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

Only four games but all of them have meaning where this season’s playoff race is concerned, and we’ll start with the team most desperate for a win:

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Warriors may be the gold standard for NBA franchises over the latter half of the last decade, but this season they’ve been anything but.

After bypassing LaMelo Ball for James Wiseman in a draft day decision that looks like it may come back to haunt them, Golden State gave up draft assets for Kelly Oubre Jr, who simply hasn’t fit in. As a result of these and other moves, the Warriors find themselves clinging to the outer reaches of the play-in tournament.

On the bright side, Steph is still Steph.  Coming into last night, the team was 25-21 when he played and just 1-7 when he didn’t. Not coincidentally, the Warriors are also 1-7 against the spread in games Curry has missed, as most haven’t been competitive.

They made it 25-22 against the spread with Curry in the lineup after last night’s 38-point thumping of the Thunder. Better yet, Steph has been on fire, averaging 39 points on a 53/45/90 shooting line since he missed five games with an injury.

Enter Cleveland, owners of the second worst net rating in the league and winners of just three of their last 10 games, one of which came against the Thunder, who have been by far the worst team in basketball since the break.

If ever there were a night to back the once great franchise, it’s here in a must-win situation.

The Pick: Golden State -8 @ -110 (Click To Bet)

Sacramento Kings vs. Phoenix Suns

Three down, two to go.

Almost a week ago, before the Suns started a five-game home stand, all against teams with negative net ratings, I implored you to take them for all five games.

So far, so good. They’ve won all three games and two of the three against the spread, with the one drop being against the Rockets thanks to a backdoor cover. It happens.

Here they face the Kings, who have fallen out of the race for the play-in tournament after losing eight straight. They’ve also dropped seven of those eight against the spread, and have given up an average of 120 points in the process.

Against Phoenix’s 7th ranked offense, they don’t stand a chance, and Phoenix needs every win in the worst way, as they’re now just 1.5 games behind Utah for the West’s top seed.

Take the easy money.

The Pick: Phoenix -10 @ -103 (Click To Bet)

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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Atlanta Hawks

The Bucks have been scuffling, but in the big picture of this season, it’s nothing to be concerned about.

No, Giannis Antetokounmpo hasn’t played since April 2, which is part of the reason that Milwaukee had a three game losing streak extending into the weekend from last week. On the bright side, as Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton have returned to the lineup since their own absences for minor injuries, the Bucks have pummeled their last two opponents, beating the Magic in Orlando by 37 and soundly defeating the Timberwolves in Minnesota yesterday afternoon.

Now they go into Atlanta, who has won 16 of their last 21 games, but have been hit hard by injuries of late. Trae Young, Danilo Galinari, Tony Snell, John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Kris Dunn have all been sidelined, and it’s 50/50 whether Young or Galinari see the court on Thursday.

Even if they do, it may not be enough, as Antetokounmpo is looking more and more likely to make his own return to the court. Regardless, the Bucks are a step up in weight class from Atlanta’s recent opponents. It’ll show on Thursday night.

The Pick: Milwaukee -5.5 @ -110 (Click To Bet)

Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers

All things considered, LA has to be happy with how it’s dealt with the absence of LeBron James. After an initial rough patch when they won just two of their first seven games without LeBron and covered just one, they’ve covered five of their last seven, winning four outright.

They also finished up their season-long seven-game road trip and can now look forward to three straight at home.

It won’t be easy though. The latter two are against the league-leading Jazz, who have been scuffling a bit of late but still present a formidable challenge. As a result, if they want to avoid potentially dropping out of the top six seeds, they need to take care of business against the Celtics.

It won’t be a cakewalk. Boston has won six of seven and covered five of those games. The Celtics themselves are trying to stay above play-in territory, and are just as desperate for a win.

Here’s the thing though: they’re just 4-9 against the spread as a road favorite for a cover rate of just 30.8 percent, which is the second worst in the league.

The defending champs do just enough here to cover, if not win outright.

The Pick: Los Angeles +6 @ -109 (Click To Bet)

NBA Expert Picks

(Click Odds To Bet)

Golden State -8 @ -110 (Click To Bet)

Phoenix -10 @ -103 (Click To Bet)

Milwaukee -5.5 @ -110 (Click To Bet)

Los Angeles +6 @ -109 (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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