The NBA playoffs are in full swing, and now that we have had a chance to digest Game 1 of each series, it's time to bet on how each team will respond. Two of the most intriguing matchups of the first round continue Monday night for Game 2. The Raptors were a trendy pick to upset the sliding 76ers, but a 20-point loss on Saturday night has Toronto backers sweating early. I am not brave enough to back Philly to cover an even bigger spread in Game 2, but I did find some value in the total. In the Utah-Dallas series, the injury to Luka Doncic has created value with the Mavericks. I will break down why I think it's the perfect time to take advantage. Here are my two best bets for Monday night's NBA action.
Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ers (Under 217.5)
Leading up to this series, I was confident Tyrese Maxey would elevate his play to take some of the scoring pressure off James Harden and Joel Embiid. But I don't think anybody expected him to erupt for 38 points while shooting 14-of-21 from the field. Adjustments will be coming from Raptors coach Nick Nurse. Even with Toronto's key injuries, it's hard to imagine Philadelphia being able to duplicate its Game 1 performance of shooting 50% from beyond the arc. Maxey, Harden, and Tobias Harris combined to shoot 12-of-20 from downtown.
Philadelphia has averaged only 106 points during the four regular-season meetings, maxing out at 114 twice. I think it's likely Toronto's defense has success on the perimeter, forcing Philly to win this game in the paint. Both teams finished outside of the Top 20 in pace and slowed down below their season averages in Game 1. The physicality from Saturday will carry over in Game 2, but don't bank on either team's shooting percentages to follow. Toronto doesn't have the shot creators to be efficient in the half-court, and with Scottie Barnes out (ankle), its offensive output will take a big hit. Undermanned as underdogs, the Raptors will fight and claw in an attempt to even the series. I have my doubts on whether they will be successful, but the best way to play this slugfest is by taking the under.
Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks (+5.5)
Dallas won 17 of its last 23 games since the All-Star break and had bettors salivating at the chance to back the Mavs against a historically bad playoff team in the Jazz. Luka Doncic's injury made them even more enticing as underdogs to open the series. Despite burning bettors in a 99-93 loss in Game 1, Dallas is a solid bet to bounce back In Game 2 and cover the number.
The Mavs will undoubtedly miss Doncic most in the final possessions, but their defense keeps them competitive to that point. The Mavericks completely frustrated Donovan Mitchell in the first half and can build off that success in Game 2. With Doncic off the court, Dallas has a defensive rating of 104.9, allowing 5.4 fewer points per 100 possessions. The defense will show up as the Mavs look to avoid a 2-0 deficit in front of their home crowd. The only question is whether they can get a boost offensively.
Dallas should get a better follow-up performance from Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie, who combined to shoot 38% from the field and 1-of-7 from 3-point range. Now past the first game without Doncic, both players should look more comfortable. Utah has been a bad road team to the number all season (27th ATS), so expecting it to cover consecutive games against a top defensive team seems like a lot to ask. The Mavs are pretty much in a must-win spot, making Dallas a must-bet with the points.