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Eytan Shander previews Monday's NBA slate with betting picks for the opening games of the playoffs

The playoffs have arrived! We made it. The 8-game restart provided a ton of entertainment and even some good value. Now it’s time to see the best teams shine while trying to find that upset, or two, on the day. You won’t have to look far as both Utah and Philadelphia could provide just that. Also, a total or two to eye as the defense-less bubble shouldn’t stray too far away in playoff mode.

Philadelphia 76ers vs Boston Celtics Predictions

The expectations should be tempered quite a bit for the Simmons-less Sixers, but that doesn’t mean they can’t score. The team is actually healthy outside of missing Ben Simmons, so Joel Embiid and company are going to get buckets. Tobias Harris and even Al Horford can easily pour in 20+ each. The biggest factor is how little Boston has to offer slowing down Embiid. The guy could go for 40 tonight if he plays enough minutes. To add to this equation, their defense has already been quite poor – even with Simmons on the floor – so stopping Boston is a big issue. This is actually a lower number, but it’s based on two things. Simmons scored 19+ points in the three matchups between the team teams. The other factor is how well Boston played Embiid, who was able to defer to Simmons. The Sixers won’t have any issue replacing the scoring, as we have already seen, but the bigger issue remains about how much of a tear Embiid can go on. Boston has too much firepower in the backcourt for Philadelphia, so expect a lot of 3’s from both teams.

PICK: OVER 218.5 @ -105 

Brooklyn Nets vs Toronto Raptors Predictions

There may not have been a quieter start to the bubble action than Toronto going 7-1. Clearly the teams out west in Portland and Phoenix stole the show, but the defending champs are focused and healthy. Brooklyn on the other hand is still down a ton of players and won’t get the benefit of taking on a team resting stars. The Nets are going to have to score a lot of points to hit this low number and I’m just not convinced they can. Nick Nurse has the Raptors playing aggressive on defense and being one of the few teams that’s had success stopping runs. Add the lack of fireworks on the Nets plus how much they will try and press in the first game. The equation just screams under to me, especially knowing how much effort you will see from Toronto on the defensive side of the floor. The Nets might not win a quarter let alone cover this game, but one thing I’m sure of is they will struggle – mightily – to score the basketball.

PICK: Under 222 @ -108

Dallas Mavericks vs Los Angeles Clippers Predictions

This is going to be an uphill battle for the Mavs to beat the Clippers. Good news here is that we only need them to win the first quarter, which is actually quite doable. Dogs have played favorites really hard in the first quarter/halves so far, and this game should be no exception. Dallas comes out with a full squad looking to shoot as many 3’s as the Rockets, plus a healthy Kristaps Porzingis should bring a second level of offense on the floor. Luka Doncic is going to push the basketball right away, making it tough for the Clippers to keep up, again, right away. The game will be won and covered by the Clippers, but there is value in LA not being complete. Three players come in as questionable, and at least one may not even play. It’s been the theme for LA during the bubble, trying to make do with what they have, missing some players in each game. While this won’t be a long lasting problem, maybe not even as long as this game itself, it should be enough of a stumbling block out of the gates, and if Dallas can knock down shots, they will be playing with a 1st quarter lead!

PICK: Mavericks 1st Qtr Winner @ +140

Utah Jazz vs Denver Nuggets Predictions

Both of these teams limped through the bubble restart, winning 3 games each and resting a bunch of starters. The Jazz did it more so out of luxury while the Nuggets did it out of necessity. Denver will still be without Gary Harris and Will Barton, while Utah looks to overcome the loss of Mike Conley. The key here is the large amount of points UniBet is offering at a ridiculous clip. These games between the two teams will be close, and you already know the type of interior defense Utah is capable of playing. The Jazz have a legit shot at knocking off the Nuggets outright, including winning this series. I like the ability of Utah to negate a lot of what Jokic does down low, sending Rudy Gobert out to clean the glass. Denver can play at a fast pace, as can Utah, but when things slow down it’s advantage Jazz.

PICK: Utah Jazz +8 @ +155


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