San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies Predictions
Once again, the Grizzlies find themselves in a play-in situation after a better-than-expected season. This is an opportunity for them to take the next step and put themselves in a real position to make the playoffs. It’s also an opportunity for Ja Morant to truly establish his place as one of the game’s best young stars. With the odds being just about a pick-em, and the plus odds on the Spurs’ moneyline being a mere +150, go with the Grizzlies. Morant was outstanding last year in the bubble, in a similar situation, although Memphis ultimately lost to Portland in the play-in game. He’s the best player in this game, and postseason matchups often come down to who has the best player in a series. In this case, the series is just one game.
Spurs vs. Grizzlies Prediction: Grizzlies -4 (-109, DraftKings)
Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Lakers Predictions
Easily the most anticipated game of the play-in set — and maybe of the entire playoffs — is a tough one to pick. The Lakers are more talented top-to-bottom than the Warriors, but outside of a couple of tune-up games at the end of the season, they haven’t actually played together in a while. The Warriors are clear underdogs, but Stephen Curry can go off against anybody, even when he will undoubtedly be the focus of all of the Lakers’ defensive efforts.
In a one-game playoff with stakes this high and a relatively small spread of five points, it’s hard to feel confident in any pick for the result of the game. The only thing that’s certain is that both Curry and LeBron James are locked in and prepared for this moment, so expect big performances from both of them. FanDuel has plus odds on James to score at least 30 points, and on Curry to score at least 40. The latter is more likely to happen — Curry doesn’t have an Anthony Davis as a running mate, and he’s proven all season that it doesn’t matter how many defenders you throw on him, he’ll get his points.
But James will also be motivated to prove the Lakers are still the favorites to win the west even out of the play-in position, and to buy himself a few days of rest before the first round. If he has to take over for the Lakers, he will. His odds jump to +510 to score at least 35 points and skyrocket to +3500 to score 40, if you want to get ambitious, but the safe play here is to pick the lowest number for both James and Curry to have plus odds in their point totals and go with them.
The uncompetitive first day of play-in games dimmed a little bit of the excitement for the new format, but this is the game that won’t disappoint.
Warriors vs. Lakers Prediction: LeBron James over 30 points (+180, FanDuel) / Stephen Curry over 40 points (+170, FanDuel)