Written by Preston Rauhauser on April 13, 2018

It’s time for the playoffs! PlayLine gives us the chance to project how the stars will do on Opening Night and we’re so pumped that we decided to publish this article a day early. This article is a breakdown of the three-stat contest on PlayLine Saturday night that includes the million dollar perfect line bonus. If you’re new to PlayLine, that means if you perfectly predict the stats of Ben Simmons, Damian Lillard, and Anthony Davis, PlayLine will give you a million dollars! You can click here to open PlayLine in a new tab and join these NBA contests. It’s game one, so we will have to dive into how well these players did in the regular season against the team they are facing in order to help you make money in your contests and maybe even win that million dollars.
To begin, we have MVP candidate, Anthony Davis. Davis has been absolutely dominating this season once again, especially since DeMarcus Cousins went down with his achilles injury. To end the season, Davis averaged just shy of 30 points per game to go along with 11 rebounds and 2 assists. AD is arguably the most dominant big men in the league, but he gets a tough matchup on opening night of the playoffs as he will face the 3-seed Portland Trail Blazers. Portland ranks sixth in the league in terms of defensive efficiency against centers, anchored by their stout defensive big, Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic has been solid in the paint all season long but has been foul prone at times against offensively minded centers. This will be an interesting matchup all series long to see who will prevail on each side of the court. Though we know Davis has the potential to put up games of 40/15/5, his recent play not having gone over 35 points in seven straight games and accumulating 15+ boards just once makes us want to give him projections somewhat close to his season average. Over the past two seasons against the Trail Blazers, AD has put up 26.3/10/2.7 while playing 32 minutes per game. These numbers look below average, but he has been seeing 36 minutes per game this season, so we may want to bump those numbers up. When we consider his recent stats and numbers, his track record against Portland over the past few years, and the matchup he will have to face, we will be looking to give him numbers not too low, but not too high. Looking at his points total, we want to project him to score between 26-30 points in a game that should be a pace-down matchup for the Pelicans. With Portland being stout on the defensive glass, his rebounds projection looks to be very solid between the 11-13 range considering he goes between that number quite often. His assist total almost always ranges between 1-4, so going with 2 or 3 assists seems like a viable projection for the big man. With that, let’s move on to the young Philly stud, Ben Simmons.
Ben Simmons, potential (controversial) rookie of the year, will face off against the Miami Heat tonight. Both teams play just above league average in terms of pace, but with Miami running slower than the Sixers, this is a pace down spot for Simmons’ team. It’s tough to look at matchups when analyzing Ben Simmons because there is debate whether he is a point guard, small forward, or a power forward. Because of this, we will look at how Miami ranks defensively as a team. They rank top-10 in defensive efficiency against each individual position, and the three positions Ben could qualify at are the worst positions to exploit. Luckily, Simmons isn’t a pure scorer, so these numbers don’t affect him as much. With a very balanced season stat line of 15.8/8/8, we see that the rookie has a great all-around game. He has had three triple doubles in his last 11 games featuring a massive 27/15/13 game against Cleveland just one week ago. Simmons has massive upside when he’s scoring, but his projections look to be pretty leveled across the board. One injury we need to take into account for this matchup is the absence of Joel Embiid. Embiid has provided the Sixers with 23 points and 11 rebounds per game all season long, but he will miss game one due to a broken orbital bone. In his absence, Simmons has put up numbers of 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists per game (excluding their last game where he played just 22 minutes in a 35-point blowout). Looking at Simmons’ projections for the game against the Heat, he gets a slight hit in projections due to the matchup, but gets a great advantage without Embiid taking up usage and stats all night long. With Simmons not exactly being a prolific scorer, we want to project him for 13-16 points, while looking in the range of 9-11 rebounds and 10-12 assists. Ben could surely end up going for a triple double in his first postseason game so giving him double digit rebounds and assists is not out of the question. Moving forward, let’s take a look at the last player of the contest, Portland All-Star guard, Damian Lillard.
Lillard has been having yet another incredible season, posting regular season averages of 27 points per game to go along with 4.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game (all being less than half a point per game shy of career high marks). Throughout his whole career in Portland, he has been a focal point of the offense, and this season has been nothing but the same. Dame is in a phenomenal spot to produce big numbers all series long, as the Pelicans tend to struggle mightily against opposing guards. They have been the third worst team in the league guarding opposing guards and with Rondo and Holiday playing big minutes, we could see Lillard having a huge series. Dame has scored 25+ in five straight. One of the most exciting game logs we have seen from Lillard as of late was his last contest against the Pelicans where he went off and scored 41 points accompanied by 9 rebounds and 6 assists. This outing shows that Lillard can dominate this Pelicans backcourt and could be due for a huge game tonight. Since we don’t love projecting huge games, we won’t confidently say he will score 40 points again, but one thing we will do is project him above his season averages. Looking at points, we are going to want to surpass his season average of 26 and give him a projection between 27-32 points. Lillard has been putting up over 20 shots a game lately and is the main piece in the Blazers offense, so giving him big numbers is justified for us. When looking at peripherals, we want to give him between 4-6 rebounds and 6-8 assists. These numbers are just slightly above his season average, and unless he goes huge tonight for a near triple double, we believe these numbers will be very close to his final stat total.  
That should do it for our PlayLine coverage for the first night of NBA Playoffs! Good luck tonight and enjoy the games. Hopefully one of you wins the million-dollar prize!

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