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A new playoff Harden?

The Lakers are climbing the NBA championship market while the Suns slide further down following another busy week of playoff basketball. Meanwhile, James Harden is going the right way about rebranding Playoff Harden with another dominant performance.

Lakers Levelling Up

LeBron James didn’t take a shot until four minutes into the 4th quarter and the Los Angeles Lakers thumped the Golden State Warriors 127-97.

That’s the difference in this Lakers team from earlier in the season.

D’Angelo Russell’s early barrage from beyond the arc ended in 21 points for the game. He is coming into his own and getting better the more meaningful the game. Meanwhile, Anthony Davis dropped 25 to go with James’ 21 for three players to score 20+. Another three players scored in double-digits for the Lakers to handle the defending NBA champions with relative ease and further stamp their case as legitimate contenders.

“We got punked tonight, unfortunately,” Klay Thompson said after the rout.

The road loss sums up a strange season so far for the Warriors. Dominant on their home floor for a 33-8 record during the regular season, their 11-30 struggles on the road have transferred into the playoffs. Arena is a particularly painful place for the Warriors.

Game 4 is series-defining. If the Warriors can pick up a win in Los Angeles, they will regain home-court advantage. If they lose and go 3-1 down, that will more than likely be it for the season.

The Lakers are $1.62 and -3.5 favourites to get the job done at home.

Ayton Benched

History suggests that Deandre Ayton was never going to take a playoff benching particularly well…

Worse for Ayton, Jock Landale and the Phoenix Suns got the job done to save themselves from a 3-0 series deficit to beat the Denver Nuggets 121-114.

Like Dillon Brooks, Ayton brushed the media after the game. He left before anybody could enter the locker room to speak with him leaving more uncertainty around his position and the implications it could have in Game 4.

The Suns are hanging in there. Chris Paul is out with a groin injury and is considered day-to-day. But the Suns only have two more bad days in them before their NBA season is over. Down 2-1 ahead of a crucial Game 4, Phoenix can’t afford to have Ayton pouting on the sideline.

Despite being down 2-1 and Ayton’s performance both on and off the court, the Suns are $1.82 and -1.5 favourites to level the series in Game 4.

Butler Returns

Last week it was all about what Jimmy Butler did with the ball.

This week, it’s on the defensive end that he’s leading the charge.

Having missed time due to injury, Butler returned in Game 3 to lead the Miami Heat to victory. He still played his part in the offence to score 28 points. However, it’s the 86 points the Heat allowed the New York Knicks to score that is most notable.

The Heat suffocated the Knicks. They led from start to finish while holding the Knicks to 31-of-91 shooting (34.1%) and 8-of-40 (20%) from deep. If New York can’t find their stroke soon, they face the prospect of a 3-1 series deficit. They’re fairly significant $2.48 and +4.5 underdogs in Game 4.

Of more concern for the Knicks is their Sixth Man of the Year candidate leaving the game.

A New Playoff Harden?

Joel Embiid took home the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award but it’s James Harden doing the job for Philly in the playoffs.

With 42 points, a floater to send it to overtime and a corner three to win it, Harden led the Philadelphia 76ers to a 116-115 victory over the Boston Celtics and leveled the series at 2-2.

The series looked over when Embiid missed time and underwhelmed on his return. Even in this one as a version of that playoff Harden appeared in overtime, it seemed as though it was quickly slipping away from Philly. However, some individual brilliance and a horror final possession from the Celtics saved them.

The final Celtics possession is concerning, too. To have 18 seconds on the clock but only seven seconds when getting into the set before not getting a shot off in time is bad. Really bad. Having two timeouts in your pocket only makes it worse. You don’t need to call a timeout straight away, but it became fairly clear very early that the Celtics didn’t have anything more than a ‘hand-it-to-Tatum’ play on the cards.

Neither team covered themselves in glory late in Game 4, but it sets up a ripper Game 5 and for neutral NBA fans out there, hopefully, a seven-game series.

NBA Championship Odds

Now roughly halfway through the Conference semi-finals, we’re getting a good idea of where each team is at in their quest for an NBA championship.

Despite the recent loss and late-game struggles, the Celtics remain as $2.15 favourites to lift the trophy. It’s the Lakers that are coming for them, though. The Nuggets have been towards the top of the NBA standings all season while the Kevin Durant trade rocketed the Suns up the championship odds list. However, it’s all coming together for the purple and gold to be the shortest price of the remaining Western Conference teams at $4.33.

The Nuggets aren’t far behind at $4.50 but the Suns have blown out to $9.50 after sitting at $4.50 only two weeks ago. In the Eastern Conference, Philly’s $15 won’t last long based on Harden’s recent performances. Joel Embiid looked a lot better in Game 4 for his 34 points and 13 rebounds, too. Meanwhile, the Warriors are hanging onto hope at $10, the Heat are fighting for everything at $23, and the Knicks are setting a new standard for the franchise despite their $41 status in the NBA championship market.

NBA Championship Market

Boston Celtics$2.15
Los Angeles Lakers$4.33
Denver Nuggets$4.50
Phoenix Suns$9.50
Golden State Warriors$10
Philadelphia 76ers$15
Miami Heat$23
New York Knicks$41





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