NBA Play-In Tournament Odds: Best Bets on the Board

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Heat forward Jimmy Butler
(Photo by Joe Glorioso/Wikimedia Commons)
Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy Apr 10, 2023, 1:12 PM

Every single NBA team played its 82nd game of the regular season on Sunday, completing the first normal, regularly scheduled season since 2018-19. 

With the advent of the (still relatively) new Play-In format, the official NBA playoff odds are still a few days away. Futures odds are still available, in the meantime, while playoff futures for the eight teams ensnared in the Play-In bracket remain in limbo.

NBA Playoffs: Play-In Games Now Betting Appetizer

Today, I’m looking at NBA odds for the four games that are already locked in for this week, to be played on Tuesday and Wednesday. In chronological order, they are:

  • Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat
  • Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers
  • Chicago Bulls at Toronto Raptors
  • Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans

Technically, none of these teams have yet made the playoffs, though Tuesday-night winners will officially be locked into the No. 7 seed. If you’re holding playoff futures on any of these teams, you’ve still got a few more days to sweat. 

By the end of this week, NBA bettors should have the full picture on who’s in and who’s out.

If you need a refresher on how the NBA Play-In system works, you can always go check out my explainer on that. Otherwise, let’s get to the bets!

NBA Play-In Tournament 2023: Hawks at Heat (-4.5)

If you’re just picking a winner, the early lean here is definitely toward the Heat. Miami is 3-1 straight up against Atlanta this year, winning a pair of home games against the Hawks that were played just over a month ago.

Given the stakes, Trae Young is likely to play in this game, but it should be noted that he’s been dealing with a groin injury and did not play in Sunday’s finale against Boston. 

It’s hard to say how bad the injury really is, since Atlanta also opted to sit Dejounte Murray, John Collins, Clint Capela, and Bogdan Bogdanovic for various injuries. 

The early market seems to favor Atlanta plus the points, seeing as the number has been adjusted here from its opening position of Hawks +5.5 down to Hawks +4.5. 

If I had to bet this game in the spread market, I’d probably take the points, too. But I’d rather just bet the moneyline for a reduced payout, or even combine the Heat ML side with another bet later in the week for a quick, two-leg parlay.

Play: Heat -210; Lean: Hawks +4.5

NBA Play-In Tournament 2023: Timberwolves at Lakers (-6.5)

The Lakers are one of the darlings of the NBA playoff picture right now. After a successful trade deadline and an impressive stretch run, the Lakers are increasingly viewed as serious playoff contenders. 

On the other side of the court, Minnesota is dealing with some real end-of-season drama after the friendly-fire theatrics that unfolded on Sunday.

Add in some classic Lakers brand favoritism among bettors, and it’s no wonder that this is the biggest favorite of the early play-in games. 

This game opened at Lakers -5.5 and has gone down a point since then. It will move to a consensus Lakers -7 on Monday and is likely to continue to drop up until tipoff on Tuesday night. This is a classic one-way action game, with three-quarters of the market handle behind the Lakers at the BetMGM online sportsbook.

I haven’t bet this game yet, but my strategy will be to get the best number possible for Minnesota. That could mean waiting until late Tuesday and betting the Timberwolves right before the game at a preposterous number. 

Could this get to +10 with a news cycle focused on the Goebert punch? Is that crazy?

On the other hand, if the market starts to show buyback on Minnesota before Tuesday night, I’ll make sure to get involved then to avoid getting an inferior number. Keep your market alerts on for this one.

Play: Wait, then Bet Minnesota

NBA Play-In Tournament 2023: Bulls at Raptors (-5.5)

This is probably my favorite bet on the board for the current NBA Play-In Tournament schedule.

Toronto is the favored home team in this spot, with similar odds to all the other home playoff teams. The market opened at Toronto -5.5, and early sharp bettors have taken the points in a de facto playoff game. It jumped to 4.5 before being bet back to Toronto -5.5 on Monday morning.

Chicago and Toronto played three times this season, with Toronto winning two of the three. No team won on the road.

However, all three of those games were played before March 1. And March 1 is an interesting time to consider because it’s right around the time when the Bulls became unexpectedly competitive.

Since March 1, Chicago is 12-8 — the eighth-best record in the NBA. The Bulls have the same record over that span as Phoenix and Golden State. Zach LaVine is averaging 27 points per game on 52% shooting over that same span, which ranks 14th among all players.

The Bulls have been hard-charging toward the playoffs and look like the better team right now. I like Chicago in both the spread and moneyline markets.

Play: Bulls +5.5; Bulls +165

NBA Play-In Tournament 2023: Thunder at Pelicans (-5.5)

Oklahoma City and New Orleans will round out the first four play-in games on Wednesday night, and bettors love the scrappy visitors. The Thunder — who played all season without No. 2 overall draft pick Chet Holmgren — are widely viewed as ahead of schedule in their rebuilding efforts.

Perhaps that perception has something to do with the ticket splits in this game, which heavily favor OKC. Early marketwide reports show that 65% of bets are on the Thunder +4.5 in New Orleans. At BetMGM, 58% of the moneyline tickets are on an outright Thunder win at +165.

The absence of Pelicans superstar Zion Williamson might also have something to do with bettors’ reluctance to back New Orleans.

I see this as a classic public dog situation. The Pelicans are a rightful favorite here. They’ve won three of the four head-to-head meetings this season and will enjoy a raucous home-court advantage after only one playoff appearance in the last five seasons. 

Brandon Ingram is 13th in the NBA (just ahead of LaVine!) with 27.4 points per game since March 1. 

Ultimately, the New Orleans roster is both healthier and far more experienced than Oklahoma City. I like the spread here just fine, but the moneyline would also make a great foil for the Heat parlay I referenced earlier. 

Play: New Orleans -5.5

NBA Betting Lines at BetMGM

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About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.