NBA betting: Six picks for Saturday

Jalen Brunson and the New York Knicks face off against the Philadelphia 76ers as 3.5-point favorites at ESPN BET. Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The first round of the 2024 NBA playoffs begins Saturday, and perhaps the most interesting game of the slate features the Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Knicks. The 76ers had a 31-8 record in the games Joel Embiid played this season. Meanwhile, Jalen Brunson averaged a career-high 28.7 points and 6.7 assists per game this season, which helped the Knicks earn the No. 2 seed and close out the season with a 13-5 record. Basketball fans should keep their eyes on this game and this prop bet that immediately caught my attention. Let's get into it.

Jalen Brunson over 10.5 assists and rebounds.

Brunson continues to be the engine that drives the Knicks with a 32.4% usage rate this season. Brunson has cleared this line in four of his past five games and averaged 13.8 potential assists and 8.4 rebound chances per game over that time frame. Even though the Knicks rank last in pace, this is still a great spot for him.

Max Strus over 7.5 assists and rebounds.

Game 1 of the Magic-Cavaliers series has the makings of a defensive-minded game since the total is only 207.5 points at ESPN BET. Both teams rank near the top of the league in fewest points allowed per 100 possessions. Strus has cleared this line in four of his past five games and in three of his past four against the Magic. He has a ton of playoff experience and should be very comfortable against the Magic.

Jusuf Nurkic over 22.5 points, rebounds and assists.

This line is a bit low for Nurkic. He has eclipsed 22.5 points, rebounds and assists in three of his past five games, while averaging 5.6 field goal attempts, 24.0 rebound chances and 7.8 potential assists over that span. The Timberwolves are no slouch defensively, but there is a strong chance Nurkic clears this line.

Jamal Murray over 4.5 first-quarter points.

Murray has cleared this line in four of his past five games and faces a Lakers team on Saturday that ranks 25th in points allowed per game to point guards. Murray has averaged 4.7 field goal attempts and 5.3 points in the first quarter over his past 11 games against the Lakers.

LeBron James over 16.5 assists and rebounds.

James has cleared this line in four of his past five games, averaging 16.6 potential assists and 12.2 rebound chances over that span. He averaged 7.6 assists and 8.2 rebounds over his past 11 games (regular season and playoffs) against the Nuggets. Expect King James to go all-out in Game 1 for the Lakers.

Boston Celtics to sweep (4-0) the Miami Heat (+175).

This is the fourth playoff meeting between the Celtics and Heat in the past five seasons. The Celtics won't underestimate the Heat in this matchup even without Jimmy Butler. Boston closed out the regular season ranked first in points scored per 100 possessions and third in points allowed per 100 possessions. Although the Celtics have struggled at times against zone defenses, Kristaps Porzingis excels at shooting over the top. Expect Boston to be extremely focused and easily sweep Miami in the first round.

Projections and injury reports

Odds provided by ESPN BET. Basketball Power Index by ESPN Analytics. Injury aggregation by Rotowire.com.

Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers
East 1st Round - Game 1
1 p.m. Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Cleveland

Records (Against the Spread)
Magic: 47-35 (50-32-0)
Cavaliers: 48-34 (37-44-1)

Line: Cavaliers (-4.5) Total: 207.5
Money Line: Magic (+170), Cavaliers (-200)
BPI Projection: Cavaliers by 5.7, straight up 68%, 209.8 total points.

Injury Report:
Magic: None reported
Cavaliers: Craig Porter, (OUT - Ankle); Dean Wade, (OUT - Knee); Ty Jerome, (OUT - Ankle)

Phoenix Suns at Minnesota Timberwolves
West 1st Round - Game 1
3:30 p.m. Target Center, Minneapolis

Records (Against the Spread)
Suns: 49-33 (37-44-1)
Timberwolves: 56-26 (40-39-3)

Line: Timberwolves (-1.5) Total: 214.5
Money Line: Suns (+105), Timberwolves (-125)
BPI Projection: Timberwolves by 4.6, straight up 65%, 210.2 total points.

Injury Report:
Suns: Damion Lee, (OUT - Knee)
Timberwolves: Jaylen Clark, (OUT - Achilles)

Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks
East 1st Round - Game 1
6 p.m. Madison Square Garden, New York

Records (Against the Spread)
76ers: 47-35 (48-34-0)
Knicks: 50-32 (44-37-1)

Line: Knicks (-3.5) Total: 208.5
Money Line: 76ers (+130), Knicks (-155)
BPI Projection: Knicks by 2.2, straight up 57%, 204.6 total points.

Injury Report:
76ers: De'Anthony Melton, (OUT - Back); Robert Covington, (OUT - Knee)
Knicks: Duane Washington Jr., (OUT - Knee); Julius Randle, (OUT - Shoulder)

Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets
West 1st Round - Game 1
8:30 p.m. Ball Arena, Denver

Records (Against the Spread)
Lakers: 47-35 (38-44-0)
Nuggets: 57-25 (38-42-2)

Line: Nuggets (-7.5) Total: 224.5
Money Line: Lakers (+230), Nuggets (-280)
BPI Projection: Nuggets by 5.8, straight up 69%, 221.4 total points.

Injury Report:
Lakers: Cam Reddish, (OUT - Ankle); Christian Wood, (OUT - Knee); Jarred Vanderbilt, (OUT - Foot); Jalen Hood-Schifino, (OUT - Back)
Nuggets: Vlatko Cancar, (OUT - Knee)