Let's put the magnitude of Tuesday's Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets into perspective. The Clippers entered the season as -1,400 favorites, according to William Hill Sportsbook. In other words, a bet of $1,400 would have yielded only $100 in profit had they won.
The Milwaukee Bucks, holders of the NBA's best record, were only -450 favorites entering their second-round series against the Miami Heat. In other words, a Clipper loss would be three times the upset of Milwaukee's collapse against Miami. It would go down as one of the biggest upsets in the history of the NBA playoffs, especially after building a 3-1 lead vaulted their odds to -3500. Fortunately for the Clippers, that isn't the pick we're making in today's best bets.
Eastern finals, Game 1
Western semifinals, Game 7
This is a dangerous pick. The Clippers don't have an answer for Nikola Jokic. Their bench has been a disaster in the playoffs, and Doc Rivers hasn't found the right adjustment to that flaw. But the Clippers have such otherworldly offensive upside, and such a devastating closer, they are simply in a better position to find the difficult points necessary to win a Game 7. Kawhi Leonard scored 41 in his last Game 7, and this is a Clippers team that scored 154 points in the last round. That doesn't remotely mean that they will again, but Game 7s are almost always defensive affairs, and the Clippers will be able to get the points that they need.
Nuggets-Clippers Under 208.5
There have been three Game 7s so far this postseason. All three have come in under their point totals. That includes Denver's Game 7 victory over Utah, which produced 158 total points. This is the norm for Game 7 matchups. They are almost always extremely defensively oriented, and that should be especially true in a matchup involving the Clippers. If we get 42-44 minutes of elite defense from Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, even another Nikola Jokic explosion likely won't be enough to nudge this game beyond this total.
Brad Stevens is 8-1 in his last nine Game 1s in the postseason. Erik Spoelstra is 14-10 for his career in Game 1s. These are arguably the two best coaches in basketball, and even if he loses Game 1, Spoelstra will have a number of adjustments ready for the rest of the series, but Boston has a history of punching their opponents in the mouth in Game 1 of a series to take an early lead. The responses will dictate the remainder of the series, but the Celtics almost always have the advantage in a series opener.