NBA Playoffs First Round Betting Preview: Three Series to Go Seven Games

Hoops fans won’t know until late Friday night — once the Pelicans-Kings and Heat-Bulls play-in games are in the books — but it’s not too early to preview the NBA Playoffs.

Six of the eight series are already set:

Western Conference

  • (2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7) Los Angeles Lakers
  • (3) Minnesota Timberwolves vs. (6) Phoenix Suns
  • (4) LA Clippers vs. (5) Dallas Mavericks

Eastern Conference

  • (2) New York Knicks vs. (7) Philadelphia 76ers
  • (3) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (6) Indiana Pacers
  • (4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Orlando Magic

Related Pages: Best NBA Betting Apps | Best NBA Betting Promotions & Bonus Offers

Odds for April 20-21 NBA Playoff Games

Saturday, April 20

  • Cavaliers () vs. Magic () | 1:00 p.m. ET | ESPN
  • Timberwolves () vs. Suns () | 3:30 p.m. ET | ESPN
  • Knicks () vs. 76ers () | 6:00 p.m. ET | ESPN
  • Nuggets vs. Lakers () | 8:30 p.m. ET | ABC

Sunday, April 21

  • Celtics vs. TBD (Miami or Chicago) | 1:00 p.m. ET | ABC
  • Clippers ( ) vs. Mavericks () | 3:30 p.m. ET | ABC
  • Bucks () vs. Pacers () | 7:00 p.m. ET | TNT
  • Thunder vs. TBD (New Orleans or Sacramento) | 9:30 p.m. ET | TNT

Nuggets vs. Lakers Betting Analysis

Neither of these rosters has changed dramatically since Denver swept LA in the Western Conference Finals last year, which explains why Denver is a 7-point favorite in Game 1, easily the biggest spread of the six games currently scheduled this weekend. The Lakers had no answer for Nikola Jokic, who averaged 27.8 points, 14.5 rebounds, and 11.8 assists in four wins over the Lakers amid a dominant run to 2023 NBA Finals MVP honors.

If LeBron James’ outstanding 3-point shooting this year continues, that dramatically boosts LA’s chance of pulling an upset. James shot a career-best 41% from outside this year.

That being said, the only question is how many games the Nuggets will need to advance.

Prediction: Nuggets in five games

Knicks vs. 76ers Betting Analysis

Joel Embiid’s recent return to the lineup for Philadelphia makes this one of the most intriguing first-round series. The Sixers are 31-8 with the 2023 MVP in the lineup and 16-27 without him, which is why sportsbooks like DraftKings actually list the 2-seeded Knicks as slight underdogs (NY was -105 to win the series, compared to Philly at -115 as of Thursday afternoon).

Julius Randle’s absence hurts New York’s playoff hopes, but star guard Jalen Brunson and the Knicks should advance thanks to their homecourt advantage and one of the toughest defenses in the league.

Prediction: Knicks in seven games

Timberwolves vs. Suns Betting Analysis

Like New York, 3-seed Minnesota is an underdog in its first-round series against 6-seed Phoenix. The T’Wolves struggled against Kevin Durant and Co. in the regular season, going 0-3, including a 125-106 loss in the regular season finale last Sunday. Unless Anthony Edwards can unearth a way to dramatically improve upon his regular-season output against Phoenix, Minnesota looks doomed for an early exit after an outstanding regular season.

Prediction: Suns in six games

Bucks vs. Pacers Betting Analysis

Unfortunately, the uncertain status of a key player looms over several series. There’s no better example than Bucks-Pacers, as Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo is expected to miss the series opener on Sunday with a left calf strain. If Antetokounmpo misses multiple games, Milwaukee will need a massive series from Damian Lillard, whose scoring fell from 32 points per game in ’23 to 24 points per game this year on shooting numbers (both FG and 3-point) well below his career average.

The Pacers’ defensive struggles make it hard to see them winning in the playoffs, even if Giannis misses time and/or is hobbled.

Prediction: Bucks in seven games

Clippers vs. Mavericks Betting Analysis

The Mavericks are seen as a real threat to not only beat the Clippers but make a run in the West following a 16-2 run from March 7 through April 10. Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving make the Mavs as hard to defend as anyone, and trade acquisitions Daniel Gafford and PJ Washington complement those two well enough to make Dallas a legitimate contender.

The Clippers have plenty of star power of their own in Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and James Harden, but let’s go with the hotter team to advance.

Prediction: Mavericks in six games

Cavaliers vs. Magic Betting Analysis

Orlando’s excellent defense (Jalen Suggs and Jonathan Isaac are both contenders for the ’23-24 All-Defensive 1st team) will challenge, if not take down, Donovan Mitchell and the Cavs, especially if 21-year-old All-Star Paolo Banchero manages to play as well as he did throughout his outstanding second regular season.

Prediction: Magic in seven games


About the Author
Tyler Everett

Tyler Everett

Tyler Everett has been a sports writer since joining the student newspaper at his alma mater, NC State, back in 2008. He has covered sports, sports betting, and the business of sports for several newspapers and websites, including the Denver Broncos, Charlotte Observer, High Press Soccer, and Sports Business Journal.

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