NBA Play-In Games Best Bets: Friday, April 15

C.J. McCollum, New Orleans Pelicans

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Both matchups tonight are win-or-go-home scenarios and battles for the eighth and final seed in the Eastern and Western Conferences.

The Cleveland Cavaliers host the Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta is the small favorite for tonight’s game. In the West, the Los Angeles Clippers (who will be without Paul George) are now the underdogs against a fiery New Orleans Pelicans squad with C.J. McCollum at the forefront.

All odds are accurate as of 2:45 PM EST on Fanduel Sportsbook.

Best Bets of The Night

Game: Atlanta Hawks at Cleveland Cavaliers +2.5

Although the Hawks blew out the Charlotte Hornets Wednesday night, they did not shoot the ball well at all. Although Trae Young had the “big night” for the Hawks, he only scored 24 points (8-24 FG) and went one-of-seven from downtown. He did lead the team to an important victory and recorded 11 assists. I think this will push Young to have a much better night shooting from the field than he did against the Hornets.

For tonight’s game, the away team is the small favorite. One reason for this is the potential lack of depth among bigs in Cleveland going up against Clint Capela. If Evan Mobley is the only big active for the Cavs tonight, they will fail to contain a ferocious Capella, who recorded a 15-point and 17-rebound double-double in only 29 minutes on the floor Wednesday night. Some good news has surfaced in regards to Cavs' starting center, Jarett Allen. Shams Charania reported earlier today that Allen would be in warm-ups and is planning to make a start tonight in Cleveland. Without Allen, Cleveland struggled immensely against Brooklyn's Andre Drummond and Nicolas Claxton with Mobley starting at the center position. Despite Kevin Love's double-double off the bench, neither Love nor Mobley can truly body up with Capela in the post whereas Allen can.

While Allen is officially listed as a game-time decision at the moment, all indicators suggest he is going to suit up and at least try to play as much as he can. Whether he will be successful on the floor remains a mystery, but if Allen joins Mobley in the Cavs' frontcourt, Cleveland will have the upper hand down-low and Capella might have a difficult time considering the undersized Danilo Gallinari is starting at power forward with John Collins still sidelined. If Allen suits up, that means he feels ready. If he and Mobley play tonight, I think the Cavs have a great chance of defending the home floor against the Hawks tonight to earn the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Pick: Cleveland ML +102

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Game: New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Clippers +1

In addition to C.J. McCollum’s big night against the Spurs, Jonas Valunciunas and Brandon Ingram also scored well above 20 points. In total, six players on the Pelicans' roster scored in double-figures against San Antonio to combine for 113 points of offense as a team on Wednesday night. The Clippers, however, are only the 23rd highest-scoring team in the league, averaging 108.4 PPG this season. Now that Paul George has been ruled out for tonight’s contest after entering the league’s health and safety protocols, other shooters and wings will need to step up for the Clippers' two sidelined stars (George and Kawhi Leonard).

Everything screams good news for the Pelicans while the Clippers are edging towards a status of crisis mode with PG-13 ruled out for tonight and Luke Kennard currently listed as questionable for tonight’s game. For the Clippers to win, Reggie Jackson and the Clippers' bench will need to step up in big ways. New Orleans has Ingram, Valunciunas, and McCollum locked and loaded and ready to go.

The Pick: New Orleans Pelicans -1 (-116)

NBA Player Props of the Night

Game: New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Clippers +1

Prop 1: C.J. McCollum Over 25.5 Points

The main man in New Orleans has hands down become McCollum. Just take a look at the 32 points, seven assists, and six rebounds he had in a decisive win against the Spurs. Tonight, McCollum will record at least 26 points and score the majority of those points by the end of the first half. As a Pelican, McCollum has shot 49.3% from the field to average 24.3 PPG, up from the 20.5 PPG on 43.6% shooting from the field he had in the first half of the season in Portland. With everything on the line, the Pelicans should let McCollum fire away.

Prop 2: Reggie Jackson, Over 20.5 Points

Now that Paul George is out, expect Reggie Jackson to be the Clippers' highest scorer. This season, Jackson averaged 16.7 PPG in 45 games without PG-13 in the lineup. With Paul George out in a playoff game, expect Jackson to shoot many more shots than he has in recent weeks and return to the offensive production we’ve seen him produce throughout most of the season with PG-13 unable to suit up. Even with George in the lineup against Minnesota, Jackson still attempted 18 shots from the field, though he only converted seven of them. Still, he finished with 17 points, seven boards, and five assists. Expect a lower assist-tally tonight and more points from the arguably the Clippers' best scorer who is still healthy. Considering PG-13 attempted 24 shots against the Wolves, Jackson should easily attempt 20+ shots tonight against the Pelicans. That bodes well for his point-total prop line.

Prop 3: Nicolas Batum, Over 1.5 Threes

With Paul George out and Luke Kennard questionable for tonight’s game, Normal Powell has been bumped up into the starting lineup and Batum should see 25-30 minutes as a trusted veteran on this mostly inexperienced team. Over his last two seasons as a Clipper, Batum has shot at least 40% from downtown. Along with Reggie Jackson, Batum should be contributing more significantly tonight to the Clippers' high-power three-point offense. As a result, I think it’s safe to assume Batum knocks down at least two three-pointers tonight against the Pelicans. In three games against the Pelicans this season, Batum averaged 1.3 threes in 26 minutes per game. He only attempted 3.7 shots from downtown in those three games and his 36.4% conversion rate was lower than his 40% conversion rate on the season. If Los Angeles is going to keep this game competitive and potentially upset the Pelicans, Batum will need to score double-figures and convert at least two shots from beyond the arc.

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