The NBA Playoffs are here, and it wasn’t until late Wednesday night that we finally got the full first round pairings. There are a few obvious situations and a few closer ones that I think we can take advantage of in the first round.
I think that three teams fit into the “locks” category, and those are the Warriors(-20000), Bucks (-6500), and Raptors (-1200).
The Warriors and Bucks are winning their first-round matchup, and I will not tell you to not bet them if you feel so inclined. I will, however, tell you not to bet on the Clippers or Pistons. The Clippers do not have the firepower and are one of the teams in the West that will really get hurt by the Warriors’ addition of Boogie. The Pistons’ Blake Griffin was clearly struggling to play the last few games and if he can’t go, the Bucks won’t lose a game here. Andre Drummond is a bad matchup for the lack of interior bigs on the Bucks, but it will not matter.
The Raptors are too talented and solid at full strength. I think it is possible that this series goes 6 games because the Magic have a consistent offensive presence in Vucevic and a few guys, mainly Terrence Ross, that can go for 30 on 15 shots once or twice. Aaron Gordon, Fournier, and Augustin are all solid NBA players, but they’re no match for the Raps.
The 76ers (-700), Celtics (-450), and Rockets (-330) are all listed as clear favorites. I love the Celtics here, but I do not like the 76ers or the Rockets at all.
First, let’s talk about Celtics-Pacers. The Pacers don’t have anyone to match Kyrie Irvin,g and it will show. Myles Turner just got banged up and could also miss more time in this series, which would be even more problematic. The Pacers can’t keep up with the Celtics at full strength, and I don’t even think it’s debatable. There is no one on Indiana that could go get 20 points every night if he had to and I think you could argue that Boston has 3 or 4 of the best scorers in this matchup. Maybe the Pacers can slow the game down and steal a few, but they can’t beat Boston in 4 games out of 7.
The 76ers are much better than the Nets, but Embiid is the key to the series. I will not be betting on this series, but if I were, it would be by betting on the Nets and hoping they get to steal a game in Philly. Russell, LeVert, and Dinwiddie are all guys that can drop 30 or triple-double in any game. I don’t think they can do it consistently to win a series, but they can win 2 of the first 3 while Embiid is banged up and you can then hedge out.
The Rockets got a bad draw with the Jazz, and I like betting on the Jazz here. The Jazz have shooters that could come in and get hot in any one game. They are elite defensively when fully-healthy and they ave elite rim protection to defend against some of the best finishers in the game. The Jazz are also long and good at contesting 3’s. The Rockets should be favored, but I would be shocked if we don’t get to at least game 6 here.
The Nuggets are -230 to beat San Antonio, and I think that is my favorite bet on the slate. The Nuggets are incredibly good and deep, and they are now basically completely healthy. They are better than the Spurs, and I think this line and the Houston-Jazz line should easily be flipped. The Nuggets are losing credibility in the market for inexperience and unknowns, but I just think they are a superior basketball team here at a discounted price.
The Thunder (-135) are slight favorites to beat the Blazers in the first round as the 6 seed. This is really interesting because the Thunder are rightfully the 6 seed without a ton of injuries. Obviously the concern revolves around the lack of Jusuf Nurkic and the recent CJ McCollum missed time. I think CJ will be just fine and the series will come down to how much more productive he can be without Nurkic. Enes Kanter is actually a really nice player to substitute in for Nurkic, but his on-ball defense is BAD. Now, this matchup SHOULD allow Kanter to just dare Westbrook to shoot instead of try to guard him on the perimeter, where Kanter is famous for getting exposed. I think the line is really good here. Both teams have two great scorers and competent bigs with a bunch of role players. The Thunders best players are better than the Blazers, but I do think the Blazers have better role players, although they do not often show up. I like the Thunder here, but I will likely bet this series to go to 7 or just bet on the underdog in each game because I think a LOT of this series comes down to how well the 4 stars shoot the ball from the perimeter on a given night.