NBA Best Bets for Saturday, May 18th

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NBA Best Bets

Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks (-4.5, 211.5)


The betting market has been firmly in Oklahoma City’s camp throughout this series, so it is no surprise to see the line down to 3.5 at most shops this morning. That is likely the floor for this number. Circa received some buyback at -3.5 which brought it back to -4 but it is now -3.5 juiced to the favorite side.

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The support for the Thunder does make sense. In Game 4 the closing line was Mavericks -1 consensus. In Game 5 Oklahoma City closed as a 4.5-point favorite. Those two lines do not translate to Dallas -4.5 which is where this line opened up, but the market has been wrong in its read on this series.

This is also the lowest total of the series. The under is 4-1 in these five games, so it isn’t a shock to see this drop. Having said that, this number has gone from a closing total of 219 in Game 1 to as low as 208 which is on the screen right now.

Neither team has been very efficient on offense. Dallas is averaging 1.097 points per possessions and Oklahoma City is putting up 109.9 per possession. However, it is the quickest paced series of the conference semifinals (94.6), and that is brought down by an extremely slow Game 5 which totaled 87 possessions. The four games prior averaged 96.1 possessions.

The floor for this total today is likely 208 but we have not seen those shops get bought back yet. Perhaps that happens closer to tip-off tonight.

When it comes to actual basketball, the Thunder have to figure out a way to crack this Mavericks defense.

Oklahoma City is a team that thrives on driving the ball to the basket. The Thunder led the league in drives per game (61.1) and were one of the best teams in the regular season in paint scoring. In this series only 28.6% of their attempts are at the rim, and they are shooting just 39.6% on short mid-range attempts. They shot 47.6% on those shots in the regular season.

At this point, Oklahoma City has not shown an ability to attack the teeth of this Dallas defense. Better shooting will help, but the Thunder have not been consistent there either.

Lu Dort is shooting 32.4% on 6.8 3-point attempts per game. Jalen Williams has hit 31.3% of his 3.2 attempts per contest. Aaron Wiggins – a 49.2% shooter in the regular season – is shooting 30.8% for the series. Chet Holmgren is at 25.0%.

Water should find its level at some point for a team which is statistically better than what it has shown, but regression is not guaranteed, even over the course of a series.

So, how should this game be attacked from a betting perspective? There’s a few ways one could do it.

The first is the total. As previously mentioned, we’re at a low point for the series right now. The pace in four of the five games is one that should translate to higher scoring, but the efficiency is not there. Pair that with a team that is performing well below its statistical profile, and we could see this game get over the low number of 208 or better.

There are also a few player props to potentially target.

Williams has underperformed for Oklahoma City in this series. He is averaging only 16.0 points on 40.8% shooting. His point total prop (17.5) is the lowest it has been in the series as well. Williams’ usage rate in this series (21.9%) is lower than the regular season (24.2%), but that can be explained by a miniscule rate in Game 5 (15.8%). If his rate stabilizes and his shooting percentage snaps back to normal he could be a candidate to go over.

The Cason Wallace angle is also still in play.

Wallace saw his minutes increase in Game 5 from an average of 18.9 in the first four games of the series to 27 on Wednesday. His usage spiked as a result to 13.0% and he took seven shot attempts. The handicap that he would get a minutes increase and that he would be a candidate to hit multiple 3-point attempts was accurate. The problem is that he went 1-of-5 from deep. 

Wallace’s workload increase should remain, which means there is value in +260 to make 2+ 3-pointers, a price that is actually lower than the previous game when the market did not account for his increase in minutes.

These are the angles I think are worth noting for this game tonight. Strong leans on over 208 if you can find it, Williams over his point total of 17.5 or better and Wallace to hit 2+ 3-point attempts.

Having said that, I have been so inaccurate I do not have the confidence to fire on them at this point. I am also tied up in a Thunder series price, so my rooting interest will be on Oklahoma City to pull this off and force a Game 7.

Best Bet: None

Record: 122-130-3 | Units: -17.78