NBA Playoffs Predictions - First Basket Best Bets for Sunday: Ayton off and running

Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns
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Ricky Dimon


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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. For Ricky Dimon media enquiries, please email
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There is still one conference semifinal series to be completed, but the Western Conference is not waiting around. Game 1 between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers takes place on Sunday, actually tipping off before Game 7 of the Philadelphia 76ers vs. Atlanta Hawks series. Speaking of tipoffs, those could go a long way in determining who scores the first points in the two contests. Let’s take a look at our best such bets for Sunday’s action on the professional hardwood.

Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns – Deandre Ayton +650

Atlanta Hawks at Philadelphia 76ers – Trae Young +550

Here is a breakdown of the two prop plays one by one.

Clippers at SunsAyton +650

Well, we all know who is expected to win the tipoff between Deandre Ayton of the Suns and Marcus Morris Sr. of the Clippers. Just look at the first-basket odds; everyone on Phoenix is +700 or better, while Paul George (+650) is the only L.A. player with better than +850 odds (Reggie Jackson is +850, while Morris is +950). Assuming Ayton gives his team possession, he very well could be rewarded with the first basket. Suns all-star point Chris Paul (Covid-19 protocols) is out, so Ayton needs to have a big game. Look for the home team to establish him down low right from the start, and the Clippers’ interior defense is nothing special.

76ers at Hawks – Young +550

The Hawks wasted a chance to close out Philadelphia at home in Game 6 on Friday, but they at least still hold the lead in one department: jump balls. Atlanta center Clint Capela has taken four of the six opening tips from Philadelphia big man Joel Embiid. Although Embiid has the height advantage, he isn’t 100 percent due to a partially torn meniscus. At times that hasn’t been a factor in terms of preventing him from filling up the stat sheet, but at other times he has looked slow and unable to get any legs into his shots. Whatever the case, I would once again prefer to roll with a healthy Capela winning another jump ball and giving his team first possession. If that happens, you have to like Young’s value at +550 to score the first basket. I wouldn’t touch Danilo Gallinari because there is a chance Bogdan Bogdanovic starts (Bogdanovic is questionable). John Collins scored the first basket on Friday and has good value at +1000, but I expect Young to take matters into his own hands early and often with the season on the line.

Parlay odds: +4775

Why not sprinkle a few bucks on a parlay with both of these bets? It pays out more than +4700 odds at FanDuel. It’s the playoffs, so it’s time to go big or go home.

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