With the NBA’s play-in tournament ongoing, places are up for grabs in the traditional end-of-season play-offs as basketball’s biggest competition stateside begins to reach its exciting climax. Can the LA Lakers, after an inconsistent campaign so far, come out on top overall again?
Play-in Then Play-Off
Once the eight teams from the play-in series, featuring those who finished seventh to 10th respectively in the West and East have been whittled down to two, the NBA play-offs will begin in earnest on May 22. They will operate under the standard 16-team play-off format, with four rounds of a best-of-seven series.
Following that, the 2021 NBA Finals will begin no later than July 8, with a potential Game 7 no later than July 22.
Five of the first-round play-off games are scheduled with who’s playing who set in stone, while in the remaining three games, Philadelphia, Utah and Phoenix are waiting to learn their early opponents.
Knicks Can Overcome Atlanta
Among those five first-round match-ups, you would expect New York Knicks to get the better of Atlanta at
20/27 on the Money Line, while Denver Nuggets, who were third in the Western Conference, can edge what’s likely to be a tight clash against Portland at
20/23 on the Money Line.
Boston Celtics’ win over Washington on Tuesday means they are just one win away from entering the play-offs and will face either Washington or Indiana in the Eastern Conference Play-in final, while in the Western zone, one of Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs or the Memphis Grizzlies will join them.
Lakers Seek Successive Titles
Looking at the overall NBA Finals winner market, the Brooklyn Nets are the
21/10 favourites but the value lies elsewhere. It may be a surprise to some to see defending champions LA Lakers at
9/2 after they could only manage a seventh-placed finish in the Eastern Conference this year.
However, last year’s finals MVP LeBron James is now fit again after a troublesome ankle injury and only fools would write them off.
Utah Jazz are an interesting prospect and, after they finished top of the Western Conference, they must be respected. At
8/1, they are very tempting to back in the overall market. Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell are two fearsome players who, if performing at their best level, could yet lead them all the way to glory.
Suns Are Backable
Others to consider include the Philadelphia 76ers (
17/2), who topped the Western standings this year, while Pheonix Suns, who were third in the East, shouldn’t be totally discounted either. At
18/1, they look like lively outsiders in the play-offs.
*All odds correct at time of writing