I don't know about you, but I can't remember an NBA playoffs where injuries have been such a factor. The Cavaliers, of course, are without Kevin Love. The Hawks lost a key bench player when he was hurt while being arrested before the playoffs (he'll be suing the NYPD). The Grizzlies lost the heart and soul of their team for a while. Ditto the Clippers. The Pelicans occasionally had their starting point guard. The Raptors' best player, Kyle Lowry, played at clearly less than 100 percent. Those are just some of them. Now comes perhaps the biggest injury of all and it might derail Washington's chances of winning the Eastern Conference. Here are your Game 3 previews for Saturday.
Hawks at Wizards (+3.5, 199.5)
The injury I speak of is to Washington All-Star point guard John Wall, who has been fantastic this season and in the playoffs. He injured his left/wrist hand in Game 1 of this series but played through it and was awesome with 18 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds in totally dominating All-Star counterpart Jeff Teague. The injury wasn't thought to be serious, and by all accounts Wall was going to play in Game 2 on Tuesday -- even Wall said he was. But obviously something changed and Wall was scratched. The Wizards weren't the same, losing 106-90, their first loss in these playoffs. Can't really blame Wall's replacement in the starting lineup as Ramon Sessions had 21 points and four assists, although the team was outscored by 10 with him on the floor. Obviously Sessions moving into the lineup weakens the bench.
I have no idea if Wall will play in Game 3 or any other game in these playoffs. He has been diagnosed with five fractures in that wrist and hand. I don't see how a point guard could play with something like that. Maybe a power forward or center with a cast on as he wouldn't really have to handle the ball much. But the Wizards haven't ruled Wall out yet. Washington could have lost arguably any other player and still beaten Atlanta. Not Wall. The team was averaging 115.7 points per 100 possessions in these playoffs with Wall on the court (that would have led the NBA during the regular season) and 96.0 with him off. Before sitting out Game 2, Wall had four consecutive double-doubles, one shy of Moses Malone's franchise playoff record. Including Tuesday's loss, the Wizards are now 10-40 when Wall sits over the past five seasons.
This line has changed dramatically with the Wall news (as did series line). It opened as high as Washington -2. The total hasn't much moved.
Updated series line: Hawks -275, Wizards +230.
Key trends: Atlanta has covered one of its past five road games. The Wizards are 0-6-1 against the spread following a loss of 10 points or more. The over is 5-1 in the past six meetings.
Early lean: Even if Wall plays, I just don't see how he can be effective. Plus the team has no one behind Sessions so he might have to play all 48 minutes and that's obviously not a good thing. Take the Hawks and the under.
Warriors at Grizzlies (+4, 196)
I'm not saying that Memphis point guard Mike Conley is as good as Wall because he isn't. But he's just as important to his team, and that was clear in Game 2 against Golden State. I didn't think Conley would play due to his facial fractures but did have the Grizzlies covering a big spread -- I just didn't see them winning. But thanks to Conley's return, they pulled off a 97-90 stunner, only the Warriors' third home loss all season and first in regulation since Nov. 11. Wearing a mask, Conley was spectacular with 22 points on 8-for-12 shooting along with three assists and only one turnover. Just playing clearly fired up his teammates. That's clear proof emotion matters in the playoffs. The guy who had been starting for Conley, Nick Calathes, didn't even play in Game 2.
Conley also did a fine job when he guarded Steph Curry, as the league MVP hit only 7-for-19 from the field and 2-for-11 from 3-point range. Tony Allen, meanwhile, terrorized Klay Thompson into 6-for-15 shooting and 1-for-6 from the 3-point range. Those two were a combined minus-4. The Warriors are a jump shooting team and aren't winning a title if those two aren't hitting. They don't have a consistent third scorer. But I don't expect the team to go 6-for-26 from long range again, either. Coach Steve Kerr said his team was too impatient. Golden State took a 4-2 lead, and that would be the Warriors' last of the game. It was the team's first loss this season when holding a foe under 100 points, which is pretty amazing.
Updated series line: Warriors -488, Grizzlies +413.
Key trends: The Warriors are 6-0 ATS in their past six playing on three or more days of rest. They are 1-5 ATS in their past six after an ATS loss. The Grizzlies are 4-0-1 ATS in their past five at home. The under is 5-0 in Memphis' past five playing on three or more days of rest. The under is 6-2 in Golden State's past eight road games.
Early lean: Golden State wasn't going to run the table in these playoffs. I expect a much more focused club. Give the points and go under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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