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NBA expert Eytan Shander returns with his picks for Thursday's action in the bubble

Bubble life seems to be moving along just fine, tighter games, and what seemed to be less defense. All of which would tend to lead games to hit more overs, which we saw in the first two sets of games. But it looks like the books have smartened up, no surprise there, and dropping a couple of totals following what we’ve seen the past two days. There is one game – however – that no matter how many times I look at the under, I can’t find anything convincing.

Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks

BET: Heat +8.5 @ +100

I got burned on my Sixers' inability to close out a game (thank you Boston for showing the way) and it’s still too big of a number here for me to stay away. Miami is coming off their big win over the Bucks – minus a couple of starters in the second half – and should keep that momentum today. Giannis sat as did Khris Middleton because they are still in regular season mode. Miami – with or without Butler – has too many young guys playing for them to just quit or take a night off. Too much at stake.

Goran Dragic is now in question, but even without both he and Butler, the Bucks aren’t coming into this game with anything to prove. Even a close game down the stretch would favor the dog here, these bigger lines are seemingly harder to cover than a normal regular season game in March. They are being played differently, even coached on a more urgent level.

Indiana Pacers vs. Phoenix Suns

BET: Over 228.5 @ -108

Let it fly! Devin Booker might go for 50 today. Phoenix is coming off one of their most impressive wins in years, with Booker knocking down a game-winner over Paul George. The Suns’ two young stars are playing increasingly better, and you can see the confidence trickling down to other players. The playoffs now seem like a realistic possibility after three straight wins.

Booker has been lights out over their past 7 games. Then there’s the whole revenge factor. TJ Warren must have bought all the upgrades at the 2K shop before the bubble. He’s been on an absolute tear and is going up against the team that traded him. Warren and Booker alone might provide nearly half of this total. The Pacers are a real threat in the East. For a team that’s dealt with injury all season, it’s having little to no impact on their restart.

BET: Pacers -3 @ +100

I am truly tempted to just lay the 3 points here at +100, seeing how well the team has played on defense. The Suns had an improbable win against one of the best teams in the NBA. The line is there to tempt us! We just saw the Pacers take advantage of an unbalanced line, so who are we to not take advantage again. The Suns played well and got a little lucky with a late turnover at the end. The Clippers just weren’t’ L.A. type focused, at least not yet. As Oladipo, Brogdon, and Warren continue to mesh on the floor, we’ll continue to see them take advantage of tighter lines.

If the question is simply will this game come down to a final possession the answer would be a resounding no. The team is playing for a higher seed, still not completely where we believe them capable, and has the surprise scorer of the entire league.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets

BET: HT/FT Lakers/Lakers @ +150

Russell Westbrook was the bane in the Lakers’ existence last time the Rockets and Lakers played. Even if he plays through the questionable tag, it will be a more limited performance. The Lakers are looking to have a bounce back to say the least, hammered by OKC last night. Anthony Davis should not have nearly the same issues up front as he did with the Thunder. Not sure how the Rockets plan on going small and doing anything to counter Davis, but Houston has been brutally outrebounded their past couple of games. Portland threw a lot with Nurkic, Collins and Whiteside. It frustrated the Rockets and it showed on the offensive side as well. Houston is going to try and trade every AD dunk for a three, and the lack of physicality up front will be the difference.

Offensive rebounds and turnovers are going to be huge tonight, and with a heavy favorite on the Lakers side. There’s also the focus of LeBron James. Directly responding to President Trump and continuing to push his messages for change on the floor. There is far more at stake for James these playoffs than simply raising a banner, it’s become about raising awareness. Agree or disagree, the point in raising it is to show how much energy James will come into this game tonight. Building a lead at the half, and holding it despite a late run by the Rockets.


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