It is finally here: the long-awaited Final Four of the first annual NBA In-Season Tournament. It’s hard to argue against this new experiment being nothing short of exciting, fun, and successful. The semi-finals should be no different. It should be thrilling in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, with two juicy matchups on Thursday, December 7. Let’s preview and make our picks.
All the lines are from FanDuel Sportsbook.
Best Betting Picks for the NBA In-Season Tournament Semi-Finals
Indiana Pacers vs. Milwaukee Bucks
After upsetting the Boston Celtics in the quarterfinals, the Indiana Pacers face an equally challenging opponent in the Milwaukee Bucks, who eliminated the New York Knicks with a dominant 146-122 win.
The Bucks have finally rounded into form, especially on the offensive end, as they scored over 130 points in four of their last six games. The Pacers have been the best offensive team in basketball all season, playing with lightning speed under the leadership of budding superstar Tyrese Haliburton.
That is why the over/under is set at 254.5. But considering that both teams should struggle to defend one another, the over is still likelier.
The Bucks don’t have a great option for guarding Haliburton. They will likely deploy Malik Beasley as the primary matchup. They also like to play drop coverage and use Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo to protect the rim. This should give Haliburton plenty of off-the-dribble three-point looks. Plus, Milwaukee struggled to get back on defense in transition against the Knicks. They haven’t had the discipline and effort on that front all season. The Pacers are the best transition team in the league and should take advantage of this.
On the other end, the Pacers don’t have a way to stop the Bucks, especially Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak does very well in a matchup where he can overpower his defender, and the Pacers don’t have anyone who can match his strength. Myles Turner or Obi Toppin will likely get the primary assignment, but Antetokounmpo should have no trouble dominating in drives and around the rim.
The Bucks have more players who have big-game experience. In a close game setting, Damian Lillard and Antetokounmpo are likely to prevail. Expect a big game from Antetokounmpo in a shootout.
Picks: MIL to win (-196), Over 254.5 (-110), Giannis Antetokounmpo over 32.5 points (-118)
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers booked their ticket to Las Vegas on the back of another dominant performance from LeBron James against the Phoenix Suns. In his 21st season, James is still as good as ever in a single-game elimination setting. He and Anthony Davis should be the two best players on the court against the New Orleans Pelicans as well. This should make a huge difference.
The Pelicans will have the rest advantage, with an extra day before the game. They dispatched the Sacramento Kings in a relatively easy fashion despite an underwhelming Zion Williamson showing. They also have some matchup advantages against the Lakers. Los Angeles doesn’t have a good option to guard Williamson in their starting lineup. The Pelicans have the size, length, and strength to match the Lakers. They also have excellent depth now that Jose Alvarado and Trey Murphy are back in the lineup.
However, it’s still hard to see James losing this game, especially since the Lakers will pretty much have a home-court advantage in Las Vegas. The Lakers are at their best when they turn the game into a slow, grit-and-grind-style defensive battle. They will try to wall off the rim on Williamson drives and rely on defense-first players like Jarred Vanderbilt and Cam Reddish to do that. This makes a relatively low-scoring affair more likely.
Picks: LAL to win (-124), Under 230 (-110)
Indiana Pacers @ Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo over 32.5 points (-118)
New Orleans Pelicans @ Los Angeles Lakers: Under 230 (-110)