The NBA Playoffs are now in the second round of the postseason tournament, as the contenders for the NBA title are slimmed to eight. If you’re betting on Round 2 – also known as the conference semifinals – here are some sports betting picks to watch for and wager on:
Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers
The Celtics seemed to be dead in the water after injury issues plagued their starting lineup. Kyrie Irving was ruled out for the playoffs, leaving Boston without any true superstar power before taking on Milwaukee. However, the Celtics won a grueling back-and-forth series with the Bucks and now face the talent-rich Sixers in the second round.
Philadelphia is off a physical opening round matchup with Miami, but showed poise when the veteran heat pushed back. The 76ers have multiple weapons on offense and standout big man Joel Embiid is healthy and scoring almost 19 points and pulling down more than 10 rebounds in his three postseason performances. Philadelphia may present too many options on offense for a depleted Boston team to slow down.
Toronto Raptors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Raptors traded home-and-home blows with the Washington Wizards in the opening round and at times looked destined for an early exit. However, the No. 1 seed in the East turned it on in the fourth quarters of Game 5 and Game 6, closing out the Wizards on the road and cashing in for bettors in the final two games with late covers.
Enter LeBron James and Cavs: Toronto has a rough history with LeBron and lacks that superstar talent to matchup with King James. The one thing working for the Raptors is the fact that James had to singlehandedly carry Cleveland into the second round, eliminating Indiana in seven games. If LeBron is human, it might show in this Round 2 series. The Cavs have owned the Raptors in recent years, going 8-2 SU and 6-3-1 ATS in their past 10 meetings.
Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz
Houston drew first blood in this Round 2 Western semifinal, winning 110-96 in Game 1 as an 11.5-point home favorite. For all the attention the Rockets’ offense draws, the team’s defense has been the difference maker. Outside of a 121-point letting in a first-round loss to Minnesota, Houston has allowed an average of just 96.6 points per game and played Under in three of those five contests.
The Jazz had a letdown after knocking off the Oklahoma City Thunder in the opening round. Utah’s hard-nosed defense locked the Thunder down to only 101.7 points per game and played Under in four of the six games. Game 1 stayed below the total of 206.5 points and has the Game 2 number at the same mark.
Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans was absolutely caught in a letdown spot for Game 1 with the Warriors. Golden State trumped the Pelicans 123-101, knocking down 48 percent of their shots. The Warriors are still without star guard Stephen Curry but may not need to push him back into action with a surplus of superstar talent. Golden State needed only five games to knock out the San Antonio Spurs and after winning the series opener with New Orleans, the Dubs are large -3,000 faves to win this series and advance to the Western Conference final.
The Pelicans may have brought a knife to a gun fight against the Warriors. New Orleans rolled over No. 3 Portland in the opening round, averaging 114.5 points in those four games, but laid an egg in Game 1 with Golden State – shooting a dismal 32 percent from 3-point range. The Pelicans defense hasn’t been good enough to be the deciding factor for this team, and could be over its head against a savvy Warriors side.