The NBA playoffs are already producing the goods and will only get better as important players make their long-awaited return from injury.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the Minnesota Timberwolves had just won the NBA championship after beating the LA Clippers. For the Timberwolves, they had. Ending the second-longest playoff drought in the league, the Timberwolves ended their celebrations and prepared to face the Memphis Grizzlies in a playoff series that has everybody licking their lips. The series has only grown in intrigue after the Timberwolves took Game 1 of the series in Memphis.
The Timberwolves lead a playoff series for the first time in 18 years.
— Phil Mackey 🎙 (@PhilMackey) April 16, 2022
They aren’t everybody’s cup of tea. There are some big personalities in this group that rub plenty of people up the wrong way. Still, what they’ve done this season has impressed and they’re the sort of team that will make every game they play in the post-season worth watching.
Big Playoff Returns
Michael Porter Jr. hasn’t played for the Denver Nuggets since November 6. Undergoing lumbar spine surgery in early December, his recovery has been a slow but steady process. That patience, and Denver’s standing in the Western Conference, now has Porter looking to make his return at some point during their series against the Golden State Warriors. He has suffered one setback already. It won’t be a surprise to see the Nuggets play it safe and wait until the start of next season. However, he’s one to watch during shootarounds as the Nuggets look for that little bit extra against a Warriors team starting to catch fire following the return of Steph Curry.
Meanwhile, Ben Simmons may finally take to the floor for the 2021-22 NBA season. The Nets need some defence and regardless of how Simmons slots into the offence and shoots the ball, he will lock down their opponent’s best perimeter player every night.
ESPN Sources: After running and shooting pain-free for over a week, the Brooklyn Nets’ Ben Simmons is expected to take the next step on the court in the coming week: Beginning to go against teammates on the practice floor.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 16, 2022
As for Luka Doncic, his return to play is less clear. He remains unlikely to play in Game 2 against the Utah Jazz as he works through his recovery from a strained left calf. The Mavericks dropped Game 1 and enter Game 2 as $2.85 and +5.5 underdogs.
Robinson Heating Up
The Miami Heat are still flying under the radar somewhat. Rarely mentioned as a legitimate NBA championship contender, they pushed the Atlanta Hawks aside in Game 1 thanks to an incredibly efficient performance from Duncan Robinson.
Duncan Robinson today:
That’s the most points scored on that level of efficiency in NBA playoffs history. pic.twitter.com/6EfkaHOCYe
— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 17, 2022
Trae Young, on the other hand, finished 1-12 from the field for eight points…
NBA Championship Odds
Only the top teams in the NBA remain – and a couple of others – so it’s a good time to check in on the championship odds.
The Phoenix Suns remain as $3.10 favourites to go one better and win the championship this season. They should do it relatively easy against the New Orleans Pelicans in the First Round.
Notably, the Nets are at $11. If Simmons returns and provides them with elite defence at the very least, they will shorten in no time provided they get past the Boston Celtics.
The Memphis Grizzlies lost their first game and face a tough series against an up-for-it Timberwolves team. Ja Morant will need to raise his game even further if the Grizzlies are to threaten the championship contenders ($20).
It’s the Philadelphia 76ers in the East that look like a value option. Joel Embiid is playing out of his mind, James Harden is clicking into gear, and they’re a versatile team with various scoring options every night. They have their issues, but $18 appeals.
NBA Championship Odds