It may be the National Championship Game in college, but there are a few significant games in the NBA as well on Monday night, starting with a cross-town rivalry that could take on some added significance.
On the whole, since Kevin Durant went down following Brooklyn’s Valentine’s Eve win in Golden State, the Nets have played well.
They have a 5.1 net rating in that span of time, and their 18 wins are tops in the league over that stretch. That said, they’re just 3-9 against the spread over their last 12 games, and seem to be starting to run out of gas without their alpha dog.
On Monday night, they face a .500 Knicks team that was 11-3 against the spread until dropping three straight last week, and then pummeling the poor Pistons on Saturday night. New York doesn’t have many quality wins over top tier teams this season, but their defense keeps them in almost every game until late in the fourth quarter. Over their last 10 games, they’ve given up more than 102 points just once and have the top ranked defense in basketball in that time.
The Knicks seem to be primed for this matchup, and nearly came back from 17 down in their last game in Brooklyn. The wild cards will be the former MVP’s Kevin Durant and James Harden, neither of whom have been ruled out.
The line right now seems to assume that at least one of them will give it a go. Even if they both play though, this is one time to have faith in the road team. They’ve earned it.
The Pick: Knicks +6 @ -105
Since the All-Star break, four teams have a net rating of 7.0 or higher, and two of them face off here – the Utah Jazz (11.4) and the Dallas Mavericks (7.0).
The Jazz obviously have the longer track record, and are a clear favorite to gain home court throughout the playoffs with a record of 37-11. They’ve also won nine straight.
But they’re also just 6-9 against the spread in their last 15 games and haven’t played a top tier team since they lost to the Sixers over a month ago (they played Brooklyn over that stretch, but the Nets were without all of their big three).
The Mavs, on the other hand, are winners of four straight on the court and against the spread and seem to be hitting their stride. They’ve played eight of their last nine on the road and covered and won six of those contests. Here, they’re home, and need to make a push soon if they’re going to get out of the play-in spot.
The Mavs might not end the Jazz’s streak but with Luka averaging 28 a night and hitting 54 percent from the field over his last four games, they’ll keep it close.
The Pick: Mavericks +5 @ -105
Other NBA Games
Washington Wizards at Toronto Raptors
Following 14 losses in 15 games, the Raptors whooped up on the Steph-less Warriors 130-77 on April 2. Now, they’re hosting the Wizards, themselves losers of three straight by an average of over 20 points. The difference is that Toronto is just a game back of the 10th seed while Washington has little to play for. We keep waiting for the Raps to make a run. No better time to start than now.
Sacramento Kings at Minnesota Timberwolves
The Kings have lost three straight following a five-game winning streak, although they entered play on Sunday night just a game out of the 10th seed in the Western Conference. Minnesota has the worst record in the league, but they’ve covered four of six and don’t seem to be concerned with tanking to increase the odds of keeping their pick, which is top-three protected this season. This is a toss-up; take the points.
Detroit Pistons at Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have dropped five of six and haven’t covered any of those losses, while the Pistons have alternated a 29-point win against the Wizards with a 44-point loss to the Knicks in their last two games. The Pistons have the minus 2.3 net rating since the All-Star break, which is far better than OKC’s negative 9.1 figure. Go with the road team.
Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs
The Thunder aren’t the worst team against the spread since the break, however; that designation belongs to the Cavs at minus 10.4. The Spurs, meanwhile, continue to fight and hang onto their top-eight seed. They’ve failed to cover six of eight, but this is their last home game before seven of eight on the road. They’ll take care of business.
Phoenix Suns at Houston Rockets
The Rockets have won twice since February 4 and are far and away the worst team against the spread in the league. The Suns, meanwhile, are the best, and also own the second best record in basketball. This is not a fair fight.
NBA Expert Picks
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Knicks +6 @ -105 (Click To Bet)
Mavericks +5 @ -105 (Click To Bet)
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