The NBA playoffs are finally slated to get underway on Saturday, with four games for us to bunker down and watch throughout the day. It all begins with the Miami Heat squaring off with the Milwaukee Bucks, followed by the Dallas Mavericks taking on the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. The first day of the playoffs concludes with the Boston Celtics looking to defy odds against the Brooklyn Nets, with the bout between the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets capping off the night.
Taking a look at the four games, there are a few spots I’m looking to place money on when it comes to betting. For the first day of the postseason, I have a point total and spread bet, along with a player prop that I’m eyeing in one of the later games.
Odds are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
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Miami Heat-Milwaukee Bucks Under 226.5 points (-109)
Coming into Saturday’s contest between the Heat and Bucks, all signs point toward both teams exceeding the 226.5 point total set at most sportsbooks. During the regular season, these teams scored more than 226.5 points in all three of their meetings, even though two of their matchups took place all the way back in December. On top of that, both teams struggle to prevent three-point shots, as both of them are in the top four worst teams in three-pointers allowed per game.
Despite some numbers backing the over, I’m siding with the under in Game 1 due to both teams wanting to set the tone immediately on the defensive end. While the Bucks play at the second-fastest pace in the NBA, the Heat will want to play the game at their tempo, which is the second-slowest pace in the league. We’re likely going to see Bam Adebayo on Giannis Antetokounmpo for most of the series, who has fared well against the Greek Freak in his career. I’m expecting to get a physical series like we got last season from Milwaukee and Miami in the ECSF, in which they scored under 227 points in three out of the five games.
Trail Blazers +1 (-112)
One of the hottest teams entering the playoffs is the Trail Blazers. Following a five-game losing streak near the end of April, Portland kicked it into high gear, and they proceeded to win 10 out of their last 12 games to conclude the season. They would finish as the sixth seed in the Western Conference, pitting them against the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs. If Denver had Jamal Murray available, I’d easily choose the Nuggets to handle business with home-court advantage.
However, with Murray sidelined for the rest of the season, Denver doesn’t have anyone — especially with Will Barton also out — in their backcourt that they can rely on to guard Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum. With Lillard itching to advance beyond the first round for just the second time in the past five seasons, I expect him to ensure that the Trail Blazers beat a shorthanded Nuggets squad. In what could be a special series from Lillard, Portland should be able to win the first game outright, which is why I’m taking them +1 on Saturday night.
James Harden Over 9.5 assists (-121)
With some point totals and spreads not being where I’d prefer them to be, my last bet comes in the form of a player prop. In the second-to-last game on Saturday, the Celtics will travel to Brooklyn to face the Nets. Without Jaylen Brown available for Boston, Brooklyn is projected to win the series with relative ease. As the Nets hope to fulfill their expectations of winning a title with their big three of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden, all three will be extremely vital in Brooklyn’s quest to make it a quick series versus Boston.
Due to a bevy of issues, whether it be injuries or other reasons, the trio of Durant, Irving, and Harden played just eight games together during the regular season. Whenever they took the floor together — while a small sample size — Harden operated as the main facilitator in the offense. Harden averaged a whopping 39.8 percent assist percentage in the games he played alongside Durant and Irving. Even though the Celtics surrendered only an average of 12.34 assists per game to point guards and shooting guards combined during the regular season, I envision Harden dishing out at least 10 assists on Saturday.
Check out our NBA Prop Bet Cheat Sheet for the top bets of the day >>
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