The NBA playoffs are underway, and today’s action gets underway starting at 1 p.m. ET. I’m targeting the pair of Eastern Conference matchups (Wizards/76ers and (Knicks/Hawks) for my plays on this slate, as I believe they offer the most value.
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1. Knicks -2 | -106 at FanDuel Sportsbook
The Hawks are coming into this series angry. The league fined Atlanta’s head coach, Nate McMillan, for saying that the NBA “wanted” the Knicks in the playoffs. That’s quite a tone-setter from the interim coach.
That said, I don’t expect that anger will translate into a Hawks win. The Knicks swept the season series against the Hawks, and they won their three contests by an average margin of 8.67 points. That’s a much wider margin than this spread.
New York won those games because Atlanta couldn’t match up against Julius Randle. The power forward averaged 0.9 points per minute against them, and he went for 40-plus points twice. Atlanta hasn’t added anyone capable of defending Randle, and he should lead New York to a Game 1 win over the Hawks.
The betting trends also point to some value here. New York boasts the fourth-best home record against the spread (22-13), while Atlanta has the sixth-worst road record against the spread (16-19-1). Their last road win came over a month ago (April 13th), too.
2. Trae Young Under 24.5 Points | -106 at FanDuel Sportsbook
The Trae Young truthers may not want to hear this, but I have serious doubts about his ability to score against New York.
He struggled in these teams’ two most recent meetings, as he recorded 23 and 20 points, respectively. His shooting percentages in those games, 35.3% and 31.6%, are troubling. So is New York’s strong defensive play — they give up the fewest points per game to point guards (21.2) and rank third in defensive efficiency.
Although Young can go off on any given night, New York has clamped down on opposing point guards in recent meaningful matchups. In their overtime win over the Hornets, the Knicks allowed just 13 points to Terry Rozier, who played 46 minutes, and LaMelo Ball recorded just eight through his 21 minutes. In New York’s prior outing, which came against the Spurs, Dejounte Murray recorded just 14 points.
I expect a slow-paced, low-scoring series between these teams, and Young may struggle to score in his playoff debut.
3. Ben Simmons Over 13.5 Points | +100 at FanDuel Sportsbook
I’m not the biggest fan of Simmons, but good bettors know that it pays (literally) to be contrarian, so I’m targeting this play anyway.
Let’s start with the basics. Simmons averaged 14.3 points per game in the regular season, a notch above this total. Also, the Wizards give up the most points per game to point guards (26.6). We saw their defensive struggles on full display in the play-in tournament — Malcolm Brogdon recorded 24 points against them, and Kemba Walker posted 29.
Simmons even beat this total twice against the Wizards during the regular season. He recorded 16 and 17 points against them, respectively, although those games were played in December and early January.
That said, Simmons averaged 15 points per game in Philadelphia’s 2019 playoff run, and I have faith that he’ll get off on the right foot versus Washington’s poor defense.
Longshot Bet of the Day: Julius Randle 35+ Points | +410 at FanDuel Sportsbook
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