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NBA picks, best bets for Play-In Tournament: Time’s up for short-handed Heat as Pelicans quell De’Aaron Fox

Now that the 2024 NBA postseason has begun, the basketball betting market is hotter than ever. CBS Sports will be providing daily picks for the duration of the postseason. Sam Quinn will make at least one pick for every game between now and the NBA Finals.

Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat

Alex Caruso is questionable due to an ankle injury. He’s Chicago’s entire defense—Bulls lineups without him decline by seven points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass. If ever you were going to go into an elimination game without your defense, it would be against this version of the Miami Heat. They already ranked 22nd in offense on the season. Now they enter this game without Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier. Lineups featuring neither scored a paltry 112 points per 100 possessions. Duncan Robinson was listed as available against the 76ers but ultimately didn’t play. If he’s out too, that lineup figure drops further to 109.3 points per 100 possessions. If a do-or-die game is close, would you rather have the likely Clutch Player of the Year in DeMar DeRozan and one of the Most Improved Player favorites in Coby White leading the way? Or… Tyler Herro? Caleb Martin? Bam Adebayo is a fantastic player who has grown meaningfully on offense this year. He’s not someone you should be running your offense through in a do-or-die situation. The Pick: Bulls +1.5

Caruso’s injury takes an easy under off the table, but that’s still the pick here. The Bulls scored only 1.015 points per possession against zone defenses this season, which was below league-average. We saw just how much an unexpected zone can throw an opponent off in the Philly game, and it’s potentially even deadlier to Chicago, given its reluctance to shoot 3’s, which is the best answer against a zone. Expect Erik Spoelstra to come up with some creative defensive wrinkles around that zone defense to try to flummox Chicago. It won’t lead to a win, but it will limit the point total. The Pick: Under 205

Bam Adebayo attempted 14 3-pointers in his first 54 games this season. He then shot 14-of-28 from 3-point range in his last 17 games. He’s clearly at least become comfortable enough from deep to try when he’s left wide open. Chicago starts a very immobile center in Nikola Vucevic, so odds are, Adebayo is going to have chances to try. With a plus-money line, I like the odds of Bam hitting at least one triple. The Pick: Adebayo Over 0.5 3-Pointers

Sacramento Kings at New Orleans Pelicans

Obviously, the absence of Zion Williamson matters here… but the Pelicans went 5-0 against the Kings this season and are somehow underdogs at home despite Sacramento missing Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter. The biggest reason for New Orleans’ success in this matchup isn’t Williamson. It’s Herb Jones. When defended by Jones this season, De’Aaron Fox has shot 40.7% from the floor and 27.3% on 3-pointers. If Monk and Huerter were healthy, the Kings would have ways of countering that matchup. Right now, Sacramento’s offense is so dependent on Fox for creation that Jones defending him this well poses an enormous threat to their entire offense. The Pick: Pelicans +1.5

We’ve already covered why I’m bullish on the New Orleans defense. Sacramento has been playing great defense for two solid months now. They have the NBA’s No. 3 ranked defense since March 1 and just held the Warriors to 94 points in the first Play-In game. Williamson’s brute force was the Pelicans’ best answer for Sacramento’s smaller lineup, but without him, scoring won’t be easy for them either. New Orleans has other answers, but don’t expect this to be a shootout. The Pick: Under 212

Keon Ellis is the one offensive player I do like in this matchup. He’s hit double-figures in four of his last five games and is averaging 15.2 points in that stretch. He’s grown into a deceptively effective secondary ball-handler and his confidence on jumpers is through the roof right now. Fox is desperately going to need escape valves with Jones defending him, and I expect Ellis to be the beneficiary. The Pick: Ellis Over 10.5 Points

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