NBA play-in tournament: Best bets to advance in the playoffs

Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks
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Ricky Dimon

NBA· 1 month ago

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

The 2021-22 NBA regular season has come to an end. Before the traditional playoffs can begin with 8-team brackets in each conference, the play-in festivities will take center stage.

For those who don’t remember the format from last season, here’s how it works. In both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, the No. 7 seed hosts the No. 8 seed in a single game. Whoever wins becomes the No. 7 seed in the playoffs and faces the No. 2 seed in round one. Meanwhile, the No. 9 seed hosts the No. 10 seed in a single game and whoever wins travels to the loser of the 7-8 game for another single-game affair. Whoever wins that contest becomes the No. 8 seed and goes up against the No. 1 seed in round one.

Let’s take a look at this year’s play-in teams and discuss the best bets to be made before the postseason tips off on Tuesday.

Best Bet: Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks to advance (+280)

Needless to say, it would send shockwaves through the NBA if the Nets failed to get out of the play-in stage. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and company would have to lose twice at home – first to the Cavaliers and then to the winner of the Hawks-Hornets game.

This particular bet needs Brooklyn to beat Cleveland, Atlanta to beat Charlotte and then Atlanta to beat Cleveland. In that scenario, only 1 road win is required (Atlanta over Cleveland). At +280 odds, it’s worth jumping on now. The Nets should have no trouble with the Cavaliers and I’m high on the postseason version of the Hawks. Atlanta went into last year’s playoffs as the No. 5 seed and knocked off New York and Philadelphia before coming within 2 games of the NBA Finals (they lost to eventual champion Milwaukee in 6). Trae Young and friends were not overly motivated during the regular season in 2020-21, but they got going when it mattered. The story appears to be the same in 2021-22. Atlanta was 3 games under .500 on March 11, at which point it seemed to realize that it might not even qualify for the play-in tournament. The Hawks promptly won 12 of their last 17 games. As for the Cavaliers, Jarrett Allen has been out for a month with a finger injury and they are a horrendous 9-17 in their last 26 games. There is no reason why the Hawks can’t beat them on the road.

Check out our Cavaliers vs Nets preview

Western Conference: Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers to advance (-280)

The value in the Western Conference is less appealing. Whereas you can get the Nets and Hawks at +280, a Timberwolves-Clippers duo comes at -280.

Is it still a bet worth making? Probably. There is a reason why the Timberwolves and Clippers are considerable favorites; they are simply a lot better than the Pelicans and Spurs. Just look at the standings: Minnesota went 46-36, LA went 42-40, New Orleans went 36-46 and San Antonio went 34-48. Although the Timberwolves have not been great of late, they are 26-15 at home. It’s hard to see them losing twice in a row in their own building. The Clippers have won 5 straight while the Pelicans and Spurs are on a combined 5-game losing streak. There is no reason to think the NO-SA winner will be a threat to the MIN-LA loser.

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