Two more playoff series are set after last night’s game play-in games. The Atlanta Hawks defeated the Miami Heat and will take on the Boston Celtics in the first round while the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves and will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the West. Tonight, two teams will see their season come to an end while the winner will play for the chance to be the eighth seed on Friday night.
In the first game, the Chicago Bulls will take on the Toronto Raptors. Demar DeRozan will have a chance to eliminate his former team. However, a couple of threes from Nikola Vucevic could make a huge difference.
In New Orleans, the Pelicans will host the Oklahoma City Thunder. Fans could be treated to a duel between Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Brandon Ingram. Meanwhile, Jonas Valanciunas will look to control the glass.
Let’s dive into the player props for tonight’s play-in games.
NBA Player Props & Picks
Nikola Vucevic Over 1.5 3-Pointers (+128)
|Time | TV||7 p.m. ET | ESPN|
Nikola Vucevic made two or more 3-pointers in just two of his last 10 games. However, he had no problem letting them fly against the Raptors this season. He has cleared this line in two of three meetings this season and four of the last five dating back to last season. In that span, he has averaged 2.6 3s per game. In the other matchup, he went 1-for-4, so the volume was still there.
Given this matchup, it is not a surprise that Vucevic had success against the Raptors this season. According to props.cash, Toronto ranks 28th in defending centers and 27th in 3-point percentage defense. At the trade deadline, the Raptors re-acquired center Jakob Poeltl back from San Antonio. Poeltl is a quality defender, but he is more comfortable protecting the rim than guarding on the perimeter.
In the last meeting in February, and the only with Poeltl on the roster, Vucevic went 4-for-6 from behind the arc. He is the third option in the Bulls offense behind Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan. LaVine and DeRozan will have to deal with Toronto’s long and tough perimeter defenders. As a result, the Bulls will need Vucevic to step up in this one. I expect him to attack from behind the arc.
Brandon Ingram Over 30.5 Points (-111)
|Time | TV||9:30 p.m. ET | ESPN|
We have cashed on both Brandon Ingram’s points and assist props over the last few weeks. However, his points line has steadily been on the rise. That is because he has been averaging 27.7 points over his 27 games and 29 points over his last 10 games. Tonight, his line is up to 30.5 points. However, I am still comfortable taking the over here.
Ingram has scored 30 points in four of his last 10 games. He has also finished with 30 points and 29 points in two other games in that stretch. In Sunday’s infamous game, the Pelicans were playing for a potential playoff berth and while they ultimately lost, Ingram scored 42 points in 42 minutes, shot 16-for-28 from the field and 9-for-9 from the free-throw line.
While the stakes were high on Sunday, tonight is an elimination game for the Pelicans. I expect Ingram to have very high usage once again. He has been taking about 20 shots and getting to the free throw line about seven times per game. He also scored 34 points in his lone meeting against the Thunder this season.
OKC’s best perimeter is Lu Dort, who is 6-foot-4. Ingram has a five inch height advantage over him and will be able to shoot over him without much difficulty. I expect Ingram to lead the way for the Pelicans and he may have to outgun Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to keep the Pelicans season alive.
Jonas Valanciunas Over 11.5 Rebounds (-130)
The Thunder are one of the best matchups in the league for opposing rebounding props because they have no true center. They rank 29th in both offensive and defensive rebounds allowed per game and 30th in total rebounds allowed. Jonas Valanciunas is one of the best rebounders in the league, averaging 10.2 rebounds per game. He is averaging 13 over his last 10 games as well. On paper, this should be a smash spot for Valanciunas. However, there is a catch.
OKC is a smaller team, which is why it allows so many rebounds. However, because of that, Pelicans head coach Willie Green goes to smaller lineups to counter. As a result, Valanciunas did not clear this line in any of the meetings against the Pelicans and averaged 7.3 rebounds in 22.3 minutes. The reason I am targeting the over here is because Larry Nance Jr. is questionable with a sore left ankle. If he can’t go, it stands to reason that Valanciunas will pick up some of his minutes.
Valanciunas has played 25 minutes in 48 games this season and he has recorded 12 rebounds in 28 of those games for a 58% hit rate. However, he has hit this line in 9 of the 10 games that he has played 25 minutes. If Nance Jr. is ruled in, Valanciunas can get 10 rebounds in a half and do most of the work, but it will be much more of a sweat. In that case, I would pivot to Trey Murphy (over 3.5) or Herbert Jones (over 4.5). Both of them should get 30 minutes.