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NBA expert Eytan Shander closes out regular season bubble play with four picks for Friday

Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat

BET: Pacers Moneyline @ -107

We know this playoff matchup is already set but shouldn’t expect any real fireworks today. This is more about just getting through this game without anyone – including bench guys – getting hurt. No TJ Warren, alongside Myles Turner. Don’t expect any starter on the Heat to play. That’s why I’m rolling with the Pacers, just because you may see some bigger names actually out there, even if it’s just for a quarter or two. The Heat might even sit their top two guys coming off the bench, so even if Indy sits guys on their own, more starter quality level players will be out for the Pacers. Indy will still need to hit shots and play some level of defense here, but even in a shootout I like the Pacers to walk away with the win!

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers

BET: Over 225.5 @ -125

The theme of the day rolls on as both the Clippers and Thunder aren’t expected to play many – if any – key players in their game today. One player of note would be the return/debut of Montrezl Harrell for the Clippers. He looks to be the only real impact player on the Clippers who will play. His minutes are still a question mark, but he can definitely help push the Clippers to an early lead. The Thunder are also playing some bench guys, but some of them have already shined in big moments. Expect a heavy dose of Darius Bazley as OKC will use this as a gear up game before taking on Houston.

The Thunder saw a nice run in the fourth to close out the Heat, and those guys on the floor should be able to carry similar momentum. Both teams will have players out there looking to shoot, and the defense might simply not exist. In a battle of the backups you’ll find both sides have plenty to play for even if it’s not something you can see in the standings. The tempo will be fast no matter who is out there, expect a lot of 3’s and uncontested shots up front for the Clippers.

Denver Nuggets vs. Toronto Raptors

BET: Over 223 @ -125

Similar situation going on here between Denver and Toronto with limited to no stars expected to play. Both teams are locked in their respective slots for the postseason, so who will play and for how long now becomes the main focus. It’s a lower number and I’m more than happy to pay a little bit extra to drop it 1.5 points to 223. The NBA bubble has shown us already that just because a team goes to the bench doesn’t mean they will stop scoring, in fact it’s been quite the opposite in the past couple of days.

Both teams should hover around 110-114 points, expecting a closer game between the two squads simply because neither has the depth to pull away. Both teams have long benches that play quality minutes throughout the regular season, so it’s a safe assumption here that they will be quite effective tonight on the floor. The Nuggets will still launch 3’s and will try and bait the Raptors bench into a shootout. Once again, the defense in this game will suffer, but I’m happy to take full advantage of that by crushing the over!

Houston Rockets vs. Philadelphia 76ers

BET: Rockets -4.5 @ +100

Both teams – again – are locked into their playoff seeds, but it’s really just Houston who is coming in with true hopes of moving on. The Sixers are already down Ben Simmons for the playoffs and should sit both Al Horford and Tobias Harris. They may foolishly play Joel Embiid for a couple of early minutes, but even that won’t last long. Meanwhile the Rockets will continue to ease Eric Gordon back into the fold – especially after losing Russell Westbrook. Gordon’s presence alone is enough to build up an early lead. Nobody on the Sixers is going to stop him if he’s going off like the old Gordon.

We know Houston won’t change its strategy during this game no matter who is on the floor. Same thing for Philadelphia – unfortunately for them. I do expect the Sixers to put up some points, but they aren’t built to last in a 3-point shootout. Houston might pull away from this one rather quickly early on, and I don’t see the horses in the stable for Philadelphia to go on some magic run towards the end. Take the Rockets and lay the points!


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