There’s no shortage of stunning individual performances in this year’s NBA playoffs, making betting a lot of fun for those who cash in on the stars taking center stage. Tuesday’s action gives us two key Game 5s, so you better believe those same stars will be out there trying to lead their teams to the conference finals.
Joel Embiid and the 76ers travel to Boston after James Harden’s game-winning 3-pointer capped a 42-point performance that helped even the series on Sunday. In the later game, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker will try to solve the Nuggets’ success in Denver after Nikola Jokic recorded 64 combined points and assists in a fourth loss. Five players participating in Tuesday’s games (Jokic, Harden, Booker, Durant and Embiid) scored 34 or more points the last time they were on the floor.
Which superstars should we bet on to dominate the spotlight, and which players should we fade as each series shifts back to the favorite’s home court? I’ve zeroed in on four props for players who are a good bet to perform in what should be an entertaining night of NBA action.
When James Harden is on, everything falls apart. It’s like shooting in an Olympic-sized pool. He can give you 42 when you need it most, but you don’t get that James Harden every night. All or nothing with the Sixers point guard. After his 45-point game in Game 1, Harden followed it up by shooting less than 22% from the floor in each of the next two games. I could be convinced to play Harden when the Sixers return to Philadelphia for Game 6, but my money is on him struggling to find his shot in Boston.
Derrick White Over 14.5 points and assists (-125)
White averaged over 12 points and 3.9 assists on the season, so the key performance takes us to the winning ticket window. He was even better against Philadelphia, scoring over 13 points per game in eight games (including the postseason). The Celtics have excellent ball movement as a team, so adding assists keeps you from being overly reliant on scoring opportunities. White has just six assists so far in this streak, but he had at least three in three of four meetings with the Sixers during the regular season.
Devin Booker Over 31.5 Points (-125)
The money train on Devin Booker’s point prop will eventually derail, but I’m not getting off until the money dries up. Devin Booker is the best player in the NBA playoffs. Now, there’s an argument to be made that Jimmy Butler’s postseason was more impressive, but nobody is doing what Devin Booker is doing right now. The Suns shooting guard is averaging 36.8 points per game since the start of the postseason while shooting over 60 percent from the floor and better than 50 percent from beyond the arc. The Nuggets, the Denver crowd, and not the altitude are stopping Devin Booker on Tuesday. He is absolutely lethal with Durant on the floor to create spacing. It’s a two-man show in Phoenix, and with Chris Paul already ruled out, there’s no reason to expect anything to change. Booker has eclipsed that mark in six of his last eight games, including the last three against the Nuggets. I’ll be betting on Booker until the Nuggets make me stop.
Murray averaged over 6.4 assists at home during the regular season, so that number makes sense. However, I think it’s a situational place where there’s a good chance we’ll land on the higher side. The biggest story in this series is Phoenix’s lack of depth and how long KD and Booker can carry the scoring load before fatigue takes its toll on the Suns duo. The Nuggets’ best shot in this series is to keep the Suns moving defensively, making them work on both ends of the court. Ball movement will be crucial for the Nuggets in Tuesday’s game, given that they have the Suns on their home floor. Murray has at least seven assists in three of the four games in this series, but he’s done his best work at home. In Games 1 and 2, Murray recorded eight and nine assists, clearing that stretch with ease. I will go back to the well and hope for a similar result.