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NBA odds: First-round playoff series prices posted at BetMGM, are any big underdogs worth backing?

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The NBA playoffs are a long-awaited treat after a long summer, but oddsmakers aren’t expecting the first round to be very competitive.

BetMGM placed odds on the seven series that are already set, and the theme is clear: The favorite in each series is a big favorite. The winner of the play-in game(s) between the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies likely will have huge odds against the Los Angeles Lakers, too.

The Denver Nuggets are -200 in their series against the Utah Jazz, meaning a bettor would have to place $200 on the Nuggets to win $100. And Denver has the lowest odds of any of the seven favorites.

Huge favorites for first round

If you want to bet favorites in some of the NBA’s playoff series, you might be waiting until the second round.

Here’s a list of the series that are out at MGM, with the odds listed and starting with the biggest mismatches:

Milwaukee Bucks (-10000) vs. Orlando Magic (+1600)
Toronto Raptors (-3334) vs. Brooklyn Nets (+1100)
Los Angeles Clippers (-527) vs. Dallas Mavericks (+375)
Boston Celtics (-400) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (+300)
Miami Heat (-400) vs. Indiana Pacers (+305)
Houston Rockets (-223) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (+175)
Denver Nuggets (-200) vs. Utah Jazz (+160)

Those are some overwhelming lines, and taking any of the favorites is going to be costly. Apparently oddsmakers weren’t influenced by seeing some of the top teams in the league play poorly the past couple weeks in Orlando.

Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard, right, will face the Dallas Mavericks and Luka Doncic (77) in the first round of the playoffs. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard, right, will face the Dallas Mavericks and Luka Doncic (77) in the first round of the playoffs. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

Are any underdogs worth betting?

Since taking a favorite is really tough unless you’re willing to lay a lot to win a little, it’s prudent to look at the underdogs. One of the eight series has to be an upset, right?

But it’s hard to make a great case for any of the underdogs individually.

If the Trail Blazers are the Lakers’ matchup they might be a popular pick, because Damian Lillard is playing out of his mind and Los Angeles has been underwhelming in the bubble, to say the least. But it’s not like the Lakers had a ton of motivation and betting on LeBron James to get eliminated in the first round isn’t easy.

If T.J. Warren is healthy for the Pacers, they are intriguing after going 5-2 in the bubble, though the Heat did slow Warren down in the most recent meeting. The 76ers line is high because Ben Simmons is out. Maybe Luka Doncic can carry the Mavericks to a series upset, but it’s a tough matchup for them. Utah, the smallest underdog on the board, might be the best play among the eight underdogs.

The NBA playoffs should be entertaining and a nice diversion. Maybe the first round will be better than the odds indicate.

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