NBA Picks and First Round Series Predictions
The first weekend of playoff basketball is upon us, with the play-in teams having duked it out for the #7 and #8 seeds.
The Play-In Tourney may have some interesting implications for teams on both sides of the equation. The Lakers had another game to build chemistry with LeBron and AD out for a majority of the second half of the season. This might lead to more momentum and confidence for Play-In teams as they face the top 2 teams in each conference. On the other hand, injury ridden teams like the Nets may benefit from the additional rest to get their big 3 ready for a full series. Someone told Head Coach Steve Nash that the amount of minutes the big 3 played together is less than the run time of the Irishman. The same can be said for Philly, resting Embiid, and Utah being able to get Spida Mitchell back.
With the Lakers just securing the #7 seed, they become the first #7 (-150) to be favored over the #2 seed Suns (+122) to win the series. The Nets (+240) are the favorites to win the title even with the big 3 only playing 8 games together during the regular season. Giannis and the Bucks will have to go through reigning Eastern Conference Champion Miami and likely Brooklyn and Philly to reach the finals. Will the Nuggets spoil some finals aspirations without Jamal Murray? The Knicks are back in the playoffs and have home court advantage, so we know the Garden will be rockin’.
Before we get to the picks, the odds of all spreads are -110 unless otherwise specified. I am holding off on betting overs until a game or two into the series to see how teams react to playing with fans in the postseason. In normal playoff scenarios, three point shooting goes down the drain and unders are typically the play.
Bucks vs Heat
The Bucks (-4.5) are 18-18 ATS at home this season as they host the Heat who were 16-20 ATS on the road. The Over is set at 227, with the Bucks 18-18 O/U at home and the Heat 19-17 O/U away. The two biggest keys of this series will be the 3 point line and interior defense. We saw Bam Adebayo’s block on Tatum in the conference finals last year, but he will surely have his hands full with Giannis. Trevor Ariza should get the assignment of Brook Lopez since Brook has abandoned his game on the blocks. Giannis and Brook will control the paint, with Jrue Holiday, Middleton and Donte DiVincenzo clamping the perimeter. The Bucks shoot 39% from 3 on 37 attempts per game and most lineups have 5 guys who can shoot the rock from deep. Jimmy Butler shoots 24.5% from deep, which is worse than Bam, and only Duncan Robinson shoots over 40%. I don’t think Jimmy can repeat his success of last postseason shooting about 50% on over 5 threes per game.
The Pick: Bucks -4.5 and win the series 4-2
Clippers vs Mavs
The Clippers (-5) host the Mavs with LA being 21-15 ATS at home and the Mavs going 20-16 ATS on the road during the season. The Over is 218.5 and LA and Dallas are .500 against the over at home and on the road respectively. My gut tells me Luca and PG will come out firing. We saw what Luca did against the Clips in the bubble and PG is on a mission to avenge his dirt poor play in Disney. I don’t trust Porzingis to live up to his supporting star potential against the likes of Ibaka, Zubac, and Boogie Cousins. I also don’t trust the inconsistency of Josh Richardson or Tim Hardaway.
I think the Mavs need to reevaluate their roster to build a true contender around Luca, but he’s talented enough to win a game or two in the series.the Clippers are too talented and like PG will avenge their failures on the bubble.
The Pick: Clippers -5 (-115) and win the series 4-2.
Nets vs Celtics
As I mentioned early, The Nets (-7.5) will have the big 3 for the 9th game this season and this series will decide who won the infamous KG and Paul Pierce for the future trade with the Celtics. The C’s are without All-Star Jaylen Brown and I don’t believe Kemba and Marcus Smart can produce enough offense every game to take down the Nets. Tatum will be guarding KD and Smart will be tasked with Harden, leaving Kemba or Fournier to guard Kyrie. Safe to say Kyrie will be cooking. The return of Harden will add much need facilitation to make the shots of Harris, Shamet, and Uncle Jeff Green easier.
The Pick: Nets -7.5 and win the series 4-1
Nuggets vs Trailblazers
Denver (-1) hosts Dame and the Blazers with the Over set at 227.5. Although the Nuggets have performed well since Murray went down, I see Dame and CJ coming out hot like they did in their opening game against the Lakers in the bubble. This series will be exciting as I think the scoring will be remarkable. Michael Porter Jr has taken strides this season with the increase in shots and Jokic does MVP Jokic things. I don’t expect much defense to be played by either starting unit. The Blazers are 23-13 ATS away and the Nuggets are 16-20 ATS at home.
The Pick: Portland ML -105 and Denver to win the series 4-3. I also like the over at 227 but that will be a game time decision.
Knicks vs Hawks
The Knicks (-1.5) are the best team ATS this season and 22-13-1 ATS at home, with the Hawks 16-19-1 ATS away. Both teams are about .500 regarding the over in their current scenarios. Tom Thibideau defense points to the under. Julius Randle’s stellar play, the Knicks three point shooting, and the stifling defense lead them to take Game 1.
The Pick: Knicks -1 and Knicks to win the series 4-3
76ers vs Wizards
The 76ers (-7) face the Wizards who are 20-4-2 ATS to end the season and in their Play-in games. Philly will be primed to make a statement as the #1 seed in the East and Embiid will want to show that he thinks he’s the MVP, even though he will not win it. Embiid and Simmons are in the DPOY running. Philly will win the game but Washington will cover.
The Pick: Wizards +7 and Philly to win the series 4-0
Suns vs Lakers
The Suns (-2.5) are the underdog to win the series but are 23-13 ATS at home. The Lakers are 18-17-1 ATS away and recently did not cover against the Warriors in the Play-in game. Here I am concerned with the Suns having limited postseason experience. Jae Crowder went to the Finals last year with the Heat and CP3 has never made the conference finals. Book has never been to the playoffs. The Lakers played a game this week and Phoenix has been sitting on their asses. LeBron is reinvigorated in my mind with his game winner.
The Pick: Lakers ML +120 and LA to win the series 4-3
Portland ML -105
Total odds: +1230
Bonus to win the series parlay: