NBA Predictions, Odds & Picks: Bets for Bulls vs. Raptors, Thunder vs. Pelicans Play-In Games

NBA Predictions, Odds & Picks: Bets for Bulls vs. Raptors, Thunder vs. Pelicans Play-In Games article feature image
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Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images. Pictured: Luguentz Dort #5, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl #50, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 and Kenrich Williams #34 of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The NBA Play-In Tournament is here. In a year considered as wide open and filled with parity as this one, could this be the year we see a Play-In team make a real run?

A reminder of how the Play-in Tournament works. The No. 7 and No. 8 seeds play Tuesday and the winner gets the No. 7 seed in their conference. The loser then faces the winner of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 seeds matchup for the No. 8 seed.

Here's a look at how I'm betting the first two nights of the NBA Play-In Tournament.

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Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Heat

7:30p.m. ET
TNT
The Bet: Heat ML + Hawks Under 111.5 SGP

Miami has owned this matchup as of late. Since Jimmy Butler arrived in Miami, the Heat are 14-6 straight up and 12-8 ATS vs. Atlanta, including 10-1 SU and 8-3 ATS at home. Trae Young struggled in their playoff matchup last year, and this season, he shot just 36% from the field and 25% from deep.

If Atlanta is going to make this into a game, it will have to be on the back of Dejounte Murray. Miami’s switching defense just doesn’t give Young any of the space he needs to operate. Young actually had a positive on-court net rating this season but that’s because the defense was somehow 20.6 points per 100 possessions worse with him on the bench.

(A reminder of how random small sample plus-minus can be.)

Miami’s defense fell off a cliff late in the season, ranking 20th league-wide after the All-Star break. Unfortunately, in that same span, the Hawks were 25.

I understand why this line is short. My full season numbers make this Heat -1.

But Miami’s defense has a much higher level it can get to and this is a bad matchup for the Hawks. They’ve gone under their team total in eight of 11 matchups in Miami since 2019. That’s my play here, taking the Miami moneyline and Hawks team total under 111.5 in a Same Game Parlay at +120.

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Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Los Angeles Lakers

10:30 p.m. ET
TNT
The Bet: Wolves +8.5

The Wolves seem to be disintegrating with Rudy Gobert suspended and Naz Reid and Jaden McDaniels out with injuries.

That’s kind of where I want them.

The Wolves have responded to adversity all season. And while Anthony Davis will feast without Gobert and Reid, Gobert’s absence does open up the floor.

The best way for the Wolves to hang here is with shooting. The Wolves are 11th in 3-pointers per 100 possessions since the trade deadline (when the Lakers got so much better). The Lakers are 20th.

The ability for the Wolves to hang by using the math advantage is significant. The Lakers very rarely get rolling downhill offensively, and Minnesota still has enough offense up its sleeve with Karl-Anthony Towns back. I make this number Lakers -6 even after adjusting for how great the Lakers have been since the trade deadline and after the Wolves' injuries.

I’ll take the Wolves to hang within the number.


Chicago Bulls vs. Toronto Raptors

7 p.m. ET
ESPN
The Bet: Over 214.5

This is a gross game. Neither of these teams are deserving of your trust, your confidence, or your money. So let’s bet the total!

The under has been profitable in small sample in the play-in tournament but this is a good over spot. 214.5 is ridiculously low for where scoring is at this season. The Bulls are very good at keeping teams out of transition, but ultimately, that’s where Toronto will have to find offensive opportunities. They’ll push pace and score just enough to get over this very low number.

Play-In games have gone heavily to the under but they also haven't been this low before.


Oklahoma City Thunder vs. New Orleans Pelicans

9:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
The Bet: Thunder +5.5

I make this Pelicans -2.5 and that feels light. The Pelicans will play a fair amount of drop coverage vs. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and he will tear it up in the mid-range. OKC is the fourth-best road dog ATS team this season and were 20-10 (67%) ATS when SGA played on the road as a dog.

New Orleans’ offense tends to stall and the Thunder tend to find ways to hang around. I’ll take the points but I do think the thunder are live to win this game outright.


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