The NBA playoffs continue Tuesday night with three more games, starting with Atlanta and Miami squaring off at 7:30 p.m. ET. While the Heat handled their business in Game 1, not every top seed had the same success. After recording the NBA's second-best record during the regular season, the Memphis Grizzlies were stunned by the Minnesota Timberwolves in front of their home crowd. Favorites went 7-1 S/U in the series openers and followed that up with a 2-1 record last night. I am taking both a favorite and a big underdog to bounce back after poor Game 1 performances. The best bets are sometimes the ones that are hardest to make. Here is why I am backing both the Hawks and Grizzlies on Tuesday night's NBA card.
Atlanta Hawks (+7.5) at Miami Heat
The Heat made a statement early Sunday by completely shutting down Atlanta's offense in a 115-91 blowout. It's clear Miami is tired of hearing about Milwaukee, Boston and Brooklyn, whenever the Eastern Conference title odds are discussed, and took out its anger on a fatigued Atlanta team that just fought through the play-in tournament. It was a stark reminder that the East will go through the Heat this postseason.
Miami's star guard and leader, Jimmy Butler, embraces the opportunity to play with a chip on his shoulder. But will he be able to carry over that same energy in Game 2? I think it's going to be difficult. Atlanta was coming off an emotional 107-101 road win Friday night that required the Hawks to come back from a 10-point halftime deficit. They looked sluggish from the start to say the least in Game 1 against Miami, some in part due to the Heat's elite defense. However, there is no denying the major rest disadvantage Atlanta faced in that game. Trae Young was miserable from the field, shooting 1-of-12 including 0-of-7 from 3-point range. Previously, he had averaged over 25 points per game in four regular-season meetings vs. the Heat, including going off for 35 points in a four-point loss only 11 days ago. The Hawks stayed within six points the last three times these two teams played heading into Sunday's blowout. I understand the playoffs are a different animal, but Young has proven that he can carry Atanta's offense and deliver in the biggest postseason spots. I am inclined to bet he doesn't go away so easily, and the Hawks keep this one competitive by staying with the number.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies (-7)
It doesn't get any better than Ja Morant vs. Anthony Edwards. The Minnesota Timberwolves were the butt of everyone's jokes for their celebration after qualifying for the playoffs. After running the Memphis Grizzlies out of the arena in Game 1, nobody is laughing anymore. The Timberwolves' odds to advance past the Western Conference's second-best team have dropped sharply from +260 to a modest +115. There is real momentum with Minnesota.
Let's not forget that Memphis won 56 games during the regular season and can easily get back to doing what got it there against a team like Minnesota that pushes the pace and plays with tempo. Morant will get his in the paint, where Memphis outscored Minnesota 60-50, but expect his supporting cast to focus on making Game 2 much more physical. The early foul trouble of Steven Adams and Jaren Jackson Jr. contributed to the Wolves winning the rebounding battle, which I don't expect to see again considering Memphis crashes the glass better than anybody. This time around the Grizzlies will get back to doing the dirty work to create the type of second-chance scoring opportunities that makes their offense go.
Edwards was the best player in Game 1, but it's going to be even more challenging when he gets a heavier dose of Dillon Brooks for all four quarters. I'm betting Minnesota won't match Memphis' physicality, and the Grizzlies make a statement with their backs against the wall at home. Morant will make the big buckets when they need them, but the contributions of Bane, Desmond Brooks and Jackson Jr. will fuel Tuesday night's turnaround.