Betting Analysis for Jazz vs. Mavericks, Raptors vs. 76ers and More Game 1s (April 16)

The NBA Playoffs are here and I’ll be providing projections for both Games 1-2 and 3-4. The totals should remain the same despite the venue change, but there is a difference.

Here’s what you’ll find in my model: projected team totals, projected combined totals, projected spreads for the matchup and the implied odds for the moneyline.

I’ll also be highlighting some of the entire playoff slate with in-depth, game-level analysis that goes beyond the numbers.

NBA Projections Model

NBA Playoffs Odds & Picks

Note: My projections won’t be updated in real-time throughout the day, but Action’s PRO Projections tool is dynamic and will reflect the latest injury and lineup news.

Check out my analysis for a few of the weekend’s Round 1 matchups.

Utah Jazz vs. Dallas Mavericks

Pick
passes
game time
1 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN

This series between the Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks has been drastically altered by a calf injury to Mavericks star Luka Doncic.

The Mavericks are just 8-9 without Doncic this season, and there’s been a tremendous drop-off in the offense without his presence. Given his combination of scoring and playmaking, the Mavericks are scoring 115.5 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor vs 111.1 with him off the floor (+4.4).

I spoke with Drew Dinsick (@whalecapper) who has Doncic’s presence on the floor as being worth 4.5 points in their first round matchup against the Utah Jazz and 3.5 points vs the average team.

Without Doncic, the Mavericks are one point worse than the average team. With my power ratings having the Mavericks as the eighth-best team in the league, this is a significant drop-off that puts them below average teams like the Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers.

My model with both teams at full strength makes the Mavericks -1.5, so if you take remove 4.5 points for the Doncic absence this line should be around Jazz -3 on the road. That means there likely is some value on the Mavericks — the Jazz are up to -6 at some books. This is a tough game to play and I’ll personally will be staying away from either side.

There’s generally a motivational edge when a team is missing their star player and we could likely see that here with the Mavericks. However, Doncic means so much to this team and in a playoff setting they could be overmatched.

The Jazz still have a top-10 offense and defense and rank third in Net Rating (6.2). With the Mavericks lacking bigs, Rudy Gobert should dominate on both sides of the ball and the Jazz should dominate inside against a Mavericks team that ranks 23rd in opponent field goal percentage at the rim (66.5%).

However, they’re on the verge of imploding, blowing double digit leads every week and this is a team which is under performing the market, going just 31-41 (43.1%) against the spread as a favorite and 14-19 (42.4 %) as a favorite road.

The total is intriguing as we’ve seen this drop from the opener of 215.5 to 209 which is likely too low given how much both of these teams shoot the behind the arc. The Jazz are shooting a league leading 43.3% of their field goal attempts from behind the arc while the Mavericks are fifth, shooting 40.8% of their attempts from 3-point range.

These are two top tier defenses, however, and with both teams in the bottom-10 in pace, this is a stay away for me.


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Minnesota Timberwolves vs. memphis grizzlies

Read
grizzlies
game time
3:30 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN

The Timberwolves take on the Grizzlies in what is likely going to be the most exciting first round playoff series. My model makes the Grizzlies -6.7 for their home games, right in line with the market, but the Wolves have some significant edges, particularly with their half-court offense. That’s what makes this matchup particularly intriguing.

The Grizzlies rank fourth in Offensive rating (115.8) and fifth in Defensive Rating (109.6); they’re one of the deepest teams in the league with Ja Morant at the helm with a core of Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr and Dillon Brooks.

Despite how great the Grizzlies were in the regular season, they are really good at things that can be neutralized in a playoff setting — transition scoring and offensive rebounding — while the Wolves have the better half-court offense, scoring 97.0 points per 100 possessions ( 14th) while the Grizzlies are scoring just 93.4, which ranks 22nd.

Karl-Anthony Towns is a major matchup problem for the Grizzlies and he’s averaging 23.3 points on 52.1% shooting along with 9.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in four games against the Grizzlies this season.

The Wolves put up an Offensive Rating of 121 across the season series, however, they’ve scored 111.5 per 100 possessions on the road compared to 130.9 at home so there is likely to be a drastic difference between the home/road splits in this series .

Home-court will likely loom large here as the Grizzlies are 30-11 straight up and 27-14 against the spread at home while the Wolves are 20-21 SU and 21-20 ATS on the road. The Wolves are a solid home team going 26-15 SU and 22-18-1 ATS at home. I trust the Grizzlies to win a road game before the Wolves and with the Wolves being the more undisciplined team, I think the Grizzlies should pull this series out.

Overall, I’d likely play this series looking to back home teams. However, it’s worth it to note that teams that won the Play-In Tournament have been successful in Game 1s in the very short sample we have.

We’ve seen the Portland Trail Blazers (2020) and Memphis Grizzlies (2021) win their first game off the Play-In and Washington Wizards covered in Game 1 agains the Philadelphia 76ers last year.


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Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Pick
76ers -4.5
game time
6 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN

One of my favorite axioms in sports betting is to avoid the public underdog and that phrase couldn’t be any more relevant than in Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers series. The Raptors are the trendy pick to upset the 76ers among fans, analysts, scouts and bettors, but personally, I’m not buying it.

A few things in life are guaranteed: Death, taxes and the Raptors losing Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. Since 1995, the Raptors have made the postseason 12 times. They’ve lost Game 1 in 11 of those 12 series with the only exception being their 2020 first round series against the Brooklyn Nets in the Orlando bubble.

Past trends aside, the 76ers are the far more talented team and have Joel Embiid, the best player in the series and a finalist for league MVP the last two seasons.

The Raptors don’t have any bigs who can defend Embiid — Precious Achiuwa, Khem Birch and Chris Boucher are 6-foot-9 or shorter — who is averaging 30.6 points on 49.9% shooting along with 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists this season. The Raptors rank 22nd in opponent field goal percentage at the rim (66.3%), so I expect Embiid to dominate inside.

With James Harden playing alongside Embiid, the 76ers rank first in Free Throw Rate (23.3%) and are attempting 28.2 free throws per game since the All-Star break. The Raptors rank 21st in opponent free throw rate (20) so expect the 76ers to get to the line at will.

All those free throws will hurt the Raptors on the opposite end of the floor as they generate much of their offense in transition. The Raptors rank fourth in transition points per 100 possessions (3.6), but they struggle to score in the half court, scoring just 91.3 points per 100 possessions.

In the playoffs, the game tends to slow down and they’ll be facing a 76ers defense that ranks seventh in Half-Court Defensive Rating (93). Scoring will be a struggle for the Raptors in Game 1, particularly on the road where role players tend not to play as well as they would at home

The 76ers’ weakness is their bench, however their starting lineup is one of the best in the NBA this season. In 20 games and 323 minutes, the Harden-Tyrese Maxey-Matisse Thybulle-Tobias Harris-Embiid lineup has the second-best Net Rating in the league, outscoring teams by +20.2 per 100 possessions.

Since trading for Harden, Harris and Maxey are thriving in their roles, both shooting 40% from behind the arc. With the Raptors allowing the eighth-highest frequency of 3-point field goal attempts and ranking 18th in opponent 3-point shooting percentage (36%), I expect the 76ers offense to shoot well from behind the arc.

With teams electing to shorten rotations in the postseason, this 76ers starting lineup should overcome their deficiencies of their bench unit. While many may look to the Doc Rivers-Nick Nurse coaching matchup as a mismatch, I don’t believe Nurse can overcome the talent disparity here.

I had home court in the NBA postseason last season priced at around six points and since Thybulle will be available for home games, this feels like a good spot to buy low on a 76ers team that is undervalued by the public.

I’ll lay the 4.5 points with the 76ers and I’ve also taken them to win the series at -184.


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Denver Nuggets vs. Golden State Warriors

Pick
Warriors -6.5
game time
8:30 p.m. ET
TV
ABC

Stephen Curry will return to the floor for Game 1 and all indications from team practices are that he should be fully able to play — though head coach Steve Kerr will monitor his minutes.

Nikola Jokic is arguably having one of the greatest seasons of all time but he can’t win a playoff series by himself. The biggest issue the Nuggets will have will be dealing with the Warriors’ stellar guards Curry, Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson. That Austin Rivers is likely the best option to defend Curry does not bode well for the Nuggets here.

The Nuggets have struggled to defend recently, allowing 118.1 points per 100 possessions over the past two weeks. They’re 17th in Defensive eFG% (55.1%), 28th eFG% at the rim (69.3%) and 15th in opponent three point shooting percentage (37.3%). As much as this Warriors offense is struggling, they should be able to score efficiently here.

With the Warriors having the league’s second best Defensive Rating (107.6) and Draymond Green to slow down Jokic, I’m expecting a dominant Warriors performance in the first playoff game in Chase Center, where they’ve been dominant going 31-10 SU and 23-16-2.

Lay the -6.5 with the Warriors.


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