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Free NBA Betting Picks and Best Bets (4/21/24)

Jayson Tatum - NBA DFS Picks, Daily Fantasy Basketball, NBA Injury News

The 2024 NBA playoffs are underway and after four games yesterday, we have four more on the schedule today. Friday night's play-in results helped finalize the playoff field. Playing without Jimmy Butler, the Miami Heat used a big first-quarter advantage to beat the Bulls. Miami now plays the Boston Celtics in Round 1. In the late game, the Pelicans found a way to come together and win without Zion Williamson. New Orleans will take on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Yesterday, I went 1-2 on my three picks. The Cavs got us an early win by covering the first half. I thought the day would go smoothly after that but I was wrong. Phoenix couldn’t hit their team total and the Lakers didn’t cover their 7.5-point spread. I have to be better, I will try today.

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 1:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday, April 21. Follow me on X, @Jwiesel13.

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NBA Betting Picks: ML & Spreads

Dallas Mavericks (-2.5) at Los Angeles Clippers (223.5 total)

Round 3 of Luka Doncic vs. the Los Angeles Clippers kicks off with Dallas on the road in Los Angeles. Luka has yet to beat them, losing the 2020 series in six games and blowing a 3-2 lead in 2021 to lose in seven games.

In terms of this game, I'm going to stay away from picking a winner and go with the Mavericks in the first half. These teams last played each other on December 20 in Dallas. Los Angeles was coming into the game on an eight-game win streak and used a good fourth quarter to win 120-111. Paul George did not play for the Clippers; Kyrie Irving was out for Dallas; and this was before Dallas upgraded their team at the deadline.

The Mavericks really came together after the trade deadline, going 21-7 until Luka and Kyrie sat out for the final two games, resulting in two losses. For my first-half analysis, I'll use March, because that is when this team had a full month together. In March, Dallas averaged 59.2 points and hit 50.5 percent of their FGAs. They struggled from three, only hitting 34.7 percent of their attempts. For the season, the Mavericks finished in the top five in first-half three-pointers, so I know they can get hot. The month of March saw them finish sixth in offensive rating, 10th in defensive rating, and 10th in net rating.

Luka Doncic averaged the most first-half points in the NBA this season with 19.4. Along with that, he also averaged 5.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds. The Clippers leading first-half scorer was Kawhi Leonard with 11.6 PPG. Leonard is once again dealing with injuries but averaged 32.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in that seven-game series win in 2021. Luka has put up 33.5 points, 9.5 assists, and 8.8 rebounds in 13 playoff games against the Clippers. These two have tended to get the best out of each other. Fortunately for the Mavericks, it doesn't look like Kawhi Leonard is suiting up today.

Hopefully, the Mavericks get it done and we can enjoy a competitive second half and game.

The Pick: Mavericks First Half -1 (-115 Caesars)

 

Indiana Pacers (-1.5) at Milwaukee Bucks (231.5 total)

The Bucks will be playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo in this game but I'm still picking them to take an early series lead. I believe Milwaukee has enough and playing in front of their home crowd will help. In the nine games Giannis missed this season, the Bucks went 4-5. They played four games at Fiserv Forum without the former Finals MVP and went 3-1 in those games.

Damian Lillard was excellent in those games, averaging 34.3 points and 8.8 assists. Dame dealt with an injury to end the season but will give it a go today. I think he'll be ready to play, and the Bucks should push hard for an early series lead given injury concerns. Bobby Portis also played great in the non-Giannis home games, scoring 28 or more in three games.

Milwaukee averaged 120.3 points and allowed 112.8 on the other end. If there is anything we know about the Indiana Pacers, it's that they can struggle on defense. Indiana finished 26th in road defensive rating, allowing nearly 122 points per game. Opponents shot 50.1 percent on their FGAs. From three, they got 36.6 percent, which was about league average. What could also work in the Bucks' favor is that the Pacers tend to give up a lot of FTAs. Without Giannis, the Bucks will obviously be searching for points; getting to the line would be an easy way to generate points.

The Bucks are going to be expecting Khris Middleton to step up in this game. Middleton only played 55 games this season but has averaged 20.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in 74 career playoff games. He's an experienced player who averaged over 23 points in the Bucks' Finals run in 2021. I know that was three years ago but I like the experience he brings.

Maybe the Pacers go into Fiserv Forum and hang 130 points on them in a convincing victory; it's totally possible. I would like to think the Bucks will have some kind of defensive game plan to stop one of the league's best offenses. Playing an inexperienced road team in front of their home crowd, I'll take Milwaukee at the small plus value.

The Picks: Bucks ML (+102 FanDuel)

 

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NBA Betting Picks: Totals

Miami Heat (+14.5) at Boston Celtics (209.5 total)

The Heat picked up a nice win on Friday night by beating the Chicago Bulls in the play-in. Chicago just looked flat and only managed to put up 91 points. Miami held them to 37 in the first half but it was more Chicago just missing shots than Miami stifling them. In the first half, the Bulls had 44 FGAs and 24 attempts from three. They shot 27.3 percent on those FGAs and only went 5-for-24 from three.

To put that into more context, the Boston Celtics led the NBA with 22 first-half three-point attempts per game. If Chicago was able to get 24 attempts, I would imagine a Celtics team that moves the ball better and shoots higher percentages should be able to capitalize. I think playing the Celtics will be a stark difference and I'm going to fade Miami's first-half defense in this game.

Boston had the highest-scoring first-half offense this season. In TD Garden, they put up just over 63 points per game. The 51.3 percent they shot on FGAs was second among home teams and the 40.7 percent from deep was first. Boston had the No. 1-rated first-half home offense by a healthy margin, finishing with a 63.5 true-shooting percentage.

I believe the Celtics will come out fired up and they averaged 65.3 first-half points in three matchups vs. the Heat this season. In their only meeting in Boston at the beginning of the season, the Celtics scored 60. They put up 77 on January 25 and 59 on February 11. The crowd should be fired up as always and this Celtics team should be able to match their energy. Holding Chicago to 37 looks great on paper but they had so many opportunities and couldn't do anything with them. I'd be surprised if the Celtics missed those same shots.

The Pick: Celtics First Half Team Total Over 57.5 (-120 ESPN BET)

 

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



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