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NBA betting, odds: Three best bets for Friday night's NBA action

The NBA playoffs roll on Friday, with the Celtics traveling to the city of brotherly love to face the Sixers in Game 3 with the series tied at one, and the Suns looking to avoid going down 3-0 to the Nuggets in front of the Phoenix crowd.

The Eastern Conference semifinals tip off at 7:30 p.m. ET with the Celtics favored by 2.5 points after a blowout win in Game 2 at TD Garden. Joel Embiid didn't make much of an impact in his return, but perhaps receiving the MVP trophy will motivate Philly enough to take control of the series. Or maybe the Celtics will prove they're the better team, as recent history has shown.

The Western Conference semifinals begins at 10 p.m. ET with the Nuggets as 4.5-point underdogs. Nikola Jokic & Co. are coming off two decisive victories, and without Chris Paul for Game 3, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant will have to get a lift from others such as Deandre Ayton and Cam Payne if they are to get back into this series.

Let's jump into my betting card for Cinco de Mayo.

Marcus Smart over 16.5 points and assists (-125)

I'm targeting Smart for Game 3 because he continues to be a thorn in the side of the Sixers. Whether flopping or drawing charges, he has been a valuable asset against Philly all season. The former Defensive Player of the Year is averaging 18.2 points plus assists with an 80% hit rate to the over in five matchups against the Sixers this season.

He has a strong track record of performing on the road the past two postseasons, going over 16.5 points and assists in 79% of his contests (11/14 games). Smart leads the Celtics in potential assists in the postseason with 9.4 per game and has stepped up his scoring, delivering a shade under 16 points per game through eight postseason contests. Game 2 got ugly, and he still went over this line in under 30 minutes, so I'll run it back. Based on the way he has been covering this line, I'd play this to 17.5 at even money.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) has been dominating Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton in their second-round playoff series. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) has been dominating Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton in their second-round playoff series. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Nikola Jokic over 13.5 rebounds (-130)

Jokic has been a force on the glass, pulling down 19 and 16 rebounds in the first two games of the Western Conference semis. I see no reason this won't continue because the Suns have their backs against the wall and must put on an impressive offensive display to stay in this series. Without Paul running the offense, I expect the Suns to attempt to outpace and outscore the Nuggets, which should lead to more possessions and shot attempts for both teams. If this scenario holds (barring an injury or foul trouble), Jokic should be in for a busy night of rebounding.

He's averaging an absurd 28 potential rebound chances through the first two games of this series, plus he owned Ayton all season. He's averaging 17 rebounds per game versus the Suns and has gone over 13.5 in each of the four matchups this year. The rebound total is a bit too conservative, considering how much he has been dominating the paint.

Celtics first-quarter team total over 27.5 points (-105)

Joel Embiid's MVP ceremony will take place before tipoff, so you know the Philly crowd is going to be rocking from the onset. This is an opportunity for the Celtics to catch the Sixers in their feelings and put points on the board. Boston has been the highest-scoring first-quarter team in the postseason, scoring 32.1 points per game. Conversely, the Sixers sport the worst defensive rating in the first quarter through six postseason games, at 124.5. Sixers head coach Doc Rivers isn't one to make too many adjustments, and the Sixers starting slowly is nothing new.

The Celtics have had no issues hitting this number in the first two games of this series, going for 38 points in Game 1 and 28 in Game 2. Jayson Tatum had one of the worst games of his playoff career, finishing with seven points on 1-for-7 shooting in Game 2. He's currently averaging 7.6 points per game in the first quarter (sixth-most in the postseason), so I'm projecting him to be extra aggressive to rebound from his Game 2 dud. Jaylen Brown has also been a consistent threat in the first quarter, averaging a shade under 8 points per game in the first frame.

Game 3 should be a close slugfest, but this is a spot to back the Celtics, as they're riding high off a blowout win and will make sure their presence is felt early with all eyes on Embiid getting his prestigious award. I'd play this up to 28.5 at even money.