Heat vs. Bucks Prediction - Saturday, May 22 NBA Playoff Picks
After a once-in-a-lifetime bubble, an abbreviated offseason, a condensed 72-game schedule, and a week’s worth of play-in games, we’ve finally arrived. The NBA playoffs are here, and with them, a whole new season. While we can certainly learn some things from the regular season, it’s important to remember that all of what happened in the last five months needs to be put into context. Each of these matchups will feature twists and turns that we’re not fully prepared for, starting with a rematch of two teams who faced off last fall in Orlando who seem ripe to give us an absolute classic.
NBA Playoff Predictions
Miami lost two of the three contests these teams played this season, including one by 47 points way back in December, and one last week in a game the Heat could have won to move up into the four/five slot in the East.
They didn’t want to win it. How do we know that? Because Jimmy Butler, who also missed the previous two games, sat this one out. Thanks to his absence, the first three contests don’t mean a thing, just as Miami’s 4-1 gentleman’s sweep in the Orlando bubble shouldn’t be taken as evidence that this will be a walkover.
Just don’t say that too loudly around the Heat. They wanted this matchup, and perhaps with good reason. They have shown the ability to at least slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo, not only with All-Defense candidate Bam Adebayo but with Butler as something of a free safety, not to mention a scheme that has a few pivots it can resort to if the first or second looks don’t work out.
That puts the onus on Milwaukee to hit its threes, which they do better this year thanks to some offseason additions. But even if they’re accurate, the Heat sport the 3rd best offense in the league over the last 15 games. They also have the clear coaching advantage with Spo, and will be the more prepared team in this game.
Given the spread here, that’s enough to pick the lower seed.
The Pick: Heat +4.5 @ +100
Everyone seems to think this will be the first step in a romp to the conference finals for the Clippers, thanks in part to the coaching change with Ty Lue, and the humbling experience they had in the bubble that saw them lose a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets.
Don’t be so sure. Since April 1, the Mavs have a better record than the Clippers with a higher scoring offense. Their defense continues to be an issue, but the Clips have just the 13th ranked offense in basketball over the last 15 games.
Really, this series will test the superstar status of Luca Doncic. He will likely wind up making First Team All-NBA, but by his own standards, this season may have been a disappointment, as he shot just 35 percent from deep. More importantly, he never seemed to get on the same page as his would-be co-star, Kristaps Porzingis.
If those two can somehow put aside their differences and create the sort of synergy that Dallas thought it was trading for in the 7’3” Latvian, this could be a very different series than most observers think.
Either way, Luca by himself means that the Mavs will be in every game, and this line doesn’t represent the appropriate level of respect.
The Pick: Mavericks +5.5 @ +100
Of the eight matchups in these playoffs, none seem to have the sweep potential that this one does.
The Celtics couldn’t have limped their way into the playoffs more pathetically. They went 5-10 down the stretch and at one point were 2-9 against the spread in the midst of that drought. They wound up with an eight-point win at home against the Wizards in the play-in game, but Bradley Beal clearly wasn’t himself and Russell Westbrook had arguably his worst game in weeks.
Now, they go into Brooklyn about to face a buzz saw. The Nets ended the season winning and covering five in a row. They have all three of their stars healthy, and the numbers from when those three play together this season don’t do their potential offensive impact justice.
In years past, you’d have taken some solace in a solid Celtic defense, but that memo appears to have gotten lost this year. Boston ended the year just 13th in defensive rating, and in their three losses to Brooklyn, they gave up 123, 121 and 109 points. That last total came in a game neither Kevin Durant nor James Harden played in. They’ll both be ready to go here.
Take advantage of a spread that’s under double digits while you can.
The Pick: Nets -8 @ -105
In one of the more evenly matched first-round series, we get a rematch of the Western Conference semifinals from two years ago, won by Portland in seven games.
Back then, Nikola Jokic was just your run-of-the-mill All-NBA center, as opposed to what should be a close to unanimous MVP. Even after Jamal Murray went down, Denver continued to impress, and their third seed is no accident, andMichael Porter Jr. is a Most Improved Player finalist with good reason.
Portland may have Dame Lillard, but this is a bad matchup for the Blazers as long as the Nuggets can hit their open threes. With Jokic at point-center, they’re able to spread the floor and launch away, and against the Blazers’ 29th ranked defense that also ranks 24th in opponents’ 3-point percentage, that’s a significant advantage.
Historically, MVP’s don’t often lose in the first round, especially when they’re on a top-three seed. Portland will probably get a few games this series, but it won’t be this one, and with a spread this small, the choice is an easy one.
The Pick: Nuggets -1 @ -109
NBA Playoff Picks
Heat +4.5 @ +100 (Click to bet)
Mavericks +5.5 @ +100 (Click to bet)
Nets -8 @ -105 (Click to bet)
Nuggets -1 @ -109 (Click to bet)