NBA Playoffs: Game 1 schedule and best bets

The first round of the NBA playoffs kicks off this weekend. While we await the results of the final matches and thus the 8thy Seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences, let’s take a look at the current matchups and schedule for the weekend.

Betting lines for the opening games are listed as well as one or two props from each series.

Saturday at 1:10 PM ET

5-Orlando Magic (+160) vs. 4-Cleveland Cavaliers (-192)

Spread: Cavaliers -4.5 | S/Sh: 207.5

The biggest party crashers in the postseason are the Orlando Magic (47-35). The winners of the Southeast Division will compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers (48-34). It’s a matchup of two of the top six defenses in the NBA. Each team is stingy in the paint so their perimeter shooting may decide this series.

In the season series, each team won two games. Cleveland has won every game in which it hit more than ten 3-pointers. They have lost every game in which they have scored 10 or less. Is this the Max Struss series? George Niang Festival? All of them were brought on board by Cleveland to knock down shots from deep this time of year. Take a look at their props from depth. Each is set at 1.5 three for Game 1.

Bet the Edge is your source for betting on the NBA Playoffs. Get all of Jay Croucher and Drew Dinsick’s thoughts weekdays at 6 a.m. ET here Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Saturday 3:40 PM ET

6-Phoenix Suns (-102) vs. 3-Minnesota Timberwolves (-118)

Spread: Timberwolves -1.5 | S/Sh: 214

No team in the NBA has been more defensively efficient than Minnesota (56-26). Led by Rudy Gobert on defense, the Timberwolves are long and tall. They have allowed 108.9 points per 100 possessions this season, but that number rose to 129.3 in their three games against Phoenix (49-33).

The Suns can’t match Minnesota’s size, but as we just revealed, they haven’t had to this season. They rely on spacing the floor, the extra pass, and hitting open jumpers. Bradley Beal’s 36-goal season finale against the Wolves bodes well for a Suns team that is tailor-made for a deep playoff run this season.

With the Wolves having to focus on Durant and Booker, Beal will get his share of good looks from the perimeter. His performance against Minnesota last weekend suggests looking at the play on OVER for his 3-pointers (2.5) and points (17.5).

Saturday 6:10 PM ET

7-Philadelphia 76ers (+120) vs. 2-New York Knicks (-142)

Spread: NEX-3 | S/Sh: 208.5

Joel Embiid looked somewhat out of shape and unwilling to face a smaller Heat team earlier this week. Although he still managed to score 23 points and pull down 15 rebounds, he will need to pitch in and win the battle against the Knicks’ duo of Hartenstein and Robinson if Philly (47-35) wants to last more than five games.

For New York (50-32), there is no doubt that their leader is Jalen Brunson. However, the player who seems to be elevating the team to a higher level is OG Anunoby. The Knicks are 20-3 when OG is in the lineup.

With the MSG fans behind them, the Knicks are expected to win Game 1.

Saturday 8:40 PM ET

7-Los Angeles Lakers (+225) vs 2-Denver Nuggets (-278)

Spread: Nuggets -7 | S/Sh: 224

This is a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals. Denver (57-25) swept the Lakers (47-35) en route to its first NBA title. The Nuggets’ starting five are statistically the best in the NBA winning all 100 possessions, 13 points behind the league’s best. The bench is not as deep as it was during their title run, but the quality of the starting lineup, led by league MVP Nikola Jokic, is extremely impressive.

The Lakers rotated 40% of their starting lineup during the All-Star break and went 23-10 the rest of the regular season. Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves were moved to the starting lineup and Cam Reddish and Taurean Prince sat on the bench.

Sunday at 3:40 PM ET

5-Dallas Mavericks (-115) vs. 4-Los Angeles Clippers (-105)

Spread: Mavericks -1 | S/Sh: 223.5

Star power out West has people interested in this series between the Los Angeles Clippers (51-31) and the Dallas Mavericks (50-32). Luka Doncic is well aware that the Clippers faced and lost to them in the opening round in both 2020 and 2021. Fans believe this year will be different as Dallas has gone from underdog (+120) to favorite (-135) in the past two days.

Many believe this series hinges on the health of Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard (knee). He’s undoubtedly one of the best playoff performers in modern league history, but how involved has he been at the start of the series? Will his minutes be monitored by coach Tyronn Lue? If so, his score of 24.5 might be a bit high. Look under.

Sunday at 7:10 PM ET

6-Indiana Pacers (-115) vs. 3-Milwaukee Bucks (-105)

Spread: Pacers-1 | S/Sh: 233

Bucks player Giannis Antetokounmpo’s injury has caught the attention of the betting public. Milwaukee (49-33) vs. Indiana (47-35) is the most-bet on series in the first round. There is no recent postseason history to rely on as they have not met since the days of Reggie Miller and Sam Cassel (Indiana won that series) 24 years ago.

Since audiences prefer surprise, let’s look at some elements to consider. Tyrese Haliburton’s point total is set at 20.5. It seems low but he has only surpassed that mark three times in seven games this month. His assists are set at 10.5. He surpassed that number in four of the Pacers’ seven games in April. Frankly, Indiana will only go as far as their leader takes them, so if you think the Pacers will upset the higher seed, betting on Haliburton’s numbers being big makes sense.

Please remember as you do your homework and eventually place a bet on any of these games, that the NBA playoffs have traditionally meant fewer possessions and tighter matchups. There will be some surprise performances, but the team’s best players will get the bulk of the touches and opportunities on the offensive end.

Enjoy the games and have some sweat.

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