NBA Playoffs First Round Predictions & Picks

Last Updated: Apr 18, 2024

It’s the best time of the year to be an NBA fan. The postseason is finally getting underway, with the first round of the playoffs beginning this Saturday, April 20.

While professional basketball is definitively more chalky than the NCAA Tournament, there are certainly still upsets. For example, take the Miami Heat, which made a run to the NBA Finals in 2023 as the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed.

Before the action begins, we’ve put together a list of the best bets you can make on the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Act fast, because these lines won’t last forever.

All NBA odds are current as of Thursday, April 18, at 10 a.m. ET.

NBA Playoffs First Round Best Bets

Pacers -1.5 Games (+135) vs Bucks

DraftKings Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit

Milwaukee couldn’t have gotten a worse draw in the first round. Indiana gave the Bucks genuine fits this year — particularly around the time of the In-Season Tournament — and won the regular-season series 4-1.

The silver lining for Milwaukee is that the two sides haven’t met since Jan. 3, and each has changed dramatically since then. The Pacers added Pascal Siakam, for one, while the Bucks made an in-season coaching change and brought in Doc Rivers.

With that said, it’s fair to say that there are questions about how well Rivers has worked out for Milwaukee. The Bucks have gone 17-19 under his direction, and while the team’s defense has improved in that time, Indiana’s second-ranked offense remains a considerable threat.

Plus, with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s status in question for at least the first game of the series, Milwaukee could find itself playing from behind by the time he returns.

Look for the Pacers to win the series by at least two games and make this your NBA bet of the day.

Knicks Win Series (-105) vs 76ers

DraftKings Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit

Despite earning the East’s No. 2 seed, the Knicks are listed as (-105) underdogs ahead of their series with the 76ers. Of course, Philadelphia isn’t your typical No. 7 — the 76ers only finished three games behind New York in the standings — but it’s still a bit jarring to see.

The Knicks deserve more credit, plain and simple. This team is led by an elite defense and one of the game’s premier rising stars in Jalen Brunson, who averaged 33.1 points over his final 20 games of the season.

New York also returned defensive stalwart OG Anunoby in early April, and his on the team is undeniable. The Knicks went 20-3 in games he played in this season, with all three losses coming by eight points or less.

Joel Embiid is a force, but Philly went just 1-3 against New York this year and lost the one contest he appeared in by 36 points. We obviously shouldn’t expect to see the Sixers lose by such a wide margin each night, but as currently constructed, they don’t have what it takes to upend the Knicks.

Suns -1.5 Games (+135) vs Timberwolves

DraftKings Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit

The Timberwolves should be commended for putting together such a stellar campaign. Minnesota won 56 games while posting the league’s No. 1 defensive rating and was in position for the West’s No. 1 seed until the final day of the regular season.

Unfortunately for Anthony Edwards’ side, the T-Wolves got stuck with a nightmare matchup in the first round. The Suns had Minny’s number all year, sweeping the season series 3-0 and winning each meeting by at least 10 points.

Minnesota does an exceptional job of funneling opponents into the mid-range, but that’s exactly where Phoenix wants to be. Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal excel at all three levels.

This will be a competitive series — there’s no way the Timberwolves get swept — but Suns in six feels like a fairly likely outcome. Back Phoenix to cover this 1.5-game series spread.

Clippers vs Mavericks: Goes To 7 Games (+190)

DraftKings Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit

This will be the third time in the last five years that the Clippers and Mavericks meet in the first round of the playoffs. LA won 4-2 in 2020 and 4-3 in 2021, overcoming a 2-0 deficit in the most recent series.

Things are a bit different now that Dallas has Kyrie Irving, who, alongside Luka Dončić, helped guide the Mavs to a 16-4 record over their final 20 games. However, the same could be said for the Clippers, who have since paired Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with James Harden.

LA won the season series 2-1 and should have the upper hand when at full strength, but with Leonard’s health in question, the door is open for Dallas to take an early advantage. Once he’s made available, though, I expect this one to swing in the Clippers’ favor.

No matter how it turns out, this should be one of the most competitive first-round matchups. Oddsmakers anticipate a six- or seven-game series — both options are available for (+190) at DraftKings — but I lean toward the latter.

NBA Playoffs Odds Tonight

Check out our odds widget below to see the latest lines available for tonight’s postseason games.


Garrett Chorpenning

Garrett Chorpenning is the Lead NBA Editor for The Game Day. His previous work includes covering the LA Clippers for Sports Illustrated and FanSided. He graduated from Ball State University in 2021.

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