Six of the NBA’s first-round playoff series are already set, and on Friday night, the other two will be finalized. The Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers play a win-and-you’re-in game for the right to draw the Miami Heat in the first round. In the West, the Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans fight for the right to play the league’s best team, the Phoenix Suns, in the first round of the playoffs.
More action coming in on the Cavs
At this time yesterday, 85% of the bets and 91% of the money were backing the Atlanta Hawks to cover a 3.5-point spread against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The line had originally opened with the Hawks as just a 1.5-point favorite, but it moved two points after massive amounts of action backing Atlanta.
However, as tipoff nears, it appears bettors are leaning toward the other side and buying back on Cleveland. Currently, just 58% of bets are backing Atlanta. The spread has moved back down as well, and now Atlanta is just a 2.5-point favorite over the Cavaliers.
If you’re looking for good news about Cleveland, Jarrett Allen is expected to give it a go on Friday, according to Shams Charania of the Athletic. Allen has been out since early March but his 16.1 points per game is second best on the team and he averages nearly 11 rebounds a game.
It was a relatively disappointing season for the Atlanta Hawks. A year after making the Eastern Conference finals, the expectations were higher than squeaking into the play-in tournament as a No. 9 seed. However, Atlanta now has a chance to leave that in the past and qualify for the playoffs. Atlanta went 12-5 over its final 17 games and 7-3 in its last 10 regular-season games, and the Hawks might be getting hot at the right time. They dismantled the Hornets on Wednesday to earn the right to play this game.
While the Hawks are getting hot at the right time, the opposite is true for the Cavaliers. They have gone 9-18 since mid-February and they’ve lost nine of their last 12 games. A lot of those games were without Allen, so his potential return looms large and could make all the difference.
The total for this game is on the move. Despite 59% of bets being on the over, the total has moved down three points since the opening number. Currently, the total is set at 222.5 points.
Bettors love the Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers blew a 10-point lead against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round of the play-in tournament, but bettors aren’t holding that against them prior to their Friday night tilt against the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Clippers were 3.5-point favorites over the pesky Pelicans, but that was before it was announced Friday that Paul George would miss the game in health and safety protocols.At BetMGM, 77% of the bets and 89% of the money was backing Los Angeles to win and cover the short spread. So far this season, New Orleans is 42-40-1 against the spread while the Clippers are 40-42-1.
The Pelicans went just 36-46 during the regular season, but they did begin the season 3-16 before turning things around. New Orleans is 14-14 since the CJ McCollum trade. On the other side, the Clippers were 42-40 on the year and finished the regular season winning five straight games. The Clippers went 18-13 with Paul George in the lineup.
Bettors are also expecting this game to go over the total of 215.5 points. Currently at BetMGM, 72% of the money is on the over. So far in this postseason, all four play-in games have gone under the total. During the regular season, 59% of Pelicans games went under the total, the second-highest mark in the league behind the Mavericks.
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