By Adam Thompson | | 8 mins
Complete 2021 NBA Playoffs Betting Guide, Odds & Expert Picks
The NBA’s first-ever Play-In Tournament begins on Tuesday, and the league couldn’t have asked for a better headliner.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers face Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors in one of six play-in games that will help determine the final seeds in the Western and Eastern Conferences. Bear in mind, in the Lakers are still the No. 2 choice in the latest NBA title odds.
Previously, the NBA Playoffs featured a 16-team bracket-style tournament with the top eight teams advancing from each conference. Now, only the top six are guaranteed a spot in the field, with teams 7-10 remaining in the hunt.
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Here’s how it works: The No. 7 team hosts the No. 8, with the winner getting the No. 7 seed in their respective conference. Meanwhile, the No. 9 and No. 10 face off. The winner of that game faces the loser of the 7/8, which the victor that night getting the final spot.
On Tuesday, the Eastern Conference gets the stage, as the No. 7 Boston Celtics host the No. 8 Washington Wizards, and No. 9 Indiana Pacers host the No. 10 Charlotte Hornets. On Wednesday, the Western Conference play-in stage gets underway. The No. 9 Memphis Grizzlies host the No. 10 San Antonio Spurs, but the spotlight will be on the 7/8 showdown between LeBron’s Lakers and Steph’s Warriors.
The eighth spots will be wrapped up on Thursday and Friday, with the NBA Playoffs tipping off Saturday. It makes for a great week of NBA betting.
Top Odds to Win the 2021 NBA Title
|Los Angeles Lakers||+450|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+500|
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NBA Eastern Conference Betting Preview
Since the start of the season, a trio of teams was considered favorites to win the East and advance to the NBA Finals: the Philadelphia 76ers with Joel Embiid; the Brooklyn Nets with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving; and the Milwaukee Bucks with two-time defending Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Nothing has changed in that regard, though the Nets, the No. 2 seed in the East, are the favorite to take the title at +120. The Bucks and 76ers are each +300. After them, the Heat are next at +1200, then nobody else is lower than +4000.
The 76ers (+700) own homecourt advantage, and for them that’s huge as owners of the East’s best home record. Last season they were atrocious on the road and bowed out of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. This time, someone is going to need to win in Philly.
While the 76ers were a modest 20-16 away from Philly, that is the same record of the Nets and the Bucks away from their friendly confines. If it does come down to those Big Three, which has the advantage? One of those three had a winning record vs. the other two in the regular season.
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The Bucks swept the 76ers in three games, including a 38-point beatdown the last time they met, and went 2-1 vs. the Nets.
Brooklyn does have the x-factor, and it’s a big one. James Harden has played just two games since April 1 and was in limited action in those. However, the Nets have won 13 of the last 14 games The Beard has played in. The Nets rarely had Harden, Durant and Irving on the floor together this season. Will talented, well-rested veterans win, or will a lack of cohesion be an issue?
Can anyone outside the Big Three compete in the East? If the regular season was any indication, no. Despite the 76ers regularly sitting Embiid, the Bucks being cautious with Giannis and the Nets rarely having all their personnel, the next three teams in the conference all fared poorly. The fourth-seeded New York Knicks were 2-7, while the Nos. 5 and 6, the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat, each finished 3-6 against the top three teams.
Odds to Win the Eastern Conference
|New York Knicks||+3300|
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NBA Western Conference Betting Preview
While the Eastern Conference is considered the Big Three then everyone else, the Western Conference is a jumbled mess. How jumbled? The favorite to win the conference isn’t even in the top six seeds.
The Los Angeles Lakers must first play their way into the eight-team bracket. They face Curry and the Warriors in a marquee showdown Wednesday night to determine the No. 7 seed in the West. The loser of that game must then win on Friday to lock in the No. 8 spot, or suffer elimination.
The Lakers went just 42-30 this season, the seventh-best in the West. Of course, there is one major caveat: The team played just 23 games with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the lineup. In those games, the Lakers went 17-6, a .739 win percentage that would have been No. 1 in the NBA for an entire season.
The No. 1 West seed, instead, is the Utah Jazz, a worthy top team that ranks No. 3 in total offense and total defense. Their point differential of 9.2 ppg was tops in the NBA by an astonishing margin. The Bucks were second at 5.9. Utah finished 52-20 to claim the best record in the league.
Yet the Jazz (+700 to win it all) are only the No. 3 team on the odds board in the West to win the title, and No. 5 overall. The Los Angeles Clippers (+500), the No. 4 seed, are also higher than the dominant Jazz. Of course, the Clippers, like the Lakers, rarely played with their complete lineup, which includes Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Clippers were 32-11 when Leonard and George played – a .744 win percentage that trumped the LeBron/AD Lakers mark.
We haven’t even mentioned the Phoenix Suns (+1800), who finished just one game behind the Jazz for the best record in the NBA, or the Denver Nuggets (+3000), led by MVP favorite Nikola Jokic. The Suns and Nuggets are the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds out West.
Odds to Win the Western Conference
|Los Angeles Lakers||+210|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+270|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+2000|
|Golden State Warriors||+8000|
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NBA First-Round Series Picks
Knicks (-124) over Hawks: These No. 4 and 5 seeds in the East finished not just with identical records but identical marks at home (25-11) and the road (16-20). Judging by the records, that gives the homecourt Knicks a big boost. Here’s another one: New York bested Atlanta in all three regular-season meetings.
Bucks (-295) over Heat: Miami is gaining traction here and has knocked Giannis and the Bucks out of the playoffs two straight years. Can the Heat make it a third? I’m not betting against the Greek Freak and a healthy Bucks lineup.
Nets (-2000) over Celtics: Brooklyn swept Boston 3-0 in the regular season and was missing at least one member of the Durant-Irving-Harden triumvirate in each. No Jaylen Brown for the Celtics, who was present in 12- and 28-point losses by a shorthanded Nets team that is no longer shorthanded.
76ers (-1250) over Wizards: The Sixers swept the three-game series with the Wizards this season, and that includes a 60-point game from Bradley Beal. Joel Embiid feasted all three outings. A healthy and rested Philadelphia team has too much for Washington to deal with, especially in a best-of-7 format.
Lakers (-250) over Suns: These are, statistically speaking, the two worst backcourt defenses in the NBA. That benefits the Suns with their stronger offensive guard play. The forward spots? L.A. has LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Phoenix counters with Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder. It’s not fair to get this draw as the No. 2 seed. Eventually the Suns will wear down.
Nuggets (-120) over Trail Blazers: Denver held Damian Lillard to well under his season average in all three matchups. While the Nuggets won’t have Jamal Murray, the trade-deadline deal for Aaron Gordon has been golden. With Gordon as a starter, they’re 19-5.
Mavericks (+300) over Clippers: Los Angeles is a big favorite for a reason, but Dallas split two games that had each team at their best, winning one matchup by 16 and losing the other by 10. If we’re taking a first-round flyer, it’s on Luka Doncic willing the Mavs into the next round.