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USATSI

Good afternoon gamblers, it's Chris Bengel back with you. Mixed in with all of the hysteria of the NBA playoffs and NHL playoff race winding down is the 2022 NFL Draft, which gets underway on Thursday evening.

Ever since I can remember, one of my favorite weekends of the year is the NFL Draft. However, I miss the days when the NFL Draft was conducted on Saturday and Sunday. It always became an all-day event on Saturday with the action usually getting underway at noon. You'd order more wings than you could possibly eat and make a day of it. Obviously, you can still do that on a Thursday night, but it's not as much fun when you have to go to work the next day.

The NFL Draft is still a few days away, so let's dive into tonight's picks!

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook


The Hot Ticket

Hawks vs. Heat, 7 p.m. | TV: NBATV

Latest Odds: Miami Heat -4.5
  • Key Trend: Heat are 5-0 ATS in their last five games as a home favorite
  • The Pick: Heat -6 (-110)

The stars aligned for the Hawks to even the series entering Game 4. Center Clint Capela was returning to the lineup while veteran point guard Kyle Lowry was ruled out for the Heat. But even with momentum potentially on the Hawks' side, the Heat looked absolutely dominant in a 110-86 victory in Game 4.

The Heat are going to be without Lowry once again in Game 5 as he continues to deal with a hamstring injury, but they are still the side worth backing in this spot. The Heat are been playing exceptionally well and have a 7-1 record ATS over their last eight games. In addition, Miami is 6-2 ATS following an ATS win.

Even without Lowry, Gabe Vincent looked strong as the team's starting point guard and Jimmy Butler took over as the true alpha male on the floor. It also doesn't hurt that the Heat are averaging 112.5 points-per-game in the playoffs and shooting 36.6 percent from beyond the arc. As if that isn't impressive enough, this is also one of the most disruptive defensive units in the league. Entering Tuesday, Miami is allowing the second-fewest points (98.3) while holding the Hawks to just 44.4 percent shooting.


One more NBA pick

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USATSI

Pelicans at Suns, 10 p.m. | TV: TNT

Latest Odds: Over 215.5

The Pick: Over 214.5 points (-110)-- It's safe to say that not many handicappers expected the Suns and Pelicans to be tied at two games apiece entering Game 5 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series. The Suns definitely haven't been the same since All-Star guard Devin Booker suffered a hamstring injury in Game 2, though.

The Pelicans imposed their will against the Suns in Game 4. It also didn't hurt the Pelicans kept the Suns off of the free throw line. After all, the Pelicans attempted 42 free throws compared to the Suns having just 17 opportunities at the charity stripe. Chris Paul only had four points on 2-of-8 shooting and didn't get to the free throw line at all. If you're already missing a star guard, seeing your other talented backcourt piece struggle isn't going to yield a ton of success. 

I expect Paul to rise to the occasion and a historic performance wouldn't surprise me in the least bit, which would be great for the over play. On the other end, the Pelicans have had no problem scoring as they're averaging 113.3 points-per-game and shooting 39.5 percent from three (fourth best among playoff teams). The Suns are still averaging 110.3 points-per-game, but aren't having their usual amount of success from beyond the arc. Even without Booker, Phoenix still has plenty of capable perimeter shooters in the form of Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges, and Cameron Johnson. If those players can knock down a few perimeter shots tonight, I have no worries about this fairly low over cashing.

Key Trend: The over is 8-1 in Suns last nine playoff games as a favorite

NHL

Panthers at Bruins, 7 p.m. | TV: NHL.TV

Latest Odds: Florida Panthers -120

The Pick: Panthers (-120) -- The 2021-22 NHL season wraps up this week and there's still a few playoff spots up for grabs. As far as the standings go, the Eastern Conference is nearly set in stone, but the Panthers have a chance to make history on Tuesday. If the Panthers defeat the Bruins in any form and the St. Louis Blues beat the Colorado Avalanche, Florida wins the President's Trophy as the team with the best record in the NHL. The Panthers have never earned that honor in team history, so there's certainly going to be plenty for them to play for.

It's been no secret that the Panthers have been one of the best teams that the league has to offer all season. Since adding Claude Giroux to the mix, they've looked even more dangerous. The Panthers had a 13-game winning streak prior to losing 8-4 at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday. Obviously, there's no shame in losing to the Lightning and Florida hasn't dropped back-to-back games since late February. The two teams split the two meetings earlier in the season, but the Panthers have too much firepower and the odds are fairly strong in this spot. Take the Panthers to lock up the President's Trophy.

Key Trend: The Panthers are 4-0 in their last four games after allowing at least five goals in their previous game