NBABet's 7 Best Bets for Saturday's NBA Playoff Openers

The Action Network's NBA experts have seven bets for Saturday's Game 1s, including Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies and Nuggets vs. Warriors. Check out their picks here.

The regular season is over, the NBA Play-In Tournament produced some exciting results, but the NBA Playoffs will be a different beast. All 16 teams are aiming for 16 wins to capture the Larry O’Brien trophy and it all starts Saturday with four Game 1s.

Our NBA analysts have already broken down every game on the slate — Jazz vs. Mavericks (1 p.m. ET), Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies (3:30 p.m. ET), Raptors vs. 76ers (6 p.m. ET), Nuggets vs. Warriors (8:30 p.m. ET) — and they’ve given out their picks for six of the eight the first-round series.

But wait … there’s more.

They’ve got even more bets for today’s Game 1 matchups, including spreads, totals and player props.

Check out their betting breakdowns and best bets for three of today’s four games below.

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NBA Odds & Picks

Click on a game to skip ahead
Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies 1H 3:30 p.m. ET
Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies Prop 3:30 p.m. ET
Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies Prop 3:30 p.m. ET
Raptors vs. 76ers Spread 6 p.m. ET
Raptors vs. 76ers Prop 6 p.m. ET
Raptors vs. 76ers Total 6 p.m. ET
Nuggets vs. Warriors 1Q ML 8:30 p.m. ET

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Pick Grizzlies -3.5 1H
Book BetMGM
Tipoff 3:30 p.m. ET

Brandon Anderson: Minnesota went wild after its comeback win, but that franchise has seen a ton of emotional turmoil over the last couple years, and it’s a franchise starved for success. That Tuesday win was literally the second postseason win ever for this franchise without Kevin Garnett. And that’s not even mentioning what the win meant personally to Karl-Anthony Towns, Pat Beverley, and others.

That’s why it made all the sense in the world for the Wolves to go wild making the playoff proper. They’re truly excited just to be this far, already a significant and unexpected accomplishment for a team that was +600 to make the playoffs before the season.

Minnesota can really contend in this series, but I’m expecting an emotional letdown out of the gates. Memphis is just as excited to make the postseason, and it expects to win multiple playoff series. The Grizzlies play with a different level of intensity and discipline than the Wolves have shown so far, and Memphis is outstanding at home in an arena that will be rocking for the marquee afternoon Saturday showcase game.

This series will be a battle, and there are real reasons to believe in Minnesota if Chris Finch makes the right adjustments as the series goes along. But I’m expecting Memphis to come out and welcome the Wolves to the playoffs with a proper punch in the mouth.

We’re not in the Play-In Tournament anymore. I like the Grizzlies to take a first-half lead and make an early statement, so I’ll play the first half line and see what happens from there.

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Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Pick Ja Morant Under 28.5 Points
Book WynnBet

Matt Moore: This line is bonkers. Morant averaged 20 points in four meetings against the Wolves this season, shooting just 34% from the field while averaging 34 minutes per contest.

The Wolves have two primary defensive schemes. First, an at-level blitz they use to get the ball out of the primary creator’s hands, which reduces Morant’s usage since he’s not a great off-ball player at this point outside of lobs. Second, they have started to switch more and got a lot better at it over the second half of the season. Morant struggles to score in both schemes.

Even if he plays 40-42 minutes, it’s unlikely he gets to this number. Part of my cap is that Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch should have a game plan to slow the game down and make things tougher for Memphis. The Wolves’ transition defense ranked 12th per possession this season via Synergy Sports.

There are enough paths here to believe that Ja comes up short of 29, even in a good game.

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Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Pick D’Angelo Russell Over 2.5 3-Pointers (+105)
Book BetMGM

Joe Dellera: I wrote about a series long prop for Russell here, but I expect him to thrive in Game 1 as he has against the Grizzlies this entire season.

The Grizzlies have been excellent defensively, but one thing they do is play drop coverage with Steven Adams. This opens up opportunities for Russell to score over the top as Ja Morant is not the best defender and Dillon Brooks is likely deployed against Anthony Edwards.

Russell has averaged 18.1 points per game this season across 32 minutes per game but against the Grizzlies he is averaging an incredible 31 points, 6.8 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in 35.2 minutes per game across four games. These stats against Memphis have propelled him to a +11.6 Net Rating.

Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: D’Angelo Russell #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves

His 3 point prop is set at 2.5, a number he’s only gone over in three of his last ten games; however, he has cleared this in all four games against the Grizzlies with 6, 4, 6, and 3 made 3s while never taking fewer than 8 attempts in a game.

Considering he’s a 34% 3-point shooter even on 8.0 attempts per game we would expect 2.72 made 3s — in the Playoffs, he should see an uptick in minutes and usage against a scheme that invites him to score.

I like Russell to go over 2.5 3s in Game 1 and love that we are getting a plus-money number. I’ll even sprinkle on two more plus-money escalators: 4+ (+280 Bet365) and 5+ (+700 FanDuel).

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Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Pick 76ers -4.5
Book PointsBet
Tipoff 6 p.m. ET

Raheem Palmer: One of my favorite axioms in sports betting is to avoid the public underdog and that phrase couldn’t be any more relevant than in Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers series. The Raptors are the trendy pick to upset the 76ers among fans, analysts, scouts and bettors, but personally, I’m not buying it.

A few things in life are guaranteed: Death, taxes and the Raptors losing Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. Since 1995, the Raptors have made the postseason 12 times. They’ve lost Game 1 in 11 of those 12 series with the only exception being their 2020 first round series against the Brooklyn Nets in the Orlando bubble.

Past trends aside, the 76ers are the far more talented team and have Joel Embiid, the best player in the series and a finalist for league MVP the last two seasons.

The Raptors don’t have any bigs who can defend Embiid — Precious Achiuwa, Khem Birch and Chris Boucher are 6-foot-9  or shorter — who is averaging 30.6 points on 49.9% shooting along with 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists this season. The Raptors rank 22nd in opponent field goal percentage at the rim (66.3%), so I expect Embiid to dominate inside.

With James Harden playing alongside Embiid, the 76ers rank first in Free Throw Rate (23.3%) and are attempting 28.2 free throws per game since the All-Star break. The Raptors rank 21st in opponent free throw rate (20) so expect the 76ers to get to the line at will.

All those free throws will hurt the Raptors on the opposite end of the floor as they generate much of their offense in transition. The Raptors rank fourth in transition points per 100 possessions (3.6), but they struggle to score in the half court, scoring just 91.3 points per 100 possessions.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images. Picture: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors.

In the playoffs, the game tends to slow down and they’ll be facing a 76ers defense that ranks seventh in Half-Court Defensive Rating (93). Scoring will be a struggle for the Raptors in Game 1, particularly on the road where role players tend not to play as well as they would at home

The 76ers’ weakness is their bench, however their starting lineup is one of the best in the NBA this season. In 20 games and 323 minutes, the Harden-Tyrese Maxey-Matisse Thybulle-Tobias Harris-Embiid lineup has the second-best Net Rating in the league, outscoring teams by +20.2 per 100 possessions.

Since trading for Harden, Harris and Maxey are thriving in their roles, both shooting 40% from behind the arc. With the Raptors allowing the eighth-highest frequency of 3-point field goal attempts and ranking 18th in opponent 3-point shooting percentage (36%), I expect the 76ers offense to shoot well from behind the arc.

With teams electing to shorten rotations in the postseason, this 76ers starting lineup should overcome their deficiencies of their bench unit. While many may look to the Doc Rivers-Nick Nurse coaching matchup as a mismatch, I don’t believe Nurse can overcome the talent disparity here.

I had home court in the NBA postseason last season priced at around six points and since Thybulle will be available for home games, this feels like a good spot to buy low on a 76ers team that is undervalued by the public.
I’ll lay the 4.5 points with the 76ers and I’ve also taken them to win the series at -184.

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Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Pick Tobias Harris Over 1.5 3-Pointers
Book BetMGM

Dellera: The 76ers have more talent in this matchup. When their core four of Harden, Maxey, Harris, and Embiid share the floor, they have a +17.9 Net Rating while scoring 123.1 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass. They’re dominating teams on both sides of the floor, and this is largely due to superior spacing that’s provided by Harden running the point.

The Raptors will need to get creative to stop this 76ers offense because the Philly starters should all see an increase in minutes during the Playoffs.

One strategy that has been successful in the past is to double Embiid, but his passing has improved, and with Harden, the spacing is better. Embiid can kick out to any of Harden, Maxey, or Harris, and they all are excellent 3-point shooters. How Embiid handless double teams will be something to watch in this series.

With that in mind, I am taking is for Tobias Harris to go Over 1.5 3s Made (-111). I’ve written about this previously, but he has gone over this line in 70% of games with James Harden, and his role has changed a bit into becoming a spot-up shooter.

In his last game against the Raptors, this prop cashed in the first quarter, and with an uptick in minutes here, there’s no reason to expect otherwise in Game 1.

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Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Pick Under 216
Book PointsBet

Austin Wang: This series will be a grind as it features two stout defensive teams with a slow tempo that thrive in the half court.

Since the 2017-18 season, playoff games featuring James Harden have gone 28-18-3 (60.9%) to the under, per the Sports Data Query Language at Gimme The Dog.

Philly’s games have been much higher scoring upon Harden’s arrival, but things will really slow down in the playoffs as he will revert more to isolation plays and individual creation of baskets.

I think he will get frustrated by the Raptors’ stifling defense.

In the Nick Nurse era, the Raptors have gone 23-12 (65.7%) to the under in the postseason, per our Bet Labs tool.

I understand this is a completely different roster than previous seasons, but his philosophy and style still remains the same. He has the group of strong, versatile defenders that should keep this game low-scoring.

I like the under at 216 and would play this down to 215.

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Denver Nuggets vs. Golden State Warriors

Pick Warriors 1Q Moneyline (-165)
Book WynnBet
Tipoff 8:30 p.m. ET

Matt Moore: I’m on Warriors for the full game as well, but let’s focus in on the first quarter.

Denver’s been a great first quarter team all season. They usually wreck in the Nikola Jokic minutes. But that has changed lately. The Nuggets were outscored in the Jokic first quarter minutes in nine of their last 15 games. Denver’s gassed, and it has shown.

On the other side, you have the Warriors, in their first game back in the NBA Playoffs with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala. They have matchup advantages all over the floor, a raucous home-court advantage — even if it pales in comparison to old Oracle Arena — and the playoff hype. The energy will be extreme in that first quarter. Denver is very good at absorbing those first big hits and keeping coming, but I expect them to take this first hit.

I don’t mind laying the two, but given how first quarters can go, I want to play it safe and just pay the 60 cents for the 1Q ML. If you get this below -140 you should go heavier on it.

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