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In approaching the final two weeks of the NBA’s regular season, extreme caution is recommended when looking to place a wager.

The mindset and approach to games is even more uncertain than during the bulk of the regular season the question of who plays and who sits out wreaks havoc with the handicapping and betting challenge on a nightly basis.

Teams out of contention will look to play younger, more inexperienced players for more minutes. Some teams already in the playoffs may be content to be assured of postseason play whereas others may be looking to improve their position in the standings.

Remember that the phrase “Must win” does not automatically translate into “Will win.” That’s especially true in the case of average to slightly above average teams who have not won enough earlier in the season to avoid being in their current situation of needing to win.

Contrast that, however, to the race for the top seed in the West. Golden State entered Tuesday with a slim half-game lead over Denver. Both teams have battled for the top spot for most of the season and are the only teams in the West to be winning more than two thirds of their games.

They are not truly going to be in “Must win” situations in the traditional sense of a “Must win,” but winning games down the stretch will benefit them should the teams advance to the Western Conference Finals in which the home court edge could be decisive.

When the Nuggets and Warriors face teams either out of contention of locked into their playoffs position the desire to win will be reflected in an inflated point spread.

An increasingly popular form of wagering on the NBA – as well as in college basketball and college football – is to place a parlay wager that involved four to six (or more teams) using money lines that are often hefty.  For example, doing a four-team money line parlay in which all four teams are -300 favorites would return a profit of approximately 2.2 to 1. Four favorites of -250 each would return a profit of about 2.8 to 1.

It’s a rather modest return for teams that are solidly favored but is less risky than doing a four-team point spread parlay that despite the higher payoff carries much higher risk at very unfavorable odds.

The good news is that in just over two weeks the NBA playoffs begin and each game will have meaning that should ensure teams’ best efforts on a game to game basis.

Here are thoughts on three games for this weekend:

Nuggets at Thunder (Friday): This game carries importance for both teams. Denver is battling Golden State for the top Western seed whereas the recent slump by the Thunder has them holding the eighth seed although ninth seeded Sacramento may be too far back to catch OKC.

OKC is just 6-11 SU since the All Star break that includes a pair of four game losing streaks. They are 4-13 ATS in this stretch. Included is their 3-5 SU home record in which all five losses came in the role of a favorite of less than six points.

Add to this malaise the fact that the Thunder are 0-3 both SU and ATS vs. Denver this season and you have what could be considered a defining game for OKC’s prospects going forward. Their first three meetings stayed under by 13, 13 and 5.5 points and we see that trend continuing here. UNDER

Celtics at Nets (Saturday): Although he won’t get much support for league MVP, Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell is blossoming into the player that made him the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the Lakers.

The Nets are still in position to make the playoffs and at 38-37 through Monday. The home team has covered in each of their three prior meetings this season. NETS

Kings at Spurs (Sunday): It is possible that Sacramento could be eliminated from the playoffs by the time this game is played or, at the very least, barely alive.

The Spurs have played solid basketball over the second half of the season and have a very real chance to be seeded fifth or potentially even third or fourth. The Kings appear to have run out of gas, going 5-11 SU since just before the All-Star break.The Spurs are rested after having last played on Thursday whereas the Kings had a tough game in Houston on Saturday. And having lost both prior meetings with the Kings serves as added motivation. SPURS

Last week: 1-2

Season: 38-28

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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