Best bets for the NBA playoffs play-in round

The 2021-22 regular season has ended and four of the eight first-round matchups are set, but there are still more to firm up. In the play-in phase of the playoffs, the No. 7 team in each conference plays No. 8 and No. 9 plays No. 10. The winner of the 7-8 game gets the No. 7 seed, while the loser plays the winner of the 9-10 game for the No. 8 seed. Then, the NBA playoffs start with the traditional 16-team, best-of-seven series structure.

You won’t find heavily favored super teams or stone-cold locks at this point of the postseason, yet there are still values to be had in the betting markets. Here are a few that should get you back to the betting window with a winning ticket.

No. 7 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 8 Cleveland Cavaliers

This total opened at 230½ and continues to tumble, but there is some room for a value play on the under. Cleveland, despite struggles with injuries and consistency, is the fifth-best defensive team this season, allowing 108.9 points per 100 possessions. The Cavaliers also hold opponents to 55 percent shooting around the rim, the second-best rate of 2021-22.

NBA play-in tournament is playoff detour for teams such as Nets, Hawks

Brooklyn, meanwhile, has faced challenges scoring at home, scoring 110.3 points compared to a league-high 116.2 on the road. And because that’s a year-long stat, it illustrates not all of the struggles stem from the vaccination status and availability of Kyrie Irving.

No. 9 Atlanta Hawks vs. No. 10 Charlotte Hornets

Both these teams can score — Atlanta finished the regular season second in offensive efficiency (115.4 points per 100 possessions) and Charlotte finished No. 8 (113.6) — but the Hornets will be without forward Gordon Hayward, who is out indefinitely with a lingering foot injury.

The loss of Hayward isn’t devastating, yet there is no doubt his absence will be felt. The 6-foot-7 veteran was averaging 15.9 points plus 4.6 rebounds in 49 games this season.

No. 7 Minnesota Timberwolves vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Clippers

Best bet: Timberwolves -150

This matchup is a mismatch based on a variety of metrics, leading me to advocate a straight money line play on Minnesota. The Timberwolves are 2.7 net points per 100 possessions better than the Clippers which widens to 4.5 net points per 100 possessions after accounting for luck. The simple rating system also sees Minnesota as a 2½-point favorite over Los Angeles on a neutral court. That equates to the Timberwolves being nearly a five-point favorite at home which, in turn, implies a money line of -200.

No. 9 New Orleans Pelicans vs. No. 10 San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs finished the regular season with the second-worst win percentage since Coach Gregg Popovich took over in 1996, yet their scoring differential suggests they should have been a .500 team, not one that went 34-48. Plus, all-star guard Dejounte Murray returns to a team that’s been peaking as of late, outscoring opponents by 7.8 net points per 100 possessions over the past 10 games. The Pelicans, meanwhile, have outscored opponents by only 1.2 net points per 100 possessions over that same span.

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