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2024 NBA Playoff Best Bets for Thursday, April 25: Cavs vs. Magic, Knicks vs. 76ers, Nuggets vs. Lakers

Thursday will see three Game 3s in the 2024 NBA Playoffs, and our friends from Covers have selected a best bet for each contest.

First, the 4-seed Cleveland Cavaliers visit the 5-seed Orlando Magic at 7 PM ET, and the 7-seed Philadelphia 76ers against the 2-seed New York Knicks tips off shortly afterward at 7:30 PM ET. Then, the 7-seed Los Angeles Lakers host the 2-seed Denver Nuggets at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT.

Let's get into the picks for Thursday's slate of games.

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Orlando Magic Game 3

The NBA TV series has earned its designation. While Monday’s pair of games between the Knicks and the 76ers and the Nuggets and Lakers will live on in basketball lore, the Cleveland Cavaliers are quietly putting the boot to the Orlando Magic in their opening round series.

Just like the Cavs did last year, the Magic are finding out that there is a chasm of difference between the consequences of having a bad regular season offense and a bad postseason one. The Magic simply don’t have enough shooting or on-ball creation to beat Cleveland, and with the Cavs not playing incredibly well themselves, these games have become total rock fights.  

Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley have the Magic frontcourt discombobulated. Even though the Cavs have yet to crack 100 points they’ve raced out a comfortable 2-0 series lead.  

While I expect the Magic to get a boost playing at home, that improved play is likely to translate to increased energy on defense. They are not going to suddenly have functional spacing just because they’re playing within earshot of Disney World.  

In other words, if you thought this series couldn’t get more in the mud than it already is, I’m betting you’ll be wrong. The totals for Game 1 (180) and Game 2 (182) have only seen the line set at 198.5 for Game 3. I think the Under is a strong play for Game 3.

Best Bet: Under 198.5 Total Points (-110)

New York Knicks vs. Philadelphia 76ers Game 3

This series has entered full-blown delirium. After a back-and-forth affair in Game 1, the Philadelphia 76ers appeared to be moments away from seizing control of the series from the New York Knicks when Philly was up five with a little over 30 seconds left in Game 2.  

What happened next — a bounced-in three, a steal, a miss, an offensive rebound, and another three — upended the series before anyone inside Madison Square Garden had taken a second breath.  

The 76ers are now staring at a 0-2 hole headed back to Philadelphia. But while the heartache for Sixers fans is real, the last 30 seconds of game time don’t define the rest of the series either.  

Philadelphia outplayed the Knicks for most of Game 2, and I’d argue for large stretches of Game 1 as well.  

The great constant between Game 1 and Game 2 for the Sixers has been the play of Tyrese Maxey. While Maxey was questionable with an illness before Monday night, he showed no ill effects on the court.  

Maxey sliced up the Knicks' interior defense in both games, splashed numerous momentum-shifting threes, and abused whatever defender the Knicks threw at him. Maxey is now averaging 34 points on 66% true shooting for the series.  

OG Anunoby has drawn the primary Maxey assignment, but despite being one of the NBA’s best defenders, he’s simply not quick enough to keep up with a jitterbug like Maxey.  

Given how the series has developed, little can be taken for granted about what comes next. The surest thing to me is that Maxey will continue to score.

Best Bet: Tyrese Maxey Over 27.5 Points (-115)

Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers Game 3

Anthony Davis summed it up as bluntly as could be: Jamal Murray made a shot.  

While Murray’s buzzer-beater to beat the Lakers will be the enduring memory of Game 2, a whole lot else happened as well. The Lakers gave away a 20-point lead despite outstanding games from all three of Davis, LeBron James, and D’Angelo Russell.

That loss makes 10 straight against Denver for the Lakers and likely puts an already unlikely first round upset out of reach for the Lakers. However, they did find a few formulas for offensive success that should continue Thursday.

The Lakers went to something that they’ve gone to only rarely against the Nuggets in the past: the LeBron and AD pick and roll. They got great looks out of it as well, forcing mismatches and keying a huge offensive first half by Davis.  

They mixed it up just enough with additional screeners and spacing to keep the Nuggets guessing. It was a big part of why LeBron finished with 12 assists on the night.  

I think he’s good for at least nine again as the series heads to Los Angeles. James feasted early on offense against Denver, making a series of hit-ahead passes that built the early lead.  

And he would have had way more assists if the Lakers as a whole hit more shots. James is averaging 17.5 potential assists through two games.  

But he faded late in both contests, clearly fatigued in part because of Denver’s notorious altitude. With the game closer to sea level on Thursday, James should have the energy to create more advantages down the stretch and cash this prop.

Best Bet: LeBron James Over 8.5 Assists (-115)

Odds mentioned in this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.

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