What you need to know for Saturday’s playoff games
Losing Luka: The Mavericks will be without Luka Doncic for Saturday’s matinee matchup with the Jazz. Jalen Brunson sees his usage and assist rates swell to star levels whenever Doncic is off the floor. The Villanova product has averaged 22.1 points and 7.5 assists per 36 minutes with Doncic off the court this season, compared to 18.4 and 5.4 with him on. In addition to Brunson, scoring microwave Spencer Dinwiddie has shined in such scenarios; his usage rate spikes a team-high 9.1% to go with an uptick of 13 DraftKings points per 36 minutes with Doncic off the floor. Center Dwight Powell, on the other hand, sees his scoring clip dip significantly whenever Doncic isn’t on the court.
Steph Effect: Steve Kerr joked Stephen Curry is not playing 38 minutes in Saturday’s return from a foot injury, but wouldn’t go into specific limitations for his superstar guard. A notable outcome of Curry’s likely return is how extreme Jordan Poole‘s splits prove with his teammate this season. The Most Improved Player candidate has averaged 25.1 points, 5.8 dimes and 10.3 3-point attempts per 36 minutes with Curry off the court, but his rates dip to 18.2, 3.5 and 7.6 when they share the floor. If Curry can return to form, it’s relevant that Denver has ceded 50.2 DraftKings points per game to point guards this season, fourth most in the league.
Point Forward: Without a true traditional point guard, the Toronto Raptors often disperse distribution duties between a few key playmakers. Forward Pascal Siakam has been particularly dominant against the 76ers this season, posting his third career triple-double in a victory just a few weeks back. Serving as a creator for Toronto against a Sixers team he has averaged 8.3 dimes against this season makes Siakam’s passing prop of 4.5 assists stand out, as does his potential to flirt with tourney-tilting DFS production.
Swat Watch: The Grizzlies’ Jaren Jackson Jr. paced the entire league by 40 blocks this season. This elite defender posted a dozen swats facing the Timberwolves in four games this season, his most against any single opponent. With a block prop of 1.5 with heavy juice and plus money for 2.5 blocks on most books, “JJJ” heads into Saturday’s opener against Minnesota with value for defensive props as the league’s top rim protector.
— Jim McCormick
Game of the night
Line: 76ers (-4.5)
Money line: 76ers (-190), Raptors (+160)
Total: 216 points
BPI Projected Total: 212.8
BPI Win%: 76ers (66.2)
Key players ruled out: none
Notable: The Raptors have won four of their past five games as underdogs.
Best bet: Tobias Harris under 1.5 made 3s. Harris shot 18.8% from 3-point range in four matchups against the Raptors during the regular season. Toronto’s defense has continued to improve down the stretch and will likely limit Harris. — Erin Dolan
Best bet: Pascal Siakam over 23.5 points. Siakam was big down the stretch, averaging 27.0 PPG in his last 20 games, going over 23.5 points in 14 of the 20 games. He has been even better still against the 76ers in particular, averaging 30.3 PPG on 50.7 FG% with at least 26 points in all three of his matchups with them this season. — André Snellings
Best bet: Scottie Barnes over 0.5 made 3s. Barnes isn’t known for his ability to shoot 3s, but he has averaged 2.6 per game. He has made a triple in five of his past six games and two of his three games against the 76ers during the regular season. — Eric Moody
Breaking down the rest of the slate
Line: Jazz (-5.0)
Money line: Jazz (-210), Mavericks (+175)
Total: 209.5 points
BPI Projected Total: 216.8 points
BPI Win%: Mavericks (50.7%)
Key players ruled out: Luka Doncic
Notable: The home team has won each of the past seven games between the Jazz and Mavericks.
Best bet: Rudy Gobert over 14.5 rebounds. Gobert’s rebound prop seems high, but he needs to dominate on the glass, and I don’t see the Mavericks having an answer after they traded Kristaps Porzingis to Washington. Gobert has hit this over in five of his past eight games. While he has not hit it in three straight games, the former two against elite competition, he went off with 21 rebounds against Memphis and 20 rebounds against Golden State. You can count on Gobert to step up in big games. — Dolan
Best bet: Jazz -5. With Doncic ruled out, the Mavericks will be without the player responsible for the vast majority of their success this season. The Jazz come in with a distinct advantage, and if they get any hint of the type of “Playoffs Donovan Mitchell” explosion that they typically get from him in the postseason, they should be in better shape still. — Snellings
Line: Grizzlies (-7.0)
Money line: Grizzlies (-300), Timberwolves (+240)
Total: 235 points
BPI Projected Total: 227.8 points
BPI Win%: Grizzlies (72.5%)
Key players ruled out: none
Notable: Each of the Grizzlies’ past nine playoff games has gone over the total.
Best Bet: Over 235 points. The Timberwolves rank seventh in points scored per 100 possessions and the Grizzlies rank fourth. Additionally, both teams score a lot of points on transition plays. There will be plenty of possessions in this game, which bodes well for the over. Thirty-six of the Timberwolves’ past 52 road games have gone over the total — Moody.
Best bet: Memphis 1H (-4.5). The Grizzlies were the best team in the league in the first half of the regular season, going 54-27-1. Memphis is also 8-2 ATS in the 1H overall and at home over the past 10 games. Both these teams play at some of the fastest paces in the league. I think the Grizzlies jump out quickly and put up a ton of points. — Dolan
Best bet: Anthony Edwards over 22.5 points. Edwards averaged 24.4 PPG over an 11-game stretch to close out the regular season. The Grizzlies’ defense will be tough to beat, but Edwards scored 23, 27 and 30 points in his three previous games against them this season. This could be his moment to shine. — Moody
Best bet: Desmond Bane over 27.5 points + assists + rebounds. Bane enjoyed a breakout second season in the league. While Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. get a great deal of attention and rightfully so, Bane has been an integral part of the Grizzlies’ success. He averaged 18.2 PPG during the regular season, and the Timberwolves have allowed 23 PPG, 5.1 APG, and 7.0 RPG. Bane will likely meet or exceed these per-game averages on Saturday afternoon. — Moody
Best Bet: Patrick Beverley under 9.5 points. Beverley had seven points against the Clippers, but boy was he fired up after the Timberwolves’ win over the Clippers. It is only right to fade him in this matchup. He has averaged nine points in his past four games against the Grizzlies and has hit over his points prop in only two of the past 10 games. — Dolan
Best Bet: Karl-Anthony Towns under 24.5 points. Towns has stepped back offensively down the stretch, in part to allow Anthony Edwards to shine. Towns averaged 22.4 PPG in his last 10 regular season games, going under 24.5 points in six of those outings, then managed only 11 points before fouling out in the Wolves’ play-in game victory over the Clippers. Towns has faced the Grizzlies four times this season, averaging 23.3 PPG, and scored 22 points against them in their last outing. — Snellings
Line: Warriors (-6.5)
Money line: Warriors (-260), Nuggets (+210)
Total: 223 points
BPI Projected Total: 224.4 points
BPI Win%: Warriors (68.4%)
Key players ruled out: none
Notable: The Warriors have failed to cover the spread in seven of their past eight playoff games as favorites.
Best bet: Nuggets +6.5 points. There’s a good chance that the Warriors get Stephen Curry back for Game 1, marking one of the only times this season that their team would have its five best players playing together. They have huge upside, but could have some growing pains as Curry knocks the rust off and everyone gets used to playing together again. The Nuggets finished the season well, going 25-10 in the last 35 games that Nikola Jokic played in, and went 3-1 outright in their four matchups with the Warriors this season. — Snellings
Best bet: Draymond Green over 23.5 points + assists + rebounds. Green will be the Warriors’ most important player in this series. He has averaged 7.0 PPG, 10.3 APG and 8.0 RPG in his past four games against the Nuggets. Power forwards thrived against the Nuggets during the regular season and averaged 22 PPG, 3.5 APG and 10.5 RPG — Moody