The REAL NBA playoffs are now here, and the NBA is giving us a holiday weekend filled with action. Four of the series will start up on Saturday, with the remaining four kicking off on Easter Sunday. The NBA Gambling Podcast guys have you covered with Game 1 picks, but if you’re looking for full series action – look no further.
NBA Playoffs – First Round Preview
NBA Playoffs – Eastern Conference
#1 Miami Heat vs #8 Atlanta Hawks
Game 1 – Sunday 1:00 PM EST (TNT)
Series Odds – TBD
Last night, playoff Trae Young came out in full force to pull the #9 seeded Hawks out of the play-in tournament and into the actual playoffs. A pair of stellar performances won his team at least four more games, but standing across from them will be the #1 seeded Heat, who managed to hold off three other close teams and hang on to the top spot in the NBA playoffs.
While the story is really nice for Trae, the Heat are just too… hot. They won six straight when it mattered most (before benching their starters for the regular-season finale). From the beginning of the season to the end, they played stellar defense. From Lowry picking off passes to Adebayo protecting the rim, the Heat are just too tough on defense to trust the Hawks (no matter what the posted number is) in a seven-game series.
The Pick – Miami Heat
#4 Philadelphia 76ers vs #5 Toronto Raptors
Game 1 – Saturday 6:00 PM EST (ESPN)
Series Odds – 76ers -190/Raptors +155
With Canada’s vaccination rules for sports teams, there were plenty of fanbases who were praying their teams didn’t wind up heading north of the border during the first round. Lucky for the 76ers, they snatched home-court advantage and will only have to be out of the country for a bit. Additionally, only missing backup small forward Matisse Thybulle is not the biggest loss in the whole world, and probably better than most teams in the NBA playoffs could hope for.
With all of that aside, I like the 76ers a lot here. It’s hard to pick against the team since they acquired James Harden in a trade with the Nets. Not only have they been notably better in that time, but they also have someone to shoot themselves out in the odd chance MVP candidate Joel Embiid is cold. While Pascal Siakam is a guy I trust down low to slow Embiid down a bit, it just won’t be enough.
The Pick – Philadelphia 76ers (-190)
#3 Milwaukee Bucks vs #6 Chicago Bulls
Game 1 – Sunday 6:30 PM (TNT)
Series Odds – Bucks -1200/Bulls +750
Early in the year, the Bulls looked like they’d be the surprise team in the NBA this year. They came out the gates firing and held on to the #1 spot in the East far longer than anyone expected. Injuries to guards Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball really put a damper on things. Despite their star power with DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, they really hit rough times and just barely avoided the play-in series.
The Bucks are… well, the Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo is still Giannis. The rest of last year’s championship squad is still, largely, intact, which is part of why you see them at such an astronomical odds here. Despite that number, there’s no reason to trust the Bulls in the rut they’re in.
The Pick – Milwaukee Bucks (-1200)
#2 Boston Celtics vs #7 Brooklyn Nets
Game 1 – Sunday 3:30 PM EST (ABC)
Series Odds – Celtics -140/Nets +120
It’s rare to see a #2 vs #7 series lined this closely. Some of it is due to the fact that since Kyrie Irving has been able to join the Nets full time, they’re running on all cylinders. He absolutely poured it on the Cavaliers in the first round of the play-in tournament, making the Nets look like they didn’t belong in there at all, and instead should already have a slot.
But while we can be all excited to see the Nets looking like we thought they would, they’re running into one of the hotter teams in the NBA playoffs. Down the stretch, the Celtics won 11 out of 12 and threatened the Heat for that number one spot. While Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown provide plenty of star power, they’ve been getting a lot of production from the rest of their lineup as well. They took a hit to their championship chances when Robert Williams went down with a knee injury. Despite losing him, I still like them to advance here behind their guard play.
The Pick – Celtics (-140)
NBA Playoffs – Western Conference
#1 Phoenix Suns vs #8 New Orleans Pelicans
Game 1 – Sunday 9:00 PM EST (TNT)
Series Odds – TBD
The Pelicans are another team that got into the playoffs thanks to the play-in tournament. Previously seeded #9, they would have been left out, but instead were able to turn away the Clippers and earn a spot Friday night. However, it took a huge comeback in the fourth quarter to do so as they really struggled to stay with the Clippers early – at least partially due to the ice-cold shooting of CJ McCollum.
The bad news for the Pelicans is that they’re running into the runaway Western Conference #1 seed, the Phoenix Suns. Devin Booker and gang clinched early and rested their way into the playoffs – still taking the top spot by eight games. They’d need a lot of things to go wrong here to have any trouble with the Pelicans.
The Pick – Phoenix Suns
#4 Dallas Mavericks vs #5 Utah Jazz
Game 1 – Saturday 1:00 PM EST (ESPN)
Series Odds – Jazz -300/Mavericks +240
The Mavericks were dealt a huge blow to their chances when their star point guard Luka Doncic suffered a strained left calf late in their final regular-season game. They’re still hoping to see him later in the series, but the worry is obviously looming that he might not make it back or may not be 100%. The bookmakers are obviously taking that into account with the Mavericks coming in as a sizable underdog.
Utah battled all year for a home series with some of the best scoring in the league. They ultimately came up just short, but they have to feel good about the production they’re getting from the whole lineup. Not only are stars Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert putting up nice offensive numbers, but they’re getting good years off their bench guys too.
Despite the diversity of scoring from the Jazz and the question marks from the Mavericks, I still like the dogs here. If Doncic comes back and looks like himself, this line is going to look silly.
The Pick – Dallas Mavericks (+240)
#3 Golden State Warriors vs #6 Denver Nuggets
Game 1 – Saturday 8:30 PM EST (ABC)
Series Odds – Warriors -260/Nuggets +220
The Warriors ran through the end of the season fairly easily after getting Klay Thompson back. The other Splash Brother reminded people exactly why they should have never written him off. He closed the last three games drilling an average of seven three-pointers per game, which should give Stephen Curry the support he needs.
Standing across from them is the expected NBA MVP, Nikola Jokic, whose Denver Nuggets enter the NBA playoffs as the #6 seed. Despite their low seed, I think they’re a little better than people are giving them credit for. The Serbian center has been even better at dishing the ball lately, and with a number of surprising shooting options around him, that can be hard to beat. I think Jokic finds enough hot hands around him during this series and the Nuggets pull off the upset.
The Pick – Denver Nuggets (+220)
#2 Memphis Grizzlies vs #7 Minnesota Timberwolves
Game 1 – Saturday 3:00 PM EST (ESPN)
Series Odds – Grizzlies -360/Timberwolves +280
The Grizzlies are the surprise team of this NBA playoffs. They went from being an afterthought to a popular futures pick for NBA champions. A lot of that is due to the phenomenal year from Ja Morant, but also because they have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to depth. Guys like Brandon Clarke and De’Anthony Melton have just been sporadically throwing together double-doubles off the bench all year.
The Timberwolves do, of course, have a major weapon in Karl-Anthony Towns. However, they’ve been one of the worst defensive teams in the league. They ranked 24th in the league in points against and with plenty of guys to challenge Towns for those boards, it’s hard to imagine the Timberwolves coming out on top.
The Pick – Memphis Grizzlies (-360)
Make sure to check out all the great NBA coverage we have to offer and be sure to listen to the NBA Gambling Podcast, which airs twice a week. This week the guys are breaking down all the best plays for the NBA playoffs.