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It has long been said that a series doesn’t truly begin until someone loses at home. But even if you ascribe to that theory, there’s no denying that Philadelphia and Dallas needed to pick up wins in their respective series on Friday. And both came through, with the former receiving a boost in the form of its MVP candidate returning from injury, and the latter managed to buckle down defensively after struggling on that end of the floor in Phoenix.
76ers 99, Heat 79 (Miami leads, 2-1)
Philadelphia received a much-needed boost to its rotation for Game 3, as Joel Embiid was cleared to play after missing the first two games due to a fractured orbital bone and concussion symptoms. It was reported that the MVP candidate would be on a minutes restriction but Embiid ultimately played 36 minutes, finishing with 18 points (5-of-12 FGs, 8-of-10 FTs), 11 rebounds, one assist, and one steal, and one blocked shot. He may not have looked like his usual, dominant self (the lack of conditioning work throughout the week had a lot to do with this), but there’s no denying the impact that Embiid’s mere presence had on the matchup.
Embiid’s return also meant that DeAndre Jordan was completely out of the rotation, with Paul Reed (2/4/1) logging 12 minutes in the backup center role. So long as Embiid is healthy enough to play, neither Jordan nor Reed will be of value in DFS. Tirese Maxey (21/2/6/2 with five 3-pointers) scored all of his points after halftime, while Danny Green (21 points, four rebounds, and seven 3-pointers) had his best game of the series. James Harden, however, continues to struggle with his shot, as he shot 4-of-11 from the field (1-of-7 3-pointers).
He ultimately tallied 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists, one blocked shot, and seven turnovers in 38 minutes. Harden did boast a team-best +27 on the night, so it can be argued that he was more impactful in Game 3 than he was in either of the first two games of the series. However, at this point in the series, Maxey is a better DFS play, even though there are times when he needs to be more aggressive as a scorer. Tobias Harris (9/10/8/2 with one 3-pointer) took a step back from an offensive standpoint, but he did offer up solid production in the rebounds, assists, and steals categories.
Also impacted by the change to Philadelphia’s center rotation was Heat starter Bam Adebayo, who no longer had free reign of the paint. Shooting 2-of-9 from the field and 5-of-8 from the foul line, he tallied nine points, three rebounds, one assist, and two steals in 34 minutes. Adebayo had as many turnovers as he had rebounds, which properly summarizes how disappointing this performance was. He’s still worth slotting into DFS lineups due to his importance to the Hear rotation, but Embiid’s presence will change the expectations with regard to Bam’s numbers.
Miami also had a starter return on Friday, as Kyle Lowry was back in action after missing four games due to a strained hamstring. He played 25 minutes, going scoreless (0-of-4 FGs) with four rebounds, three assists, and one steal. Lowry didn’t appear to have his usual burst coming off of screens, which limited Miami’s ability to test Embiid defensively. Victor Oladipo (six points, two assists, and one 3-pointer) and Gabe Vincent (one rebound, two assists, and one steal) both take hits with Lowry back in the rotation, which severely limits their respective DFS values. Outside of Jimmy Butler (33/9/2/2 with one 3-pointer) and Tyler Herro (14/4/1 with two 3-pointers), no Heat player hit double figures.
As a result, we’ve got ourselves a series, with Game 4 scheduled for Sunday. For those who may be interested in odds, PointsBet had Philadelphia at +300 to win the series (as of early Saturday morning; Miami remains the clear favorite at -400). Given the impact that Embiid’s return had in Game 3, some bettors may be willing to roll the dice on the 76ers.
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Mavericks 103, Suns 94 (Phoenix leads, 2-1)
Luka Doncic scored a total of 80 points in the first two games of this series, but there is no denying the fact that the Mavericks needed to get more from him defensively. Doncic isn’t going to give you significant production in the steals and blocks categories on most nights, but the key is for him to be active on that end of the floor. He put forth a greater all-around effort in Friday’s win, recording a line of 26 points (11-of-25 FGs, 2-of-5 FTs), 13 rebounds, nine assists, two steals, and two 3-pointers in 34 minutes. Doncic did commit five turnovers, but the overall stat line more than made up for that. And he had some help offensively, as well.
Jalen Brunson (28/4/5/1 with one 3-pointer) bounced back in a big way after struggling in the first two games, with Reggie Bullock (15/4/2/3 with four 3-pointers), Dorian Finney -Smith (14/4/0/3 with four 3-pointers), and Maxi Kleber (14/3/4/0/3 with two 3-pointers) also scoring in double figures. As a team, Dallas shot 13-of-39 from three, and 27-of-51 from two as they picked up their first win in the series. Also of note in the Mavericks rotation was Frank Ntilikina (one steal) logging 12 minutes and effectively replacing Josh Green (DNP-CD) in the rotation. Ntilikina didn’t put up any numbers and isn’t worth rolling the dice on in DFS, but he’s another player that Jason Kidd can use to defend Chris Paul.
Phoenix shot below 50% from the field in a game for the first time in this series, but the bigger issue for Monty Williams was the play of his backcourt. Paul (12/7/4/1 with two 3-pointers) committed seven turnovers (six in the first half alone) and Devin Booker (18/2/6 with four 3-pointers) was responsible for five, with the latter shooting just 2-of-7 on 2-pointers. Jae Crowder (19/7/5/2 with five 3-pointers) had his best offensive game of the series thus far and is shooting nearly 61% from the field. His production on both ends of the floor makes Crowder a solid DFS option, as he comes in at an affordable price tag.
Deandre Ayton (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Mikal Bridges (12/6/2/1/1) also hit double figures for the Suns, but it’s incredibly difficult to win when your usually dependable guards struggle so much when it comes to taking care of the basketball. Give Dallas credit for that, and they’ll need to come through with a similar effort Sunday afternoon. But it won’t be easy, given how well the aforementioned Paul and Booker have played over the last two seasons.