NBA playoffs, betting odds, picks: Bucks to put outmatched Heat in 2-0 series hole; lean on Blazers in Game 2

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This weekend, I warned you all about the perils of money line parlaying Game 1 favorites. The first weekend of the NBA playoffs is always filled with upsets, and Sunday in particular did not disappoint. Two underdogs, the Memphis Grizzlies and Atlanta Hawks, won outright. Another, the Washington Wizards, covered their eight-point spread. The only favorite that won was the Phoenix Suns, but they were underdogs in their series as a whole against the Los Angeles Lakers. If you’d asked 100 fans to pick all four winners on Sunday, odds are, none of them would’ve been perfect. 

But the conditions that led to such upsets are now in the rearview mirror. Teams are no longer rusty. They’ve gotten a look at their opponents. They’re even used to playing in more crowded arenas. Now we return to something resembling normalcy, and that will inform Monday’s picks in a light two-game slate.

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All lines via William Hill Sportsbook

Featured Game | Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat

Think of everything that had to go right for Miami just to push Game 1 into overtime. The Heat needed a rarely called 10-second violation. They got 13 missed free throws. They shot 50 percent on 3-pointers while the Bucks shot 16.1 percent. They forced the Bucks to commit 17 turnovers, something they did only 12 times in the regular season. How many of those things do you expect to recur in Game 2? If most of them don’t, that game would have been a blowout. The core misconception about this series is that Miami is on Milwaukee’s level because the Heat beat the Bucks last season. That has nothing to do with what is happening now. These are not evenly matched teams, and the Bucks exorcised any lingering demons from last season with their Game 1 win. Game 2 figures to be significantly easier with even a bit of regression to the mean. 

Featured Game | Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Portland won the shooting variance battle in Game 1 just like Miami did, but its margin for error was far higher. The Blazers won Game 1 by 13, and while the shooting differential is likely to be smaller in Game 2, the conditions that led to it still exist. They still have three incredibly explosive guards in Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Norman Powell. The Nuggets’ backcourt is still so injury plagued that they are starting Austin Rivers, who they signed only a month ago to a contract that was originally supposed to last 10 days. Portland’s defense is hardly flawless either, but at least the Blazers are close to full strength, and they successfully managed to cut off Nikola Jokic’s playmaking in Game 1. Even with Game 2 still being played in Denver, the Blazers earned favorite status in their series-opening win. 

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