Betting Preview and Predictions for NBA Playoffs

LeBron James (left) and Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James (left) and Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers (photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

The NBA Playoffs are rolling along. The Eastern Conference is on to the second round. In the Western Conference, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers became the first team to advance. In this betting preview, we’ll take a look at the NBA title odds, betting lines for each series, and more. We’ll also provide predictions for how we think each series will play out.

NBA Playoffs Seeding

 Eastern Conf.Western Conf.
1Milwaukee BucksLos Angeles Lakers
2Toronto RaptorsLA Clippers
3Boston CelticsDenver Nuggets
4Indiana PacersHouston Rockets
5Miami HeatOklahoma City Thunder
6Philadelphia 76ersUtah Jazz
7Brooklyn NetsDallas Mavericks
8Orlando MagicPortland Trail Blazers

The Lakers earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and did so early on in the league’s return to play which has allowed the team to rest superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Although the team will be without Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo, the one-two punch provided by James and Davis is as good as it comes in the NBA.

In the Eastern Conference, the Bucks grabbed the No. 1 seed. Milwaukee has Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is in the conversation for the best player in the league. Although Antetokounmpo doesn’t have a bonafide star next to him like James does with Davis or the LA Clippers have with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Bucks have a very solid supporting cast that they’ve built around Antetokounmpo.

Odds To Win NBA Title

LA Clippers+270+275
Milwaukee Bucks+280+280
Los Angeles Lakers+300+275
Toronto Raptors+850+750
Boston Celtics+1000+900
Houston Rockets+1100+1100
Miami Heat+2400+2000
Utah Jazz+4200+4000
Denver Nuggets+6500+6600
Dallas Mavericks+10000+6000
Oklahoma City Thunder+16000+15000

Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook as of Sunday, August 30, 2020, and subject to change.

With the Eastern Conference on to the second round and the Western Conference still closing out the first round, the odds to win the NBA title have seen some shifting. The LA Clippers are now the favorites at FanDuel Sportsbook and co-favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook, but it’s essentially a three-headed race at the top of the odds board between the Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Los Angeles Lakers.

The Miami Heat swept the Indiana Pacers in the first round and have seen a big boost in their odds to win the NBA title, now listed at +2400 at FanDuel SportsBook and +2000 at DraftKings Sportsbook. The Heat will take on the Bucks in the second round.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have the longest odds to win the title.

No. 2 LA Clippers vs. No. 7 Dallas Mavericks

Another big betting favorite in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs is the LA Clippers. Looking at the Clippers vs. Mavericks odds, the Clippers come in around -500 to beat the Dallas Mavericks in the series. The Clippers have one of the most well-rounded teams in the NBA, anchored by Leonard and George. Many believe it’s the two Los Angeles juggernauts, the Lakers and Clippers, on a collision course for the Western Conference Finals.

If the Mavericks want to pull off the upset in this series, then Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are going to need to be as good as they can be. Not only do Doncic and Porzingis need to be awesome, but the team’s supporting cast will need to be great as well. Tim Hardaway Jr., Seth Curry, and Trey Burke will need to be as good as they can be, on both offense and defense.

For the Clippers, we know what Leonard and George bring to the table. They’ve also got Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams, Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson, Landry Shamet, Ivica Zubac, and Patrick Beverley. The Clippers are a very deep team and Williams is known for coming off the bench and going to work against opposing bench units.

Prediction: The Mavericks are building something nice in Dallas, with the foundation of Doncic and Porzingis, but they’re not there yet. Expect the Clippers to make easy work of the Mavericks.

No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Utah Jazz

One of the closer opening series based on the betting odds is the Denver Nuggets against the Utah Jazz. The Nuggets vs. Jazz odds have Denver at around a -210 favorite.

This has the makings of being a fun, competitive series. Plenty of eyeballs will be on the Lakers vs. Blazers and Clippers vs. Mavericks, but this series has some high-quality performers who will go head to head. For Denver, you’ve got Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray as the headliners. For Utah, it’s Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert as the stars. Seeing these two tandems in action and squaring off against each other will be one of the treats of the first round.

No Bojan Bogdanovic is a big blow for the Jazz, so they’ll need to see increased production from Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, and Mike Conley if they want to compete with the Nuggets. Just getting solid production from Mitchell and Gobert likely won’t be enough, especially when you consider some of the quality role players the Nuggets have, such as Will Barton and Michael Porter Jr. Porter put up four games of 23 points or more inside the NBA bubble. Bol Bol is also an interesting player for Denver. He’s been seeing the court in limited minutes but is performing well when he does get out there.

Prediction: A fun, competitive series that goes six or seven games is what we feel is most likely here. As for who comes out on top, we’re looking at the Nuggets. They’re the betting favorite on the Nuggets vs. Jazz lines and we expect Denver to advance on the shoulders of Jokic and Murray.

No. 4 Houston Rockets vs. No. 5 Oklahoma City Thunder

The Houston Rockets take on the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, with the Rockets vs. Thunder odds showing the Rockets as the favorite. The Rockets are the least favored team to win a first-round series, though.

This series features a couple of big-time players who were recently on the other team, with Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. Westbrook was formerly on the Thunder but is now James Harden’s wingman. Paul used to run with Harden but he’s now running the show in Oklahoma City. Both have been very good this season, but the play of Paul has particularly great. Paul is averaging 17.6 points, 6.7 assists, and 5 rebounds this season. He is the biggest reason the Thunder have reached the NBA Playoffs and done so as a No. 5 seed.

The Rockets have the better team, at least on paper. Harden and Westbrook stand out, but then Houston has Robert Covington, PJ Tucker, Eric Gordon, and Austin Rivers. Houston can score and score with the best of them, but they’re also a team that doesn’t play the greatest defense and things can be very bad if they’re not making shots.

Prediction: With the way the Rockets vs. Thunder lines are moving, it appears that Oklahoma City is a popular side. We just don’t think they’re going to have the firepower to hang with the Rockets, though. In a weird way, we think the way basketball is being played inside the NBA bubble caters to Houston’s style of play. The Thunder might win a couple of games, but the Rockets should advance.

No. 2 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 3 Boston Celtics

Many are looking forward to the second-round matchup between the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, and so are we. The Raptors vs. Celtics betting odds have it close, but the Raptors are favored.

The coaching matchup between Nick Nurse and Brad Stevens should be a fun one to watch, as should the duels that take place on the court. When there are players like Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam taking the court, there’s plenty of anticipation.

This series should be competitive and fun. It’s also likely to last six or sevens games. In the end, Toronto’s depth and defensive ability could prove too much for Boston. Had Boston still had Gordon Hayward in the mix, things might be different, but he loss messes a bit with the team’s depth and makes it a clear weakness against the Raptors.

Prediction: We like the Raptors here. For as much as Tatum was able to get his against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, Toronto’s defense on him should be much better. We also like Toronto’s depth a little more. We’ll take the Raptors in seven.

No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Much like we’re looking forward to the Celtics vs. Raptors series, we’re very much looking forward to the Bucks vs. Heat series in the Eastern Conference. Looking at the Bucks vs. Heat odds, the Bucks are the favorites.

The Bucks are led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Heat by Jimmy Butler. These are two well-coached, hard-working teams that could very well push this series to the full seven games. We all know how awesome Antetokounmpo is, and his supporting cast led by Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe is very good, but don’t sleep on this Heat team.

Butler is the Heat’s lead, but Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Goran Dragic, and company are solid players who have been performing very well lately. Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra is one of the best in the league, too. On the other side, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer is also very good.

If Miami is able to lock down on Antetokounmpo, which is easier said than done, they’ve got a good shot at pulling off the upset in this series. For the Bucks, they know the Heat will try and lock down on Antetokounmpo, so Middleton and Bledsoe are going to want to step up.

Prediction: Call us crazy, but we’re taking the Heat to pull off the upset. The strong play of Butler and Adebayo in combination with the team’s proficient shooting will allow them to edge it out over the Bucks. Look for this one to go six or seven games.

NBA Futures Picks

For those of you who have read the pages of SharpSide before, you’ll know we often like to look past the top favorites on the board. A lot can happen in the postseason, and this particular postseason is going to be as unique as they come with everything that is going on involving the coronavirus pandemic and NBA bubble. For one, there is no home-court advantage. All games will be played on neutral courts in front of no fans.

Lining up our favorite NBA futures picks with our predictions for the first round, we like the odds we can get on the Raptors, Rockets, and Heat. As always, make sure you shop around for the best NBA championship odds because prices can differ from sportsbook to sportsbook and you always want to get the best of it.

The Raptors are super well-coached and play a great style of team basketball. Even without Leonard on the roster anymore, the Raptors look very good and there is a real chance we can see them back in the NBA Finals representing the Eastern Conference with a chance to win it all, again.

The Rockets can shoot and score with anyone in the league, and Harden is an absolute juggernaut on the offensive side of the ball. It doesn’t appear that anyone wants to play much defense inside the NBA bubble, which we feel helps the Rockets. The Rockets don’t normally play defense and it has caused them to falter in the past, but if everyone is playing less defense, that’s good for Houston.

The Heat are a lot like the Raptors. They’re well-coached, have some depth, and play a good form of team basketball. In the weaker conference of the two, we don’t rule it out that Miami could make a run at the title and you’re getting a pretty good price on them to win it all.

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