After going a 5/6 in the Play-In games, our NBA picks are ready for the playoffs! We have previewed & analysed all four of today’s games for you.
There is so much anticipation surrounding all of these series, including both the Heat v Bucks and Mavericks v Clippers matchups being rematches of last season’s playoffs!!
Our NBA experts have taken the time to find all of the information available to answer any questions you might have before placing your bets today! Read on below for our in-depth analysis and winners of each of the four games.
Miami Heat @ Milwaukee Bucks (Game 1) – 2pm EDT
Potentially the most intriguing opening round matchup across the entire playoffs as the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat go head to head in a rematch of last season’s second round. There will be plenty of feeling in this one after the Heat eliminated the Bucks on their way to the NBA Finals last postseason, with many calling Miami the bogey-team for Milwaukee.
These sides met three times this year with Milwaukee winning two of them, however Jimmy Butler didn’t face the Bucks during any of the regular season fixtures. There is no doubting that Butler is the heart and soul of the Heat, evidenced by their 33-19 record with him, compared to being just 7-13 without him.
Erik Spoelstra seems to have their rotation figured out with Butler and Bam Adebayo running the starting lineup with the dynamic duo of Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro coming off the bench to keep the offense rolling. What is most important for Miami is that they match up perfectly with the Bucks and their defensive schemes always seem to slow the Bucks down.
Jimmy Butler is playoff ready 😤
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 20, 2021
However, this Milwaukee team is better than the one we saw last season. The additions of Jrue Holiday and PJ Tucker give the Bucks more grit on defense, as well as play making and shooting on offense. With those two in the rotation, along with the spectacular, consistent play of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and the entire returning squad meant that Milwaukee finished with the fourth best net rating in the league while being just one of two teams to finish in the top eight for offensive and defensive rating.
While Milwaukee was able to win two of the three matchups, Giannis averaged just 16.67 points per game, proving that Miami’s defensive schemes give him trouble. It doesn’t help the Heat that nearly every other Bucks player had great shooting nights and allowed Milwaukee to still average 125 points per game against them.
Butler’s return to the lineup will help bolster up the Heat’s defense and get it to a level that saw them finish seventh in the league on that end of the floor. However, with Milwaukee being at home and having a lot to prove against the Heat, this one might just be too hard for Miami to overcome. There has been so much expectation surrounding this matchup and Milwaukee weren’t happy with their treatment following their shock exit last postseason. Miami will definitely put up a great fight but the Bucks will draw first blood this afternoon.
Dallas Mavericks @ Los Angeles Clippers (Game 1) – 4:30pm EDT
We have another rematch of last year’s postseason with the Los Angeles Clippers hosting the Dallas Mavericks in the opening round yet again. In what was a hotly contested series, the Clippers escaped after six games but it wasn’t without a scare from Luka Doncic and the Mavs.
Much like this season, Kristaps Porzingis dealt with injury issues that hampered his ability to perform. However, his absence allowed Doncic to shine throughout the six games despite getting swamped by multiple LA defenders. His 42 points in game one was the most points in a playoff debut in league history and then his game four buzzer beater for the win in overtime, tying the series 2-2, made him the younger player to hit a game winner as time expired in playoff history.
There is no doubting Doncic’s incredible ability to put the Mavericks on his back but with Porzingis back in the lineup and Josh Richardson added in the offseason, this Dallas team is better equipped to deal with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Clippers. The Mavs won the season series 2-1, including a 124-73 blowout back in December. Dallas certainly has payback on its mind and a bit of an edge this season, but the Clippers are still more experienced and know that they can win a series against this side.
Clippers-Mavericks, round 2, is set. pic.twitter.com/uOPvl9g0Z6
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) May 17, 2021
Another big plus for the Clippers is that they are back to full health across the board. Both Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley, who missed substantial chunks of the season, were able to get on the floor and re-build some chemistry in the final games of the season. Those final games of the season for the Clippers were quite scrutinised, with many believing they intentionally tanked to avoid the Lakers, but they simply could have been attempting to set up a matchup with a Dallas side they know they can beat.
If you take away the blowout game to begin the season, where both Leonard and Porzingis didn’t play, it was a very even contest in the other two games. One saw Luka Doncic finish with a triple double but the Mavs still lost by 10 to a Clippers side that had seven score in double figures. They then played two nights later and Dallas held LA to just 9/32 from deep, with Luka scoring 42 points to give the Mavs the edge.
Given the amount of talk surrounding them at the moment, we expect the Clippers to come out and silence the critics. Dallas may have had the edge during the regular season but the playoffs are a completely different game and LA has championship and playoff experience throughout the rotation and coaching staff. The Clippers worked hard for home court advantage and they will utilise it perfectly this afternoon.
Boston Celtics @ Brooklyn Nets (Game 1) – 8pm EDT
We have the first of the Play-In winners in action as the Boston Celtics, who won their way into the seventh seed, face the Brooklyn Nets in a highly anticipated matchup. Not only is this the first playoff game for Brooklyn’s Big Three, but it also pits Kyrie Irving against his former team and extends the breakout season of Jayson Tatum, who some compare to Kevin Durant.
Tatum was instrumental in the Celtics’ 118-100 win over the Wizards on Tuesday night, scoring a massive 50 points. Kemba Walker continued to thrive as the second option, with Jaylen Brown sidelined, scoring 29 points, with the pair combining for 11 threes on the night. With Evan Fournier and Marcus Smart shooting just 6/19 between them, Boston’s fate is solely up to the duo of Tatum and Walker, but can they keep up with the Big Three?
Nets vs. Celtics 1st round matchup is set. 👀🔥 pic.twitter.com/9cK5A4NVCK
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) May 19, 2021
The Nets are the +210 favorites to win this season’s NBA Championship for one reason. They have three top 20 players on their roster in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. While that seems to be an unstoppable combination, they have managed just eight games together during the regular season due to numerous injuries and there are still questions over their ability to perform together on the big stage, with their backs against the wall.
However, they may not have that tough of a time against a Boston side that is missing, arguably, their second best player, and that they beat all three times during the regular season. In the one game where Tatum, Walker and Brown played for Boston, the Nets were without Durant but still won by 12 points. Brooklyn didn’t face the Celtics with all three stars in the lineup and should be primed to unleash an offensive onslaught in this one.
Portland Trail Blazers @ Denver Nuggets (Game 1) – 10:30pm EDT
The final game of the opening night of the playoffs sees the Portland Trail Blazers travel mile high to take on the Denver Nuggets. These two sides are very familiar with each other, having played each other on Sunday, but also facing off in the 2019 playoffs, where Portland advanced to the Western Conference Finals after defeating the Nuggets in a tough seven game series.
Portland’s recent postseason success over the Nuggets, as well as their 16 point win on Sunday has to give them a bunch of confidence heading into the opening round, even if Denver won the regular season matchups 2-1. The Blazers come into the playoffs having won 10 of their last 12 games, turning their season around and avoiding the Play-In games with inspired performances across the board, but particularly Damian Lillard.
The Blazers dominate the Nuggets to clinch a playoff spot and avoid the Play-In Tournament. pic.twitter.com/51PYPcD7OS
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 17, 2021
Over that 12 game stretch, Lillard averaged over 30 points per game, including a heroic 41 point effort in Phoenix last week, despite the Blazers losing that by just one point. He hasn’t been alone though, with CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, Norman Powell and Carmelo Anthony all hitting shots and playing their roles perfectly to finish the season.
Denver on the other hand stumbled into the postseason, going just 4-4 across their last eight games and it will be interesting to see how they go under the heightened pressure of the playoffs with no Jamal Murray. There is no doubt that Nikola Jokic, the runaway favorite for MVP, will give his all every night, but there are still questions that need to be answered. Will the inexperienced Michael Porter Jr continue to hit timely shots and will the lacklustre starting combination of Facundo Campazzo, Aaron Gordon and Austin Rivers be able to deliver on the big stage.
This game is essentially a pick ‘em, with the Nuggets being favored by just one point in the spread. Denver have certainly been a class team all season and were impressive to deal with the loss of Murray and then also Will Barton shortly after. However, Portland is one of the hottest teams in the league right now and we are expecting Dame Time to show up big in game 1. The Blazers continue to play with a chip on their shoulder and the confidence from last week will carry over to tonight’s performance and allow them to steal one on the road.
If you need more news, information and predictions, head over to our NBA hub page for all your basketball needs.
*Odds and spreads correct at time of publication, courtesy of FanDuel.
Want more picks? We have just launched our Premium Picks service, and for a limited time only, it is free! *T&Cs Apply.