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Picks and analysis on Monday's NBA slate from Eytan Shander

We have three games left for most teams as the seeding is starting to take form. A couple of big names will sit in one game today, while their opponent may not have that same luxury. There’s also a couple of questions about the best team in the West, specifically what’s wrong with Anthony Davis. The Lakers will try and solve that and the Nuggets tonight. With both the Raptors and Bucks comfortably seeded in the East, the game of the day might be the Heat and Pacers.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Phoenix Suns Predictions

Bet: Thunder 1st Half Winner vs. Suns  (+142 Fanduel)

The Suns are THE story in the bubble without question. Devin Booker has paced this team to a perfect 5-0 record, and he’s starting to get some help. Meanwhile the Thunder shot the lights out in a wire-to-wire victory last night against Washington. The Thunder are going to be a tough out no matter who they play, with the 4th seed still in reach from Houston. Their productivity has shifted as they were down two guys up front and expect them to come out firing again early today. The Suns can battle back no question, and probably won’t be down much at the break. But expect a big push right away from the Thunder from behind the arc, forcing the Suns to keep up. Danillo Gallinari is the key to strong start early for the Thunder and expect a bunch of launching from both Chris Paul and Darius Bazley.

Dallas Mavericks @ Utah Jazz Predictions

Bet: Jazz – 6 (-120 Draftkings) vs. Mavericks

Dallas will sit their top two stars as the total was taken off the board, rather quickly. With Luka and Kristaps out resting, this game becomes a little more about where Utah is rather than who is out for Dallas. The biggest question for the Jazz is did they have enough time to truly gel a starting lineup, and the answer has to be an emphatic no. Which leads us to this line, at 6.5, but I’m willing to pay the extra 10 points to drop the hook. Utah has dealt with too many injuries and rotation changes to sit everyone today. With Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert back, the two should play a consistent number of minutes. The Jazz aren’t really any closer to feeling better about their postseason chances and should use this game as another opportunity to get combined minutes from their starters. Dallas is going to do exactly what they would if both Doncic and Porzingis were playing, shoot as many 3’s as possible. The difference is when Utah goes to their bench, the damage will have already been done.

Indiana Pacers @ Miami Heat Predictions

Bet: Pacers ML (+120 BetAmerica) vs. Heat

This is by far the best game on the slate mainly because it gives us a true preview of a first-round matchup. Both teams are even at 43-27 and might be down a key player heading into the game. TJ Warren remains questionable at the time of me writing this, as does Goran Dragic. Two important but not necessary pieces in the road to victory. Miami gets Jimmy Butler back from a foot issue, which is why the books have the Heat favored. That and they were slotted ahead of the Pacers to start. But while Miami will figure out a way to play without Dragic, the Pacers have multiple options if Warren does sit. Losing his 34+ ppg will not be easy to overcome, but a healthy backcourt featuring both Oladipo and Brogdon are making it tougher for every opponent. This game should also feature a personal rematch between Warren and Butler, who got into it in January – the last time these two teams played each other. Warren has since been on a tear, while Butler returns from a three-game absence. Expect Warren to play just to stick it to Butler.

Denver Nuggets @ Los Angeles Lakers Predictions

Bet: Lakers ML & UNDER 221.5 Parlay vs. Denver (+185 DraftKings)

Something is clearly not right with the Lakers, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis. Maybe we’ll chalk it up to the bubble restart when they hoist the championship trophy, but until then we can’t help but notice the struggles. The team comes in after losing three straight, two of those games in which Davis barely showed up. Their team defense has been questionable at best. This is a perfect opportunity for the Lakers to throw one more huge effort out before the playoffs start. Doing it against a young and dangerous Nuggets squad. I’m looking at the matchup itself as the prime motivator, mainly because James knows how the conversation shifts if his team loses a fourth straight contest. Denver is still seeing Jamal Murray return to his form before sitting out the start of bubble action and will also send Michael Porter Jr. alongside Nikola Jokic. Big bodies who can shoot and stretch the floor. Denver could be a little tired - which plays into the under - as they blew a 6-point lead late on Saturday, needing double OT to finish off Utah. This game is all about the Lakers bouncing back and the Nuggets having tired legs.


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