’s lack of home-ice advantage and take a 2-1 series lead. They’re a great value with significant juice in a game that should be more like a pick ‘em.

Norm LaChatlier’s pick: Vegas M/L (+151)

Three Things We Learned…

Takeaways from a weekend full of great games and performances

Fans can impact the game

During one of the most bizarre moments in recent memory, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was called for a technical foul in Game 4 against the Suns for shoving a fan. Of course, it wasn’t just any patron in the stands; it was Phoenix owner Mat Ishbia. The former MVP was trying to get the ball after it went out of bounds, but Ishbia was playing keep away. Pushing and shoving ensued, with Jokic defending himself and sending the owner flopping back into his seat. It was a crazy turn of events, one that could lead to a suspension for Jokic, which would completely alter a 2-2 series heading into a pivotal Game 5.


It’s all about balance

Most people didn’t give the Kraken a chance in the playoffs. The second-year expansion team opened up against the defending Stanley Cup champs, a matchup that had almost everyone picking the Avalanche. After Seattle survived that seven-game series, few thought the Kraken could keep winning in the postseason. Here they are, however, with a 2-1 lead over Dallas. How are they doing it? By getting contributions from almost everyone. While other teams might have more stars, the Kraken offer balance. In their Game 3 win, Seattle put seven shots in the back of the net; those goals were scored by seven different players.


The other MVP

Last week, Joel Embiid won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award. After back-to-back runner-up finishes, the Sixers center finally earned the individual prize that he coveted most. During Philadelphia’s second-round series with Boston, however, it’s been his teammate that has stolen the show. James Harden poured in 45 points to lift the 76ers to a surprise win in Game 1. Yesterday, the former MVP chipped in 42, including a game-winning three-pointer in overtime, to tie the series at 2-2. Embiid is a great player, but he hasn’t been the best one on Philly’s roster against the Celtics. That’s been their other MVP.