Side bet with your buddies: Is Knicks-Celtics or Pelicans-Kings the better of the two TNT games tonight? Your wager must be $2 and must be paid with a $2 bill, and no matter who wins, there will be a piece of currency with Thomas Jefferson on it in circulation.

That wagering strategy has worked in New York to the amusement of a couple of semi-retired New York Knicks writers who sometimes had to scour Manhattan for a bank carrying $2 bills.

This is relevant tonight because the New York Knicks are going into Boston as 1½-point favorites against a Celtics team that has nothing to play for at this point in the regular season. The Knicks, however, are trying to finish as high as they can in the Eastern Conference standings and can move within a game of the No. 2 Milwaukee Bucks with a win.

If New York finishes 3-0 and Milwaukee (now without Giannis Antetokounmpo until the first round of the playoffs at the earliest) finishes 0-2, it will be the Knicks entering the postseason with the East’s No. 2 seed -- however unlikely that appeared just a week ago.

So it goes in the NBA, where the league office schedules 82 games for each team and hopes that a few of those contested on the final day of the season will be meaningful.

Sunday’s Knicks vs. Bulls game has already been moved to national television on ESPN in anticipation of the No. 2 seed possibility, so we shall see. But it will not be as epic if the Knicks fail to defeat the Celtics on the road Thursday night, which is what brings us to Jalen Brunson.

In a late push to be named First Team All-NBA, Brunson has gone off for 45 and 43 points in the Knicks’ two most recent games -- those coming after he had back-to-back 35-point outings last week. When the NBA Finals MVP futures lines come out after the postseason matchups are set, he will not be a bad bet in that category.

Yeah, he is that good.

Let’s move on to our picks for Thursday’s games, which will take place after a handful of $2 bills are put in play during the first round of The Masters.

NBA Player Props Today for Thursday, April 11, 2024

Jalen Brunson 45+ pointsIf Jalen Brunson had not missed a pair of free throws at Milwaukee on Sunday, he would have scored 45 points – which is what he did two nights later against the Chicago Bulls. The All-Star is the real deal and off the charts when it comes to intensity, and we have no problem forsaking the +600 line for him to score 40+ points and going instead with the higher and riskier +1200 line on the Betway board because we believe in him that much, and because Boston has no incentive to play hard. The Celtics are focused on winning a championship, not the adulation of the TNT commentators.

The Pick: Jalen Brunson to score 45 or more points (+1200)

Alex Caruso to score 20+ points

Amazingly, the Bulls have lost two of three games to the Pistons in the season series, a reminder of just how hot and cold Chicago can run. They will likely get a big game from someone among the trio of DeMar DeRozan, Coby White, and Nikola Vucevic, but those three do not have a great body of work against the Pistons this season, which is why we like Alex Caruso to score 20 or more points for the third time this season. Caruso, Chicago’s only player with a championship pedigree from his time with the Lakers, will rise to the occasion.

The Pick: Alex Caruso to score 20 or more points (+1200)

Steph Curry to score 40+ points

The last time the Warriors played in Portland, Steph Curry scored only seven points and had his streak of consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer stopped at 268. He will want to atone for that, and the tight race with the Lakers for home court in the No. 9 vs. No. 10 game will provide further reason for him to lock in on Thursday.

The Pick: Steph Curry to score 40 or more points (+1200)

De’Aaron Fox and Zion Williamson both to score 30+ points

Playing on the road at Oklahoma City two nights ago, De’Aaron Fox scored 33 points. He has scored 30 or more points in 25 games and might not have to face the pesky defense of Jose Alvarado as much as some may have thought. Alvarado had a terrible game last time out, going 1-for-6 overall and 0-for-5 on 3-pointers in 20 scoreless minutes against the Trail Blazers on Tuesday. New Orleans’ Zion Williamson, meanwhile, has a recent trend of missing 30 or more points for three straight games and then getting there. Keegan Murray’s questionable status helps Williamson.

The pick: De’Aaron Fox and Zion Williamson to score at least 30 points (+450)

Odds are subject to change*

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