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The Conference Semifinals begin in the National Basketball Association on Saturday night in Brooklyn with the Nets playing host to the Milwaukee Bucks. We decided to take a look at both matchups in the East and look at some situational factors that hopefully help us cash a few tickets this weekend.
#1 Philadelphia vs. #5 Atlanta
Game 1: Sunday, June 6th, at 1 PM ET on ABC
DraftKings Odds: PHI -3.5 (-152 ML); ATL +3.5 (+128 ML); O/U 220.5
Analysis: With Joel Embiid’s status uncertain, Philadelphia is only a 3.5-point home favorite in this Game 1 series opener at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon, a number that indicates Embiid will not be available. The Sixers were a dominant home team this year, going 24-14-1 against the spread in South Philadelphia in the regular season plus the three home playoff games against the Washington Wizards.
Considering how good Philly looked in its Game 5 close-out game versus Washington without Embiid, you would think the public is going to look to the short home chalk and think it’s a layup to back the Sixers here. Don’t fall for the trap that the bookmakers are baiting you into though - in the regular season Philly was 10-11 straight up without Embiid. The Hawks, on the other hand, had no problem scoring against one of the league’s best defensive teams in the first round, eclipsing the century mark in each of their four wins against the Knicks. Now they’re getting the Sixers likely without their defensive anchor in the paint and brimming with more confidence than they've had all year long. Atlanta is a live underdog in Game 1.
Best Value Bet: Hawks ML +120
#2 Brooklyn Nets vs. #3 Milwaukee Bucks
Game 1: Saturday, June 5th at 7:35 PM ET on TNT
DraftKings Odds: BKN -4 (-177 ML); MIL +4 (+145 ML); O/U 239.5
Analysis: There’s a slight rest advantage for the Milwaukee Bucks entering this series, but not one that’s worth factoring into the Game 1 handicap. Milwaukee closed out the Miami Heat in a sweep last Saturday, and the Brooklyn Nets finished off the Boston Celtics in five games on Tuesday. Brooklyn is laying four at home in the Game 1 series opener, and I’m more interested in the total here. Think about all the hype this matchup was getting even before it was finalized. While some believe the Nets are the favorites for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, I believe that Brooklyn needs to raise its level defensively to get past Milwaukee.
The Nets had three days off without travel to game plan for the Bucks - and don’t you think Steve Nash and his coaching staff were discussing ways to improve on the defensive end of the floor? The Nets and Bucks played three times in the regular season and the totals in those three games were 239.5, 242.5 and 243, with the under going 2-1 in those three games. That’s in the regular season, where defense can always be questioned as the effort of teams is constantly up in the air. That variable goes out the window in the playoffs - especially in high-leverage situations as we get deeper into the postseason - and yet the total for Game 1 is still 239.5. I’ll gladly play the under and bank on the books adjusting accordingly for the rest of the series when it comes to the totals, with a clear effort on defensive improvement from both sides.
Best Value Bet: Under 239.5