No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks
Line: Los Angeles -7
Where: Staples Center
When: Wednesday, 6/2 at 10:00 p.m. ET
An even series after four games between the Clippers and Mavericks would not have been entirely surprising to most NBA fans.
The way it got here is the surprising part. Los Angeles lost both of its home games at the Staples Center — games it was favored by six and seven points, respectively — before going on the road and winning both games in Dallas.
Oddsmakers have not made an adjustment from Game 2 to Game 5. The Clippers opened as seven-point favorites to take a critical 3-2 lead in the series. Tonight’s total opened at 218.5 points and has been bet down to 217.5, as of late this morning.
The biggest storyline heading into Game 5 is probably the health of Dallas star Luka Doncic. He has been dealing with a neck strain and was listed as ‘questionable’ prior to Game 4. Doncic played, but he had his worst game of the series.
He scored 19 points on 9-of-24 shooting, including a 1-of-7 mark from 3-point range. Doncic missed all five of his free throw attempts and is now just 13-of-32 from the charity stripe in the series.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Doncic’s condition had already “improved” as of Monday afternoon. He is officially listed as ‘probable.’ Doncic is averaging 33 points, eight assists and eight rebounds through the first four games of the playoffs.
For Los Angeles, the turnaround began in the second quarter of Game 3. The Clippers trailed by 19 points late in the first quarter of that game before taking control.
Their defense has flipped a switch and is playing at a much higher level than it was before, regardless of the Doncic injury. They are fourth in the NBA in team defense, allowing just 107.8 points per game, holding opponents to 46.4% shooting.
Kawhi Leonard poured in 29 points and completed his double-double with 10 rebounds in a 106-81 win in Game 4. Ty Lue inserted Reggie Jackson back into the starting lineup and the point guard has helped his team win a pair of games.
Paul George has also been a major scoring option, averaging 25 points and eight rebounds in the series. George’s perimeter defense helped hold Dallas to a 5-of-30 mark from downtown in Game 4. The Clippers also won the rebounding battle decisively (53-41).
Los Angeles was a +200 underdog to win the series after falling in the 2-0 hole, but DraftKings now lists it at -335. The Clippers are +110 to win the series in six games and are +200 to win in a Game 7. Dallas is +550 to win the next two games and is +600 to win in a Game 7.
The Clippers have the fifth-shortest title odds at +700, while Dallas is a 90/1 longshot. Los Angeles is +325 to win the Western Conference and the Mavericks are 33/1.
Dallas is 2-4 against the spread in its last six games, but it is 4-1 ATS in its last five road games against the Clippers. Los Angeles is 5-10 ATS over its last 15 games and is 1-5 ATS in its last six home games.
The total has gone ‘under’ in six of the last eight head-to-head meetings. Los Angeles has gone ‘under’ in 14 of its last 20 games overall. Dallas has gone ‘over’ in seven of its last nine contests.
The pick: Los Angeles -7
I know the public is going to be running to the window to bet on Los Angeles after a pair of dominant wins, but that does not scare me enough to take me off the Clippers as well. This series has taken a complete turn and oddsmakers are offering the same line that was available in Game 2. Doncic is dealing with a neck injury that seemed to clearly play a role in his performance on Sunday. With Los Angeles cranking up the defensive intensity, the Mavericks need Doncic at full speed to have a chance. Leonard and George are in a rhythm right now, so I’ll back the Clippers and their momentum.