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Free NBA Betting Picks and Best Bets (4/29/24)

Nikola Jokic - NBA DFS Lineup Picks, Betting Picks, Daily Fantasy Basketball

The 2024 NBA playoffs roll on and tonight we will watch two teams try to stave off elimination. In the early game, the Celtics will look to take a commanding 3-to-1 series lead with a chance to close it out in Boston on Wednesday. New Orleans and the Los Angeles Lakers are fighting for their playoff lives. The Pelicans host the Thunder and will put forth their best effort to not get swept. After finally beating the Nuggets in Game 4, this Lakers team attempts to send the series back to Los Angeles for Game 6.

On Saturday, I went 2-1 on my picks. I was thrilled to get a winning day after some recent poor stretches. The day started with the Orlando Magic using a huge second half to win and tie up their series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. I lost the middle game with the Pelicans failing to cover the first quarter but then rebounded with the Celtics covering the opening quarter in Miami. 

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 7:30 p.m. EDT on Monday, April 29. Follow me on X, @Jwiesel13.

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NBA Betting Picks: Totals

Oklahoma City Thunder (-4.5) at New Orleans Pelicans (205 total)

On the verge of getting swept, I'll take the Pelicans to score some points in the first half of this game. New Orleans has failed to score more than 92 points in all three games. Oklahoma City could just have their number but the total here feels low enough that I'm going to play it.

New Orleans has averaged 46.3 first-half points and shot 40.2 percent on FGAs and 30.2 percent from three. From the foul line, they've knocked down 17-of-18 attempts. They need to get to the line more and staring at elimination, one would like to think they'll be aggressive early.

Those shooting percentages are awful but they could work in our favor given the lower total. The Pelicans are really struggling from the middle of the court on offense. On shots 10–14 feet, they are only hitting 29.4 percent. In the regular season, they hit 47.1 percent, the ninth-best mark in the NBA. From that 15–19-foot range, New Orleans has shot a poor 33.3 percent in the playoffs. The regular season saw Willie Green's team finish fourth-best in that zone, knocking down 47.1 percent of those attempts.

The Thunder play really good defense but I think the Pelicans can at least shoot better from these areas and score in Game 4. New Orleans still had a pretty decent amount of FGAs in Game 3. It's not like they physically can't get shots off and they shot 6-for-18 from three. If two of those attempts fall, they go over this total. Playing with nothing to lose, I think the Pelicans come out aggressive and I wouldn't be surprised if this goes back to Oklahoma City for a Game 5.

The Pick: Pelicans First Half Team Total Over 50.5 (-120 FanDuel)


Los Angeles Lakers (+7.5) at Denver Nuggets (217 total)

Similar to the Pelicans' shooting woes, I'm bullish on Denver having a good start to Game 5. I don't normally love targeting overs, especially in the playoffs, but I like the Nuggets first quarter over here.

In four games this series, Denver is only averaging 23.8 points in the opening quarter. They scored 25 points to open Game 1 and followed it with 24 in Game 2. After losing Game 4, I'd like to see Game 4 start positively on offense. They may be up 3-to-1 in the series but this very well could have been tied at two. Los Angeles is not necessarily overmatched against Denver; they just can't execute as crisply late in the games.

This isn't about the full game, though, and I'm only looking at the first 12 minutes to get us a win. Denver averaged 30.8 first-quarter points at home this season. The 51.8 percent they shot on FGAs was the second-best in the league and the 44 percent from three put them on top. It's been a slow start for them to start the playoffs, but like the Celtics, I think they'll find a groove as it goes along.

It's not as if the Lakers are locking the Nuggets down defensively. Denver is getting off 24.3 FGAs and 8.5 three-point attempts; they are just shooting 40.2 percent on FGAs and 26.5 percent from three. When left open with 6+ feet of space, the Nuggets have only hit 6-of-25 FGAs, which includes 3-for-18 from three. At home, they've hit 2-of-12 threes in those situations.

In the regular season, Denver shot 49.1 percent on FGAs and 42.1 percent from three in the opening quarter when given that amount of space. If the Lakers leave the Nuggets open again to start this game, I like them to capitalize.

Head coach Mike Malone also talked about the importance of getting off to a better start in Game 5.

The Pick: Nuggets First Quarter Team Total Over 27.5  (-115 FanDuel)


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NBA Betting Picks: ML & Spreads

Boston Celtics (-10.5) at Miami Heat (203.5 total)

After the Boston Celtics lost Game 2 at home to the Miami Heat, they responded in a big way on Saturday. Boston jumped out to a 21-to-12 first-quarter advantage and led 63-to-39 at halftime. It was the type of bounce-back performance many were expecting, including myself, that took the Celtics to cover the low three-point first-quarter spread.

I'm running the same playbook back and taking them to cover the opening quarter. For whatever reason, in the playoffs, Boston has played better offensively in the first quarter on the road compared to at home the last two seasons. In 11 games in 2022–23, they scored 27.6 points at home and hit 46.7 percent of their FGAs, along with 34.7 percent from three. On the road, the Celtics averaged 29.1 and hit the most first-quarter three-pointers. A year prior, Boston averaged 25.9 points on the road, compared to 25.6 at home. They shot 41.1 percent from three on the road and only 34.9 percent at home.

Maybe Boston feels less nervous away from their home crowd; I'm not sure, but it has been noted. The Celtics scored a low 21 points in the first quarter in Game 3 but I liked their shot volume. They got off 24 FGAs and 10 three-pointers. This feels very repeatable from a Celtics team that finished with the best road first-quarter net rating by a wide margin this season. The Celtics are averaging 24.7 first-quarter points in the 2024 playoffs. They are a much better opening-quarter team than that and I think it'll start to show as the playoffs keep going.

The Pick: Celtics First Quarter -3 (-115 DraftKings)


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

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