Best Bets Emerging with NBA Playoff Field Decided

We now know which teams are going to be in this year’s NBA playoffs. The 10 teams that are going to be in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference are in. Still to be determined are many of the top seeds, and who is tasked with having to compete in the NBA’s Play-In Tournament.

The Top of the East

The Boston Celtics are the best team in the NBA, and they long ago clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Boston is -160 to emerge from the Eastern Conference Playoffs and make it to the NBA Finals, and they are the favorite to win it all, paying +175.

However, the No. 2 seed is very much in play.

It currently belongs to Milwaukee. But on Tuesday night, the Bucks watched Giannis Antetokounmpo go down in the third quarter, holding his calf. It may not be too serious, but the timing couldn’t be worse. The Bucks finally ended a four-game losing streak, but there are still three games left, and they have a New York Knicks team right on their heels.

The Cleveland Cavaliers also have a shot at the second seed, as do the Orlando Magic, who play the Bucks on Wednesday and again on Sunday’s final day of the regular season.

The Cavs are paying +1300 to win the East, the Knicks are +1400, and Orlando is a longshot at +4500.

The Top of the West

Unlike the Celtics, no one in the Western Conference has claimed the top seed. The Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets are currently tied with identical 55-24 records, and they play each other Wednesday night in Denver. Save to say, it is a huge game, with all kinds of implications for the playoffs.

The winner on Wednesday won’t clinch the No. 1 seed, but it will be close. The Nuggets are six-point favorites at home, coming off a 111-95 win on Tuesday at Utah. Overall, Denver has won four of its last five games, and Minnesota has won four of five. This is a game worth watching.

The top three seeds in the West will be some combination of the Nuggets, Timberwolves, and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks are virtually locked into the fourth and fifth seeds, and that will be a great first round series.

Odds to win the Western Conference favor the Nuggets at +150. The Clippers are next at +370, followed by the Thunder at +750 and the Timberwolves at +850. The Phoenix Suns are unlikely to be anything higher than a seven seed, but they are paying +900 to make the NBA Finals.

Play-In Probabilities

Tuesday, April 16, is when the NBA’s Play-In Tournament will begin. The Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks will play in the No. 9 vs. No. 10 game. The teams in the seventh and eighth seeds are still to be determined, but are most likely going to be the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat.

The Indiana Pacers sit a game ahead of the Sixers and Heat, but they own tiebreakers against both teams, and are in a good position to avoid dropping into a play-in scenario. 

When it comes to betting odds, the difference between seven and eight and nine and ten is like falling off a cliff. The Heat are paying +1200 to win the East, while the Sixers are +750. But the Bulls and Hawks are way down at the bottom of the barrel, each paying +50000 to win their way to the NBA Finals.

The West is far less settled, although at the moment, all signs point to a No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors. Golden State just beat L.A. on Tuesday, giving them the tiebreaker over the Lakers should the teams tie for the ninth seed.

The seventh and eighth seeds could be the Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, or the Phoenix Suns. And if things get really crazy this weekend, the Lakers or Warriors could even play themselves into the seven or eight. 

Outside of the Suns at +900, none of the other teams at the bottom of the conference have strong odds to make a playoff run. The Lakers and Warriors are +2500 to win the Western Conference, the Pelicans are +3000, and the Kings have the longest odds at +6000.

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