NBA Expert Picks and Best Bets | April 17

darren cooper
Darren Cooper
NBA Picks and Best Bets
NBA Best Bets 2023-2024

It’s the second night of the NBA Play-In Tournament with the scene shifting to the Eastern Conference. The Heat made it all the way to the NBA Finals last year from the Play-In Tournament, can they get going against the Sixers? Meanwhile, the Hawks and Bulls collide with some interesting betting numbers on both sides.

Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers Best Bet

Sixers -5 (-114) at FanDuel

This line has moved significantly toward the Sixers over the last 24 hours.

Philadelphia isn’t seen as a traditional seven seed, because when Joel Embiid plays they were 31-8, but the issue is Embiid missed over two months with a knee injury. That caused the Sixers to slide out of the top six and into the Play-In. Embiid returned two weeks ago. He’s officially questionable for tonight, but all signs are he will play.

For the Heat, here we go again. Last year they were in the Play-In, and lost on the first stage to the Hawks (of all people), then came back to beat the Bulls to get a playoff spot and go all the way to the NBA Finals. Do you believe that they can just turn it on again? The Heat won’t have Terry Rozier tonight, but they will have Jimmy Butler and a hot Tyler Herro, who has averaged 20 points in his last 10 games.

Two weeks ago, the Sixers beat the Heat by four with Embiid and Tyrese Maxey went off for 37 points. Simply put, when the Sixers are healthy, no one can stop Embiid and it opens up everything else. I’m a little leery of the spread, but I’ll take the Sixers at home.

fanduel sportsbook
Sixers -5 (-114)

Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls Best Bet

Bulls -3.5 (-110) at BetMGM

Of the four first stage Play-In Tournament games, this one has the least zing, and that’s because to be honest the Eastern Conference had eight good teams, and these two are just along for the ride.

The Hawks finished an astounding 29-53 against the spread this season, and 36-46 overall. They have lost their last six games, but here they are. Honestly, they have had the 10 spot locked up for so long they could coast the last two weeks of the regular season. Hawks star Trae Young missed time with a broken finger, but has played the last three games.

The Bulls had their own injury issues, losing Zach LaVine, but they’re still here. Chicago went 41-40-1 against the spread. DeMar DeRozan has carried them the last part of the season with almost 30 points in his last 10 games.

Atlanta beat the Bulls two weeks ago in a quasi preview, but 29-53 against the spread? Smart money says take the Bulls.


betmgm sportsbook
Bulls -3.5 (-110)

Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls Total Best Bet

Under 221.5 (-110) at DraftKings

My first instinct on the Play-In Tournament was that games would hit the under, but then I started to look at the numbers and hedged. Watching Tuesday night though, and you can just see that the overall pace of the game is slower and teams value each possession more.

We made some good money this season betting the Hawks and the over at  Michigan sportsbooks. They went 46-36 over/under this year. The Hawks can score, and they were one of the worst defensive teams in the league allowing over 120 a game.

The Bulls were another good over bet, going 44-37-1 over/under in the regular season and they have averaged 118 in their last five games. Still unless the Hawks shoot about 60 percent from the floor, this will be a tight game and I think under is the way to go.

draftkings sportsbook
Under 221.5 (-110)

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Born and raised in Louisiana, Darren Cooper has a fond appreciation for bayous, Mardi Gras beads and the sports betting industry. Darren has worked for multiple print and online publications since 1998, primarily as a sports columnist in the Northeast. He’s covered a Super Bowl (it was a blowout), the World Series (same) and the NBA Draft (man, those guys are tall). For the last few years he’s dug deep into the sports gambling industry as it exploded across America, learning how the legal sausage is made and how while all the sportsbooks look the same, they all have different identities and styles. He’s learned to always bet within his means -- and take the under. When not in front of his computer creating, Darren spends time with his three boys. He runs, reads and is always looking for the next big thing to write about.