We have three NBA Eastern Conference playoff games this evening and the Philadelphia 76ers/Toronto Raptors are in the third game of their series while the Brooklyn Nets/Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls/Milwaukee Bucks series' are getting ready to play game two. Let’s break down what we’ve seen from these matchups thus far and cover it from the DFS NBA perspective and identify some core plays heading into tonight's basketball action.
Brooklyn Nets @ Boston Celtics (BOS up 1-0)
Boston and Brooklyn played in what was the most exciting game of the playoffs so far, and Game 2 should be just as exciting. The hero from Game 1, Jayson Tatum, led all scorers with 31 points while shooting 50 percent from the floor in the Celtics' win. Jaylen Brown scored 23 points and Marcus Smart scored 20 points and with Robert Williams still sidelined, Al Horford battled in the post and secured a double-double, scoring 20 points and pulling down 15 boards. On the other side of the ball, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving took 44 shots combined, but Durant only hit 9 of his 24 field goals while Irving hit 12 of his 20. Newly crowned NBA Defensive Player Of The Year Marcus Smart is going to have to find a way to limit Irving (who scored 39 points) by double-teaming him with another teammate all night, even if that means putting less pressure on Durant so they can contain Irving.
Jayson Tatum has played well versus Brooklyn in his last few games, but Kevin Durant isn’t the easiest player to go up against on either side of the ball. Tatum has scored 30 or more points in each of his last three games against the Nets and he continues to be hot shooting from the field in recent games and because the Nets have trouble guarding the low block, Tatum should think to cut to the basket down the middle more because Andre Drummond can’t defend. If Tatum blows by Durant, no other Nets player will stop him on the drive and he’ll draw a lot of contact. We should see Tatum take 17-20 shots tonight and he continues to help with ball distribution as he dropped another eight dimes in Dame 1 and he’s been consistently producing blocks and steals and seeing him be a five-category producer makes him prioritized for DFS heading into tonight’s game.
Kevin Durant is the only 10K player on DraftKings tonight. If we think that Boston’s defense will focus more on closing the lane down on Kyrie Irving for as many possessions as possible, Durant could see fewer double-teams once he gets to the elbow and it will translate in easier trips to the basket for him. The shots were there for Durant in Game 1, but he just wasn’t hitting them – and shooting under 38% from the floor won’t help matters. He should bounce back and could very well take a few more shots this evening. He’s shot it well against the Celtics prior to Game 1 and, if he has the ball in his hands more tonight, he’ll be able to contribute more assists. We can’t forget that Boston is one of the toughest defensive teams in the league and Jayson Tatum is a hard player to beat up inside the arc. Other Nets players better be ready to cut more if Durant gets double-teamed at the arc.
Besides the entire city of Boston hating Kyrie Irving for his communication with the Celtics fans in Game 1, Irving’s performance was top-notch. He scored 39 points and hit 60-percent of his shots and, he's now shot at least 60% in each of his last three contests. It will be up to Boston to force the ball out of Irving’s hands because beyond Durant and Irving, the Nets don’t have many other consistent scoring threats – unless Seth Curry’s three-ball is hitting. Until we saw Boston successfully limit Irving, we have to put faith in him taking another 20 shots this evening and spending the most time with the rock. He played 42 minutes last game and we don’t have any reason to believe that he won’t play in the 40s tonight. Hopefully, Irving realized he made his statement last game showing the Boston faithful that he can stand up for himself for all of the hate being thrown his way. Tonight, he can just keep his focus locked in on anticipating extra help defense on him and keeping the ball moving when not on transition.
The Nets were a bottom-10 team in the league this season at covering shooting guards and they will have a tough time containing both Tatum and Jaylen Brown. He's a 47.3-percent field-goal shooter for the season and he should take 17-20 shots tonight in an amazing pace-up spot for Boston. Brown also actually exceeded his shooting percentage in five of his last six battles. The Nets will likely focus a bit more on limiting Tatum than Brown, and the latter could see a lot more openings heading to the basket. It was very encouraging seeing him work the post and not hang as much at the arc last game. Since Robert Williams got hurt, Brown has been a lot more aggressive in staying near the paint to grab boards. He’s also blocked shots in three of his last four games and produced two four-steal games during that span.
With no Williams, the Celtics need a low-post threat to take advantage of the Nets' weak interior defense. Al Horford has been that guy, spending less time at the arc. He’s become a bailout shooter from downtown when left open, but he lines up a lot in the post. After seeing him post a double-double, we have to put that faith back in Horford as he should once again play deep into this game and take double-digit shot attempts. With the Nets likely focusing most of their defensive efforts on isolating the Celtics' main scorers on the perimeter, they could be looking to feed an easily open Horford right in the middle of the paint and the Celtics should once again plan on giving Horford 10-15 shots. Just because Drummond is a big body and he can grab boards, that doesn’t translate to him being a good defender and the 35-year-old Horford should be primed for a lot of action in the post. He also swatted away 1.3 shots per game this season.
Philadelphia 76ers @ Toronto Raptors (PHI up 2-0)
This series has been disappointing for Toronto (who beat the Sixers three times in the regular season) because of health issues. Scottie Barnes hurt his ankle in the first game of the series and we didn’t see him play last game and Gary Trent Jr. has been sick and hasn’t been able to be effective when on the court. Let’s also not forget Thaddeus Young’s Thumb injury that’s been limiting him. The Sixers have two wins by at least 15 points and it’s very surprising that they are favored by just two points to win on sportsbooks. Both teams have shot well from the field, and as expected Joel Embiid has put up solid stat lines, but it’s been the play of Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris that has been eye-opening and it’s showing other teams that Philadelphia has more than just two threats on offense. Maxey has scored 38 and 23 points in the 2 games and thinking the Sixers should once again have an easier time versus the injured Raptors, Maxey could be in line for even more shots. Matisse Thybulle is ineligible to play games in Toronto due to his vaccination status.
Joel Embiid has produced two double-doubles in two games against the Raptors and he’s consistently played 37 minutes despite both of these games being blowouts and he’s averaged 15.5 field goals in this series. Embiid is coming off of a 31-point performance and Pascal Siakam has been able to contain him in the post. Without a healthy frontcourt, Joel Embiid will continue having success in the post and we should be looking at another double-double from him. It’s been over a month since Embiid hasn’t produced a double-double. He’s going to the free-throw line a good amount and with OG Anunoby having to watch the elbow due to Scottie Barnes being hurt, it gives Embiid more space to move around inside the arc. He also blocked 1.4 shots per game this year.
Pascal Siakam is coming off of a double-double and we know he’s in line for another 40 minutes of action tonight. He’s taken no fewer than 18 shots so far and he’s staying away from the arc as the Raptors need him to hang in the post. Siakam secured a double-double in Game 2 after grabbing just three rebounds in the first game. He should once again take 18-22 shots and he’s the Raptors' best bet for inside play on offense as their best lane-attacker. OG Anunoby has also done a good job scoring the basketball and is a good cheaper alternative in DFS. If Scottie Barnes ends up playing tonight, though, it will likely take away from Anunoby on offense. Siakam’s role and shots are secured no matter who is in or out for the Raptors. He also dished 5.3 assists per game and has swiped balls in five of his last six outings.
James Harden has been a little inconsistent this series and he’s been shooting poorly from the floor. Tyrese Maxey’s awesome play this series has also taken the ball out of Harden’s hands a bit. He scored 22 points and dropped 14 dimes in the first game of the series, and then followed that up by scoring 14 points on just nine shots in Game 2 with only six assists. He’s been isolated a lot on the perimeter and it makes sense because the Raptors haven’t had an answer for the Sixers' frontcourt. Until Toronto shows resistance in the paint to Embiid and Harris, Harden will just keep feeding the beast down-low. Harden has also blocked shots and grabbed steals in both games this series. Like with Embiid, Harden continues to play heavy minutes despite the Sixers being in full control of this battle.
If Gary Trent Jr. is feeling better, maybe he’ll do a better job covering Tyrese Maxey than the Raptors have so far. Maxey has been shooting lights out from the field, hitting over 66% of his shots in both games. He’s also shown aggressiveness in the paint and has been securing long rebounds for Philadelphia – pulling down nine boards last game. Maxey should take 12-16 shots tonight and, even from downtown, we’ve seen him hit at least three three-pointers in both of his last two outings. The lane continues to be open for the Sixers all day and, if choosing between Harden and Maxey in DFS lineups, it would be smarter to save a bit of money and go Maxey because of how unstoppable he’s been this series. Maxey has been a good change-of-pace player and his quickness will keep Toronto on their toes and from being set up defensively. With both of these teams playing a slow style of offense, having players that can increase the tempo can be a major difference-maker – and Maxey has proven to be a major contributor.
Even with Trent expected to start in this game, we should still see Fred VanVleet take 17-20 shots tonight – but he needs to drive more. The Sixers are going to do everything they can to keep him out of the lane, thus playing him more off the ball would be in Toronto’s best interest. They need to throw something different at Philly, who’s been solid defensively in this series. VanVleet has scored 19 points per game and even though he shot poorly last time out, we’ve seen him have success against the Sixers hitting an impressive 58.3 percent of his shots in Game 1. VanVleet averaged 1.7 steals per contest for the season and he’s blocked multiple shots in both games in the playoffs. VanVleet took 16 shots from beyond the arc last game and in order for him to succeed, he’ll need to cut to the basket more to throw off the Sixers' defense.
Chicago Bulls @ Milwaukee Bucks (MIL up 1-0)
How can we have confidence in the Bulls winning this game? The Bucks beat them in every meeting during the season, including by double figures in their final two regular-season matchups. Both teams didn’t shoot that well in Game 1, especially from downtown, and the 93-86 final score was reflective of that. The Bulls bordered the bottom-10 in covering power forwards this season, and Giannis Antetokounmpo should once again have a strong game after scoring 27 points and pulling down 16 rebounds in the opener. Despite the Bucks being strong at defending big men, Nikola Vucevic scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, but Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan shot a combined 12-for-44 – which limited the Bulls' overall production.
If you include the last game, Giannis Antetokounmpo has grabbed 16 or more rebounds three times against the Bulls this season. As risky as it could be investing in Antetokounmpo with the spread being 10 points, it’s playoff time and the Bucks didn’t shoot well from downtown and if they aren’t sinking their three’s, it’ll once again be up to Antetokounmpo to produce in the post and that should keep his minutes up. Last game wasn’t a blowout and these teams were feeling each other out a lot and it will be up to the Bucks to increase the pace to keep the Bulls moving all over the court. Antetokounmpo has posted four multi-steal games in his last five and even blocked two shots against Chicago in game one. The Bulls are very weak at covering the post and with Brook Lopez drawing out bigger defenders to guard him at the arc, it gives Antetokounmpo more room to work the post.
After shooting a poor 6-for-25 from the floor and having the hard assignment of helping contain Antetokounmpo, DeMar DeRozan will play 40-plus minutes again and he’ll continue to take a lot of shots. The Bulls' offense is centered around three people and DeRozan is the prioritized scorer and he doesn’t even need to hit three-pointers to put up a lot of points and even if he’s missing his shots inside the arc, he’ll still get fed. DeRozan will also spend time bringing up the ball as he dropped six dimes last game. It was also very encouraging seeing him grab eight boards and three steals and, if he shot just a bit better than 24 percent from the field last game, he would have hit value and given us a 5-7x return. The shots will be there and he’s been productive enough in other areas that we can go back to him.
We saw Jrue Holiday play deep into Game 1, but he didn’t shoot well last time out. Seeing him take 16 shots and produce in other areas keeps him appealing heading into tonight and the Bulls ranked 18th in the regular season at covering point guards. The Bulls were a very different team when Lonzo Ball was healthy, but since he got hurt, things have changed in Chicago defensively and the Bulls have become a lot more vulnerable on the perimeter. Holiday scored 26 or more points two times against the Bulls during the regular season. Even if the Bucks do blowout the Bulls tonight, Holiday should still see mid-30s minutes.
Brook Lopez isn’t as strong of a defender as Bobby Portis, but he compliments Antetokounmpo better because of his strong long-range shooting. If his defender doesn’t step out of the paint to cover him at the arc, Lopez will be open all day long and that’s why he’s on the court more than Portis. Lopez's floor-stretching ability will keep him on the court for 30-plus minutes – and this benefits Nikola Vucevic, who had a monster game previously versus Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo will have to keep an eye on DeRozan constantly attacking the paint and Vucevic will have an easier time putting up numbers this series. Surprisingly, he shot 10 three-pointers last game as the Bulls were trying to match the Bucks' strategy and draw Lopez and Portis away from the low block and after seeing him take 27 shots, we have to believe that he has another 18-20 upcoming tonight.
Milwaukee ranked 22nd in defending shooting guards this season and Zach LaVine produced a 30 and 21-point game against them in the regular season. Even though he shot just 31.6 percent from the field last game, he still posted a double-double pulling down 10 rebounds and we should expect him to take 18-21 shots. LaVine has also blocked a shot in his last three and posted swipes in four of his last five games and that’s protecting his DFS value against poor shooting. His shooting has been up and down, but being that the Bulls heavily rely on their starters to put up points, LaVine will continue to get fed regardless of how many shots he misses. It’s a pace boost for the Bulls and LaVine will certainly get set up a lot at the arc, but he won’t be afraid to drive the lane if it’s open.