How To Bet The NBA In-Season Tournament Knockout Stage: Bets for Suns, Celtics & Pelicans

How To Bet The NBA In-Season Tournament Knockout Stage: Bets for Suns, Celtics & Pelicans article feature image

Via Barry Gossage/Getty Images. Pictured: Devin Booker #1 and Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns high five during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers during the In-Season Tournament on November 21, 2022 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

The NBA's In-Season Tournament Knockout Round is set! After Tuesday's wild conclusion that saw the Mavericks eliminate the Rockets for the Pelicans, the Celtics steal away their group, the Bucks escape the Heat, the Knicks punch their way through, and the Warriors blow a golden opportunity, we're down to eight teams for a single-elimination tournament starting on Monday.

The NBA has to be overjoyed with how this worked out. The league gets Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James on Tuesday. It gets three huge markets in Phoenix, Los Angeles and New York. It gets Giannis Antetokounmpo alongside Jayson Tatum and the Celtics, Devin Booker along with KD and the Suns, and of course, LeBron and Anthony Davis with the Lakers.

The NBA gets to promote the idea that small-market, smaller-imprint teams like the Pacers, Pelicans and Kings could win the Cup.

And in the back of their minds, you know the league is dreaming of a potential Lakers-Celtics Cup Championship.

Let's look at the bracket, the odds and find some value for the Knockout Rounds of the In-Season Tournament.

Eastern Conference

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (4) New York Knicks

The Bucks beat the Knicks on opening night 110-105, failing to cover the 5.5-point spread by the hook.

However, the Knicks are a substantially better team than they were at that point. Their offense took a while to get going but now ranks 10th in the league, while their defense is seventh at CleaningTheGlass. (They rank even better at's schedule-adjusted metrics.) New York is 0-2 against top-10 offenses so far this season.

The Bucks can score; they rank second in Halfcourt Offensive Rating. However, their defense hasn't just been off its usual elite level of sharpness — it's genuinely bad. Milwaukee is 20th in Halfcourt Defensive Rating and is giving up the ninth-most transition points per game on the 13th-highest efficiency.

The Bucks' defensive communication is broken, their principles under new head coach Adrian Griffin are suspect, and their point of attack is weaker with the addition of Damian Lillard.

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I only make the Bucks a slight favorite to win this matchup at Bucks -2.5, and given that it's a home game, odds are the number will be much higher for the actual game, closer to the season-opener line of Bucks -5.5. Milwaukee is just 2-7 ATS at home this season despite being 8-1 straight up.

The Knicks are live to win this game, but ultimately, I don't find value in any Knicks bets. Even if they get out of this round, I only give them a 14.8% chance of making it to the Championship. However, given that their implied odds at +1700 to win the entire thing are only 5.56%, I can't deny the Knicks are mispriced in the market to win the tournament. I won't bet them (yet), but they have value.

I also won't bet Milwaukee, as I think the Bucks should only be +320 to make the Championship compared to their +350 line to win the Cup.

(2) Indiana Pacers vs. (3) Boston Celtics

Man, I wish Indy had gotten a different draw. If the Pacers were against the Bucks, I'd be hitting their futures odds and going back in on Tyrese Haliburton Cup MVP (which we gave out this summer on Buckets at +4200).

Nonetheless, I think the Pacers might be drawing dead here. They are tough for teams because of their offensive efficiency and their resolute dedication to running. They are a prolific offense early in the season, averaging the sixth-most points per possession in the NBA, schedule-adjusted, per

However, in their first matchup this season in TD Garden, the Celtics dropped 155 on Indy. The Celtics are more than comfortable in shootouts, and their combination of ball movement, size on the wings and shooting means they can dominate this matchup.

If you didn't tail us on Tyrese Haliburton Cup MVP this summer, the time has probably passed. I make this game Celtics -2 compared to the line of Celtics -5, but Boston's edge is big enough for me to hesitate on backing Indiana again.

We bet the Celtics +3400 on Sunday after discussing on Buckets how the Celtics essentially controlled their fate for a tournament spot. At +300 as the favorite they still have value. I make Boston -105 to reach the Cup Championship, putting value for hedge opportunities. I would stay away from MVP futures, however, as Jaylen Brown actually leads the Celtics in In-Season Tournament scoring at 24.8 points per game, three more points per game than Tatum.

Boston should be the favorite to win the cup, but given the newness of the tournament and the single-game environment, I'll play them game by game. I make the Celtics six-point favorites against the Bucks in a potential East Semifinal.

Western Conference

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (4) Phoenix Suns

KD vs. LeBron will steal the headlines for this one, but Devin Booker is the real story here. Booker did not play in either of the Suns' two losses to the Lakers this season. The Suns are +15.3 in Net Rating when Booker is on the court this season, and he fundamentally changes this matchup.

Anthony Davis has a considerable edge here. Phoenix is undersized down low after Jusuf Nurkic goes to the bench, and that's where AD can make hay.

While the Lakers have been excellent at home, 7-2 straight up, they've struggled with good teams. Most of their wins have come against projected lottery teams.

Consequently, there will probably be value on the Suns in this spot against the spread. I also like Devin Booker Tournament MVP at +1300 with Kevin Durant at +800 on a combined ticket at roughly +450 odds.

NOTE: Guess who sprained his ankle on Wednesday after I wrote this and may not be available! Wait to make sure Booker's playing before betting this.

I'm not high on the Lakers to win the tournament, despite what a boon it would be to the league. I have the Lakers favored against the West bracket, but only at 27.5%, and I project them as underdogs or pick 'em against the East teams.

(2) New Orleans Pelicans vs. (3) Sacramento Kings

I love this matchup and love this game! It's going to be a lot of fun.

The Pelicans just beat the Kings twice in New Orleans, but this game is in Sacramento. The Pelicans' balance of offense, defense, size and shooting matches up well with Sacramento.

I like this less than I did if the game as in New Orleans, but I still lean Pelicans here. New Orleans is inconsistent but getting healthier and the Kings have had some issues with good teams even at the Beam.

I think the Pelicans' odds at +1200 to win the tournament are most out of line with their chances. New Orleans presents a shooting edge against the Lakers and a size advantage against the Suns. We bet Zion Williamson Cup MVP earlier, but I'll add a Pelicans +1200 to win the tournament even though they would be considerable dogs to either the Celtics or Bucks.

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