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Free NBA Betting Picks and Best Bets (4/17/24)

Trae Young - Atlanta Hawks

After last night's Western Conference play-in games, the seventh seed has been determined, with the eighth seed still pending. The Los Angeles Lakers won an exciting game on the road in New Orleans against the Pelicans to set up a first-round matchup with the defending champion Denver Nuggets. The Sacramento Kings knocked out the Golden State Warriors, which means they will play the Pelicans on Friday night. The winner of that game will play the number one seed Oklahoma City Thunder. Tonight, the early game will see Joel Embiid and the Sixers host Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat. In the much-anticipated late game, the Chicago Bulls will play host to the Atlanta Hawks.

Last night, I split my two picks. The Pelicans took care of business in the first quarter against the Lakers. Unfortunately, the Warriors lost and I’m upset we will not be seeing Stephen Curry in the playoffs.

In this article, I'll be providing my favorite picks against the spread, game totals, parlays, and teasers for the NBA slate that tips off at 7:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, April 17. Follow me on X, @Jwiesel13.

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NBA Betting Picks: Totals

Miami Heat (+5) at Philadelphia 76ers (208.5 total)

The total for this game feels a little low but I'm going to take the under. With a playoff atmosphere in Philadelphia, I think defense will be on display in this game.

Joel Embiid returned in early April and it has given Sixers fans new hope. As a Knicks fan, I don't love the idea of playing the Sixers in the first round. I wouldn't be pumped about playing the Heat, either, so it's a no-win situation. What I want to see is a good physical battle without tying myself to a winning side.

In Philadelphia's last seven games, it ranked first in defensive rating. Joel Embiid played in five of those games and the Sixers gave up 104.2 points per game. One of those games was against the Heat in Miami. The Sixers won 109-105, but neither team shot it well and Embiid had 29 points in 33 minutes. If Miami can hold Embiid under 35 points tonight, I like the chances of this under hitting.

I also think it's notable that he averaged 9.8 free-throw attempts in those five April games. The NBA has made a concise decision to cut back on free-throw attempts and let players play more physically. Embiid loves to get to the line and draws a lot of stupid pump-fake or rip-through fouls (basically, everything the league is trying to limit). In January, he averaged 12.7 attempts; in December, it was 11.2, and in November, Embiid averaged 12.5. The fewer free-throw attempts tonight, the better.

The Heat finished this season with the fifth-best defensive rating. They were tied for fourth in the fewest points allowed per game. Miami held opponents to the fourth-fewest field-goal attempts and the fifth-worst three-point percentage. This team also locks down the paint well, allowing the third-fewest points in the paint. That aspect will be huge against Embiid.

To combat Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, the Heat gave up the second-fewest points per game to centers and the fifth-fewest points to point guards.

The Pick: Under 208.5 (-110 BetMGM)


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NBA Betting Picks: ML & Spreads

Atlanta Hawks (+3.5) at Chicago Bulls (221.5 total)

The only play I like in this game is the Hawks in the first quarter and I will happily tap out after that. This Hawks team has lost six in a row and is without Jalen Johnson but I think they come to play early.

For whatever reason, the Bulls have stunk ATS in the opening quarter at home this season. In the United Center, they went 17-24, the third-worst record among home teams. In those 41 games, Chicago averaged 26.3 points while hitting 44.7 percent of FGAs and 35.1 percent from three. The scoring and shooting have been up in three April games, but in eight games in March, the Bulls only averaged 25.3 points per game.

Atlanta got destroyed by Indiana in its last game. It still put up 34 points in the first quarter. The problem was that it gave up 49 points on the other side. Prior to that game, the Hawks outscored the Timberwolves 27 to 25 and the Hornets 35 to 30 in Trae Young's two games back. In its last three games, Atlanta is averaging 32 first-quarter points and shooting 52.2 percent on FGAs. The 30.8 percent it is shooting from three is not good, but that also means there is room for improvement.

The Bulls haven't looked sharp on defense to start games for a while now. In their last 15 games, they are allowing 29.1 points per game. Opponents are hitting the second-most threes per game and 42.8 percent of their attempts. Atlanta hasn't shot well from three, but it should have opportunities for shots in this opening quarter.

The starting five of Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, Bogdan Bogdanovic, De'Andre Hunter, and Clint Capela is really solid and I like them better than the group Chicago will start this game with. Again, I know it's a small sample size, but in their last three games, the Hawks are sixth in offensive rating in the first quarter. They have struggled on defense, so it's a good thing they aren't going up against an elite offensive team. Hawks control early here for me.

The Pick: Hawks First Quarter +0.5 (-105 Sports Illustrated Sportsbook)


*Picks and odds are subject to change throughout the day. Monitor your books for the best lines. 

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