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Best bets for the play-in round of the NBA playoffs

The Brooklyn Nets will face the Cleveland Cavaliers with a spot in the playoffs on the line. (Seth Wenig/AP)
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The NBA’s 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, but there are still values to be had on the betting market. Here are a few that should get you back to the betting window with a winning ticket.

Eastern Conference

No. 7 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 8 Cleveland Cavaliers (7 p.m. Tuesday)

Best bet: Under 228

This total opened at 230½ and continues to tumble, but there is room for a value play on the under. Cleveland, despite struggles with injuries and consistency, was the fifth-best defensive team this season, allowing 108.9 points per 100 possessions. The Cavaliers also held 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 faced challenges scoring at home, notching 110.3 points compared with a league-high 116.2 on the road. And because that’s a season-long stat, it illustrates that not all of the struggles stem from the vaccination status and availability of Kyrie Irving.

No. 9 Atlanta Hawks vs. No. 10 Charlotte Hornets (7 p.m. Wednesday)

Best bet: Hawks -4½

Both of these teams can score — Atlanta was second in offensive efficiency (115.4 points per 100 possessions), and Charlotte finished eighth (113.6) — but the Hornets will be without forward Gordon Hayward, who is out indefinitely with a foot injury.

The loss of Hayward isn’t devastating, but his absence will be felt. The 6-foot-7 veteran averaged 15.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 49 games this season.

Western Conference

No. 7 Minnesota Timberwolves vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Clippers (9:30 p.m. Tuesday)

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 after accounting for luck. The simple rating system 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 implies a money line of -200.

No. 9 New Orleans Pelicans vs. No. 10 San Antonio Spurs (9:30 p.m. Wednesday)

Best bet: Spurs +5

The Spurs finished the season with the second-worst winning percentage since Coach Gregg Popovich took over in 1996, but 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 has 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 in that same span.

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