2023 NBA playoffs: Odds, picks, betting tips for Mondays games

ESPN’s fantasy basketball and betting tips cheat sheet is your pregame destination for basketball betting predictions and our best intel and data, featuring ESPN’s proprietary Basketball Power Index (BPI) to help you make smart fantasy and wagering decisions. NBA game odds for Monday are provided by Caesars Sportsbook, and fantasy advice is based on ESPN 10-team leagues.

What you need to know for Monday’s games

The second round of the NBA playoffs is not immune to the impact injuries that occurred throughout the first round, but at least they aren’t as widespread. For Monday’s two-game slate, we primarily focus on the availability of MVP favorite Joel Embiid and his somewhat mysterious knee injury.

Diagnosed with a lateral collateral ligament sprain in his right knee, Embiid is listed as doubtful ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers’ pivotal Eastern Conference semifinals opener against the Boston Celtics. Given the Celtics are positioned as double-digit favorites for Game 1, the betting market is behaving as if Embiid could be sidelined.

If the league’s leading scorer is in street clothes, it’s notable that Tyrese Maxey sees the largest leap on the roster in fantasy points per minute without Embiid on the court. James Harden’s usage rises by a team-high 5.7% in such lineups, although it’s Tobias Harris who trails only Maxey in added fantasy output. Even Paul Reed, known as “Bball Paul,” has some real upside if Embiid can’t go.

The Phoenix Suns look to even their series against the Denver Nuggets on the road in their Western Conference semifinals Game 2 matchup, as Deandre Ayton and Jamal Murray stand out in my model as the strongest DFS (daily fantasy sports) values in this contest. The total for this one is at least 227 points on most books, signaling some offensive upside compared to the earlier Eastern contest.

— Jim McCormick

Breaking down Monday’s slate

Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics
Game 1: 7:30 p.m. ET

Records (against the spread)
76ers: 54-28 (46-35-1)
Celtics: 57-25 (45-36-1)

Line: Celtics (-10) Total: 214
BPI projection: Celtics by 1.5
Money line: 76ers (+400), Celtics (-550)

Injury Report:
76ers: Joel Embiid, (GTD — knee)
Celtics: Danilo Gallinari, (OUT — knee)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play.

Best bet: 76ers +10. I know that Embiid is doubtful to play Monday, but this is just too many points. The 76ers are a prideful team that has a lot of talent, even if Embiid doesn’t play. A double-digit spread is iffy, even in the regular season when lottery teams go on the road against contenders. In the first game of the conference semifinals, I believe the 76ers will make the game competitive no matter whom they have available. I’ll take the points. — Andre Snellings

Best bet: Jaylen Brown over 24.5 points. Brown is in his wave right now with three straight games of at least 31 points scored (32.7 points per game during that stretch). He has also had success against the 76ers this season. He faced them three times, but in one of the games, he played only 17 minutes in the midst of a string of missed games. In the two games he played regular minutes, he dropped 35 and 26 points. — Snellings

Best bet: Jayson Tatum over 29.5 points and 3.5 3-pointers. Don’t overlook this plus odds bet on Monday’s slate. Tatum has averaged 10 3-point attempts per game during the playoffs and has made 3.5 triples per game. You can expect Tatum and the Celtics to get off to a fast against the Embiid-less 76ers. On the surface, Philadelphia seems to be a better team defensively than the Hawks. During the regular season, the 76ers’ defensive rating fell to 17th place after the All-Star break. This weakness can be exploited offensively by the Celtics. Tatum is averaging 27.2 points per game in the playoffs. — Eric Moody

Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets
Game 2: 10 p.m. ET, Nuggets lead series 1-0

Records (against the spread)
Suns: 45-37 (42-38-2)
Nuggets: 53-29 (44-37-1)

Line: Nuggets (-4.5) Total: 227
BPI projection: Nuggets by 5
Money line: Suns (+158), Nuggets (-190)

Injury Report:
Suns: None reported
Nuggets: None reported
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play.

Best bet: Jamal Murray over 24.5 points. Murray is channeling his explosive play from the bubble, in which he and Donovan Mitchell participated in a scorers’ duel for the ages. He has scored 34 or more points in three of his past five games and in the postseason is the clear leading-scoring option for the Nuggets. He will need to stay hot for the Nuggets to defend home court again against the Suns. — Snellings

Best bet: Kevin Durant over 28.5 points. Durant “quietly” averaged 26.0 PPG in the first two games against Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers last round, ceding top dog status to Devin Booker. But he has reasserted himself of late, averaging 30.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in his past three outings to close out the Clippers and open up the action against the Nuggets. Durant was well on his way to a mid-30s-type performance entering the fourth quarter of Game 1 before the Nuggets went on a run and put the game out of reach. I look for him to continue his strong play as the Suns try to steal Game 2. — Snellings

Best bet: Nikola Jokic over 47.5 points+assists+rebounds. The Nuggets put up a good offensive performance in Game 1, and I think they’ll keep it up on Monday. Jokic should continue to take advantage of the Suns’ lack of frontcourt depth. As the Suns adjust their defense, I see Jokic being more of a facilitator in Game 2. He has averaged 24.6 points, 12.8 rebounds and 8.9 assists over his past 20 games. — Moody

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