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East play-in picks: Look for Sixers to earn date with Knicks

Issac Baldizon / National Basketball Association / Getty

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After the West determined its 7-seed and set up a Pelicans-Kings matchup for the 8-seed, it's the East's turn to settle its standings. Let's get right into a breakdown of the matchups and our best bets.

Heat @ Sixers (-5.5, O/U 207.5)

Best bet: Sixers -5.5

Don't fall for the illusion of "Heat Culture" and "Playoff Jimmy." Last year's unprecedented, fluky run was improbable and won't be replicated. Erik Spoelstra might be the NBA's best coach, but bad teams don't suddenly become good in April. Their run to the NBA Finals as the No. 8 seed was an anomaly.

Miami's discombobulated offense ranks in the bottom third of the league and never found a rhythm due to various injuries to key contributors. Jimmy Butler coasts during the regular season and flips a switch for the playoffs, but it won't be enough. Max Strus and Gabe Vincent are gone, and Caleb Martin won't transform into Kevin Durant this year.

A well-coached group can win one game, so the Heat are a threat to beat the Sixers, but Philadelphia has a claim as the league's second-best team when Joel Embiid is healthy. The Sixers are 31-8 and plus-10.3 per 100 possessions with Embiid.

Although he sat on Sunday, Embiid should be available in a must-win game as both units look to avoid Boston in the opening round. If Embiid moves gingerly, the Heat will exploit that and could leave Philadelphia with a win.

But don't count on that. The Sixers are far superior to the dysfunctional Heat.

Tyrese Maxey: Over 23.5 points

The gravity of Embiid, who commands as much defensive attention as anyone in the league, creates openings for Maxey to operate. Maxey and Embiid's lethal pick-and-roll combination allows the former to knock down pull-up threes like this:

NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Heat have a top-five defense, so, while Embiid should score at least 30 points, Philadelphia needs Maxey to be a productive counterpart to outlast them. This is Maxey's first playoff game as the secondary option, but he's made for the moment.

Maxey succeeds against Miami's defense, evidenced by a 37-point outing two weeks ago. He dropped 30 against Miami two other times, too.

The Heat may have a different defensive approach in this crucial matchup, but blitzing Maxey isn't an option when he effectively finds Embiid in the short roll.

This line is too low for an All-Star who averages just under 26 points per game.

Odds: -115

Tyler Herro: Over 29.5 PRA

Herro is the Heat's most dependable option on a team where offensive production is often scarce. He missed time with various injuries but returned in early April and is back to playing a normal load of minutes.

The Sixers employ some suspect perimeter defenders, which makes it easy for Herro to earn buckets. In two games against Philadelphia, he averaged 35 combined points, rebounds, and assists.

Odds: -110

(10) Hawks @ (9) Bulls (-3, O/U 222.5)

Best bet: Bulls -3

The Bulls aren't an offensive juggernaut, but they have enough weapons to torch Atlanta's horrid perimeter defense. The Hawks have the league's fourth-worst defensive rating.

Trae Young returned last week, but Atlanta held its own without him, and Dejounte Murray shined as the primary option. There's an argument that the Hawks are better without Young than with him, as they have virtually the same net rating with him on or off the floor, and Atlanta's defense improves significantly when Young sits on the bench.

Chicago's greatest advantage is in the clutch (defined by a game within five points in the final five minutes). The Bulls have the most clutch wins and are plus-23.5 per 100 possessions in such situations, the league's second-best mark behind the Nuggets. Furthermore, DeMar DeRozan has the NBA's most clutch points. He and the Bulls' crunch-time offense carried a mediocre group to the ninth seed.

The Hawks, on the other hand, are the league's fifth-worst clutch unit. If this game is close in the waning minutes, Chicago will pull away and keep its season alive.

Coby White: Over 19.5 points

Coby White deserves consideration for the Most Improved Player award. He's a top option for the Bulls, who dealt with various injuries to guards.

White scored 22, 20, and 19 in his three meetings against the Hawks, whose defense struggles at the point of attack. He shot 15% from three in those games, an uncharacteristically low percentage for a player shooting 37% from deep on the season.

But White's capable of an offensive explosion if he connects on those threes.

Odds: -120

Sam Oshtry is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on X @soshtry for more betting coverage.

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