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NBA expert Eytan Shander closes out the weekend with his Sunday NBA picks

Halfway through the bubble action for most teams and still some at stake today. We see the Raptors needing just one win to clinch the second seed taking on a Grizzlies squad just trying to stay alive. A major injury to the Sixers might slam the door on any real postseason thoughts, but they need to get through Portland first. We’ll try and take advantage of lines reflecting injury and standing as we get closer to the tournament!

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Toronto Raptors

BET: HT/FT Grizzlies/Raptors @ +520

Huge payoff here as Memphis has everything to play for, from simply staying alive in the standings to moving on from the injured Jarren Jackson. Ja Morant has yet to really play as the consistent rookie we saw pre-break until their last game. The Grizzlies will keep that balanced momentum into a game the Raptors don’t need, they could just use. Meaning, one win in their last four clinches, so expect Toronto to hang around, but just not go into the break with the lead. When the game is for the taking later in the 4th quarter, talent will take over and the Raps win.

The Grizzlies have a bunch of teams looking to secure the 8th seed and are feeling the pressure of trying to hold on. They finally broke out last game but - depending on who sits for Toronto – will find a tougher task keeping the Raptors at bay. It’s a big line, sitting at 7 points, but I prefer looking at the narrative of early momentum for Memphis before running out of gas. The Raptors will be right there, ready to take what’s handed to them.

New Orleans Pelicans vs. San Antonio Spurs

BET: Pelicans HT Winning Margin 1-5 @ +330

Both the Spurs and Pelicans are coming off much needed victories to keep their hopes alive. Both teams have navigated through the loss or absence of some big productivity up front, but it’s only New Orleans who sees that return. Zion Williamson will be back, as should the Pelicans ability to control the game up front. It won’t be as bad for Brandon Ingram as last game’s shooting performance. Despite the Pels getting the W, Ingram shot under 30% for the first time all bubble. They will come out firing and win the 1st quarter with enough of a margin to withhold a Spurs run.

San Antonio isn’t going to be run off the floor, expect a tighter game, but I see a 4-5 point lead held by New Orleans when the dust settles at half. The Spurs got a ton from Jakob Poetl, mainly because the Jazz were down 4 starters including Rudy Gobert. That is going to be hard to maintain with Zion back lurking up front.

Houston Rockets vs. Sacramento Kings

BET: Under 231 @ +100

Sacramento needs to win, or they are finished. This isn’t an outright ML play, but I’ll take the 5 points in what should be a close game. The Kings were so bad defensively last time out against Brooklyn, you would have to think it can only get better. The problem lies in how hot the Rockets will be, averaging just under 60 threes per game. Beyond that insane clip, there’s Russell Westbrook, out again after missing the Lakers game. Expect Houston to do what they do, launch 3’s and give teams a chance to get back. One cold quarter and the Kings will have an opening.

Sacramento is dealing with injuries and too much lapse on defense, but they did beat the Rockets earlier in the year. Their secret? Houston shot a miserable 34% from 3 and James Harden struggled to make shots. Look for a late cover by the Kings but nothing close to a victory.

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Portland Trail Blazers

BET: Trail Blazers -3.5 @ +100

Life without Ben Simmons got off to a 1-0 start thanks to the Sixers holding on against Orlando. That won’t be as easy taking on a super desperate Portland team tonight. It’s going to be a battle upfront as two of the game’s top centers will provide a ton of offense. Joel Embiid has a lot more pressure on him defensively to slow down Nurkic/Collins/Whiteside, as the loss of Simmons will be most felt on that side of the floor. Philadelphia is still trying to move up into that 5th seed, playing for that and consistency without a star player. But for Portland it’s closing in on “lose and go home” territory.

Tobias Harris struggled on his way to helping the Sixers close down the Magic and continues to have a big target on his back for teams to slow down. But much like most games with the Blazers, this one will come down to the battle of the backcourt. Shake Milton and Josh Richardson are charged with slowing down CJ and Dame. It wasn’t a great game by any means for Lillard – as he struggled down the stretch missing two key FTs against the Clippers. The bounce back happens tonight as Lillard will steal the show. Expect a huge game from the Blazers all-star, help from his backcourt mate, and at least a 4-point victory.


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