The NBA playoffs continue Sunday with a quadruple header on TNT and ABC starting at 1 p.m. ET. Our NBA analysts have four best bets worth following, including one for each game. Check out the picks and analysis from Brandon Anderson, Matt Moore and Raheem Palmer below.
NBA odds and picks
Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Heat
Brandon Anderson: The Hawks have won twice to get out of the Play-In tournament, but the way Atlanta is playing right now, it looks like the Hawks are expecting to win at least a few more. Remember, this is a team that played in the Eastern Conference Finals last year and brought back almost the same roster. And right now, it looks like it.
The Hawks outplayed the Hornets and then held off a 3-first shootout to win on the road in Cleveland to get this game against Miami, and it’s a game that suits the Hawks pretty well. The Hawks are in the top five in free throw rate while Miami fouls fifth, so an aggressive defense will help Atlanta get plenty of easy points. The Heat’s defense also gives up the fourth-most 3-point attempts in the league, and that plays into Atlanta’s hands as well.
Miami’s offense is nowhere near as good as Atlanta’s, and the Heat could be outclassed if the Hawks’ shots fall. The Heat almost always have a bad defender like Duncan Robinson or Tyler Herro on the field, and Trae Young will hunt them down. Miami also has turnover issues, which could offset some of the issues with Atlanta’s defense.
Clint Capela won’t play here, but honestly, that makes me like Atlanta more. Onyeka Okongwu is a terrific defender in space and a great team defender, and he’s best placed against Bam Adebayo and Miami. I expected the Hawks to need to start the transition from Capela to Okongwu to make a run anyway, so the injury may have just strained their hand.
It’s a 1v8 series, but it feels more like 3v6 or 4v5 to me. There is no chasm of talent between these teams, and we saw last year that the teams that won the Play-In also performed well in 1 games. We also know how much Trae Young loves taking his show on the road against a hostile crowd in the playoffs. I will take the Hawks here, and I will also play on the moneyline at +230.
I think Atlanta is winning at least two games this series and is live to advance. You can also play Atlanta +1.5 to +135 at BetMGM. If you like Atlanta winning here and making the series, you can play a Game 1 win plus a +550 series win.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Boston Celtics
Rahim Palmer: My model puts this game closer to the Celtics -7, even with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the lineup. I know, it’s a pretty big disparity, but this Nets team hasn’t been very good this season.
A lot of people may be tempted to support the Nets as they’re scoring 124.8 points per 100 possessions in lineups with Durant and Irving, but they’re a team that can’t consistently stop, which means they’re constantly find themselves in coin tosses needing their stars. score 60-80 points to win.
The Durant-Irving-Curry-Drummond-Brown starting lineup scores 118.9 points per 100 possessions but gives up 117.9 to the opposite end of the floor for net odds of just +1.1.
My power ratings have the Celtics as the best team in the league (even better than the Suns) primarily based on their defense, which ranks first in the NBA, allowing just 106.9 points per 100 possessions in their minutes of garbage-free time. The Celtics are the most complete team, and if they are able to slightly diminish the effectiveness of Durant and Irving, they should win this game and this series.
The Celtics’ offense can be inconsistent at times, but they’re still 10th in offensive rating in their non-waste minutes (114.3). The Nets are unlikely to slow this team down as they’re only 21st in defensive rating (113.6), they’re 22nd in turnover rate (13.2%), and they’re dead last in defensive rebounding rate ( 28.1%), showing an inability to end possessions even when they stop.
If you’re betting the Nets, you’re essentially betting Durant and Irving’s shoot can overcome all of their other issues, which could happen, but they’ll have to endure extremely high workloads. In the Play-In tournament against the Cavaliers, the Nets could barely survive the non-Durant minutes.
That said, I think Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart are ready to take the leap to become the crème de la crème of the Eastern Conference. Tatum’s 54-point game against the Nets in March showed he could be the best player in this series.
This is a team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals in three out of four seasons before a year of decline with a first-round exit that ended at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets in 2021.
To quote James Brown… for the Celtics, it’s “The Big Payback.”
I will support the Celtics in Game 1 and for the series.
Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Matt Moore: Mike Budenholzer Division matches.
It’s one of my favorite trends in all of basketball, and I’ll keep riding it until the horse breaks. Or deer. Whatever. The Bucks under Budenholzer are 54-8 and 44-18 against division opponents. When favored by more than nine points in those games, the Bucks are 31-1, 23-9 ATS.
I get it, the division has been weak, and these are regular season games, not playoff games. But I think part of it has to do with familiarity. The Bucks know these teams and their style works best as they get used to defending and attacking a team.
Add to that the fact that the only thing you want to do against the Bucks is shoot 3s, and the Bulls have a low 3-point rate. It’s just a nightmare for a depleted Bulls team with an inexperienced bench.
Finally, as a double-digit playoff favorite, Mike Budenholzer is 7-2-1 ATS.
Trust the dollars; Fear the deer.
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Phoenix Suns
Brandon Anderson: The Suns are really good. Maybe you noticed. Phoenix has gone 33-5 this season against sub-.500 teams. Two of those losses came in the final week of the season when Phoenix was already resting for the games that really matter, and another came against Portland early in the season when the Blazers were still on the roster. playoffs. The Suns don’t stall with below-average teams.
Kudos to the Pelicans for beating a 34-win Spurs team and a Clippers team short of their two-max superstars, and kudos to New Orleans for rebounding 1-12 to make the playoffs. It is a truly fantastic achievement. But that doesn’t mean the Pelicans are good, or that they’re even in the same universe as the mighty Suns.
New Orleans has the sixth-worst record for a playoff team in NBA history. The Pelicans barely rank above the bottom 10 teams in the league on offense and defense. New Orleans is the worst team left in the playoffs, and until proven otherwise, Phoenix is the best.
The Pelicans are doing two things particularly well: they’ve led the league in forced turnovers since the start of February, and they’re one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league. It helps a bad offensive team get extra chances to keep things close. But the Suns are a terrific rebounding team, and they almost never turn the ball over with Chris Paul and Devin Booker. So long, only two benefits Pels.
The Suns are the double-digit favorites. They’ll be in Game 2 again. At this point, we’re basically one win on the road to Game 3 away from a sweep, and the Suns will be strong favorites there as well. This is technically Game 1 since the Suns can’t sweep without winning Game 1, but I’m treating it more like a Game 3 moneyline. Maybe CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram are getting super hot and stealing a game at some point, but I’ll take my chances.