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3. Milwaukee Bucks -200 (46-26)
6. Miami Heat +165 (40-32)
The Miami Heat have returned to the NBA Playoffs and I’m not quite sure they’re going to make the impact they did last year. For starters, they’re having to go up against the Bucks again. The Bucks aren’t going to repeat past mistakes, especially their mistakes they made against the Heat last year in the playoffs, and one reason I know that is their new look on defense. The Bucks coming into this playoff game as a forgotten third seed gives them that perfect dark horse look. The Heat are getting hot at the right time, ending the season winning 12 of their last 16 games. One of those losses was to the Bucks, though, on April 15, where they lost 122-108. The Bucks’ final 16 games were similar in results, as they managed to win 11 of their final 16 games. The Heat have a very ‘team-first’ mentality that transitions well in the playoffs, and with players like Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Bam Adebayo it’s hard to really count them out of this one. Regardless, the consistent fire power from the Bucks, and their new look on defense with the addition of Jrue Holiday, I have to give it to the Bucks in this series. If this was a one-and-done Play-In game I’d be concerned, but this is a series. I don’t see the Heat finding a way to consistently shut down the Bucks’ league leading offense, their new and improved defense, and because of that see them taking the series in 6.
PICK: Milwaukee Bucks (-200 ON DRAFTKINGS)
2. Brooklyn Nets -335 (48-24)
7. Boston Celtics +270 (36-36)
This is probably one of the one interesting matchups going into Round 1 of the playoffs. It would be even more interesting if Jaylen Brown wasn’t out the remainder of the season with a wrist injury, though. The Celtics still have other stars that can matchup against the Nets. It’s very unlikely this will happen, but it’s going to at least pave the way for a few close games in this series with the Celtics even managing to take a game or two. Kemba Walker will need to control the offense in a way that was similar to how he played for Charlotte and Jayson Tatum will need to showcase a monstrous performance every game similar to how he played in the Play-In game (50 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists). This is only likely maybe for a game or two, which is why I think there’s a chance they can give us a few good games, but overall the Nets have way too much star power. On top of that, it’s consistent star power. The Nets are coming into this series as arguably the best offense in the league. They’re putting up 119 ppg, while holding opponents to around 114. The Bucks are slightly better at 120 ppg, but the Nets hold a better shooting percentage at 49% to the Bucks’ 48%. However you wanna spin it, the Nets did work in the offseason, showcased a solid 48-24 record, and are now going into this series with the likes of Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Blake Griffin. These four stars have a great supporting cast as well, which the Celtics decisively lack. It’s going to be very difficult to beat the Nets and even more so for the Celtics who are without their young star. Give me Nets in 5.
PICK: Brooklyn Nets (-335 ON DRAFTKINGS)
4. Los Angeles Clippers -230 (47-25)
5. Dallas Mavericks +188 (42-30)
Another interesting matchup, but this one is in the Western Conference between the Clippers and Mavs. Both sides have some awesome star power, but the lack of depth for the Mavericks is concerning in this one. Luka Doncic is more than capable of leading his team to some close games against the Clippers, alongside a somewhere close to 100 percent Kristaps Porzingus, but the Clippers have depth and because of that depth also have many defenders capable of contesting the stars of the Mavs throughout most of each game. This will allow the stars of the Clippers to shine ten fold and ultimately be the reason they propel past the Mavs in Round 1 and move on to show the world they’re nothing like the team from last year in the playoffs. An interesting take, as well, is that the Clippers clearly tanked their final games of the regular season to avoid the Lakers and play the Mavericks. That shows me they’re looking passed this first round and on to their next opponent. Luka will help the Mavs get 1-2 on the Clippers, but I have LA in 6.
PICK: Los Angeles Clippers (-230 ON DRAFTKINGS)
3. Denver Nuggets -114 (47-25)
6. Portland Trail Blazers -106 (42-30)
If you’re looking for a series to stay away from in regards to betting, this would be it for me. These teams are very evenly matched and if you look almost anywhere, you’ll see a split amongst people in regards to their picks on who will come out victorious in this one. The one glaring difference between these teams is that the Blazers are healthy and clicking when it matters most, while the Nuggets are banged up as they approach this playoff series today. You may have MVP talent in Nikola Jovic, but his talents won’t be able to prevail as he’s lacking one of his costars in Jamal Murray. The Nuggets will also be without Will Barton in game 1 of the series and PJ Dozier will be out the entire series against the Blazers. I’m picturing a lot of clutch shooting from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, with some great, consistent support shooting from Carmelo Anthony and Norman Powell. The Blazers need to fix some glaring issues on defense if they want to beat teams passed the first round, but a banged up Nuggets team is as good of an opponent as any. Give me the Blazers in 7.
PICK: Portland Trail Blazers (-106 ON DRAFTKINGS)