NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs: Series Odds, Best Bets And Upset Picks
The NBA Playoffs tip off on Saturday with the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors favored to meet in the finals. The Bucks have been dominant all season but can they get past the Raptors, 76ers and Celtics in the Eastern Conference? Thomas Casale and Matt Schmitto break down the series odds in the Eastern Conference playoffs, giving out their best bets and sleeper picks.
Eastern Conference Series Odds
Odds Courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook
Brooklyn Nets (+380) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (-650)
Orlando Magic (+650) vs. Toronto Raptors (-1200)
Detroit Pistons (+1700) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (-6000)
Indiana Pacers (+310) vs. Boston Celtics (-480)
Favorite Series Bet
Schmitto: I don’t expect many of these series to be very close, and neither do oddsmakers judging by these series lines. My favorite bet is the Philadelphia 76ers over the Brooklyn Nets. Odds of -650 is a lot, but I feel better laying -650 than I do -1200 on the Raptors, and I don’t have near the type of cash to bet -6000 on the Bucks.
The Sixers are the No. 3 seed in the East and the Nets have actually been one of the more surprising teams this season. I liked that the Sixers were aggressive, trading for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris mid-season. They want to win now. The biggest question mark is Joel Embiid’s health. The Sixers have the most impressive lineup in the East, and since trading for Butler and Harris, the starting five has been great when they’ve actually played together. But without Embiid, they are 8-10 this season.
The Nets and Sixers split their regular season games, so I won’t be surprised if Brooklyn steals one or two, but I just don’t see this series going to seven games. Again, -650 is a little much, but I think we’ll get a return here.
Casale: I like the Sixers as well but -650 is too rich for my blood. The odds price me out of a couple of these series, so I’m going with the Pacers +310. Boston was one of the most disappointing teams this season after starting the year as the second favorite to win the NBA title behind Golden State. The Celtics finished 49-33, coming 10 games under their projected win total of 59.
Now, they may turn things around in the playoffs but these two teams look pretty even on paper. I see this being a tough series that goes seven games. If it does, you’ll have a chance to hedge some out of your Pacers bet. Boston has won three straight over Indiana after the Pacers took the first meeting of the season back in November. However, now the C’s are without G Marcus Smart, one of the team’s most important players and best defenders. That’s a big loss in what should be a close series throughout.
Brad Stevens is an excellent coach but this looks like a dogfight of a series. The Pacers +310 is the best value on the board in the Eastern Conference and if you’re in Nevada, Indiana’s odds are +500 at the Westgate LV SuperBook.
Schmitto: I’m left with two underdogs to choose from Indiana and Orlando. Look, the Magic split their regular season series with the Raptors 2-2 and actually outscored the Raptors by a total of 30 points head-to-head. That might tempt some people into taking the Magic +650, but there’s no way I’m betting against a rested Kawhi Leonard this early in the playoffs.
Leonard has missed 22 games this season, pretty much just because the Raptors wanted to preserve him for the playoffs. In fact, one of the losses to the Magic came while Leonard was sitting out. Kawhi has been amazing offensively and defensively in the playoffs while playing for the Spurs. It’s Orlando’s first time in the playoffs since 2012, and I have the feeling they already feel like their job is accomplished. They Raptors, on the other hand, want revenge for five years of playoff disappointment. With no LeBron James standing in their way this year, the rest of the East Conference better watch out.
With that said, I happen to agree with you on the Pacers. I’m not quite as confident that it’s the best bet on the board, but I definitely like them as an underdog. Somehow the Pacers have continued to play very well even after Victor Oladipo was lost for the season, in large thanks to their top-3 defense. As you pointed out, the Celtics have an injury problem of their own with Marcus Smart out. It could definitely pose a problem.
Remember, the Pacers almost took down LeBron and the Cavs last year, pushing the series to 7 games as a No. 5 seed. Boston will probably win this, but they’ve been inconsistent all year. Finishing as the No. 4 seed after opening the season as the conference favorite, don’t mind taking +310 in hopes chemistry problems between Kyrie & Co.
Casale: You make some interesting points about the Magic. Since I already went with Indiana, I was looking at the Magic and the Nets. However, you also made some good points about Brooklyn when you took the Sixers and that’s the potential upset I’m going with here.
Like you, I’m a fan of the Sixers team but this could be a tough series versus the pesky Nets. I’m also concerned about Embiid’s health because as you pointed, despite all the talent, Philly isn’t the same team without him in the lineup. Some reports on Thursday said Embiid could miss the start of the playoffs. That’s a big problem.
Brooklyn split the season series with the Sixers 2-2 and one of the Nets’ losses was 127-125 in Philadelphia. They’ve played the Sixers tough this year and with the potential of Embiid missing a couple of games, I think +380 on Brooklyn is worth a shot. You can get even better odds in Nevada, where the Nets are +550 at the Westgate.
Schmitto: If you’re betting on the chance of Embiid missing games, then, yes, that bet definitely makes more sense.
Eastern Conference Winner
Schmitto: Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll have more than one competitive first round Eastern Conference series. The good news is, the sooner these games are over, the sooner we get to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Now that’s when things get interesting. There are only four teams that have a plausible shot at winning the East:
I’ll probably use rollover strategy instead of taking any of these lines. The series prices between all these teams should be somewhat tight, so we aren’t going to have to break the bank to take a favorite like we do in the first round.
I’ll stick with the Milwaukee Bucks and likely MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks have the highest defensive rating in the NBA. Leading the league in point differential, they’re only the eighth team in NBA history to have 45 double digit wins in a season. Guess how those seven teams fared in the playoffs? They all went on to win an NBA title. I’m not saying the Bucks do that, but I do think they represent the East in the NBA Finals.
Casale: I agree with you. I think the Bucks are actually a little undervalued here. Golden State is -350 to win the Western Conference at FanDuel and while that’s expected given the Warriors recent championship run, the Bucks have been the most dominate team in the NBA all year. The Sixers and Celtics both have injury concerns entering the playoffs and I just can’t buy into the Raptors.
You mentioned, this team leads the NBA in point differential and I don’t care what anyone says, Giannis is the MVP of the league. My feeling is if the Bucks had “Celtics” written across their jerseys, the odds would be much lower. I think Milwaukee steamrolls through the first two rounds of the playoffs, en route to the NBA Finals where they win it all. You heard me. Milwaukee ends Golden State’s reign of terror. Give me the Bucks +165 all day.