A light slate dots the NBA docket on Tuesday, but a few of the games have important consequences for the playoff picture, including one between possible first-round opponents out West.
If the playoffs started today, these two teams would be in line to face one another in the first round, which makes for an interesting match of priorities with a little more than a dozen games remaining.
On one hand, the Clippers would probably adore a first-round series against Portland. The Blazers sport the second worst defense in the league and Los Angeles is 26-1 when they score at least 119 points.
On the other hand, if LA tries to mess around tonight and engage in some seeding chicanery to ensure that they get this matchup, they could risk falling to fourth or that the Blazers rise to fifth, in which case the Clippers could be seeing their cross-town rivals in late May instead.
In short, Kawhi & Co will be in this one to win it. The worst case scenario is that Portland falls out of 6th and Dallas takes their place, which would make for a tougher go in the first-round, but that’s still better than playing the Lakers or even the Murray-less Nuggets and their MVP front-runner.
Odds are they’ll take care of business here. Damian Lillard has missed the last two games and have struggled to score in his absence, putting up an average of 104 points. With Lillard still hurting and possibly out, they won’t be able to score enough to stay in this one.
The Pick: Portland +8 @ -110 (Click to Bet)
The hottest team in basketball doesn’t play in Los Angeles or Utah or Phoenix or Brooklyn, but in a little suburb of New York City called Manhattan, which is where the Knicks will take on the Hornets for this game.
It’s the second of six straight home games for New York, winners of six in a row after they escaped the Pelicans on Sunday thanks to a game-tying Reggie Bullock 3-pointer at the end of regulation. Better even than the winning streak is the fact that the Knicks have now covered nine straight games against the spread, the longest such streak in the league.
In Charlotte, they’ll get a banged up team missing arguably its top two performers in Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball. They’ve won three of eight games since Hayward went down but against weaker competition, including Sunday night against a Blazers team missing Damian Lillard.
They also had some insanely hot shooting to begin that game, and the Knicks lead the league in opponents’ effective field goal percentage. What once seemed fluky now feels entirely legit. Break up the Knicks.
The Pick: New York -5.5 @ -110 (Click to Bet)
Other NBA Games
Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks
Speaking of hot, the Hawks have covered eight of 10 games, as they remain locked into the 4/5 matchup in the Eastern Conference. They play the Magic, who were initially feisty after the Vooch trade but are just 3-7 with the second worst net rating in the NBA in their last 10 games. Go with the hot home squad.
Brooklyn Nets at New Orleans Pelicans
Another game, another Nets injury. With KD now joining James Harden on the shelf, it’s down to Kyrie Irving as Brooklyn faces a Pelicans squad at home desperate to stay in the play-in race. Take Zion & Co.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Sacramento Kings
Two teams playing out the string, so probably best to avoid this one as these teams randomly show up to play when you’re least expecting it. If anything, take the points.
NBA Expert Picks
(Click Odds To Bet)
Portland +8 @ -110 (Click to Bet)
New York -5.5 @ -110 (Click to Bet)
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