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Jonathan Macri previews Saturday's NBA games and gives us his picks

Tournament? What Tournament?

The NBA is nearing its own March Madness with Thursday’s trade deadline just days away, and several teams in action on Saturday may be prominently involved in the transaction game to come, starting with one that probably needs to make a move to reach their lofty preseason promise.

Charlotte Hornets vs. Los Angeles Clippers

It’s kind of ironic that these teams face off less than a week before the trade deadline.

On one hand, Charlotte will be paying the contract of Nic Batum - who has arguably been Los Angeles’ most significant offseason addition – for the next three years. He’s been a godsend for LA, but the fact that he’s been such a vital part of their team indirectly speaks to how thin the Clippers actually are. With a record of 5-8 and a negative 2.2 net rating in their last 13 games, it’s not hard to see them feeling the pressure to make a move.

On the other hand, we have the Hornets, who at 20-20 are a mild surprise in the East and may actually look to be buyers at the deadline. Despite that record and the impressive play of LaMelo Ball though, Charlotte went into the weekend with just the 22nd ranked net rating in the NBA. Like the Clippers, they could use an upgrade.

With both teams as uneven as they are, it’s a little surprising that this line is as high as it is, especially with LA’s middling 9-8 record against the spread as a home favorite.

That said, the Clips have only played four under-.500 East teams at home, and they’ve won all four, winning the last three – against the Pacers, Cavs and Wizards – by an average of 20 points. The Hornets aren’t under .500, but they have the statistical profile of a losing team, and will be after this one.

The Pick: Clippers -9.5 @ -108

Atlanta Hawks vs. Los Angeles Lakers

The hottest team in the NBA doesn’t reside in Los Angeles or Utah or Brooklyn or Phoenix, but in Atlanta, where the Hawks are a perfect 7-0 since they changed head coaches. They’re also 5-1-1 against the spread over that span of games and have the second best net rating in that stretch at positive 12.1.

All this is to say that they have a very interesting decision coming up in a few days. John Collins has been playing well, averaging 20 & 8 over his last nine games, but he’s entering restricted free agency and there’s speculation that he may be on the move. Would they move him, and if so, for what sort of package?

The Lakers, meanwhile, seem to have righted the ship a bit after struggling initially without Anthony Davis. They’ve covered five straight and seven of eight, with the only drop coming against the red-hot Phoenix Suns.

For as well as Atlanta has looked, they’re not on Phoenix’s level, and no team in their seven-game hot streak comes close to the Lakers in terms of record or year-long efficiency.

All good things must come to an end, and with this line far smaller than it probably should be, it’s as good a time to take advantage of the inevitable as any.

The Pick: Lakers -4.5 @ -103

Other NBA Games

Sacramento Kings at Philadelphia 76ers

What seems like it should be a pretty clear tale of two teams here may be a little more complicated. The Kings have won just two games on the road against winning teams all season, but after they beat the Celtics in Boston on Friday night, they now have a 10-6 record against the spread as a road dog, which they are here. Philly, meanwhile, is 11-7 as a home favorite, but they also failed to cover two of their lost four in such situations, in their own building against the Cavs and Knicks. They still don’t have Embiid and are coming off an outright loss in Philadelphia to the Bucks. Go with Sacto.

Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies

The Warriors went into Friday night’s contest against these same Grizzlies with four losses by more than 20 points in their last seven games, and their only wins in that time came against the barely there Houston Rockets and the suddenly slumping Jazz. Memphis came into that first contest with a 7-4 record as a home favorite, but dropped the first matchup with Golden State last night, 116-103 despite the Warriors being without Steph Curry. Curry will likley once again be out for this one, and it’s hard to see the home team dropping two in a row. Take the Grizz here.

San Antonio Spurs at Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks have won 10 of 11 games but are only 6-5 against the spread in that time, with several of their wins winding up closer than they should have. The Spurs are 7-3 as road dogs this year, and showed in their 23-point comeback win in Chicago on Wednesday that there is no quit in this team. Back them here.

NBA Expert Picks

(Click Odds To Bet)

Clippers -9.5 @ -108 (Click To Bet)

Lakers -4.5 @ -103 (Click To Bet)

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Article Author


Dean of Knicks Film School, host: KFS Pod, co-host: Pick N Pod. There isn't much about Knicks basketball that Jonathan doesn't know and he's here to break down the big games each and every week.


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