The 2022 NBA season has advanced to its postseason stage after a topsy-turvy chapter of regular-season action.
The biggest story in the upcoming playoffs will be the omission of the Los Angeles Lakers. They were once favorites to win the Western Conference, but finished their campaign with a dreadful 33-49 record.
On the other end, the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat earned the privilege of being the top seed in their respective conferences. They will maintain a home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Before the big dogs get involved, however, four total teams must make their way into the best-of-seven bracket by navigating the play-in tournament; here are the best games to bet in the play-in.
Cleveland Cavaliers +8.5 vs Brooklyn Nets
There is a strong chance that this ends up being the most interesting game in the play-in tournament. Brooklyn has a horrible defense and often relies on individual heroics from Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant. Durant has often struggled with inefficiency over the past couple of weeks.
However, they have also become excellent down the stretch and pulled many impressive comebacks in recent weeks.
Cleveland, meanwhile, is still missing Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley but has an explosive offense. Just the other night, Kevin Love set an NBA record for most points per minute by a player who appeared in at least 15 minutes. Love finished the game with 32 points (eight threes) and ten rebounds in just 15 minutes.
Expect the Cavaliers’ offense to put points up on Brooklyn, who squeaks out a narrow victory.
Atlanta Hawks -4.5 vs Charlotte Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets are totally a mixed bag of results. It is difficult, if not impossible, to accurately predict which version of the team is going to show up. They have multiple takeover players, most recently LaMelo Ball, but are dreadful defensively and do not provide enough consistency to earn the benefit of the doubt.
On the other side, Trae Young just capped off a season in which he led the league in points and assists. He is the second player in NBA history to do so— with a 28-points, 11-assist outing.
The talismanic point guard was instrumental in his team reaching the Eastern Conference Finals last season. He is heading into this postseason with a head of steam, making the Hawks the obvious pick in their postseason debut.
San Antonio Spurs +5 vs New Orleans Pelicans
Most betting experts are taking the Pelicans to win, but they are discounting the impact of a missing Brandon Ingram if he misses the play-in game like he missed many games down the stretch in the regular season.
New Orleans should benefit tremendously in the postseason from the midseason acquisition of CJ McCollum. Sadly, this still does not guarantee a win.
Back on the other end, San Antonio has Dejounte Murray back in its starting five under the best coach of all time, Gregg Popovich. The Spurs might have lost three straight games to close out the regular season, but there is something to be said for having a tactical mastermind at the wheel. It should help the underdogs keep the game tight throughout.