Not one, not two, but three road underdogs won its Game 1 matchup straight up. Could that be a sign of things to come the rest of the NBA playoffs? Here’s a betting guide to the basketball postseason with current betting lines, picks, and best advice!
most differs from its contemporaries in the form of its postseason. For instance, the NFL and MLB playoffs are extremely selective, sending only 12 and 10 teams a piece — a steep contrast to how many teams make the NBA playoffs
(a whopping 16). That means half of the league is still playing past the regular season.
But hey, not that we’re complaining. All the extra postseason matchups just means there are more wagering opportunities! Here’s your primer on NBA futures betting and day-to-day wagering now that the stakes are higher!
Eastern Conference Championship Future
This is undoubtedly the most bet-worthy futures wager. Opinions about who will come out of the East is largely fractured between four teams and the NBA playoff odds
reflect that. Here’s how close the lines are over at Bovada
- Milwaukee Bucks (+130)
- Toronto Raptors (+280)
- Boston Celtics (+390)
- Philadelphia 76ers (+450)
This is a sharp contrast to the Western Conference where Golden State is staked as the overwhelming favorite at -375 to win outright. The next two teams, Houston and Denver, are complete long shots at +600 and +850 a piece. As you can tell, not a whole lot of betting value out West unless you think the two-time reigning champions will be ousted early — in which case, you might the only bettor with this opinion.
Anyway, we like the plus-money odds across the board out East. Our advice is to split your betting money between two teams. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, but you also don’t want to spread yourself too thin (and lessen your potential payout). We know what you’re thinking, we’ll which two teams? Let's play pros and cons for each team.
Pros: Just about every meaningfully metric points to the Bucks being the runaway best team during the regular season. They were tops in the league in wins (60), offensive rating (113.5), defensive rating (104.9), and scoring differential (8.9).
What’s more, Giannis Antetokounmpo has arguably become the best basketball player on the planet. He’s about to win the MVP over only the fourth player to average 36 points in a season. That’s insane but speaks to Antetokounmpo’s dominance on both ends of the floor.
Cons: If you’re of the belief that experience matters, the Bucks lack of it should frighten you. The franchise hasn’t won a playoff series in 18 years. Pau Gasol (yes, he’s still in the league) is its only player with meaningful minutes deep into the playoffs.
Pros: The only two Eastern Conference players that have “been there, done that” are Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving. The presence of Leonard, a former NBA Finals MVP, gives the Raptors an edge most Eastern foes don’t have.
Like Milwaukee, Toronto also excelled in advanced metrics, finishing top-5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. No other team besides the Bucks can claim the same.
Cons: To be blunt, the Raptors are proverbial chokers. The addition of Leonard was supposed to change that, but its Game 1 letdown against Orlando should have you thinking twice. It also doesn’t help that Leonard isn’t exactly the most durable guy. For a player that’s missed over 100 games the past two seasons, there’s no telling whether he’ll be able to endure a deep playoff run.
Pros: A year ago, the Celtics were within one game of the NBA Finals, and this was all without Irving and Gordon Hayward. That core remains intact, but now with its two All Stars back and healthy. Take that into account, plus the coaching pedigree of Brad Stevens, and Boston is the best team on paper out East.
Cons: Unfortunately, winning on paper doesn’t mean anything in the NBA. No team has been more frustrating this year than the 49-win Celtics. At times, they’ve looked like the NBA title contenders most pegged them in preseason. But at other times, they’ve felt like a team at odds with each other.
Boston might also be more preoccupied with the pending offseason than postseason. Irving is a free agent to be and most have him penciled in as a future Knick. Much of its roster is also being dangled as trade bait for Anthony Davis. You can’t help but think both decisions are the root of its season-long chemistry issues.
Pros: Boston might have a better roster top-to-bottom, but Philadelphia has the beststarting-five, not only out East, but in all the NBA, sans Golden State. Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons — all at the height of their powers — is a scary scenario. That star power far outweighs the three aforementioned teams, which really only have one true go-to player.
Cons: Akin to Boston, this team hasn’t quite gelled this season despite the enormous talent. Philly’s chemistry issues might have more to do with time than personal chemistry (though, some internal strife seems to be building with its superstars). Still, mid-season additions of Butler and Tobias Harris haven't quite clicked for this team yet, and it appears head coach Brett Brown will soon pay the price for it.
Weighing all the pros and cons, we’re siding with Milwaukee and Toronto. There’s something to be said about teams that have won year-round and don't have chemistry issues bringing them down.
Scoring Comes At A Premium In The Playoffs
“Playoff basketball is different.” Raise your hand if you’ve heard this phrase repeated over and over again by coaches, players, and pundits alike.
Well, they’re not kidding. And by “different” they mostly just mean the playing intensity gets cranked up a notch (or two). This manifests itself most on the scoreboard as playoff games are, by and large, more low-scoring than their regular season counterparts. After all, playing good defense is more about effort than anything else.
But don’t just take our word for it, the proof is in the Game 1 scores. Every single one of the eight opening-round matchups went under. Furthermore, the median team scoring average this season was 112 points per game. Only three teams — Golden State, Houston, and Milwaukee — met that threshold in Game 1.
Not convinced yet? How about this: all 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs finished in the top-16 in defensive efficiency. So we’re already dealing with fundamentally-sound defensive teams to begin with. Throw in playoff intensity levels and you have a recipe for a lot of unders hitting.
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