The NBA Playoffs continue on Sunday with a quadruple-header on TNT and ABC starting at 1 p.m. ET. Our NBA analysts have four best bets worth tailing, including one for each game. Check out Brandon Anderson, Matt Moore and Raheem Palmer’s picks and analysis below.
NBA Odds & Picks
|Click on a game to skip ahead|
|Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Heat||1 p.m. ET|
|Brooklyn Nets vs. Boston Celtics||3:30 p.m. ET|
|Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks||6:30 p.m. ET|
|New Orleans Pelicans vs. Phoenix Suns||9 p.m. ET|
Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Heat
|Pick||Hawks +6.5 (-107)|
|Tipoff||1 p.m. ET|
Brandon Anderson: The Hawks won twice to get out of the Play-In Tournament, but the way Atlanta is playing right now, it sure looks like the Hawks expect to win at least a few more. Remember, this is a team that played in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals and brought back almost the entire same roster. And right now it feels like it.
The Hawks dominated the Hornets and then withstood a barrage of early 3s to win on the road in Cleveland to get this matchup with Miami, and it’s a matchup that suits the Hawks pretty well. The Hawks are top-five in Free Throw Rate while Miami fouls fifth-most, so that aggressive defense will help Atlanta get plenty of easy points. The Heat defense also gives up the fourth-most 3-point attempts in the league, and that too plays right into Atlanta’s hands.
Miami’s offense is nowhere near as good as Atlanta’s, and the Heat could get straight up outscored if the Hawks’ shots are falling. The Heat almost always have a poor defender like Duncan Robinson or Tyler Herro on the court, and Trae Young will hunt them. Miami also has turnover issues, so that 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 a better fit against Bam Adebayo and Miami. I was expecting the Hawks to need to start the transition from Capela to Okongwu to make a run anyway, so the injury may have just forced their hand.
This is a 1v8 series, but it feels more like 3v6 or 4v5 to me. There is no gulf in talent between these teams, and we saw last year that the teams that won the Play-In also performed well in Game 1s. We also know how Trae Young loves to take his show on the road against a hostile playoff crowd. I’ll take the Hawks here, and I’ll play some on the moneyline at +230 too.
I think Atlanta wins at least two games this series and is live to advance. You can also play Atlanta +1.5 at +135 at BetMGM. If you do like Atlanta to win here and compete in the series, you can play a Game 1 win plus a series win at +550.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Boston Celtics
|Tipoff||3:30 p.m. ET|
Raheem Palmer: My model makes this game closer to Celtics -7, even with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the lineup. I know, that’s pretty big disparity, but this Nets team hasn’t been very good this season.
Many people may be tempted to back the Nets as they’re scoring 124.8 points per 100 possessions in lineups with Durant and Irving, but this is a team which can’t consistently get stops, meaning they constantly find themselves in coin flips needing their stars to score 60-80 points to win.
The Durant-Irving-Curry-Drummond-Brown starting lineup is scoring 118.9 points per 100 possessions but is giving up 117.9 on the opposite end of the floor for a Net Rating of just +1.1.
My power ratings have the Celtics as the league’s best team (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 non-garbage time minutes. The Celtics are the more complete team, and if they’re capable of just decreasing the efficiency of Durant and Irving just slightly, 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-garbage time minutes (114.3). The Nets are unlikely to slow this team down as they’re just 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 do get a stop.
If you’re betting on the Nets, you’re essentially betting that Durant and Irving’s shotmaking can overcome all of their other issues, which could happen, but they’ll need to sustain extremely high work loads. 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 into being the cream of the crop of the Eastern Conference. Tatum’s 54-point game against the Nets in March showed that he can be the best player in this series.
This is a team which has made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in three out of four seasons before a down year with a first round exit which ended at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets in 2021.
To quote James Brown … for the Celtics this is “The Big Payback.”
I’ll back the Celtics in Game 1 and for the series.
Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks
|Tipoff||6:30 p.m. ET|
Matt Moore: Mike Budenholzer division games.
This is one of my favorite trends in all of basketball, and I will continue to ride it ’til the horse gives out. Or deer. Whatever. The Bucks under Budenholzer are 54-8 straight up, and 44-18 ATS against division opponents. When favored by more than nine points in those games, the Bucks are 31-1 straight up and 23-9 ATS.
I get it, the division has been weak, and those 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 better as they get more used to defending and attacking a team.
Throw on top of it the fact that the one thing you want to do vs. the Bucks is shoot 3s, and the Bulls have a low 3-point rate. This is just a nightmare for a worn out Bulls squad with an inexperienced bench.
Finally, as a double-digit favorite in the playoffs, Mike Budenholzer is 7-2-1 ATS.
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Phoenix Suns
|Pick||Suns to Win the Series 4-0 (+230)|
|Tipoff||9 p.m. ET|
Brandon Anderson: The Suns are really good. Maybe you noticed. Phoenix went 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 actually matter, and another one came against Portland early in the season when the Blazers were still a playoff roster. The Suns do not screw around with below-average teams.
Kudos to the Pelicans for beating a 34-win Spurs squad and a Clippers team short its two max superstars, and good on New Orleans for bouncing all the way back from 1-12 to make the playoffs. It’s a genuinely fantastic accomplishment. But it doesn’t mean the Pelicans are good, or that they are even in the same universe as the mighty Suns.
New Orleans has the sixth-worst record for a playoff team in the history of the NBA. The Pelicans rank just barely above the bottom-10 teams in the league in both offense and defense. New Orleans is the worst team left in the playoffs, and until proven otherwise, Phoenix is the best.
The Pelicans do two things particularly well: they’ve led the league in turnovers forced since the start of February, and they’re one of the league’s finest offensive rebounding teams. That helps a poor 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 Pels advantages.
The Suns are double-digit favorites. They will be again in Game 2. At that point, we’re essentially a road Game 3 victory away from a sweep, and the Suns will be sizable favorites there too. This is technically a Game 1 play since the Suns can’t sweep without winning the first game, but I’m treating it more like a juiced Game 3 moneyline. Maybe CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram just get super hot and steal a game at some point, but I’ll take my chances.