As the NBA season draws to a close, many meaningful games will be played as teams vie to qualify for the playoffs or improve their positions.
Although Golden State remains the odds on 2-5 favorite to win a third straight NBA Title (and fourth in five seasons) they are not likely to have the home-court advantage should they reach the NBA Finals. The Warriors lost at San Antonio on Monday while Denver was winning at Boston which enabled the Nuggets to tie Golden State atop the Western Conference standings with records of 47-22.
But the two best records in the NBA are in the East where Milwaukee is 52-18 and Toronto is 50-21. Barring a dramatic reversal of fortunes over the final three weeks of the season or an earlier than expected elimination from the playoffs, either the currently 6-1 Bucks or 12-1 Raptors will have that home-court edge in the best of seven NBA Finals.
Those odds, combined with the likelihood of the home court edge, may now be attractive enough to justify a play on one or both.
I’ve written in recent weeks about the physical, and perhaps mental, toll that may have resulted from the Warriors having played the equivalent of an extra full season of games – all played at higher than a regular season level of intensity – over the past four postseasons.
The Warriors are just 6-6 SU and 4-8 against the spread since the All-Star break. Ironically, entering the break, Golden State had won 16 of 17 games and seemed on the path to a strong finish to the regular season.
But their ATS performance may have signaled that such a toll was starting to be evidenced as the Warriors are just 5-14 ATS since the end of January. That is the worst ATS mark in the league over a team’s last 19 games with only the Lakers (5-13-1) and Charlotte (5-12-2) coming close to matching Golden State’s futility at the betting windows over this stretch.
It’s something to keep on eye on over the final couple of weeks.
Thunder at Raptors (Friday): Curiously this is the second of back-to-back meetings between these two contenders who will have just played Wednesday night in Oklahoma City in their first meeting of the season. Toronto has won 10 of its last 15 games whereas OKC has lost 10 of the last 15.
As has been the approach many times over the years in such scheduling situations, look to play the loser of Wednesday’s game in the rematch played just 48 hours later.
Pistons at Trail Blazers (Saturday): This is yet another oddity of this season’s NBA schedule which has Detroit hosting Portland in their second of two meetings in exactly one week.
Portland’s CJ McCollum was injured over the weekend and is expected to miss this game. Both teams have played well over the past few weeks. Portland has the deeper roster and McCollum’s absence will create a few points of added value in the line as a result. TRAIL BLAZERS
Nuggets at Pacers (Sunday): These teams just met in Denver last Saturday with the hosts winning 102-100 but failing to cover as seven-point chalk. We won with the under in that game, continuing the recent trend of lower-than-projected scoring games by each team. Denver is 13-2 to the under in its last 15 games whereas the Pacers are on a 10-5 run. UNDER
Last week: 2-1