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NBA Postseason Best Bets (5/10)

NBA Bets

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Alex Christenson

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Welcome to Hoops with Noops! It’s amazing how quickly and sharply thing can change in the NBA playoffs. Injuries can happen at any time and completely change the direction a team is headed. Some teams are built better to handle loss than others, but even with depth they have to reorganize lineups and adjust strategy. Young players generally struggle under the intensity of the playoffs but some grow leaps and bounds and excel in big moments.

Friday, we have two games that have been shaped by injury and have changed our expectations for the teams. Let’s go through each, see what we can expect, and try to find some value in the betting markets.

Of course, since it’s Friday you can watch a video version of Hoops with Noops on the FTN Network YouTube channel. If you have any questions about something I missed or bets of your own, leave them in the comments section of that video and I’ll reply there.

NBA Best Bets for Friday

New York Knicks at Indiana Pacers

Current Line – Pacers -7.5, 222.5
My Projection – Pacers 117, Knicks 108
Key Injuries – OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson are out. Jalen Brunson and Tyrese Haliburton are questionable.

The Knicks have a two-game lead as they head to Indiana for Game 3, but not everyone who played in those first two games will be available. OG Anunoby strained his hamstring and is out for at least a few games. That was not enough to sink New York in Game 2 — thanks to a great shooting night and making eight more free throws the Knicks dominated the third quarter and won the game by nine. Tyrese Haliburton had his best game of the postseason, scoring 34 points and going 7-of-11 from three. On the other hand, Myles Turner and Pascal Siakam struggled and have yet to play up to the level we saw from them in Round 1. Perhaps a return to their home court and the lack of Anunoby will unlock their best basketball. Indiana is going to need it if they want to go back to New York with the series at two games apiece.

Game 2 closed with the Knicks as 4.5-point favorites with the total at 219. There have been two big changes that require that number to be adjusted. First, and most obvious, moving from New York to Indiana requires a big shift in the spread. We have generally seen a 7- to 8-point move when the series changes locations. An eight-point adjustment would get us to the Pacers being 3.5-/4.5-point favorites. The second thing is moving the spread is the loss of Anunoby. It’s not only the value of OG to New York but also the impact of the players replacing his minutes. The Knicks are running out of healthy guys, which mean Tom Thibodeau will either have to push a few guys to play the entire game or try playing Alec Burks. I expect more of the former than the latter, but either puts New York in a much worse spot without Anunoby. With the current spread at 7.5, the market is telling us that OG being out is worth 3-4 points, which seems fair to me. This spread makes sense to me and is fairly close to my projection, so I’m not going to bet it.

I am, however, off the market when it comes to the total. The total for Game 1 closed at 217, Game 2 closed at 219 and Friday’s total is 222.5 as I write this. Both of those games went more than 20 points over the total. Pace has been quick for the postseason, both teams are generating free throws, and shooting threes efficiently. I see no reason for that to change given how fast the Pacers play in Indiana and how the Knicks defense will struggle without Anunoby. I don’t mind betting the full game over, but instead I’m just going to play the Pacers team total over 114.5. Most of the reasons I like this over and see value in it is tied to Indiana’s performance. Role players generally play better at home and I think the Pacers are going to get some easier looks and maybe even some more fastbreak points with Anunoby out and the Knicks likely fatigued. I expect Indiana to score 117 points and I see more upside than downside in that projection. I’ll bet the Pacers to score over 114.5 points.

Bet

Indiana Pacers Team Total Over 114.5 (-120, DraftKings Sportsbook)

Denver Nuggets at Minnesota Timberwolves

Current Line – Timberwolves -3.5, 205
My Projection – Timberwolves 104, Nuggets 102
Key Injuries – Jamal Murray, Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are questionable.

The second game of this series was one of the stranger games I’ve ever seen. The Timberwolves absolutely dominated the Nuggets — they won the first half by 26 points and were in control of the game for all 48 minutes. Denver was -16 points in the 39 minutes Nikola Jokic played. Jamal Murray is very clearly limited by his calf injury, as was Reggie Jackson. That doesn’t leave any other ball-handlers for the Nuggets to use which has allowed the Timberwolves to aggressively double Jokic. Anthony Edwards has been the best player in both games. Karl-Anthony Towns and Naz Reid are making threes and holding their own against Jokic. Minnesota’s secondary players are all contributing. Through two games, both played in Denver, the Timberwolves have looked like the much better team and are now the favorites win the Western Conference. The Nuggets were the favorite to win the Western Conference and now have the highest odds to win the West.

Game 2 closed with Denver as 7.5-point favorites with a total of 210. That was a three-point adjustment to the spread from Game 1 because Rudy Gobert didn’t play in Game 2. Gobert is back, we are now playing Minnesota, and the spread has moved 10 points from Game 2. If Gobert is worth the three-point change we saw from Game 1 to Game 2 that leaves seven points of adjustment for the change in venue. I think that’s fair although maybe a little small of a change for going from the altitude of Denver to Minnesota. The total was 210 for the first two games and is down five points for tonight after two consecutive unders. The pace has been very slow and I agree with the books’ decision to drop the total for tonight. My projections are close to the current odds and to be honest, my brain is struggling to figure out what is going on in this series. Are the Nuggets just too banged up to play well? Is Nikola Jokic as confused and overwhelmed as he has looked? At 22 years old, is Anthony Edwards ready to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves into the NBA finals? Is what we saw the last two games the new reality or a short span of bad variance for the Nuggets? I really don’t know and as I mentioned, my model is close to the market. I can’t bet this game.

Bet

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