Between the final round of the PGA Championship, a loaded EPL schedule, four NHL Playoff games, and four NFL Playoff games, Sunday is a sports bettor's dream. The NBA slate is absolutely loaded, headlined by the Lakers at Suns and Hawks at Knicks. Looking at the current odds for today's NBA slate, both the Suns (-2) and Knicks (-1) are slight home favorites.
We will share how we are betting each of these matchups and a bonus player prop worth targeting in the Grizzlies/Jazz matchup in this article. As a reminder, you can shop the latest odds to find the best line under each game breakdown.
Altanta Hawks at New York Knicks (-1)
We went home-heavy throughout the play-in tournament and cleaned up. Home teams dominated in the East last night but went 0-2 in the West. We are betting the trend continues for the Eastern Conference and will gladly lay the one point with the Knicks today.
As you can see in the game log below, the Knicks dominated their regular-season series with the Hawks, finishing 3-0 with an average winning margin of just under 9 points (just over 10 points in New York).
So how does Vegas settle on a one-point spread here? The Hawks enter their 2021 playoff run on a heater, winning 7 of their final 8 regular-season games including two wins against the red-hot Wizards and a 32 point home win against the Suns.
That being said, the Knicks were hardly out of form in the final month of the regular season, winning 17 of their final 20 games while playing arguably the best defense in the league. While points may be tough to come by for the Hawks today, the Knicks should get plenty out of Julius Randle. The Hawks had no answer for New York's big man, who averaged over 37 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists in the previous three matchups this season.
This is one first-round series we think could get six or seven games but just don't see any way Atlanta fixes the issues that allowed New York to sweep them in the regular season. Give us the Knicks (-1) at home today.
Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns (-2)
The regular-season series between the Suns and Lakers was an interesting one to break down. Phoenix took the series 2-1, but it is worth noting that the Lakers win two weeks ago came without Lebron James. Neither James nor Davis played in either of the Suns wins. All three regular-season games between these two teams had a double-digit margin of victory with Phoenix taking the first two by an average of 13.5 points while the Lakers won two weeks ago by 13.
So, Phoenix is yet to beat the Lakers with either James or Davis in the lineup, how will they fare with both stars active here on Sunday? If the 2019-2020 season is any indication, they could be in trouble. The Laker swept the season series, 3-0, by an average winning margin of 15 points.
Los Angeles has the league's top defense, allowing only 106.8 points per 100 possessions. While Phoenix was one of the top defensive teams in the league early in the season, they were forced to lean heavily on their offensive efficiency over the final months of the regular season as the defense slipped down the stretch.
Despite so many numbers appearing to be in the Lakers favor, the value here is very clearly on the Suns. Phoenix was the better team throughout the regular season, consistently beating the best teams in the league. With just a -2 spread, juiced at -109, and 56% of the total bets coming in on the Lakers, the Suns feel like the right side to be on here.
Furthermore, the Lakers were far from impressive in their play-in game against a Warriors on Wednesday. Golden State, playing a number of G League players, had a 13-point halftime lead against the reigning champs. They will need a much better effort to take game one and swing home-court advantage against the Suns. We need to see it before we bet it, give us the Suns (-2).
Bonus Player Prop: Jaren Jackson (Under 12.5 Points)
While we think Vegas nailed this number, we are still going to bet the under on Jaren Jackson's point total here. Utah vs opposing power forwards has been an under prop we targeted throughout the regular season. They allow nearly 10% less production to power forwards than the next best defense vs the position.
Beyond just how tough Utah has been against the position throughout the 2021 season, Jaren Jackson just has not looked like himself offensively since returning from injury. In fact, looking at Memphis' stats since his return, the team's offensive chemistry as a whole appears to have taken a significant dip.
It's a tough number because JJJ's active nature and work rate make 13 points possible against most teams, but we don't see that as being the case against a Utah team that defends and rebounds better than any team in the league.