NBA playoff picks: best bets for every first-round game, including Raptors and Wolves keeping things close

With the 2021-22 NBA regular season now on the books, the basketball betting market is hotter than ever. CBS Sports will provide daily picks for the duration of the playoffs. Sam Quinn will make at least one pick every game between now and the NBA Finals. All lines courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

Featured game | Dallas Mavericks vs. Utah Jazz

Luka Doncic had a 40.4% usage rate in the 2021 playoffs. He assisted on around 54.1% of his teammates’ field goals when he was on the floor. He missed 55 minutes against the Clippers in the first round a season ago. Dallas lost those minutes by 43 points. This is not the typical case of a playoff team missing a star. It’s a damn solar system missing its star. Every player on Dallas’ roster orbits Doncic. Jalen Brunson is an excellent secondary ball handler. Spencer Dinwiddie has been a revelation since arriving in February. They aren’t remotely equipped to lead the Mavericks to playoff victories. As long as Doncic remains injured, those should be close to the double-digit lines. They are not. To take advantage of. The choice: Jazz -5

Featured game | Memphis Grizzlies vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

It’s a funky game for Memphis. If Jaren Jackson Jr. defends Karl-Anthony Towns, he’s going to be in trouble way too quickly. If Steven Adams does it and Towns drags him into the perimeter, the Grizzlies are sacrificing their massive rebounding advantage. Memphis can and probably will find some common ground as the series progresses, but remember, this is also a team that always brings Ja Morant back into the lineup. The opener will only be his second game since the end of March, and Patrick Beverley won’t let him return to the field easily. The Grizzlies should win this series, but the Timberwolves have a chance to steal what should be a competitive Game 1. Pick: Timberwolves +6.5

Featured game | Philadelphia 76ers vs Toronto Raptors

James Harden has played three times against Toronto this season. He averages 19.3 points on 40.9% shooting from the field and 22.2% shooting from behind the arc. If you were to design a roster specifically to bother this aging version of Harden, you’d basically end up with Toronto’s. OG Anunoby is perhaps the best perimeter scorer in the NBA. There is no weak link defensively for Harden to chase on the screens. The Raptors almost never use traditional centers, so he can’t look for offsets there either. They’re above average in foul rates, so Harden won’t be able to easily play for free throws with a playoff whistle, and their wings are all so long they can challenge his once-in-a-lifetime pushback. unstoppable 3. Until Harden proves he can score on Toronto, pick the Raptors. Pick: Raptors +4.5

Featured game | Golden State Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets

Since Jan. 15, Denver has held an opponent below 100 points. A. And that was the mid-tank Trail Blazers. Their last 10 games have averaged over 244 points. The Nuggets can’t defend anyone. At all. If you assume that both teams will share the scoring burden equally, they would need to score 112 points each to reach this line. Indiana lost 118 to Denver two weeks ago. This line is an overreaction to Stephen Curry’s questionable health, but the Warriors don’t need Curry to score a whole lot of points in this game. As for the Denver side of the equation? Nikola Jokic is averaging 28 points and nearly nine assists per game against the Warriors this year. Draymond Green can defend almost any center. Jokic, with a six-inch height advantage he can use to identify passing lanes, is likely the exception. The choice: More than 223

Featured game | Miami Heat vs. Atlanta Hawks

Miami’s half-court offense is likely going to be its downfall as the playoffs progress. In this series? It won’t be a problem. Clint Capela is Atlanta’s only consistently above-average defenseman and he was hurt in Friday’s win over Cleveland. Miami should be able to score relatively comfortably here. The Heat’s elite defense should bother most top scorers, but Young is well suited for it. The Heat almost always have a weak defender on the ground to allow them to chase through the screens. If this is a series in which players like Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson are going to earn major minutes, the Heat will be able to score at will and Young can at least find the right matchups. The choice: More than 216

Featured game | Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets

The healthy Nets will be so overwhelming offensively that even Boston’s remarkable stable of defensemen would struggle with them. But Joe Harris is out. Ben Simmons is out. Seth Curry plays on an injured ankle. Goran Dragic has struggled since arriving in Brooklyn, and Patty Mills is shooting 33.3% from the field since the All-Star break. This team is not yet ready. That puts huge pressure on Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to create their offense, but Boston can throw Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to Durant and Marcus Smart and Derrick White to Irving. If one of them isn’t stellar, Brooklyn loses. With those defenders available and the boisterous Boston crowd behind the Celtics, let’s assume for now that Brooklyn is struggling to get its two stars started. The pick: Celtics -4

Latest odds:

Milwaukee dollars -10

If you’re considering picking the Bulls in this game, or this series, or just not to be swept away, ask yourself a very basic question: how do you expect them to defend Giannis Antetokounmpo? Is second-year pro Patrick Williams up to the task? Can Nikola Vucevic take him away from the rim? If these answers seem disappointing to you, they should. This roster was built to defensively protect Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan on the perimeter. Alex Caruso will probably do a terrific job on Jrue Holiday. But they have nothing for Giannis. He and Joel Embiid were the two players they absolutely couldn’t meet in the playoffs. They got stuck with Antetokounmpo in the first round. Until they’ve proven a viable method to defend him, expect the Bucks to dominate. The pick: Bucks -10

Latest odds:

New Orleans Pelicans +10.5

The Suns are obviously the better team here, but their greatness is amplified late in close games. They are usually not the kind of championship favorites who crush their opponents from the start. With a bit of rust and the Pelicans leading their play-in win, expect New Orleans to at least keep things competitive. In the past two calendar months, dating back to Feb. 16, New Orleans has lost just one double-digit game with Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum in the roster. This is a team with so many ways to score points that their floor is relatively high. The Suns should win, but don’t think the Pelicans will walk away quietly. Pick: Pelicans +10.5

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