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Jonathan Macri breaks down Saturday's NBA slate and gives us his picks

NBA Free Picks - Saturday May 1

We’re in the home stretch of the NBA season, with just two weeks left before the playoffs and play-in spots are fully decided. Certain games will begin taking on quasi-playoff level importance, starting with one between two familiar foes.

Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Clippers  

It’s impossible to overstate the gravity of this matchup between these two teams.

For starters, this is a rematch of last season’s Western Conference second round matchup, when the Nuggets came from 3-1 down to upset the heavily favored Clippers en route to a matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers. That series is probably the reason why Doc Rivers is now coaching in Philly and Tye Lue is the man now steering the ship for LA.

But for as bad as the blood may be between these two squads, the current implications of the result here loom just as large. Right now, the Clippers lead the Nuggets by 0.5 games in the race for the third seed. A win by Denver would flip them in the standings, and with that switch, their odds of reaching the conference finals would increase dramatically.

That’s because the Lakers are currently sitting in the 5th seed. They’re only one game ahead of the Mavs, but with LeBron returning soon and Dallas having been uneven of late, it’s a safe bet that the defending champs stay where they are. That means both the Clippers and Nuggets should want to avoid the 4th seed at all costs.

Of the two, Denver is the hotter squad. Kawhi Leonard has missed five straight games and his status is uncertain. In the games he’s been out, the Clippers are just 1-4 against the spread and have lost two straight outright. The Nuggets, meanwhile, have won eight of nine and Michael-Porter Jr has stepped up his scoring even more in Jamal Murray’s absence.

This might come down to Leonard’s availability, but the Clippers have been ultra-cautious with their star all year, as has been the trend with Kawhi’s teams for a while now. Here’s betting he sits, and Denver comes out on top as a result.

The Pick: Nuggets +4.5 @ -110 (Click to bet)

Washington Wizards vs. Dallas Mavericks

There’s an argument that these two teams top the list of squads that none of the big boys want to see in the first round of the playoffs.

For the Mavs, the reason for that begins and ends with Luca Doncic, who has reinserted himself into the MVP short list conversation following Dallas’ 8-13 start. Since February 1 though, the Mavs have 27 wins, tied for 5th most in the league entering play on Friday night, and sport a top-10 net rating. Doncic is averaging 28, 8 & 7 in 56 games this season, but he missed the last one – a close win over the Pistons – with a bruised elbow.

Presumably, it won’t keep him out of this matchup with the Wizards, who are 11-5 in April. There’s some fool’s gold to that record though, as it comes with just a positive 1.5 net rating. Their only victories over winning teams this month have come over the Lakers without LeBron and against a Jazz team that has been extremely inconsistent for a while now. They also faced these same Mavs on April 3 in Washington and got blown out.

This one should be closer with the Wizards playing better, but it won’t be enough to take them against the spread…as long as Luca suits up.

The Pick: Mavericks -5 @ -110 (Click to bet)

Saturday's Other NBA Games

Detroit Pistons at Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets are 3-8 against the spread over their last 11 games as they continue to feel the absence of Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball. The Pistons are a top-10 team this season against the spread, and continue to fight hard with their younger players. Take the road team.

Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets

The Rockets had an unexpected offensive explosion against the Bucks, but Giannis also missed all but one minute of this one. Kevin Porter Jr is coming off a 50-piece, and the Warriors are just 2-4 against the spread in their last six with the rest of the roster failing to support their MVP. That said, the precedent the Rockets set over the previous three months shouldn’t be ignored. Go with Golden State.

Chicago Bulls at Atlanta Hawks

Desperation time for the Bulls, who are still on the outside of the play-in looking in, and they face a Hawks team still fighting for a top-six seed. Chicago has put it together more of late and have been fighting hard, even without Zach LaVine. This should be close.

Miami Heat at Cleveland Cavaliers

Miami has been winning games - 9-6 in their last 15 games – but are barely outscoring teams over that time. That said, the Cavs have just one win and one cover in their last eight games. He Heat need the game far more. They’re the pick.

Memphis Grizzlies at Orlando Magic

Since the All-Star break, the Magic are one of two teams with a double digit negative net rating, and they are 5-20 in that time. They are getting outscored by 14.5 points per 100 possessions in their last 15 games, and face a Grizzlies team that has a winning record in the same time frame against a brutal schedule. Go with Memphis.

New Orleans Pelicans at Minnesota Timberwolves

The hottest team in the league against the spread? That would be the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have covered six straight. The Pelicans continue to be unable to make up ground for the play-in, and have lost six of nine. Take the hot team.

Indiana Pacers at Oklahoma City Thunder

The only other team with a double digit negative net rating since the break is the Thunder, who are getting outscored by 17.2 points per 100 possessions in the last 15 games. They have just one win over that time. They cannot be taken in any scenario, especially against a team with something to play for.

Toronto Raptors at Utah Jazz

The Jazz have six losses in their last 15 games but also have the best net rating in that time. The Raptors have a net rating that is less than half as good but just one fewer win. This is a matter of which Jazz team shows up, so it’s probably a stay away, but take the better team if you must.

NBA Expert Picks

(Click Odds To Bet)

Nuggets +4.5 @ -110 (Click to bet)

Mavericks -5 @ -110 (Click to bet)

NBA Free Picks

Every day there'll be free NBA picks and content on OddsChecker from our crack team of basketball experts. We're going to be with you every step of the way, as we move through the regular season, into playoffs and then onto the Finals. Sean Highkin and Jonathan Macri will be on hand to give you the best value bets, each and every day.

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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