NBA Playoffs predictions - First basket best bets for Thursday: LeBron to lead off

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates in the second half against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center
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Ricky Dimon

NBA· 3 months 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.

We have a pair of Game 6s in the NBA playoffs on Thursday. A few series ended before making it to this stage, but the Western Conference is whetting our basketball appetite with the Portland Trail Blazers vs. the Denver Nuggets and the Phoenix Suns vs. the Los Angeles Lakers. Suns-Lakers may have been the marquee matchup of the entire first round on paper, but Trail Blazers-Nuggets has stolen the show. The Nuggets survived an epic Game 5 in double-overtime to take a 3-2 lead and give themselves a chance of closing things out at home on Thursday night. Meanwhile, Phoenix is up 3-2 after winning two in a row and can finish Los Angeles inside the Staples Center in Game 6.

Let’s take a look at some intriguing first-basket bets for Thursday’s postseason action on the professional hardwood.

Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets – Aaron Gordon +1100

Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers – LeBron James +500

Let’s break down the two prop plays one by one.

Trail Blazers at Nuggets – Gordon +1100

Nikola Jokic has been dominant overall in this series, and he is certainly having success in the tipoff circle. Jokic gave Denver the opening possession in each of the first three games against Portland before Jusuf Nurkic won it for Portland in Game 4. Order was restored on Tuesday, when Jokic tipped it to Gordon. Let’s play the percentages and assume that the Nuggets get the ball first in Game 6, which would give basically everyone on the home team decent value when it comes to scoring the first basket. Across the two teams, six different players have +750 odds or better to be the first point-scorer. That means all the way down at +1100, Gordon has especially great value. The former Magic power forward made the opening basket of Game 1 and in Game 3 and Game 4 he has missed shots just a little more than one minute into the proceedings. He attempted a shot two minutes into Tuesday’s thriller. Gordon is clearly trying to make an impact early, and he might as well because you know Portland is going to be absolutely all over Jokic.

Suns at Lakers – James +500

Lakers big man Andre Drummond seems to have figured something out in the jump-ball department. After losing out in the first three games to Suns center Deandre Ayton, Drummond has given LA the first possession in each of the last two contests. Let’s roll with the hot hand and go with Drummond again. There I like someone on Los Angeles to be the first point-scorer … and that someone is LeBron James. Anthony Davis may be back for Game 6 and he comes in at +650 to provide the first points, which is why LeBron isn’t something like +300. At +500, LeBron has good value, especially since there is still a chance that Davis remains sidelined. This is obviously do or die for the Lakers, so look for LBJ to make a quick statement that he and his team are not going down without a fight.

Parlay odds: +7100

Why not sprinkle a few bucks on a parlay with both of these bets? It pays out more than +7000 odds at FanDuel. It’s the playoffs, so it’s time to go big or go home.

Pickswise is the home of free NBA picks and predictions. Make sure to also check out our NBA parlays and NBA prop bets tabs for more expert picks.

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