Will the real Philadelphia 76ers please stand up?
After dropping Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series to the Atlanta Hawks, the 76ers looked like the team that earned the East’s No. 1 seed in Games 2 and 3.
And with a 2-1 series lead entering Game 4 in Atlanta, the 76ers appeared to have taken complete control of the series when they went into halftime with a 13-point lead.
But then when the wheels fell off. With star big man Joel Embiid ailing, the 76ers managed to score only 38 points in the second half. The Hawks stormed back and eked out a 103-100 victory to tie the series at 2-2.
Game 5 shifted back to Philadelphia and the 76ers again built a big lead. This time, the collapse was far worse. Philly led by as many as 26 points but again let it all slip away in a stunning 109-106 loss. Embiid and Seth Curry were excellent, but did not receive much help. Ben Simmons was a putrid 4-of-14 from the free-throw line. Tobias Harris scored only four points. The bench contributed only 13 points. It was ugly.
Now the 76ers have their backs against the wall. Which version of this team will show up? The Hawks can advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a win at home on Friday night, or Philly can respond and force a Game 7 back at the Wells Fargo Center.
It’s an intriguing spot for bettors. The 76ers are listed as three-point road favorites for Game 6 at BetMGM with the total at 221.5.
If you think the 76ers have the mettle to bounce back from such a colossal meltdown and play the dominant brand of basketball they have shown they are capable of at various times in this series, the three-point spread is a pretty nice number.
But if you’re skeptical — and there are myriad reasons you could be — nobody would fault you for jumping on the Hawks as an underdog yet again. Atlanta has been an underdog in nine of its 11 postseason games. The Hawks have won five of those games outright. The moneyline odds at BetMGM are +125.
Can the Jazz force a Game 7?
The Utah Jazz are staring another playoff disappointment in the face.
This is the fifth straight season the Jazz have reached the NBA playoffs under Quin Snyder, but they have yet to advance past the semifinal round. This time around, things looked promising against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Jazz moved past the Grizzlies in the first round and took a 2-0 series lead over the Clippers to open the semifinals. The Clippers, though, took care of their home court and won Games 3 and 4 by double digits to even the series at 2-2. Late in Game 4, though, Clippers star Kawhi Leonard went down with a knee injury that will sideline him indefinitely.
Would that be the break the Jazz needed to keep their title hopes alive? Early on in Game 5, Utah shot the lights out to the tune of 17 first-half 3-pointers. But that hot shooting ended up being unsustainable. Without Leonard, Paul George scored 37 points and led the Clippers to an upset 119-111 victory.
The Jazz closed as 8.5-point favorites in Game 5. With the series back in Los Angeles, the Jazz are favorites once again for Game 6 — but the point spread at BetMGM is just two.
Will the Jazz be able to force a Game 7 back in Salt Lake City?
What else is on Friday's betting slate?
The NHL Playoffs continue with the Montreal Canadiens hosting the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 3 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series. The series is tied 1-1 and Vegas (-165) is the current betting favorite at BetMGM.
The Euro 2020 slate also rolls on with three more matches: Sweden vs. Slovakia, Croatia vs. Czech Republic and England vs. Scotland.
Yahoo Sports' Nick Bromberg has been posting daily picks throughout the tournament. Friday's picks can be viewed here.
How about some baseball?
The first-place Tampa Bay Rays continue their series Friday in Seattle against the Mariners. The Rays have been scuffling lately, but there is good value getting a quality team at -106 against the Mariners, who are under .500.
The Rays are rolling out Michael Wacha, who hasn't been good, but he's been basically an opener in his last two starts, so he won't be around too long to mess things up.
We're gonna trust the Rays' bullpen management and that run-suppressing Mariners ballpark in this one to help Tampa get the win.
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