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NBA Playoff Saturday - Preview and Picks for all four games on a loaded Saturday slate



Credit: Los Angeles Lakers

The NBA Playoffs have been fantastic so far, and four more games dot the slate on Saturday. It will start with a Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia squad trying to close out Brooklyn on the road at 1pm, and go all the way through LeBron and the Lakes taking on the Grizzles in a game ending well after midnight.


Twelve straight hours of NBA basketball? What's better than that?!


Below is a primer on what to look for in all four playoff games on Saturday, with all the lines presented by Betfred Sportsbook.


Reminder - you can bet $50 on any game, and get up to $1,111 in free bets courtesy of Betfred.

Now, to the picks:


Philadelphia 76ers at Brooklyn Nets (1 pm PT, TNT)


Spread: Philadelphia (-2)


Over/Under: 209


Not even injury scares or controversial ejections could slow the Sixers down in Game 3 against Brooklyn. Joel Embiid tweaked his right angle at the end in the first quarter. James Harden was ejected late in the third quarter after being called for a flagrant foul 2 on Nets forward Royce O’Neale. But none of those developments haunted Philadelphia. Embiid returned in the second quarter. The Sixers held on just fine without Harden.


Though Brooklyn has stayed competitive, the Nets simply don’t have enough talent to threaten Philadelphia. The Nets have a handful of dependable role players both for offensive depth and defensive support, including Mikal Bridges, Spencer Dinwiddie, Nic Claxton and Cam Johnson. But that has paled significantly to what the Sixers have. Beyond Embiid and Harden dominating at will, the Sixers have also leaned on a versatile player (Tobias Harris) and a defensive stalwart (Tyrese Maxey).

Expect the Nets to save face in an elimination game and put up a valiant effort. It also helps that Embiid will miss Game 4 because of a right knee sprain, as ESPN first reported. Nonetheless, the talent and depth discrepancy remain too deep. The Sixers are too difficult to beat, even when Harden receives an ejection and Embiid experiences an injury scare. Philadelphia also seems aware that it needs as much rest as it can before facing tougher Eastern Conference opponents, which will likely include the Boston Celtics in the second round.


Pick: Sixers 105, Nets 94


Betting Pick: Philadelphia (-2)

 

Phoenix Suns at LA Clippers (3:30 pm PT, TNT)


Spread: Phoenix (-7.5)


Over/Under: 227


The Clippers really are cursed. First, they enter the NBA playoffs with Paul George still sidelined with a sprained right knee. Then, Kawhi Leonard misses Game 3 with a similar injury. The Clippers don’t have a definitive timetable for either player’s return. But Leonard and George at out at least for Game 4.


That leaves the Clippers with the nearly impossible task with matching up against the Suns’ top-heavy roster. They have two dominant scorers (Kevin Durant, Devin Booker), a crafty point guard (Chris Paul) and an athletic big man (Deandre Ayton). The Clippers held their own in Game 3, relatively speaking, with Russell Westbrook and Norman Powell taking on heightened roles. Yet, the Clippers’ depth can hardly keep up with the Suns’ elite talent.


The Suns have not fought each other for the ball. Paul has always been a pass-first, shoot-second player. Ayton has willingly focused his energy more on defense than scoring. And Booker and Durant have taken turns trading baskets. Lately, Booker has become the more dominant scorer while Durant has become a willing decoy when he attracts double teams. Booker has taken advantage of that open space, averaging 36.3 points on 60% shooting through the first three games.


Pick: Suns 133, Clippers 120


Betting Pick: Phoenix (-7.5)

Milwaukee Bucks at Miami Heat (7:30 pm PT, ESPN)


Spread: Milwaukee (-5)


Over/Under: 220


The Bucks proved they could win one playoff game without star Giannis Antetokounmpo. Can Milwaukee do it again? The Bucks listed Antetokounmpo as questionable for Game 3 after missing Game 2 and most of the second quarter of Game 1 with a bruised lower back. Milwaukee would like its two-time MVP back soon. In the short term, though, the Bucks have enough talent and depth to absorb Antetokounmpo’s absence.


Milwaukee can lean on Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton to elevate their scoring without Antetokounmpo. The Bucks can count on Brook Lopez’s sturdy rip protection even without Antetokounmpo to support him. Milwaukee also has various role players that can slow down Miami, including Jae Crowder, Pat Connaughton, Bobby Portis and Grayson Allen.


The Heat are much better than a No. 8 seed would indicate. Jimmy Butler remains both a star and a grinder. Bam Adebayo can defend at all five positions. Victor Oladipo, Kevin Love, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Caleb Martin have been productive even with diminished roles. Heat culture is a real thing. Still, that has its limits. Even without Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have too much depth to allow another upset.


Pick: Bucks 135, Heat 122

 

Memphis at Los Angeles Lakers (10:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)


Spread: Los Angeles (-4.5)


Over/Under: 221.5


In Game 3, expect Lakers star LeBron James to show up Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks. Ditto with FS1 personality Shannon Sharpe. Same thing with the presumed sell-out crowd at Crypto.com Arena. Brooks has never shied away from poking the bear. Following the Grizzlies’ Game 2 win over the Lakers, however, Brooks poked the King after already exchanging words with him on the court. “I don’t care; he’s old,” Brooks told reporters. He then added, “I don’t respect no one until they come and give me 40.”


Normally, James prides himself on making the right basketball play instead of predetermining whether to shoot or pass. In this case, expect James to become intent on scoring just like two months ago when he broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record. Don’t be surprised that James calls Brook’s bluff and posts at least 40 points. That will be plenty to offset Ja Morant's potential return after missing Game 2 with a sore right hand.


Granted, James won’t bite on Brooks’ bait too much. James won’t shoot through double teams just to make a point. Besides, James will still prioritize for the Lakers to run their offense through Anthony Davis. James will gladly pass to an open role player in hopes it reduces his workload. But when James has an opportunity to score? You better believe that James will take the shot. And he’ll let Brooks know about it afterwards, too.


Pick: Lakers 115, Grizzlies 106


Betting Pick: Los Angeles (-4.5)


Mark Medina is a veteran NBA reporter who will be contributing to Aaron Torres Online and Aaron Torres Media throughout the NBA playoffs - follow him on Twitter @MarkG_Medina


To get full odds on the entire NBA Playoffs visit Betfred Sportsbook


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