Barely two weeks remain in the regular season, which will conclude on Wednesday, April 13. The playoffs begin just a few days later with first round action commencing on Saturday and Sunday, April 16 and 17.
Less than 10 games, with five of the eight playoff teams in the East having clinched. Chicago holds the top spot in the East, two games ahead of Boston. San Antonio’s grip on the top seed in the West is decreasing since Tim Duncan went down last week with an injury that could sideline him the rest of the regular season. The Spurs start the week having lost three in a row and seeing their lead over the LA Lakers reduced to just four games. Dallas is only five back.
In fact, once a shoo-in for the best record in the league and the top overall seed, San Antonio starts this week leading Chicago by just 2½ games (three in the loss column) for that coveted overall top seed that carries home court edge all the way through the NBA Finals.
None of the opening round playoff series has been set although it does appear in the East that Orlando will meet Atlanta in the first round as those teams have the four and five seeds pretty much locked up.
Miami remains in contention with Chicago and Boston for the top seed in the East while Charlotte and Milwaukee are each within two games of Indiana for the final Eastern playoff spot.
Depending on how things play out it remains very possible three teams in the East could make the playoffs with losing records. Sixth seeded Philadelphia is a game below break even while seventh seeded New York, losers of nine of their last 10 games, starts the week at 35-38.
Contrast that to the West where eighth seeded Memphis stands eight games above .500, 2½ games up on ninth seeded Houston, also a winning team. Phoenix has slumped lately and starts the week exactly at .500 but four games behind Memphis, one and a half behind Houston.
There will be many meaningful games played over these next two weeks that will present attractive wagering opportunities. Many will be competitively priced at close to pick’em and we should see the overall intensity level pick up.
Here’s a look at three games to be played this weekend.
OKC at Portland (Fri): This is a quick rematch of this past Sunday’s game when Oklahoma City defeated Portland 99-90 at home, holding off a late Portland rally. OKC is looking to complete a sweep of the four-game season series. Both teams last played on Wednesday. While Portland has a tough game on deck, hosting Dallas on Sunday, the Thunder will be playing at the Clippers on Saturday night. From a confidence standpoint the game has more meaning for the hosts, winners of five of the last seven. PORTLAND.
Sixers at Bucks (Sat): Milwaukee figures to be favored because of its greater need to make the playoffs as opposed to the 76ers’ desire to improve its seeding and the success of the home team in this series. Two of the first three games stayed nicely UNDER the total with the third going OVER by just three points. Fatigue from the back to back situation facing both teams and the deliberate style of play preferred by both coaches suggests this game shapes up as a low scoring affair. UNDER.
Denver at LA Lakers (Sun): Since the All Star break the Lakers are 15-1 straight up, covering in 10 of the games. Denver has gone 13-4 since mid February and an even better 15-2 ATS. Eight of the 13 wins have been by double digits, including five against teams headed for the playoffs. These teams split their first two meetings, both played in Denver. The Lakers figure to come favored by a couple of buckets have picked their spots to send messages. This should be one such spot. LA LAKERS.