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Welcome to Hoops with Noops! The Eastern Conference Finals are wrapped up, and the Boston Celtics are waiting to see who they will face in the NBA Finals. The Dallas Mavericks have a 3-0 lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves in the West, and Tuesday could be the end of that series as well.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals is set for June 6 regardless of when this round actually finishes. Does that mean there might be some chicanery or shenanigans that allow the Timberwolves to defeat the Mavericks to avoid having over a week without NBA basketball? I sure don’t know, but I do know some people out there are considering such outlandish things.

Let’s put aside our tinfoil hats, go through the series to date, see how the odds have changed, and try to find some value in the betting markets.

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NBA Best Bets for Tuesday

Minnesota Timberwolves at Dallas Mavericks

Current Line – Mavericks -1.5, 211
My Projection – Timberwolves 107, Mavericks 106
Key Injuries – Dereck Lively II is doubtful. Luka Doncic, Maxi Kleber and Mike Conley are questionable.

The first three games of this series have all followed a similar pattern. The home team takes a lead into halftime, the road teams wins the third quarter, and the Mavericks win the fourth quarter and the game. Dallas is showing us exactly why they were excited to put Kyrie Irving with Luka Doncic. It gives them two players who can create shots late in games and have experienced success doing so in big games. Anthony Edwards might just be tired from having played the most games he’s ever played in his life. He is shooting just 38% and hasn’t been able to carry the Timberwolves late in games. I think the bigger problem is that Edwards is the only player capable of scoring and the Mavericks know that. Karl-Anthony Towns was expected to take some of the burden and that has not gone well. He is shooting below 18% from the field and averaging less than eight points in the second halves of games in this series. That allows Dallas to focus their defensive attention on Edwards. Until KAT or someone else on Minnesota’s roster can draw attention from the Mavericks defense, the Timberwolves will continue to struggle to score late in games and lose.

Game 3 closed with Dallas favored by 1.5 points and the total set at 207.5. The spread is exactly the same and even starting to head to -2, which surprises me. I expect Luka Doncic to play, but he is listed questionable and there’s a nonzero chance the swelling in his knee is so bad he can’t play. That deserves a small consideration and there’s an even bigger factor that should drive an adjustment. The player with the best plus/minus for the Mavericks this postseason is not Luka Doncic nor Kyrie Irving. It is in fact Dereck Lively II, who is doubtful to play after taking a rather hard knee to the back of his head in Game 3. Lively is not the best player in the Dallas locker room, but he is arguably the most important player after their two stars. The rookie is the team’s best rim protector and best center on offense. He and Daniel Gafford were splitting minutes and now Lively’s time will go to Dwight Powell or maybe Maxi Kleber if he returns to action. I think Lively’s absence is worth at least a few points, and I have the Timberwolves as a small favorite.

My edge on the full game spread is not big enough to bet, but there’s another angle I think is worth a wager. I also see an edge to the over on the total, although full game totals can be tough. Playoff games can change drastically at halftime given the state of the game. For various reasons, pace can speed up or slow down and is generally more inconsistent than it is in the first half. With that in mind, I’m looking at a first half market and specifically a team total. As I mentioned, the Timberwolves have struggled to score at the end of the games. That doesn’t hold true for the first two quarters. Minnesota is averaging 58 points in the first half of this series and things should even easier with 12 minutes of Dwight Powell instead of 12 minutes of Dereck Lively II. Sportsbook have set the Timberwolves first half team total at 51.5, which is a few points too low, so let’s bet over that number.

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Minnesota Timberwolves First Half Team Total Over 51.5 (-108, DraftKings Sportsbook)