Sunday's NBA Predictions
It’s the final day of the NBA’s regular season, all 30 teams are in action across 15 games, and somehow, all but one/two of those contests still have meaning where the postseason is concerned. We’ll start with the most consequential games of the day and work our way down, beginning with one matchup that will have high stakes regardless of anything else that happens
NBA Predictions - Sunday, May 16
The Big Ones
Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors
What’s at stake: The eighth seed in the West.
What we know: This is as close to a playoff game as there is left in the regular season, as the winner moves up to the eighth seed, gaining the ability to lose a game in the play-in tournament and still make the playoffs, while the loser will need to win twice just to get in as the eighth seed.
Who to take: Bet against Steph Curry in a big game at your own risk. The Warriors are peaking at the right time, winning and covering five straight and seven of eight. They have the best net rating in the NBA over that time, and while the Grizz have won six of eight themselves, they’re just 4-8 against the spread in their last 12.
The Pick: Warriors -5 @ -105 (Click to bet)
Charlotte Hornets at Washington Wizards
What’s at stake: The eighth seed in the East.
What we know: Thanks to both the Pacers and Hornets losing games on Saturday, there’s now a three-way tie for 8th place in the Eastern Conference. The winner of this game will grab that spot, just like in the Warriors / Grizzlies affair out west. The loser will likely wind up in 10th place, as the Pacers are playing the Raptors, who have been resting anyone and everyone who might help them win games down the stretch.
Who to take: The key here is that Bradley Beal, who has missed the Wizards’ last three games, is questionable to return. Whether he’s back or not, it’s tough to bet against Russell Westbrook in a game of this magnitude. The Hornets only have three covers in their last 10 games, while Washington has only failed to cover the spread three times in their last 19 games.
The Pick: Wizards -6 @ -105 (Click to bet)
Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans
What’s at stake: A playoff berth for the defending champs
What we know: If the Lakers win here and Blazers lose to the Nuggets, the defending champs will wind up with the 6th seed in the West. If they lose, or if they and Portland both emerge victorious, the Lakers will be in the play-in as the 7th seed.
Who to take: Similar to the Golden State corollary, are you really betting against LeBron James in a game with real stakes playing against a team missing its best player? The Western portion of the play-in won’t begin until Wednesday, so LA will get ample time to rest their guys either way. They’ll be going for it here, and take care of business.
The Pick: Lakers -11 @ -103 (Click to bet)
Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers
What’s at stake: Seeding for Denver, avoiding the play-in for Portland.
What we know: The Blazers have more to lose, as a dropped game here coupled with a Lakers win means they’re in the play-in tournament, potentially having to face off against Steph Curry. For Denver, a win guarantees them the third seed, but there’s a serious question as to whether they even want it, because it would all but assure a first round matchup with the defending champs.
Who to take: We’ve seen Denver’s Mike Malone pull shenanigans for seeding purposes before, and with the Clippers facing a team that has been trying to get relegated to the G-League for several months now, the Nuggets know a loss leaves them with a path to the conference finals that won’t involve either LA team. Meanwhile, Portland’s motivation is clear as day. Take Dame.
The Pick: Trail Blazers -11.5 @ -103 (Click to bet)
Ones That Matter
Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder
What’s at stake: The rights to the title of NBA’s Most Egregious Tanker
What we know: The math is simple for OKC, who are one loss away from entering lottery night tied with the Magic for the third most ping pong balls. Should they win, they’d potentially be tied with the Wolves and Cavs for the fourth most, depending on the outcomes of those teams’ final games. More balls = better.
As for the Clippers, they showed their hand on Friday night when they rested all of their good players against the Rockets, resulting in a loss to the worst team in the NBA. That gave them the same record as the 3rd place Nuggets but put them into the 4th seed thanks to Denver’s tiebreaker over LA…which is exactly what the Clippers want. Staying at four means avoiding the other Los Angeles team until at least the conference finals. Meanwhile, if the Clips win, it raises the possibility of seeing the Lakers in the second round.
Who to take: Is it even possible to out-tank the Thunder with their roster right now? Doubtful. The Clippers know they won’t be facing the Lakers in round one regardless of what happens, so the bet is that they emerge victorious by a healthy margin even if they don’t want to.
The Pick: Clippers -8 @ +100 (Click to bet)
Houston Rockets at Atlanta Hawks
What’s at stake: Avoiding the big boys in round-one
What we know: If Atlanta wins this, there’s no way they can fall to 6th in the East, where either Milwaukee or Brooklyn will await. Win the game, and it’ll be either the Knicks or Heat.
Who to take: Atlanta has won six of seven and just dispatched a similarly terrible Magic team by 23 points on Thursday night. This margin will be about as large.
The Pick: Hawks -11 @ +100 (Click to bet)
Boston Celtics at New York Knicks
What’s at stake: Potentially home court in the East.
What we know: Even if Atlanta wins, the Knicks will enter this game with the 4th seed on the line, but they’ll need to win. If New York loses, a Miami loss to Detroit will be needed for the Knicks to end up in the 4/5 matchup.
Who to take: The Knicks have covered 64.3 percent of their games this season. No other team is over 60 percent. They’re 26-9 against the spread since the All-Star break and 19-4 over their last 23. Boston may not even play its full complement of players as they have nothing on the line. This is among the easiest choices of the day.
The Pick: Knicks -11 @ -110 (Click to bet)
Miami Heat at Detroit Pistons
What’s at stake: A hope and a prayer
What we know: Thanks to their loss to the Bucks on Saturday night, the Heat are currently in the sixth slot in the East. If they win and New York loses, they can move up to 5th, and will get Atlanta in the first round. If not, it’s a matchup with either the Bucks or Nets.
Who to take: The Pistons are playing for ping pong balls and have dropped nine of 12 against the spread, and they’ve only won one game outright in their last nine. Even if Jimmy Butler sits out again as he did on Saturday, this game won’t be competitive.
The Pick: Heat -5.5 @ -110 (Click to bet)
Indiana Pacers at Toronto Raptors
What’s at stake: Staying out of the 10th seed.
What we know: If Indy loses, they drop down to 10, and lose home court in the 9/10 slot of the play-in.
Who to take: The Raptors stopped trying to win games a long time ago. That won’t change here. The Pacers take care of business handily.
The Pick: Pacers -6.5 @ -104 (Click to bet)
Dallas Mavericks at Minnesota Timberwolves
What’s at stake: The West’s fifth seed.
What we know: If the Blazers beat Denver and the Mavs lose to the Wolves, Dallas falls to 6th in the West.
Who to take: This one isn’t a guaranteed W for Dallas as the Wolves have been playing respectable basketball for over a month now, but given the likelihood that LA winds up in 3rd, the Mavs will be trying and that’s enough of a reason to take them here.
The Pick: Mavericks -7.5 @ +100 (Click to bet)
Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs
What’s at stake: The West’s top seed.
What we know: Thanks to the Suns beating Spurs on Saturday in the first half of this back to back, Phoenix gets the top seed if they beat Spurs on Sunday and the Jazz lose to Kings on Sunday.
Who to take: The Spurs are locked into 10th and the Suns will have five days off regardless of the outcome. They’ll be pushing, and they’ll get it.
The Pick: Suns -8.5 @ -105 (Click to bet)
Utah Jazz at Sacramento Kings
What’s at stake: The West’s top seed.
What we know: If the Suns beat Spurs on Sunday, the Jazz need a win to retain the top seed.
Who to take: It’s the Kings, who are already eliminated. That’s all you need to know.
The Pick: Jazz -11 @ -103 (Click to bet)
Cleveland Cavaliers at Brooklyn Nets
What’s at stake: The East’s second seed.
What we know: If the Nets win, they’re number two.
Who to take: The Cavs may have beaten Boston on Friday night, but they’ve otherwise been trying hard to lose for weeks now. Brooklyn has its big three back. This might be the blowout of the day, as the Nets won’t want anything to do with the Heat in the first round if they can help it.
The Pick: Nets -15 @ -105 (Click to bet)
Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls
What’s at stake: The East’s second seed, maybe
What we know: The Bucks could have tanked and rested guys on Saturday against the Heat if they wanted to avoid a playoff rematch with the defending Eastern Conference champs. They did no such thing, although they enter this game with a chance to move up to second if the Nets lose.
Who to take: The Bulls will lose precious lottery balls if they win this game and move into a 3-way tie with New Orleans and Sacramento with 31 wins, lessening their chances of keeping their top-four protected pick. That, coupled with the fact that the Bucks are a vastly better team that is clearly still playing to win is enough to take Milwaukee here.
The Pick: Bucks -3 @ -105 (Click to bet)
Orlando Magic at Philadelphia 76ers
What’s at stake: Lottery balls for Orlando
What we know: A loss keeps the Magic in a tie with OKC for the second most lotto combinations. Philly already has the top seed in the East locked up.
Who to take: This line can’t be big enough, regardless of who the Sixers choose to rest and who to play. Philly all the way.
The Pick: Sixers -8.5 @ -105 (Click to bet)
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