With the last two quarterfinal matchups set to conclude tonight, the NBA Conference Finals are right around the corner. In the Eastern Conference, the defending champions have an uphill battle to make another ECF bid. In the Western Conference, last year’s WCF winners will have to earn a tough home win if they want another shot at a championship.
Here are my top NBA betting picks for Sunday’s playoff action.
1. PPD: Giannis 35+ PTS/Bucks to Win | +330 (.5u) at FD Sportsbook
I have only one play for Sunday’s matchup between the Bucks and Celtics, and I’m keeping my unit size small for it. We’ve seen four road wins already this series, with each team getting two. The other series that will end tonight—Dallas and Phoenix—hasn’t produced a single road win. Yet both the Bucks and Celtics have winning records on their opponents’ courts this series, so I’m willing to overlook the fact Milwaukee will have to overcome a rocking TD Garden. They have shown us that they can shut out the noise.
With Khris Middleton still out for Sunday’s Game 7, Giannis Antetokounmpo will have to step up and carry Milwaukee to the Eastern Conference Finals. He has scored 35-plus points in three games this series, including two of Milwaukee’s wins. He hasn’t scored fewer than 34 since Game 2. Antetokounmpo has made significant strides as a shooter this season, and that’s helping him average 32.3 points per game in the playoffs on 50.2% from the floor, 21.6% from beyond the arc, and 68% from the line. For some perspective, Antetokounmpo averaged 30.2 points per game in last year’s playoffs, and he made only 18.6% of his threes and 58.7% of his free throws.
I’m essentially looking at this line like it’s a Bucks moneyline bet. The Bucks do not win Game 7 without a huge performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo. The moneyline sits at +180, so we’re getting a decent chunk of extra value by playing this line instead of that one.
2. Chris Paul Under 25.5 Points + Assists | -125 at DK Sportsbook
I like the Suns to win Game 7, but bettors need to take advantage of how poorly Chris Paul has been playing this series. He is averaging 14 points and six assists per game—a full 5.5 points and assists below this total! Worse, one third of Paul’s points came in Phoenix’s Game 2 win. He scored 13 points or fewer in four of Phoenix’s six games. He recorded eight assists or fewer in five. We’ve seen him go over this number once all series.
Smart bettors would point out that this is an elimination game. The Suns will have to play the best basketball they’ve played all series, and Paul should step up. The problem with that argument is that the Mavericks have played good defense against point guards all season. They have allowed 21.2 points (fourth fewest) and 8.1 assists (tenth fewest) per game to the position. Those numbers would normally point to some value because Paul should play almost the full game, but these teams have slowed down the pace considerably. They’re averaging only 93.8 possessions per game this series, well below their regular-season numbers.
Paul’s relative underperformance—and historical trends that suggest Game 7s are relatively low scoring (18 of the last 22 have stayed under 207)—make this a smart bet for Game 7.
3. Mikal Bridges Over 1.5 Steals | +185 (.5u) at DK Sportsbook
Let’s throw the other half-unit from the above Celtics and Bucks play on Bridges. The defensive specialist stole two balls in Game 2 and four in Game 5. He stayed under in all other contests this series, but the home/away splits point to value here—Bridges is averaging 2.3 steals per game in Phoenix.
Bridges averaged 1.2 steals in the regular season while playing 34.8 minutes per game. The Suns have given him 38.9 in the playoffs. That number has started to tick down as this series has progressed, but it only took him 34 minutes to rack up four steals in Game 6.
The Mavericks have been able to limit their turnovers in the playoffs—their 11% playoff turnover rate ranks second to only the Raptors. But Dallas’ regular-season turnover rate sat at 12.7% a nose higher, which suggest some regression could be at hand, too.
The odds of Bridges getting another pair of steals in Game 7 are higher than the 35% chance DraftKings Sportsbook is giving him. He’s cashed this prop twice at home this series, and the do-or-die nature of Game 7 means he’ll be giving it his all defensively.
Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our How To Bet and Sports Betting Strategy and Advice pages are for you. You can get started with our Sports Betting 101 Section — including 10 Sports Betting Tips for Beginners — or head to more advanced sports betting strategy — like Key Numbers When Betting Against the Spread — to learn more.