After looking dead in the water in game two of this series, the Phoenix Suns put on two big performances at home to even the series heading into game five. The two teams will be back in Denver tonight, and we’ll preview the game before going over my best prop play for the action.
Through four games of the series, with it knotted at two apiece, the Denver Nuggets have the better overall NET rating at (3.5) and, for the most part, have been better in most advanced statistical categories. Heading into game three, Denver was defending the Suns' mid-range jumpers at a high level and seemed to have a solid game plan on both ends of the floor. Sometimes though, all of those numbers get thrown out the window when superstars raise their production level.
The increase in production from the Suns' go-to guys made those advanced metrics look obsolete as Devin Booker and Kevin Durant put on one of the best performances by two teammates in playoff history by combining for 86 points in game three and 72 points in game four. Booker has been great all series, but in the past two games, he has done whatever he’s wanted on the offensive end, and Denver doesn’t have an answer.
Breaking it down numbers-wise, in the first two games of the series, the Nuggets allowed a mid-range shooting percentage of 47.9%, but in the last two games, that percentage is up to 60%. Booker and Durant haven’t been the only superstars performing at a high level, though, as Nikola Jokic just had 53 points in game four while Jamal Murray had 28.
They say a series doesn’t start until a team wins a game on the road, but that will be incredibly tough with how both teams have been playing at home. Denver has the second-highest NET rating among active teams when playing at home this postseason. The Suns' effective field goal percentage drops from 59.4% at home to 51.3% on the road, so without going to the analytics, the ultimate question is which team’s go-to guys can rise to the occasion on the road.
For my prop play in this one, I’ll be targeting Cameron Payne to go under his rebounding total of 2.5, which is priced at (-130). The point guard has gone under this total in three of the four games in this series and averaged 2.1 on the season. Even with the minutes increase that has come from the Chris Paul injury, Payne has been a non-factor with rebounding.
It’s a tough matchup for Payne in the rebounding department since Denver has the second-highest rebounding percentage amongst active playoff teams this postseason. In this series, Phoenix is getting just 40 defensive rebounding chances per game, the lowest among all active playoff teams, and Payne is averaging just two of those defensive rebounding chances himself.
Denver has performed at a high level at home all postseason, and they have the best rebounding percentage among playoff teams at home entering tonight. In 51 career playoff games, Payne is averaging 1.7 rebounds, and I expect him to be right around that number tonight as well.
Cameron Payne Under 2.5 Rebounds (-130)