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NBA Playoff News – Nuggets Underdogs? – Heat the Team to Beat

May 2, 2023
Lebron vs Curry starts this week

The 2023 NBA Playoffs continue to roll right along, with eight teams left standing. That will get halved over the next two weeks, with the games figuring to get even more competitive as well. 

Here is a look at the conference semifinals in the NBA. 

Those Underdog (?) Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets are top seed in the Western Conference, though they entered the semifinal series with the Phoenix Suns as underdogs. Phoenix didn’t have much trouble with the injury-plagued Los Angeles Clippers in the opening round.

Odds have shifted after Denver took care of business at home, with a 2-0 series lead as the caravan moves to Phoenix Friday and Sunday nights. Phoenix has to hold serve in the desert. 

Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic has been terrific, which isn’t a surprise. Jokic finished Monday’s Game 2 with 39 points and 16 rebounds (63 points, 35 boards, 10 rebounds in series). Phoenix doesn’t have a way to counter him,

Phoenix still has a chance to get back into this series, but with Chris Paul now nursing a tight groin, its margin of error is slim.

Showdown in California

The other series in the West was set to begin Tuesday night. It will be the Los Angeles Lakers against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

LeBron James and the Lakers took down the Memphis Grizzlies in the opening round, and aren’t favored in this series, either. 

Stephen Curry poured in 50 points in the Dubs’ Game 7 road rout of the Sacramento Kings 

As of this early Tuesday writing, the Warriors were -150 favorites (LA +130) to prevail, according to NBA series odds.

Heat Steal Opener

The Miami Heat and New York Knickerbockers have a long and storied past in the playoffs, with the Knicks having the home-court advantage this time around. Miami negated that, winning by a count of 108-101 in Sunday afternoon’s opener. 

Injuries may determine the winner of this series, and the Knicks were without Julius Randle (left ankle sprain) in the opener. Jalen Brunson is also working around a sore right ankle.  

Miami, behind Jimmy Butler’s 25 points, took the opener, but their All Star is “iffy” ahead of Tuesday’s second. Butler rolled his right ankle in the final quarter. His absence would obviously be the biggest storyline of the series.

The eight-seed Heat rode Butler to a series win over the Milwaukee Bucks in the opening round, while the Knicks whipped the moribund Cleveland Cavaliers. Now, after Tuesday’s game at Madison Square Garden, the series shifts to south Florida Saturday afternoon.

Sixers Steal Opener 

So, no Joel Embiid, no problem. The Philadelphia 76ers were in Boston Monday night to begin their semifinals series with the heavily-favored Celtics, playing without presumptive league MVP Joel Embiid (awarded was to be announced Tuesday night). 

James Harden carried the mail Monday night, pouring in 45 points as the Sixers prevailed by a count of 119-115. It was a one-point game late in the fourth quarter when Harden hit a step-back three-pointer to lift the Sixers.  

Despite losing the opener of this series, Boston is the 2-1 (+200) choice to win the title, as per NBA championship odds

Boston was in the Finals a season ago, and were sizable favorites to win the East once again. It will now have to try and steal back home court advantage by winning a game in Philly, but must first win Wednesday evening’s Game 2 at home.