NBA playoffs betting: Three bets for Sunday

Anthony Edwards takes over with 33 as T-Wolves take Game 1 (2:19)

Anthony Edwards fuels the Timberwolves with 33 points as they take Game 1 from the Suns. (2:19)

After a huge start Saturday, Day 2 of the NBA playoffs gives us another quadrupleheader. We've got both 1-8 matchups with the top seeds heavily favored over the teams that won the last play-in slots, both of which are dealing with injury absences of their best players.

Then, in the other two matchups, we have two road favorites against higher-seeded teams with their best players also dealing with injury. According to ESPN Stats & Information, they'll be just the fourth and fifth teams since the 1990-91 season (excluding the bubble) to be underdogs in their first playoff game while being the higher seed and having home-court advantage... and in all three other instances, the higher seed went on to lose the series.

Let's dig further into today's matchups and find some angles of interest in what projects to be a busy NBA Sunday.

Dallas Mavericks -2.5 over LA Clippers (-115). All eyes will be on the availability of Kawhi Leonard (GTD, knee), who hasn't played in the past eight games. On the season, the Clippers were 44-24 (64.7 win percentage) with Leonard on the court but only 7-7 (50.0 win percentage) with him sidelined. The Mavericks, meanwhile, enter the playoffs as perhaps the hottest team in the NBA. They won 16 of 18 games down the stretch before clinching the Southwest Division and their playoffs seeding and resting their players in the last two games. Luka Doncic was amazing during that run, averaging a virtual 30-point triple-double with 31.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and 9.9 assists. The Mavericks have a great chance to take home-court advantage Sunday, particularly if Kawhi is unable to go.

Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks over 231.5 points (-115). The Pacers and Bucks have played five times this season. The average combined score in those five games was 254 points, with at least 235 combined points scored in all five games. Yes, the playoffs tend to be more physical and defensive-minded than the regular season. And yes, the Bucks have shown spurts of better defense under Doc Rivers than they showed in the previous regime. With that said, the Pacers always look to push the pace and, without the defense and rebounding of the injured Giannis Antetokounmpo, they have a good chance to push the pace again Sunday. And with the Bucks led by Damian Lillard, their best chance on Sunday might be to try to outscore the Pacers.

Oklahoma City Thunder -8.5 over New Orleans Pelicans (-105). The Pelicans stepped up without Zion Williamson to defeat the Kings on Friday and earn the final playoff spot, but that has to come with the caveat that the Pels just dominated the Kings all season. Including the play-in, the Pelicans went 6-0 against the Kings this season with five of the games decided by double figures. They do not enjoy the same type of matchup success against the Thunder, who won the season series 2-1 including both games in calendar year 2024 by a combined 31 points. The Thunder went 55-20 in the 75 games Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played in this season, and enter the playoffs on a five-game winning streak. I look for the Thunder to have a statement victory to open the playoffs.

Projections and Injury Reports

Basketball Power Index by ESPN Analytics. Injury aggregation by Rotowire.com.

Miami Heat at Boston Celtics

1:00 p.m. TD Garden, Boston

Records (Against the Spread)
Heat: 46-36 (40-40-2)
Celtics: 64-18 (43-35-4)

Line: Celtics (-14.5) Total: 209.5
Money Line: Heat (+700), Celtics (-1200)
BPI Projection: Celtics by 11.9, straight up 83%, 203.8 total points.

Injury Report:
Heat: Terry Rozier, (OUT - Neck); Jimmy Butler, (OUT - Knee); Josh Richardson, (OUT - Shoulder)
Celtics: Luke Kornet, (OUT - Calf)

Dallas Mavericks at LA Clippers
East 1st Round - Game 1
3:30 p.m. Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles

Records (Against the Spread)
Mavericks: 50-32 (49-33-0)
Clippers: 51-31 (38-44-0)

Line: Mavericks (-2.5) Total: 222.5
Money Line: Mavericks (-150), Clippers (+125)
BPI Projection: Clippers by 2, straight up 57%, 220.0 total points.

Injury Report:
Mavericks: Greg Brown III, (OUT - Personal)
Clippers: None reported

Indiana Pacers at Milwaukee Bucks

7:00 p.m. Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee

Records (Against the Spread)
Pacers: 47-35 (44-36-2)
Bucks: 49-33 (35-47-0)

Line: Pacers (-1.5) Total: 231.5
Money Line: Pacers (-120), Bucks (+100)
BPI Projection: Pacers by 3, straight up 60%, 226.1 total points.

Injury Report:
Pacers: Bennedict Mathurin, (OUT - Shoulder)
Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo, (OUT - Calf)

New Orleans Pelicans at Oklahoma City Thunder

9:30 p.m. Paycom Center, Oklahoma City

Records (Against the Spread)
Pelicans: 49-33 (43-38-1)
Thunder: 57-25 (46-35-1)

Line: Thunder (-8.5) Total: 216.5
Money Line: Pelicans (+270), Thunder (-340)
BPI Projection: Thunder by 7.1, straight up 72%, 209.4 total points.

Injury Report:
Pelicans: Zion Williamson, (OUT - Hamstring)
Thunder: Olivier Sarr, (OUT - Achilles)