Best Bets and Underdog Picks for 2nd Round of 2021 NBA Playoffs

Jrue Holiday

LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 29: Milwaukee Bucks Guard Jrue Holiday (21) drives past Los Angeles Clippers Forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during a NBA game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers on March 29, 2021 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. The game was played without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

  • There are several surprise matchups in the second round of the NBA Playoffs
  • Injuries have played a major part in these playoffs, and they’re bound to impact the second round
  • Read below for the latest series odds and picks

The Bucks and Nets get the second round of the NBA Playoffs underway on Saturday June, 5th. Milwaukee and Brooklyn was one of the few expected second round matchups, but there are plenty of other surprises. For instance, the Hawks easily got past the New York Knicks to meet the Philadelphia 76ers.

It was also another postseason disappointment for the Portland Trail Blazers, as they fell in six games to the Denver Nuggets. Denver faces the Phoenix Suns in the second round after Devin Booker and co. saw off the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.

Brooklyn has been title favorites for much of the season. That status has only strengthened with the elimination of the Lakers – many bookies now tab the Jazz as second favorites.

2021 NBA Playoffs Second Round Series Odds

ATL vs PHI Odds to Win Series at DraftKings
Atlanta Hawks +160
Philadelphia 76ers -200
MIL vs BKN Odds to Win Series
Milwaukee Bucks +160
Brooklyn Nets -200
PHO vs DEN Odds to Win Series
Phoenix Suns -220
Denver Nuggets +175
UTA vs DAL/LAC Odds to Win Series
Utah Jazz TBD
Dallas Mavericks/Los Angeles Clippers TBD

Odds as of June 4th

Hawks vs Sixers

Philadelphia’s -192 price shows how little confidence there is in Joel Embiid to return. Diagnosed with a small meniscus tear, the All-NBA center has been declared day-to-day by the Sixers. History of this injury suggests Embiid is unlikely to return in this series, and if he does, he will be a long way from the player who pushed Nikola Jokic for MVP.

The Sixers can win this without Embiid. Doc Rivers used Ben Simmons at center for periods against the Wizards, and it worked relatively well, but Philadelphia’s offense can struggle in the half court without Embiid’s ability to get to the line and make tough mid-rangers.

Simmons at the five is also potentially vulnerable against these Hawks with Clint Capela both a ferocious roll threat and one of the best rebounders in the Association.

Atlanta has just shown how dangerous they can be. The Knicks had no answer for the scoring and playmaking brilliance of Trae Young, particularly when accompanied by Capela or John Collins rolling to the rim and reliable shot making from Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, De’Andre Hunter and Kevin Huerter.

Having struggled without Embiid earlier in the season, the Sixers improved in the second half, and showed some good signs in Game 5 against Washington. Atlanta is a much better team, though, and Rivers could be forced to use lineups with Dwight Howard and Simmons to counter the size of Atlanta. In such alignments, offensive spacing becomes problematic.

Philly is still hopeful Embiid can play some part. With the severity of the injury, he’s not going to be anywhere near the player from the regular season if he does take the hardwood.

The Hawks’ +160 series odds at DraftKings represent great value. These two teams are very close if there’s no Embiid.

Bucks vs Nets

This is the series we’ve been waiting for. Milwaukee versus Brooklyn is arguably a matchup of the two best remaining teams. It’s two franchises who have gone all-in to win this year or next, featuring six All-Star caliber players.

The early series odds are about where they were expected to be. The sheer weight of Brooklyn’s stardom and offensive firepower has made them title favorites for several months, but no team in the league is as well-equipped as the Bucks to cope with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.

Mike Budenholzer has spent the season experimenting on the defensive end, moving away from his favored drop coverage, in preparation for a series like this.

The way Milwaukee flattened Miami set down a marker. It was meant to be a troubling series, but even with Antetokounmpo having some difficult nights on the offensive end, Milwaukee blew the Heat away.

Holiday was exceptional at both ends throughout. The bench play of Bryn Forbes and Bobby Portis was exactly what Milwaukee needed. The pair shot the ball extremely well, both going over 45% from three for the series. With Donte DiVincenzo out for the year, Budenholzer is very reliant on Forbes, Portis, Pat Connaughton and P.J. Tucker to knock down outside shots.

As ever, defense is the question for Brooklyn. Closing off the paint to Antetokounmpo is an obvious strategy, but how do they guard Middleton and Holiday? Is Steve Nash forced to use rim protectors in Nicolas Claxton and DeAndre Jordan rather than running Blake Griffin at the five?

It would be a disappointment if this is less than six games. There’s value betting this to go seven at +195. Given their performance in the first round, the Bucks’ price represents good value here. Brooklyn has the bigger names, but this series should be closer than the reputations suggest.

Nuggets vs Suns

The books couldn’t split the Nuggets and Blazers before their series. It was another epic between Portland and Denver, but the higher seed came out on top in six games. Phoenix, despite owning the two seed, was the underdog against the Lakers. When Chris Paul hurt his shoulder, the Suns looked in trouble. Monty Williams’ team fought back hard, however, and like Denver, won in six games.

Devin Booker’s brilliance helped the Suns overcome Paul’s troublesome shoulder. Despite Paul’s doggedness, this is still a huge issue for Phoenix. He shot under 40% from the field in the first round series, and averaged less than 10 points per game. Denver’s offense is far more potent than the Lakers; the Suns need more from Paul. Avoiding a Game 7 has earned a couple of days rest for the veteran point guard, which could prove pivotal.

The Nuggets will not be sympathetic to such injury worries. They have just won a series without their starting backcourt. Michael Malone will be crossing his fingers for Will Barton to return, but they will be encouraged by the play of Facundo Campazzo, Austin Rivers and Monte Morris, who all enjoyed big moments against Portland.

If Paul is limited as he was against the Lakers, this is a well-matched series. If he can get back to his regular season standards, this becomes a much trickier matchup for Denver, even with the option to deploy Aaron Gordon on Booker.

Michael Porter Jr’s first quarter offensive explosion against Portland in Game 6 showed how unstoppable these Nuggets can be. Jokic has been phenomenal once again in these playoffs. Like so many series in this postseason, this may well come down to the health of key players in Barton and Paul. It should be competitive either way, and it’s worth betting this to go six or seven.