NBA Stars Shine Brightest in First Weekend of Playoffs

The NBA MVP race is officially over, since it’s a regular season award. But it’s been over unofficially for a while, with Nikola Jokić of the Denver Nuggets as the -7000 favorite to win his third MVP.

Three finalists were named by the NBA – Jokić, Luka Dončić of the Dallas Mavericks, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder – and all three showed us in the playoffs why they were in the MVP conversation all season long.

In beating the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1, Jokić scored 32 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and recorded seven assists. And not once in the 11-point win did he turn the ball over. His counterpart, LeBron James, had seven turnovers.

The Mavericks lost to the Los Angeles Clippers on the road, who were playing without Kawhi Leonard, but it wasn’t the fault of Dončić. He finished the game with 33 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists, and played a game high 43 minutes. The problem was his teammates. Kyrie Irving was great with 31 points, but only one other player for Dallas scored more than six points.

The Oklahoma City Thunder survived its first game as the top seed, and even though Gilgeous-Alexander wasn’t great for the entire game, he was clutch down the stretch. With the score tied 90-90 and 32 seconds left, Gilgeous-Alexander hit an off-balance shot, and then converted the free throw after he was fouled. He finished with 28 points, and the Thunder finished with a win over the New Orleans Pelicans, 94-92.

NBA Finals MVP Favorites

The NBA Finals won’t happen until June, but you can already place wagers on who will ultimately finish as the Finals MVP.

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics is the favorite at +240, and he got off to a fast start with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists in Boston’s win over the Miami Heat. Jokić is second at +320, while Tatum’s teammate, Jaylen Brown, is third at +900. He had 17 points and eight rebounds against the Heat. Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves is fourth at +1600, and he scored 33 in Minnesota’s blowout win of the Phoenix Suns.

Game 1 Home Cooking

The home teams were a perfect 8-0 over the weekend’s eight first round openers, which is the first time that has happened since 2013, and just the fifth time it’s happened since the playoffs expanded in 1984.

In none of the previous four occurrences did the home teams go on to sweep Game 2, giving us eight 2-0 starts for the higher-seeded teams. So, which of the road teams are most likely to get over on the home teams in their second games?

According to the oddsmakers, the closest Game 2 will be Tuesday night, when the Milwaukee Bucks host the Indiana Pacers. The Bucks are just 1.5-point favorites, and Giannis Antetokounmpo has missed four straight games with a calf injury. His status for Tuesday is uncertain. Can the Bucks win again without him?

The point spread is 2.5 in Game 2 for the Mavericks and Clippers, and it’s the road team from Dallas that is the favorite. They have Dončić and Irving, and there is very little chance that the Mavs will score only 30 points in the first half again, as they did in Game 1. It’s also doubtful that the Clippers will shoot 50% (18-36) from the 3-point line again.

What’s interesting is that even as the Mavericks are favored to win Game 2 in Los Angeles, the Clippers are still the betting favorite to win the series at -150.

All eight teams that have started the first round at home are favored to advance to the second round. The Clippers and Timberwolves (-155) are the smallest favorites, while the Thunder (-1200) and Celtics (-20000) are the biggest.

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