Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies (-6.5)

What a wild night of celebration it was in Minnesota on Tuesday night. The Timberwolves faced a heap of adversity, seemed to lose every 50/50 loose ball and call, got nothing from franchise player Karl-Anthony Towns, trailed big late, and still battled all the way back to steal the game from the Clippers and secure their spot in the playoffs.

You saw exactly what it meant to this team. The players celebrated like they’d accomplished a major achievement — because for this franchise, they have. Minnesota has made the playoffs once since 2004. As a franchise, this was the Wolves’ second postseason win EVER without Kevin Garnett. It was a huge and well-earned celebration… but it also feels like it could lead to a real letdown spot here.

The Grizzlies did not have a raucous celebration when they made the playoffs. This team has it sights set on multiple series wins. They have serious matchup advantages on the glass and in transition, and they’re terrific at home and a much tougher team than Minnesota. This could still be a long series, but I think the Grizzlies come out and greet this celebrating Wolves team with a punch in the mouth in Game 1 and welcome them to the playoff proper.

THE PICK: Grizzlies -6.5 

Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors (-6.5)

The Warriors have been waiting three years to get back to the playoffs, and they’ve been waiting a long time to get Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson all healthy and back on the court together. Curry is reportedly healthy enough to play in Game 1, though on a minutes limit, and this is the first home game ever for the Warriors in a new stadium.

Golden State has always been a terrific home team in this era of the franchise, and they have the second best home record in the NBA this season behind only Phoenix. The Warriors badly outclass the Nuggets in talent in this series. Even if Nikola Jokic is the best player in the series right now, the next five or six best guys are on Golden State.

Expect the Warriors to come out with wild energy in front of a crazy crowd ready to burn the place down. Look for a big start right out of the gates, and don’t expect Golden State to look back.

THE PICK: Warriors -1.5 (1st quarter) 

Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics (-4.5)

The narrative in this series is that it’s extremely close and practically a coin flip between two great teams, but the Brooklyn Nets have never given us any real reason to believe that on an actual basketball court.

The Nets remain a theoretical team mostly. They ran up the score early on the Cavs in the play-in game but then barely held on to secure a playoff spot against an offense that could barely score and doesn’t belong in the postseason. The Nets play no defense to speak of, and the team is woefully short on wings and depth.

The Celtics are not theoretical. They’ve won 29 of their last 35, and half of the six losses came by a single bucket. Boston has the league’s No. 1 rating on both offense and defense during that span, and the Celtics are running teams off the court. Boston had a chance to duck this matchup and didn’t. Expect them to come out and get a statement win in Game 1.

THE PICK: Celtics -4.5

Chicago Bulls at Milwaukee Bucks (-9.5)

This series is over before it even starts. The Bulls have not beaten Giannis Antetokounmpo since Boxing Day 2017. Chicago was 2–21 against top-4 seeds in the East this year, and Milwaukee is the defending champion.

The Bulls are drawing dead, and the Bucks should put them away quickly, both in games and in the series. Chicago had a bottom-10 Net Rating in every quarter but the final stanza for the season, and the Bucks were a terrific first half team that took care of business early.

Don’t mess with the high line and wait around for a potential back door by the Bulls. Trust the Bucks to lay the wood early and cash out your winnings at halftime in a huge mismatch.

THE PICK: Bucks -6.5 (1st half)