2024 NBA playoffs: How to bet each second-round series

ByFantasy Staff ESPN logo
Monday, May 6, 2024

How should you bet the second round of the NBA playoffs?

ESPN NBA betting experts Tyler Fulghum, Andre Snellings, Eric Moody, Jim McCormick and Steve Alexander offer the bets they like most for each series.

Odds are updated as of publication. For latest odds go to ESPN BET

Eastern Conference semis

No. 1 Boston Celtics vs. No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers

Series over 5.5 games (+170): This might be a bit optimistic for Cleveland's odds in this series, but the premise is driven by the absence of Kristaps Porzingis in the context of the Cavaliers' uniquely large and defensively-deft frontcourt. If the Cavaliers can win the possession battle via the offensive glass, it could help offset the clear offensive gap between these clubs. The odds on this bet are better than betting the Cavaliers +2.5 games (+160), which reads essentially like the same outcome here (at least six games) just with better returns. -- McCormick

Cavaliers +2.5 games (+160):The Celtics were the dominant team in the NBA during the regular season, but there matchups with the Cavaliers were all competitive, single-digit affairs. The Celtics won the two games in December, but the Cavaliers won their matchup in March in a game where the Celtics had their entire starting lineup playing but the Cavs were without Donovan Mitchell. The Cavaliers have a size mismatch if both Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley are available and, with Donovan Mitchell in peak scoring form, they have the chance to be competitive in every game. At plus money, I see value in them to push the series to six games. -- Snellings

Celtics to win series 4-1 (+190): Both teams could be missing their starting centers. Allen is dealing with a rib contusion, and Porzingis is expected to miss the series due to a calf injury. Despite this development, the Celtics are heavy favorites -- and rightfully so. Boston led the league in points scored per 100 possessions and ranked third in points allowed per 100 possessions. With Jrue Holiday and Derrick White very capable of containing Donovan Mitchell defensively, the Celtics have the advantage in this series. -- Moody

Celtics to sweep 4-0 (+185): The loss of Kristaps Porzingis is going to be a factor for Boston, but let's not forget that the Cavaliers might be missing Jarrett Allen, which might be an even bigger deal. Add in that Jrue Holiday and Derrick White are an incredible defensive duo in the backcourt and their only job will be to try to contain Donovan Mitchell. If they're able to keep him in check, this series should end in a hurry, with or without the team's starting centers. -- Alexander

No. 2 New York Knicksvs. No. 6 Indiana Pacers

Knicks -1.5 games (-130): The Knicks are probably a bit tired from their battle with Philadelphia, but they should still have enough in the tank to knock out the Pacers. Indiana was fortunate to play Milwaukee without GiannisAntetokounmpo for the entire series and Damian Lillard missing time. I don't see a series with this Knicks team going past six games. --Fulghum

Series to go exactly six games (+200); Pacers +1.5 games (+105): This games played outcome comes with the shortest odds of all such options in this betting category for the series -- and for good reason. The pace-driven Pacers have enough offense to create a competitive series against a Knicks team that can struggle to deliver efficient half-court offense. The Knicks have the upper hand for the series, but pushing this to a six-game series appears quite viable for the Pacers. Such an outcome also aligns with the Pacers covering 1.5 games in this battle of teams with inverse approaches to the sport. -- McCormick

Total games under 5.5 (+140): The Knicks are a problem when they have OG Anunoby in the lineup. They went 20-3 with Anunoby during the regular season before dispatching a tough 76ers squad in the first round. The Pacers rely on pace and spreading the floor to generate points, but they can be susceptible to bully ball in the paint and teams that can generate volume scoring from the backcourt. We saw that last round in the games the Bucks won, with Bobby Portis, Khris Middleton and Damian Lillard filling those roles. The Knicks excel at that type of bully ball, with their wings and bigs both crashing the glass, and of course Jalen Brunson is in his wave as a scorer right now. And with Anunoby and the Villanova boys all coming up big on both offense and defense, the Knicks are very tough to beat. I think the Knicks win this series comfortably, and at plus money I see value in betting it to go under six games. -- Snellings

Western Conference semis

No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks

Mavericks to win series (+100): I absolutely love the Thunder. Their young core is going to be a problem in the Western Conference for a long time. However, as great as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is, Luka Doncic is the best player in this series. The Mavs also have some playoff seasoning that the Thunder currently lack. This will be a wildly fun series game-to-game, but I think the Mavs advance. -- Fulghum

Thunder to win series (-120):Similar to how the Knicks vs. Sixers series was priced, the market expects a tight outcome for this matchup of Western foes. While the Mavericks' defense has been stellar for the past several weeks, Oklahoma City's ability to leverage Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's absurd driving efficiency and pick-and-roll savvy appears built to thrive against a Dallas team that lacks athleticism in the frontcourt. Daniel Gafford is a legit rim-protector, but one who might also struggle to contend with Chet Holmgren's floor-spacing skills and the Thunder's ability to thrive in small-ball looks. The Thunder also won the possession and shot-volume battles handily in going 3-1 against the Mavericks in the regular season. Give me the precocious top seed in this one at reasonable odds. -- McCormick

Thunder to win series 4-3 (+450): The lines imply that oddsmakers are expecting a tight series between Oklahoma City and the Mavericks. However, I'm not going to be fooled by the fact that the Thunder went 3-1 against the Mavericks this season. Only one of those games featured a healthy Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, who are a lethal duo when on the court together. With Lu Dort and Chet Holmgren making things difficult when Dallas is on offense, it's going to be an exciting matchup. Although the Mavericks have improved defensively due to the additions of Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams will test their rim protection. -- Moody

Mavericks to win series 4-3 (+650): While I'll gladly admit that the Thunder look amazing and might be the most fun team, the Mavericks are going to give them a battle -- and it may come down to who gets hot and when. Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams are all going to leave their mark on this series and may take turns getting hot from game to game. The big-man matchups should also be intriguing, with Chet Holmgren battling with Daniel Gafford, Dereck Lively and P.J. Washington, and this series could end up being a seven-game classic. And if the Mavericks can get hot at the right time and pull it off, the payoff could be significant. -- Alexander

No. 2 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 3 Minnesota Timberwolves

Nuggets to win series 4-3 (+350): The dynamism of Anthony Edwards' two-way play is undeniable, while the team's size is a worthy antidote to Denver's imposing frontcourt. This said, I still buy the reigning champs leveraging their continuity and guile to overcome a game opponent. The Timberwolves winning two more games after stealing one in Denver in the opener is a reasonable ask, while a long series appears on deck between these two elite conference contenders. -- McCormick

Timberwolves +1.5 games (-125; Over 0.5 games to go to OT in series (+200): The way the Timberwolves dispatched the Suns in Round 1 shows me they will not be afraid of the challenge in Round 2. The Nuggets may be the defending champions, but Anthony Edwards and the Wolves have a well-equipped roster to match up with Denver. This series is going deep and the Wolves are going to make the Nuggets work to advance. --Fulghum

Timberwolves -1.5 games (+110): If you've been following me at all, you know I've been high on the Timberwolves since they traded for Rudy Gobert. Since then, Anthony Edwards has made the leap to bona fide superstar and Karl-Anthony Towns has shown he can fit in as the lieutenant on both ends of the court. Add in their size, quality depth, shooting and defensive intensity and I see them as potentially the best team in the NBA right now, with a roster built to defeat the Nuggets. I picked the Timberwolves to win this series before their Game 1 victory, and I think they'll continue to play at a high enough level to close this one out in six games or fewer. -- Snellings

Related Video