Betting tips for NBA playoffs: Bucks-Celtics, Mavericks-Suns Game 7s

Will Chris Paul bounce back from one of his worst four-game stretches in recent memory in time to lead the Suns to the Western Conference Finals? Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

All odds are provided by Caesars Sportsbook.

What you need to know for Sunday's NBA playoff games

Smart to fade Marcus?: Celtics point guard Marcus Smart has been cashing over tickets left and right of late, as he is averaging 18 points and shooting 55% from the field (45.5% from 3) over his past three games. Great. But you know what past numbers don't do? They don't cash today's tickets. But they do impact today's numbers. His 21 points on Friday night look great in a box score, but after the first quarter, he managed just seven points in more than 28 minutes on 3-of-9 shooting. That sort of usage down the stretch of a do-or-die game is concerning as we enter Game 7, especially when you consider that in the final three quarters of Game 6 -- you know, when Boston's season was on the brink -- Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown took more than 59% of its shots. It's reasonable to think the C's lean as much on their stars as ever in this game, something that could take usage off of Smart's plate. We've seen the scoring ceiling of late, but with a jumper that comes and goes, and exactly zero free throw attempts in three straight games (119 minutes of action), the scoring floor is lower than the prop market indicates.

Luka Magic: The only player with a stronger fantasy profile than Luka Doncic on Sunday is Giannis Antetokounmpo. Doncic has posted a usage rate of least 39.7% in each game of this series while averaging roughly 1.6 DraftKings points per minute. With nearly 75 fantasy points in Game 1 in Phoenix, Doncic looks to bookend this series against Devin Booker with yet another offensive opus.

Searching for stability: In any Game 7, the object is to give yourself a chance to win down the stretch. While both members of the Phoenix backcourt have had their ups and downs lately, Deandre Ayton has proved to be a consistent producer, something that the Suns could choose to rely on Sunday night with their season on the line. The big man has made at least half of his shots in every game this postseason and is responsible for Phoenix's primary advantage: paint production. The Suns lost by 27 points on Thursday night ... and yet, they still managed to win the battle in the paint by 10 points. Dallas is going to continue to bomb away 3s and that can be effective, but it is worth noting that six of the Mavericks' worst eight 3P% games this regular season came on the road and that their worst effort from deep this postseason came in Game 5, the last game they played in Phoenix. As the underdog, the Mavericks will embrace variance while the Suns will look to eliminate it, and running things through Ayton is a very good way to do just that.

Stock Watch: With several major platforms offering defensive player props, it would be wise to inspect which players are effectively patrolling passing lanes and serving in key rim protection roles. Al Horford is doing a little bit of everything for the Celtics against the Bucks. He's posted multiple stocks (steals + blocks) in all but one game thus far, and had a playoff-best four blocked shots in Game 6. Robert Williams III could also be an interesting target for blocks. He's been upgraded to questionable and finished third in the NBA in block percentage during the regular season. Mikal Bridges has averaged 2.2 stocks in the Suns-Mavericks series and could play 40 minutes as a key defender against Doncic.

-- Jim McCormick and Kyle Soppe


Breaking down Sunday's games

Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics
Live on ABC at 3:30 p.m ET, TD Garden, Boston


Line: Celtics (-5)
Money line: Bucks (+175), Celtics (-210)
Total: 207.5 points
BPI projected total: 216.7 points
BPI win%: Celtics (69.8%)

Questionable: Khris Middleton (Knee), Robert Williams III (Knee)

Ruled out: None
Note: BPI numbers factored in players who are ruled out but assumes questionable players will play.

Notable: The underdog has covered the spread in five of six games in this series (lone exception: Game 2).

Best bet: Derrick White over 15.5 points + assists + rebounds. In this game, role players are going to play an important role. However, the Celtics' role players should feel more at home at home. Of all the players in this series, White (+58) has the best plus/minus. Particularly when the Celtics go small, he should succeed against the Bucks. -Moody

Best bet: Giannis Antetokounmpo over 55.5 points + assists + rebounds. Giannis tends to be a handful in key closeout games, and it gets no bigger than a Game 7. In his past three closeout games last season, Giannis averaged 40.0 points, 14.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. In the past four games of this series, all of which were huge, he averaged 40.0 PPG, 15.3 RPG and 5.5 APG while going over 55.5 PAR (points, assists, rebounds) in all three games. -- André Snellings

Best bet: Under 207.5. Four of the six games in this series have been low-scoring affairs, with an average combined score of 198.0 PPG. Games 4 and 5 were slightly higher scoring, averaging 220.5 PPG, but for Game 6 it was back down to 203. These are both defensive-minded teams that like to bang and be physical, and Game 7s tend to trend toward defense and hustle more than skilled execution. This Game 7 looks like a grind-it-out affair, to me, where if a team scores 100 points, they'll have a good chance to win. -- Snellings


Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns
8 p.m ET, Footprint Center, Phoenix


Line: Suns (-6)
Money line: Mavericks (+230), Suns (-280)
Total: 205 points
BPI projected total: 209.1 points
BPI win%: Suns (60.1%)

Questionable: None

Ruled out: None
Note: BPI numbers factored in players who are ruled out but assumes questionable players will play.

Notable: The first two games of this series went over the total and saw the Suns cover. Since then, all four have gone under and the Mavericks have covered three of four.

Best bet: Suns' team total over 107.5 points. Through six games in this series, Phoenix has deployed two different offenses. There's the offense that has played at Footprint Center and is shooting a ridiculous 54% from the floor and 43% from deep in this series. And then there's the offense that has taken the court at American Airlines Center and is shooting just 43% from the floor and 39% from deep. Thankfully for Suns fans, Game 7 takes place at Footprint Center, where the Suns have scored at least 110 points in all three contests against the Mavericks. -- Joe Fortenbaugh

Best bet: Devin Booker over 38.5 points + assists + rebounds. Chris Paul's play has been suboptimal over the past four games. His averages are 9.3 PPG, 6.3 APG and 4.5 turnovers per game. But Booker has played exceptionally well. This series has seen him average 25.5 PPG, 5.0 APG and 5.7 RPG. To achieve a ticket to the Western Conference finals, the Suns would be wise to lean on Booker. -- Eric Moody

Best bet: Jalen Brunson over 27.5 points + assists + rebounds. Over the past four games, Brunson averaged 21.3 PPG, 3.3 APG and 4.0 RPG while playing aggressively. In this series, the Mavericks clearly have an advantage in the backcourt. As they try to reach the Western Conference finals for the first time with Luka Doncic, Brunson should continue to see a lot of action. -- Moody

Best bet: Chris Paul over 16.5 points. Paul turned 37 years old last week and promptly turned in his worst four-game stretch of the season ... perhaps of the past several seasons. In those four games, he's averaging more turnovers (4.5) than made field goals (3.5). But barring injury, I simply can't believe that he won't show up for this Game 7. In his first two games against the Mavericks this series, also played in Phoenix, Paul scored 19 and 28 points on 62.1 FG%. I believe this is the Paul we'll see on Sunday, in one of the bigger games of his career. -- Snellings