NBA playoff picks: Best bets for every first-round Game 1, including Raptors and Wolves keeping things close

With the 2021-22 NBA regular season now in the books, the basketball betting market is hotter than ever. CBS Sports will be providing daily picks for the duration of the postseason. Sam Quinn will make at least one pick for every game between now and the NBA Finals. All lines courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

Luka Doncic had a 40.4 percent usage rate in the 2021 postseason. He assisted on an estimated 54.1 percent of teammate baskets when he was on the floor. He sat out 55 minutes against the Clippers in the first round a season ago. Dallas lost those minutes by 43 points. This is not the typical case of a playoff team missing a star. This is a freaking solar system missing its star. Every player on the Dallas roster orbits around Doncic. Jalen Brunson is a fine secondary ball-handler. Spencer Dinwiddie has been a revelation since his February arrival. They are not remotely equipped to lead the Mavericks to playoff wins. As long as Doncic remains injured, these should be close to double-digit lines. They aren’t. Take advantage. The pick: Jazz -5

Featured Game | Memphis Grizzlies vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

This is a funky matchup for Memphis. If Jaren Jackson Jr. defends Karl-Anthony Towns, he’s going to get into foul trouble far too quickly. If Steven Adams does, and Towns drags him out to the perimeter, the Grizzlies sacrifice their enormous rebounding advantage. Memphis can and probably will find a middle ground as the series progresses, but remember, this is also a team that is still reintegrating Ja Morant back into the lineup. Game 1 will be just his second game since late March, and Patrick Beverley isn’t going to let him ease his way back onto the court. The Grizzlies should win this series, but the Timberwolves have a chance to steal what should be a competitive Game 1. The pick: Timberwolves +6.5

Featured Game | Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors

James Harden has played against Toronto three times this season. He is averaging 19.3 points on 40.9 percent shooting from the field and 22.2 percent shooting from behind the arc. If you were going to design a roster specifically to bother this aging version of Harden, you’d essentially end up with Toronto’s. OG Anunoby is perhaps the best perimeter stopper in the NBA. There is no weak link defensively for Harden to hunt on screens. The Raptors hardly ever use traditional centers, so he can’t hunt for mismatches there either. They’re above average in foul rate, so Harden won’t be able to play for free throws easily with a playoff whistle, and their wings are all so long that they can contest his once-unstoppable stepback 3. Until Harden proves he can score on Toronto, pick the Raptors. The pick: Raptors +4.5

Featured Game | Golden State Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets

Since Jan. 15, Denver has held one opponent below 100 points. ONE. And it was the mid-tank Trail Blazers. Their last 10 games have averaged over 244 total points. The Nuggets cannot defend anyone. At all. If you assume both teams will split the scoring burden equally, they’d need to score 112 points apiece to get to this line. Indiana dropped 118 on Denver two weeks ago. This line is an overreaction to Stephen Curry’s questionable health, but the Warriors don’t need Curry to score a bunch of points in this game. As for the Denver side of the equation? Nikola Jokic is averaging 28 points and nearly nine assists per game against the Warriors this year. Draymond Green can defend almost any center. Jokic, with a six-inch height advantage he can use to identify passing lanes, is likely the exception. The pick: Over 223

Featured Game | Miami Heat vs. Atlanta Hawks

Miami’s half-court offense is probably going to be its downfall as the playoffs progress. In this series? It won’t be a problem. Clint Capela is Atlanta’s only consistently above-average defender and he got hurt in Friday’s play-in win over Cleveland. Miami should be able to score relatively comfortably here. The Heat’s elite defense should bother most top scorers, but Young is well-suited for it. The Heat almost always have a weak defender on the floor for him to hunt through screens. If this is a series in which players like Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson are going to earn major minutes, the Heat will be able to score at will and Young will at least be able to find the right matchups. The pick: Over 216

Featured Game | Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets

The healthy Nets will be so overwhelming offensively that even Boston’s remarkable stable of defenders would struggle with them. But Joe Harris is out. Ben Simmons is out. Seth Curry is playing on an injured ankle. Goran Dragic has struggled since arriving in Brooklyn, and Patty Mills is shooting 33.3 percent from the field since the All-Star break. This team isn’t right yet. That puts an enormous amount of pressure on Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to create their offense, but Boston can throw Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown at Durant and Marcus Smart and Derrick White at Irving. If either of them isn’t stellar, Brooklyn loses. With these defenders available and Boston’s raucous home crowd behind the Celtics, let’s assume for now that Brooklyn struggles to get both of their stars going. The pick: Celtics -4

Latest Odds:

Milwaukee Bucks
-10

If you’re thinking of picking the Bulls in this game, or this series, or just to not be swept, ask yourself a very basic question: how do you expect them to defend Giannis Antetokounmpo? Is second-year pro Patrick Williams up to the task? Can Nikola Vucevic keep him away from the rim? If these answers sound underwhelming to you, they should. This roster was built to protect Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan on the perimeter defensively. Alex Caruso will probably do a wonderful job on Jrue Holiday. But they have nothing for Giannis. He and Joel Embiid were the two players they absolutely could not run into in the postseason. They got stuck with Antetokounmpo in round one. Until they’ve proven any workable method of defending him, expect the Bucks to dominate. The pick: Bucks -10

Latest Odds:

New Orleans Pelicans
+10.5

The Suns are obviously the better team here, but their greatness is amplified late in close games. They aren’t typically the sort of championship favorite that blows its opponents out from the word go. With a little bit of rust and the Pelicans riding high off of their play-in victory, expect New Orleans to at least keep things competitive. Over the past two calendar months, dating back to Feb. 16, New Orleans has lost just one game by double digits with Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum in the lineup. This is a team with so many ways of scoring points that their floor is relatively high. The Suns should win, but don’t think the Pelicans will go away quietly. The pick: Pelicans +10.5