Something worth keeping in the back of your minds: On Monday, both second-round Eastern Conference series will have played their first games. At the earliest, the Western Conference won’t start the second round until Wednesday. If the Thunder push their series to a seventh game, the Clippers will begin their next series on Thursday against the winner of Nuggets-Jazz. 

The second round will again operate on an alternating days schedule, but eventually, that gap is going to close somewhere. It could happen in the conference finals, with one series being delayed to accommodate the other, or it could happen in the NBA Finals, with one team coming in with significantly more rest than the others. Keep an eye on how the NBA manages its still-fluid schedule. There will be profit opportunities there. But for now, let’s focus on Monday’s best bets. 

All odds courtesy of William Hill Sportsbook

Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks: Heat +5.5

Whether Erik Spoelstra is a better coach than Mike Budenholzer is debatable, but he is certainly a faster coach. He doesn’t wait to lose a game or two to make necessary adjustments. The Bucks almost always enter series relying on their regular-season tactics and only adjust when pushed against the wall. That’s a problem for Milwaukee in this specific matchup. The Heat are the best 3-point-shooting team in the NBA. The Bucks allow the most 3s per game in the NBA. Miami is going to fire away from the opening tip, and it’s going to take Milwaukee a game or two to adjust. 

This isn’t the Orlando Magic taking a bunch of 3-pointers, either. Orlando just popped its bigs behind the line. Stopping that is simple. The Heat run some of the most sophisticated actions in basketball in the name of generating open 3s. Milwaukee will need time to find an answer for the Duncan Robinson-Bam Adebayo two-man game. The Heat will strike first in this series. 

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Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks: Over 223

The same basic logic applies here. Milwaukee is going to need time to adjust to Miami’s shooting. The Heat will put a bunch of points on the board, and assuming the Bucks hit their shots, they will as well merely by virtue of having Giannis Antetokounmpo. Defense will play a bigger role as the series progresses and the coaches can make their adjustments. 

Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Rockets -5.5

There comes a point in many playoff series in which one team simply cracks the code of the other. They identify the one weakness that, once exploited, ends the competitive portion of the matchup then and there. Houston did that in Game 5 by ignoring Lu Dort. Dort shot 3 of 16 from the field. He’ll be better than that, but without devoting resources to him, they managed to lock down everyone else. Eventually, Dort had to be taken out of the game, and no other Thunder player could defend James Harden. It’s a catch-22. The Rockets broke Oklahoma City’s defense by allowing Dort to ruin their offense. The Thunder don’t have a response to that on their roster. This series is over. 

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