NBA Predictions - May 15, 2021
We’re finally near the end. Now it just comes down to seeding, so wagering will require a close eye on who still has an incentive to win, who might have an incentive to lose, and who you should just stay away from. We’ll focus on two games, one in each conference, where the motivations are more or less clear.
After losing eight of 10 games and looking like an absolute lock for a play-in tournament that LeBron James made it clear he thinks so very little of, the Lakers are still alive for the sixth seed following three consecutive wins.
Heading into the weekend, Los Angeles knows that if they take care of business against Indiana today and then the already-eliminated New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday, they will get the sixth seed as long as Blazers also lose to the Nuggets on Sunday night.
There is a question as to whether or not Denver will be trying its hardest on Sunday, as there’s a possibility that a Nugget loss to Portland ensures they will get to avoid the Lakers until the conference finals, but what can’t be doubted is LA’s motivation here. They’ll be trying hard.
Better yet, they should have both LeBron James and Anthony Davis ready to go after they both sat out a too-close-for-comfort win against Houston on Wednesday night. Indy has been one of the more inconsistent teams all season long and their defense has worsened as the year has gone on. They still have play-in positioning to worry about, but when is it a good idea to pick against the King with real stakes on the line?
The Pick: Lakers -7 @ -105
So here’s an interesting one.
On one hand, the Bucks are still alive for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They hold the tiebreaker over Brooklyn and enter today just a game back of the Nets. If they win out and Brooklyn loses to either the Bulls or the Cavs, the Bucks wind up playing against a play-in team, and then presuming they win that, will get home court in the second round.
On the other hand, if the Nets don’t drop one of their last two games, there’s a good chance that a Milwaukee win here will ensure the Bucks face this same Heat team again in the first round, presuming the Knicks take care of business in their last two at home.
That would mean a rematch with the team that summarily dispatched them in the bubble last fall, right when Miami is starting to resemble the squad that made it to the 2020 Finals.
Maybe Milwaukee wants to exercise some demons, or maybe they’d just as soon lose this game to all but ensure they play the Knicks in the first round, who are seen by most as the more desirable opponent. The guess here is that this Bucks team doesn’t fear anyone, and will be playing to win big.
As for Miami, we know they want to win, as two more W’s puts them in the 4/5 matchup with a Hawks team we know they think they can beat.
On paper, these are the two hottest teams in the NBA, each with seven wins in their last eight tries, but Miami’s 6.8 net rating in that span is head and shoulders above Milwaukee’s 3.0 figure despite the fact that the Heat have played a harder, more road-heavy schedule.
All things being factored in, this one should be close, but the hotter team is the right choice.
The Pick: Heat -3.5 @ -105
Saturday's Other NBA Games
Chicago Bulls at Brooklyn Nets
The Nets may be able to wrap up the two seed today and will have all three of their stars for just the eighth time all season. The Bulls have been playing better of late but their postseason hopes are dashed and two more losses increases the chances they keep their draft pick. Go with Brooklyn.
Charlotte Hornets at New York Knicks
The Knicks will still have their sights set on the fourth seed regardless of what happens in Miami, so they’ll be playing to win. They’re also the best team in the league against the spread this season, so picking them is never a bad bet.
Boston Celtics at Minnesota Timberwolves
The Celtics are locked into the seventh seed and have been putting forth one dispiriting performance after another of late. The Wolves, meanwhile, have only dropped three of their last 12 against the spread. Take them here.
Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are locked into the 10th seed, while the Suns have mixed incentives to try and win here. This feels like a stay away, but as always, take the points if you must.
Saturday, May 15 NBA Predictions & Expert Picks
Lakers -7 @ -105 (Click here to bet)
Heat -3.5 @ -105 (Click here to bet)
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