Saturday and Sunday Picks Preview Article


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NBA Playoffs 2024 Best Bets

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks
Saturday, May 18, 2024 at 8 p.m. ET at American Airlines Center

Game 5 Thoughts

Dallas' Game 5 win on the Thunder's home floor has people gaining confidence in the Mavericks' outlook for Game 6 in Dallas.

But this is the wrong way to think about things.

It is not the case that Dallas' road win showed that it is a better team than the Thunder, such that we should expect the Mavs to win at home because they won in Oklahoma City.

Rather, it is the case that the Thunder underperformed in Game 5 despite the fact that they played at home.

They missed many wide-open and a ton of open threes.

To be exact, they missed twelve wide-open threes and 17 open ones. They underperformed tremendously in terms of open and wide-open three-point conversion rates.

The Thunder, though, own the second-best three-point conversion rate on the season. They shoot threes nearly as well on the road as they do at home.

We should expect them to bounce back. Their success shooting threes on the road is a tremendous point because oddsmakers are dogging the Thunder as if playing on the road put them at a real disadvantage.

OKC's Defense

Another reason why I like the underdog tonight is the Thunder defense.

OKC has the Mavs' offense figured out, and, again, it doesn't matter to the Thunder whether they are playing on their home floor or on Dallas'.

In Games 3 and 4, both of which took place in Dallas, the Thunder held the Mavericks to 105 and 96 points, respectively.

The Mavs scored 105 when PJ Washington was their leading scorer, but the Thunder have been able to hold him in check since that game, which was Game 3.

OKC is unique for having quality individual defenders who can, more importantly, contain Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving.

Lu Dort and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander both deserved their All-NBA Defensive Team votes.


Expect the Thunder to bounce back shooting-wise and to continue to play excellent defense.

Playing in Dallas does not bother them, and yet they are underdogs.

I get why oddsmakers are dogging them – this is just what they do for every home and road team. Let's be grateful for the opportunity here.

Best Bet: Thunder +3.5 at -112 with BetOnline

Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks
Sunday, May 19, 2024 at 3:30 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden

Indiana Can Win On The Road

It's tempting to dismiss Indiana's chances in Game 7 because the Pacers are playing on the road.

But let's recall that the Pacers nearly won Game 1, which took place in New York.

Let's also recall that, in the first round, the Pacers won Game 2 in Milwaukee by 17 points.

Indiana's Game 6 Success Will Carry Over

The Pacers won Game 6 116-103.

I love that the Pacers did not win by an absurd margin of victory. The game was close enough to keep them from being complacent, as they were in Game 5.

Their three losses in New York will also give them a chip on their shoulder for this road game.

This being Game 7, with everything on the line, we're going to see them at their best.

They showed in Game 6 much of what they are capable of. They won that game in ways that are sustainable.

Impressively, they did not win by making a barrage of threes. Teams not named the Knicks are statistically likelier to shoot well when they play at home, so Indiana did not rely on their home court advantage to thrive offensively.

Instead, Tyrese Haliburton played to his potential. Pascal Siakam thrived in the paint without having to deal with injured top defender OG Anunoby.

Siakam developed a flow with his success down low, which he extended to the mid-range, where he was knocking down shots.

Having Siakam as a go-to weapon is hugely important for all the instances when the Pacers don't score earlier in the shot clock.

As a last resort, they can have him attack down low against New York's emaciated interior defense.

But Haliburton, Myles Turner, the Pacers' bench, and others are already reliable weapons, too.

Haliburton is the great facilitator who is dangerous from three. Turner is too tough for his Knicks counterpart to account for on the perimeter.

The Pacers' bench boasts two consistent double-digit scorers in Obi Toppin and T.J. McConnell.

New York's Lack of Scoring Talent

New York is too injured to keep up with the Pacers.

Yes, there's Jalen Brunson, but he's one player, and Aaron Nesmith with his length and McConnell effectively limit his field goal percentage when either of them operates as his primary defender.

The Knicks really miss Anunoby's scoring – he is their second-leading scorer in points per game.

Josh Hart, Donte DiVincenzo, and Isaiah Hartenstein too often struggle to reach double digits.

DiVincenzo already had his big game in this series. Hartenstein hasn't posed a scoring threat since Game 2. Hart is banged-up – he wasn't able to return to Game 6 after leaving it with abdominal soreness.

New York's bench is very thin.

Remember that the Pacers held the Knicks to 89 points this series, and, as the adage goes, "defense travels."

I don't see New York having the firepower to keep up with Indiana.

Betting Strategy

Indiana is dogged by two points. There is only one way for Indiana to cover the spread and not win – if the Knicks win by exactly one point.

It is, statistically speaking, extremely improbable that the Knicks win by exactly one point, out of all the possible score lines that the game could finish with.

So, because we love the Pacers in this matchup, let's simply take Indiana on the ML for a plus-money opportunity.

Best Bet: Pacers ML at +108 with BetOnline

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Denver Nuggets
Sunday, May 19, 2024 at 8 p.m. ET at Ball Arena

Forgetting Game 6

Bettors might have regained confidence in the Timberwolves after their blowout win against the Nuggets.

But Game 6 simply isn't representative of what these teams are capable of doing, especially when we're talking about a Game 7.

Denver did not need Game 6, whereas Minnesota did. The Nuggets also knew that Game 7 would be in their venue.

I can see how it might be construed as controversial to claim that a team didn't give effort, in an attempt to defend that team's capability.

But the Nuggets lost by 45 points. If that isn't lack of effort, then I don't know what is.

Denver didn't simply lack effort. It underperformed tremendously insofar as it did give effort.

In particular, the Nuggets missed many open and a ton of wide-open three-pointers.

They missed seven of the former and an absurd 18 of the latter. In terms of conversion rate, they underachieved to an absurd degree.

It is unreasonable to expect such underachievement to continue, especially because Denver shoots so well at home – the Nuggets shoot 38.4 percent from deep at home, which is top-notch.

Denver's Best Is The Best

We've seen Denver at its best. Upon making adjustments after falling behind 2-0 in the series, the Nuggets showed that they can score comfortably on Minnesota's defense.

The Timberwolves thrive on defense by using their length to congest the interior.

But the Nuggets stretched out Minnesota's defense with guys like power forward Aaron Gordon who is shooting the ball superbly from deep in this series.

They give Minnesota too many good players to guard, with Michael Porter Jr. operating as another three-point weapon, complementing the interior prowess of Nikola Jokic, whose array of finesse moves and bully ball inside make him impossible to guard even for four-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert.

A bounce-back game from Jamal Murray, Jokic's characteristically elite facilitating, the normally efficient three-point shooting of Reggie Jackson off the bench, and the versatile scoring of Christian Braun will further help Denver score enough points to cover the spread.

Guarding Minnesota

In Game 6, Minnesota could finally count on Jaden McDaniels' shooting, although he is shooting under 30% from deep in this postseason.

Without him or Gobert posing a threat, Denver is essentially able to guard the Timberwolves five on three.

Minnesota's offense is too easy to guard, whereas the Nuggets with their versatile group of scorers and their depth of talent will have their way on offense.


We've seen the best version of each team. I like Denver's best to beat Minnesota's best by a clear margin, although the Timberwolves won't look remotely as good as they did in Game 6.

This has been a great season for Minnesota, but the defending champs have shown in this series how good they still are. Expect them to bounce back with an in-rhythm offensive output, strong defense, and a double-digit victory.

Best Bet: Nuggets -5 at -110 with BetOnline