Sixteen teams enter the weekend with the goal of winning an NBA championship - and while there are certainly some pretenders in the mix, there are a handful of teams that could walk away with the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy this June. That said, two teams stand out in oddsmakers' eyes: The Golden State Warriors are the favorite at +125 on Bet365, followed by the Houston Rockets at +160.
Here are the key betting notes for each of this year's 16 playoff participants:
The Raptors (+850 to win the title) came oh-so-close to joining the 60-win club this season, and are a significant threat to win the conference title given how well they performed - particularly in blowouts. Toronto went a stunning 33-5 in games decided by 10 or more points, making them a solid double-digit margin play in prop betting. On the flip side, they were just 5-7 in games decided by three points or fewer, so perhaps you should avoid making a close-decision prop bet on Toronto.
The Celtics (+6,000) are the feel-good story of the season considering how many key injuries they've had to deal with - but their run could be a short one if they don't curtail the turnovers. Boston has the second-worst turnover rate (15.2) percent over the previous 15 games; that stretch coincides with Kyrie Irving's absence from the lineup. That, combined with the sixth-slowest pace in the league over that span, suggests that bettors should take the under on the Celtics team total.
The 76ers (+2,000) stunned the basketball world by winning their final 16 games of the season to seize third place in the conference away from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bettors should note that Philly was the second-best first-quarter team in the league, both in terms of points (29.4) and margin (plus-3.4). This makes the Sixers a terrific first-quarter prop option, as well as a terrific play in the race to 20 points - but avoid them in late-game live betting, as their minus-1.1 fourth-quarter scoring margin is 29th overall.
LeBron James might have had his best NBA season yet - at age 33, no less. The future Hall of Famer posted his highest scoring average (27.5) since 2009-10 while setting career highs in assists (9.1) and rebounds (8.6); all while leading the league in minutes played. And The King has saved his best for last, tying or exceeding his regular-season scoring average in six straight postseasons - so consider the over on James' single-game point props as he looks to lead the Cavs (+750) to their second NBA title.
The Pacers made a living out of pulling out tight games during the regular season - and that bodes well for them in their first-round matchup against LeBron and the Cavs. Indiana went a sensational 11-2 in games decided by three or fewer points; the 11 victories tied Boston for the most in that category. If they can hang with Cleveland into the latter stages of the game, you'll likely get great odds on a Pacers live bet; consider, as well, that Indiana was a perfect 3-0 in overtime games this season.
Some teams come out of the half-time break on fire (you'll read about one such club shortly); others absolutely do not. The Heat (+10,000) find themselves in the latter category, entering the playoffs as the second-worst third-quarter team in the league at a paltry 23.9 points per game. Not only does this make the Heat completely avoidable in the third-quarter winner props, it should also make bettors think twice about picking Miami to have the highest-scoring second half despite Philly's fourth-quarter struggles.
The Bucks (+7,000) couldn't have drawn a better first-round opponent than the Celtics, at least in one critical area. Milwaukee has been on fire over the past 15 games, averaging a league-best 21.2 points off turnovers in that span; no other team in the NBA is above 20 points. Combined with the Celtics' turnover troubles over that same stretch, bettors should consider taking the Bucks against the spread - or even as a straight-up underdog, which they're sure to be in the first two games of the series.
The Wizards (+9,000) might have a psychological edge, having eliminated Toronto in first-round play in 2015, but will need to be on their best behavior to have a shot at another upset this year. Washington averages 21.3 personal fouls per game, good for 25th out of 30 NBA teams; they also rank 25th in foul rate per possession (19.3 percent). Toronto ranks fourth overall in free-throw success rate (79.4 percent) - and extra foul shots will make them an attractive over play in team total props action.
The Minnesota Timberwolves had better be ready from the opening tip - because the red-hot Rockets certainly will be. Houston enters the postseason as the team to beat, due in no small part to averaging a league-best 30 points in the opening quarter. They'll be an overwhelming favorite not only in the highest-scoring first-quarter prop - the Rockets' boasted an NBA-best plus-4.5 first-quarter scoring margin during the regular season - but also to win the race to 20 points. Bet both props confidently.
Golden State Warriors
Only two teams in the NBA averaged 30 or more points in a specific quarter - the Rockets in the opening stanze, and the Warriors in the 12 minutes preceding the half-time break. Golden State averaged 30.2 third-quarter points in 2017-18, making them a cinch as third-quarter winners against the overmatched Spurs. But consider taking the first quarter as the highest-scoring period overall; the Warriors averaged 29.0 points for (third overall) but surrendered 29.1 points against (most in the NBA).
Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers (+4,000) will need to be at their offensive best to keep up with a New Orleans Pelicans team that averaged nearly 112 points per game - and to do so, the Blazers have to fix some truly awful fourth-quarter long-range shooting woes. Portland enters its first-round encounter having connected on just 24 percent of its fourth-quarter 3-point attempts over the past 15 games. That makes the Blazers a no-go in 4Q scoring props, and as a live bet if they find themselves trailing late.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Extra possessions have a significant impact - not only in real-game situations, but in betting prop scenarios, as well. And when it comes to generating those extra possessions - and more scoring as a result - no team is more proficient than the Thunder (+3,300). Oklahoma City led the entire league in both points off turnovers (18.7 per game) and second-chance points (14.9); the Thunder also paced the NBA in offensive rebounding (12.5) and steals (5.0). Give OKC a second look when it comes to team point totals.
Everyone knows Russell Westbrook like to operate at a faster pace - and that was especially true down the stretch, as OKC ranked ninth in pace over the final 15 games of the season. But that should please the Jazz (+4,000) just fine - they finished second in the NBA in field-goal shooting early in the clock (18-22 seconds left) at 59.9 percent, and were fourth in 3-point shooting at 48.3 percent. If the pace picks up at some point in this series, over bettors are going to have a field day.
New Orleans Pelicans
No team played more overtime games than the Pelicans (+10,000) - and few were as successful in extra time, with the Pelicans going an impressive 7-2 en route to an unexpected playoff berth. Defense was the key for New Orleans in OT; they boasted a 93.9 defensive rating in the extra period this season, the third-best mark of any team to appear in at least five overtimes. It might not come up, but should the Pelicans take the Blazers to OT, they'll be a solid live bet.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs (+7,000) weren't able to extend their incredible streak of 50-win seasons, but their run of playoff appearances remains intact. That said, San Antonio isn't being given much of a chance against the powerhouse Warriors - though bettors should note that the Spurs boasted an incredible plus-7.4 scoring margin at home this season, compared to a minus-1.6 differential on the road. Taking the Spurs against the spread in Games 3 and 4 could pay handsomely.
Facing a team that launches 42 3-point attempts per game is a daunting task - but sometimes, the shots just don't fall. And the Timberwolves (+8,000) prefer to score a little closer to the basket, averaging a whopping 49.2 points in the paint - fourth-most in the league. With the Rockets having allowed 48 points in the paint during the regular season - the third-worst rate in the NBA - it's clear the T'Wolves have an edge here. Consider taking them against the spread, especially in Games 3 and 4 in Minnesota.