Just over a week remains in the NBA regular season with much still to be decided concerning teams making the Playoffs and where they will be seeded, especially in the Eastern Conference.
Golden State still seeks to tie or eclipse the all-time regular season wins record of 72 established by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls but that quest was dealt a surprising setback last Friday night when the Warriors were upset at home by the Boston Celtics.
Golden State trailed for most of the second half but staged a late rally that just fell short as Boston prevailed 109-108. The Warriors regrouped to blow out Portland 136-111 two nights later and started this week 69-8.
If the Warriors go 5-0 or 4-1 they would finish the season with either 74 or 73 wins and become the new record holder. A 3-2 finish would tie them with Bulls of two decades ago with 72 wins.
After hosting Minnesota on Tuesday, Golden State will welcome San Antonio on Thursday followed by back to back road games at Memphis on Saturday and at San Antonio on Sunday. The Warriors then host Memphis on the final night of the regular season, next Wednesday.
Clearly the major obstacle will be the two games against the Spurs but now there is an added twist. The loss to Boston was Golden State’s first home loss of the season. San Antonio is still unbeaten at home with a chance of finishing a perfect 41-0 with the Warriors, next Sunday, presenting the biggest obstacle to that quest, but not their only obstacle.
At 39-0 San Antonio has just two home games remaining – the one on Sunday against the Warriors but also a game next Tuesday against Oklahoma City.
The Warriors might be motivated to put an end to the Spurs’ perfect home season and will be the next team San Antonio will host. Should the Spurs get by the Warriors they might be either complacent or overconfident in that final home game against the Thunder and be ripe for an upset.
But from a betting perspective, further complicating the issue is San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich’s penchant for resting players at the end of the regular season regardless of what is at stake. So it might not be a surprise if the Spurs take the court against either the Warriors or OKC – or both – with one or more starter in street clothes.
Six teams in the East have clinched Playoff spots through Sunday. Although no seeding spots have been clinched Cleveland is on the verge of claiming the top Eastern seed with Toronto almost certain to be seeded second.
Atlanta, Boston, Miami and Charlotte have also clinched Playoff berths but the four teams start this week separated by just a half game.
Indiana and Detroit are tied for the final two spots in the East with Chicago two games back and Washington two games behind the Bulls.
In the West the top four seeds are almost certain to have Golden State seeded first followed, in order, by San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the L A Clippers. These are the only four Western Conference teams to have clinched Playoff spots.
Memphis, Portland, Dallas, Utah and Houston round out the final four spots with just two games separating fifth from ninth positions with the other 6 Western teams already mathematically eliminated. Ninth seeded Houston is 38-39, a game behind Dallas and Utah, both of whom start the week 39-38.
In wagering on games involving teams that have already been eliminated from the Playoffs it is strongly urged that you be sure of which players may have been shut down for the season.
Teams such as the Knicks and Nets are examples of teams that will prematurely end the seasons for several players who have been nursing nagging injuries for much of the past few months. Often these announcements are made on the day of a game and cause significant fluctuations in the line.
And the same phenomenon occurs, as cited earlier, with teams in or vying for the Playoffs who may rest players for a specific game, often the front or back end of games on successive dates.
Next week’s column shall preview the Playoffs which are scheduled to start the weekend of April 16 and 17. There may still be much to be decided as we go to press next Monday but there should be a pretty good idea as to the most likely first round matchups of the NBA’s “second season.”
Here’s a look at three key games over the final weekend of the regular season.
Memphis at Dallas (Friday): Memphis has been limping towards the finish line due to multiple injuries and the Grizzlies start the week having lost 6 straight and 10 of 12. Dallas had been laboring for much of March, losing 10 of 12 before winning its last 4 through Sunday. Flipping around their momentum combined with their experience and the home court suggest the Mavericks are the right side. DALLAS.
Boston at Atlanta (Saturday): Atlanta last played on Thursday, hosting Toronto while Boston is off of Friday’s game hosting Milwaukee. Neither team plays again until Monday. Both teams are very well coached. Given the importance of this game we could see almost a Playoff level of intensity in a chess match type contest. And, this often leads to lower scoring games with each possession being valued. UNDER.
Golden State at San Antonio (Sunday): Both teams are idle Monday. Without knowing the results of Thursday’s game and the status of Golden State’s quest for the record present challenges trying to handicap this game a week in advance. But the preference would be to back the Warriors who should want to send a message to the Spurs by denying them a perfect home season after failing to achieve the same themselves. GOLDEN STATE.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]