Friday features Game 6 between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks starting at 9 p.m. ET.
This has been one of the most interesting first-round series this season. The Clippers entered as heavy favorites, but the Mavericks were able to jump out to a 2-0 series lead. That put them in full control of the series heading to Dallas for Game 3, but the Clippers battled back and won the next two contests. That appeared to put them back in the driver’s seat for Game 5 in Los Angeles, but Dallas was once again able to pull off the road upset. That means they can close the series out with a win in Game 6, while the Clippers have to win two straight to keep their title hopes alive.
From an injury perspective, Serge Ibaka is doubtful for Game 6 due to back spasms. He’s missed each of the past three games, and his absence has been more important than most would’ve expected. The Clippers have been essentially run off the court with Ivica Zubac on the floor in this series, so Ibaka being unavailable doesn’t give them a viable alternative at center. Nic Batum has started the past two games at center, but Zubac has still had to play quite a bit off the bench. The Clippers were outscored by -19 points over his 20 minutes in Game 5, and they’ve been outscored by -42 points with Zubac on the court over the first five games.
That said, the Clippers still appear to be the preferred side for bettors. They’re listed as three-point road favorites across the industry, and they’ve received 62% of the spread bets and 82% of the spread dollars. A discrepancy that large suggests that there could be some professional action coming in on Los Angeles.
Any mention of studs has to start with Luka Doncic, who was absolutely fantastic in Game 5. He finished with 77.5 DraftKings points – his third game with at least 71.5 in this series – and he had his hand in virtually the Mavericks’ entire offense:
in what might be one of the more absurd statistical individual playoff performances in a while, Luka Doncic just scored or assisted 31 of Dallas’ 37 total field goals made in a 105-100 win.
here they are, in order from start-to-finish: pic.twitter.com/7Y9kmhi2fM
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) June 3, 2021
You read that correctly: The Mavericks made 37 field goals in Game 5, and Doncic either scored or assisted 31 of them. His usage rate has been off the charts in this series, and he’s posted a usage rate of at least 45.3% in three of the past four games. He’s the most expensive player on the slate, but I can’t imagine building a lineup without him.
The Clippers have a pair of studs of their own in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Leonard has been underpriced for most of the series, and he posted a Plus/Minus of at least +13.63 in each of the first four games. That said, he put up a clunker in Game 5, finishing with just 37.75 DraftKings points over 41.5 minutes. He was uncharacteristically inefficient from the field, making just seven of 19 shots from the field and one of seven shots from 3-point range. This seems like an excellent buy-low opportunity.
George has also been underpriced for most of the series, but he was better than Kawhi in Game 5. He finished with 51.5 DraftKings points, which was his second-highest output of the series. Overall, he’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in four of the first five games. I prefer the other two studs if I can only fit two of them in my lineups, but paying down at Captain and jamming all three in could be the preferred strategy.
Kristaps Porzingis would’ve been considered a stud not too long ago, but he has had a very pedestrian series. He’s posted a negative Plus/Minus in four of five games in this series, and he’s coming off just 16.5 DraftKings points in Game 5. He posted a usage rate of just 9.2% in that contest, and he’s been at 18.6% or lower in three of the past four games. He posted a usage rate of 26.5% during the regular season, so that represents a massive decrease.
In theory, the Clippers’ decision to play small over the past few games should be a benefit to Porzingis. He’s often the tallest player on the court by roughly half a foot, but Porzingis is essentially a wing player in a center’s body. His price has come down considerably since the start of the series, but he’s still too expensive for me.
Tim Hardaway Jr. has been instrumental in the Mavericks’ wins in this series. He’s scored 28.5, 40.75, and 35.25 DraftKings points in their three wins, but he’s posted just 21.5 and 6.75 DraftKings points in their losses. He is extremely scoring dependent, so he’s going to be able to return value on nights where his shot is falling. I prefer some of the other options in this price range, but he clearly has some upside.
Marcus Morris is one of the best values across the industry on Friday, but his $9,000 salary on FanDuel is egregious. He led the team with 42.2 minutes in Game 5, and Morris has averaged 0.78 FanDuel points per minute this season. He should continue to see tons of playing time given Ibaka’s injury and Zubac’s ineffectiveness.
Reggie Jackson is one of the strongest options on DraftKings given his Bargain Rating of 98%. He’s another member of the squad who has benefitted from their decision to play small. He’s played at least 28.8 minutes in four straight games, and he’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in each contest.
Dorian Finney-Smith may have the initials DFS, but his game is not suited for fantasy. That said, he’s tough to ignore given his sheer volume of playing time. He’s logged at least 36.5 minutes in each game of this series, including 40.4 minutes in Game 5. He’s coming off 29.0 DraftKings points in his last game, but he did benefit from five blocks. That’s not sustainable, so he seems like a regression candidate in Game 6.
Rajon Rondo is an interesting buy-low candidate on DraftKings. His price has dropped by -$2,000 since Game 4, but his role has stayed constant over that time frame. He’s playing around 20 minutes per game, and Rondo has averaged 0.98 DraftKings points per minute this season. It was tough for him to pay off a $7,400 salary with that much playing time, but $5,400 is doable.
Values & Punts
This is where these contests are often won. Everyone knows you need to play guys like Doncic and Leonard, which is why those players typically command astronomical ownership. That means finding the right value plays is what’s going to separate the winning lineups from the losing lineups.
Let’s break down some of my favorite players in this range, rapid-fire style:
- Nicolas Batum ($5,000 on DraftKings, $10,000 on FanDuel): Batum is another elite value play on DraftKings. He’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in all five games in this series, and he’s scored at least 23.75 DraftKings points in each of his past two games. Batum started in both of those contests, and he should draw another start on Friday.
- Ivica Zubac ($4,000 on DraftKings, $9,000 on FanDuel): Zubac’s ownership should be very reasonable since he’s coming off the bench, but he’s still going to have a role for this team. He racked up 21.75 DraftKings points over 20 minutes in Game 5, and he could provide similar production in Game 6.
- Dwight Powell ($2,800 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel): The Mavericks made some notable changes to their rotation for Game 5, including giving Powell a boost in playing time off the bench. He racked up 21.5 minutes in that contest, which was more than he played in the previous four games combined. He’s currently projected for 15.5 minutes in our NBA Models, and he can definitely pay off his current price tag with that much playing time.
- Josh Richardson ($2,600 on DraftKings, $8,500 on FanDuel): Richardson could be an interesting buy-low target. His price tag has decreased by -$2,400 on DraftKings since the start of the series, and his current price tag comes with a Bargain Rating of 98%.
- Boban Marjanovic ($2,400 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel): One of the best parts of the playoffs is the coaching chess match that takes place during the series. The Clippers grabbed the edge once they started playing small, so Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle decided to put one of the largest humans on the planet in his starting lineup. Porzingis may not be able to take advantage of Batum in the post, but Boban is more than capable. He’s averaged 1.26 DraftKings points per minute this season, and he played around 20 minutes in Game 5. He’s a lock value play.
Pictured above: Boban Marjanovic
Credit: Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images