Home-court has been such an advantage during the second round, it could be the x-factor for both No.1 seeds. 

Phoenix opened with two convincing victories, dropping to -1500 to win the series, only to watch Dallas tie things up 2-2 at American Airlines Center. 

Miami looked like a runaway after Game 2, but then Joel Embiid made an unexpected return in Philadelphia leading the Sixers to two straight wins. 

Kyle Lowry’s return in front of his hometown should’ve provided a boost for the Heat but his hamstring clearly flared up. After scoring six points over two games, he’s been ruled out for Game 5 to focus on his rehab.

Let’s break down what’s transpired over both series:

(1) Phoenix Suns vs. (4) Dallas Mavericks

Current Odds: 

PHX -6, over/under 215

1) Home-court influencing game outcomes

Up until Game 3, Phoenix had shot over 50 per cent from the field in every playoff game. 

Dallas, the seventh-best defence during the regular-season, turned things up in front of their home crowd holding Phoenix to their two worst scoring performances all playoffs. 

How’d they do it? They made life miserable for Chris Paul. 

CP3 had a career-worst seven turnovers in the first half of Game 3. In Game 4, he fouled out with nine minutes to play. 

All the credit to Jalen Brunson who seemed to be down on the floor every other play. He was critical in forcing Paul out of the game with a some help from the refs.  

During these playoffs, the Suns have a 13.4 net differential in games at home versus away. Their three-point shooting is night and day (39.9 versus 32.5) and they’ve won the turnover battle at home, +2.4, as opposed to -1.4 on the road. 

They play at a much faster pace at home (95.8 versus 92.8), and I expect Paul to bounce back from these two anomalous games. 

Dallas has scored 5.4 more points per game on the road these playoffs. If Phoenix wins, it’ll be offence against offence. 

Best Bet: Over 215 (-110)

2) Both teams are on fire from deep

Of the eight remaining teams, Phoenix and Dallas are one and two respectively in three-point percentage (43.4 and 40.5) during Round 2. 

Miami, the top three-point shooting team during the regular season, is dead last at 28.3 per cent. Milwaukee, a trigger-happy team from deep, is shooting 29.2 per cent. 

While the Suns have been the most efficient, they’ve taken the least three-point attempts in Round 2. Dallas is in a tie for first. 

The Mavs for the most part have two types of shots they hunt – Luka Doncic led pick-and-rolls or isolation plays and catch-and-shoot threes. 

Dallas has impressively averaged the same volume of threes, 16.5, at home and away this series and it’s not just one shooter.

Dorian Finney-Smith is coming off an eight three-pointer performance. Four other Mavs are averaging over 40 percent from deep. Doncic is taking roughly 10 attempts a game.

Based on minutes and roles, I see value in Reggie Bullock keeping Phoenix’s defence honest. He’s averaged 3.0 threes in this series and covered this prop in 7-of-10 playoff games.  

Best Bet: Reggie Bullock over 2.5 threes (+100)

(1) Miami Heat vs. (4) Philadelphia 76ers

Current Odds: 

MIA -2.5, o/u 209.5

1) Embiid’s gravity leading to more ball movement 

In Games 1 and 2, Philly averaged 17.5 assists. With Embiid back, they averaged 23.5.

Even though Embiid isn’t scoring 30+ points, he draws so much attention from the Miami defenders, it’s led to more open shots for his teammates. 

The shot volume has come down for both Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey with Embiid back but they’re getting more passing opportunities leading to easy baskets. 

Over the first two games this round, Harris didn’t have a single assist that led to a three-pointer. Over the last two, he’s had eight. 

Embiid’s presence forces Miami to cheat off of Philly’s shooters and they’ve been capitalizing.

Of all the Philadelphia assist props available, Harris’ line is the best value. 

Best Bet: Harris over 2.5 assists (-134)

2) Jimmy Butler is out to prove he’s a championship calibre superstar

Sticking to the subject of Embiid, Bam Adebayo has seen both his usage and points drop over these past two games. 

He’s dispensing more energy on the defensive end and has less of an advantage with ‘The Process’ back in the lineup. 

Add in the fact that Lowry will be sidelined for Game 5, and the offensive burden truly falls on the shoulders of Butler. 

He’s averaging 19.3 field-goal attempts per game during the playoffs, a 33 per cent increase compared to his regular season numbers. 

Nobody averages more points per game in this series than Butler and he’s been incredibly efficient shooting 52.1 per cent from the field and 85.3 per cent from the line. 

His points prop is set at 25.5 and he’s only covered that number in half of his games during the playoffs. But when he does, he erupts. 

His four scoring totals when going over – 45, 36, 33, 40. 

Miami needs Butler to step up against his former team to shift the momentum back their way. 

Best Bet: Butler 30+ points (+230)