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2021 NBA Playoffs 1st Round Series Opening Odds and Picks

Chris Amberley

by Chris Amberley in NBA Basketball

May 17, 2021 · 6:34 AM PDT

Giannis Antetokounmpo posts up
Milwaukee will square off with Miami for the second straight postseason. (Photo by JB Autissier/Panoramic/Icon Sportswire).
  • The 2021 NBA Playoffs tip off Saturday, May 22nd, while the Play-In Tournament to decide the 7th and 8th seed in each conference begins Tuesday, May 18th
  • Milwaukee will be looking to avenge its second round loss to Miami last season
  • See below for 1st Round series analysis, plus a couple bets to target

The NBA regular season is officially in the rearview mirror, and while a handful of postseason matchups are still to be decided, playoff basketball is set to begin this week.

The inaugural Play-In Tournament to decide the 7th and 8th seed in both conferences tips off on Tuesday (May 18th), while the eight playoff series start on Saturday (May 22nd). Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Utah and Phoenix don’t know their 1st Round dance partner yet, but four series are set in stone, including two rematches from last year’s postseason.

2021 NBA Playoffs 1st Round Series Odds

Team Series Odds at DraftKings
Miami Heat +270
Milwaukee Bucks -360
Team Series Odds
Atlanta Hawks -112
New York Knicks -112
Team Series Odds
Portland Trail Blazers -105
Denver Nuggets -120
Team Series Odds
Dallas Mavericks +270
Los Angeles Clippers -360

Odds as of May 16th

Dallas and the LA Clippers will meet for the second consecutive season in the 1st Round, while Milwaukee will be looking to avenge its shocking loss to Miami in the Conference Semifinals. The Bucks had the best record in the league in 2019-20, but were ousted by the 5th seeded Heat in just five games. Milwaukee has been on the been one of the hottest teams down the stretch in the East, and I wouldn’t bet on history repeating itself.

Bucks Extinguish Heat

Last year’s Bucks team lacked depth and three-point shooting. Those weaknesses were exposed by Miami in the playoffs, and the result was a convincing series victory. But Milwaukee didn’t just run it back, they upgraded.

They added former All-Star and two-time All-NBA Defensive team member Jrue Holiday to the mix, who leads the team in steals, while averaging 17.7 points per game, and 39.2% from three. Fellow newcomer Bobby Portis is a Sixth-Man of the Year candidate, and leads all rotational players in three-point efficiency (47.1%). The long distance shooting upgrades didn’t end there, as sharpshooter Bryn Forbes was also added in free agency, and he’s burying 45.2% of his triples off the bench.

Milwaukee shot just 32.7% from three in last year’s playoff loss, and it’s safe to assume they’ll be executing at a higher rate from beyond the arc this time around. They ranked third in the league in three-point shooting in 2021, and still feature Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, one of the most productive one-two punches in the NBA.

The duo helped Milwaukee lead the league in both scoring and total rebounding this year, while ranking third in field-goal percentage.

The Heat meanwhile, have fallen from a top-10 offensive team last year, to a bottom-10 team this year, and suffered double-digit losses to Milwaukee in two of their three meetings. Miami tried to bolster its roster at the deadline, but a deal for Victor Oladipo has turned out to be a bust, thanks to a season ending quad injury.

Pick: Milwaukee Bucks (-360)

Blazers Stun Nuggets

Portland is peaking at just the right time. Entering the postseason, no team was hotter down the stretch, as the Trail Blazers won nine of their final 11 contests. They blew out their 1st Round opponent Denver in essentially a meaningless game for the Nuggets in the season finale, while superstar Damian Lillard is playing his best ball of the season.

Lillard scored at least 30 points in seven straight before a reduced workload in the finale, shooting above 50% from the field in all but one of those outings. Portland is loaded with playoff experience, having made the postseason in seven straight seasons, and is just one season removed from a Western Conference Finals appearance.

They ranked fifth in the NBA in points per game and three-point shooting percentage, and while their defense can be suspect at times, they did hold Denver to an average of 108.5 points per game in the two meetings where both teams went full out.

Of course shutting down runaway MVP favorite Nikola Jokic will be next to impossible, but the Nuggets are hurting. Jamal Murray, who was a playoff star a year ago, is done for the season, while fellow guard Will Barton hasn’t played since the end of April due to a hamstring injury. Barton is Denver’s fourth leading scorer this season, and facing the high powered Trail Blazers without two of your top-four scoring options will be daunting.

Another thing working in Portland’s favor is its road prowess. The Trail Blazers racked up 22 road victories this season, tied for second most in the NBA, and they’ll need to steal at least one game in Denver to pull off this upset.

Pick: Portland Trail Blazers (-105)

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