Today is absolutely nuts in the NBA. At a time when things are traditionally a little boring as we wait for the playoffs to FINALLY arrive, instead things have a near-NCAA Tourney like frenzy to them. No less than five games have playoff implications today and several, like the Pacers and Thunder are vital to EACH team’s very survival in the postseason picture. It’s going to be a great day of action, so let’s see if we can build on last night’s win and get a pair of victories to cap off the week.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Brooklyn Nets at Milwaukee Bucks +1.5
It’s been a long time since there was a game that really mattered in the Bradley Center, but the long-suffering fans in Milwaukee will get just that today when the current eight-seed (by virtue of tie breaker) comes to town with the Bucks needing just one more win to clinch an unlikely playoff berth. This game opened in a few books as a -2 line in FAVOR of Milwaukee but has moved a full three and half points the other direction as the public money surged to the hot Nets. So do we follow the herd or run the other way?
There’s reason to like the Nets. They’ve won eight of their last ten games including wins over Washington, Portland, Indiana, Cleveland and Toronto. Their only losses are a pair of home and home games against top-seeded Atlanta (their likely playoff opponent). So not only is Brooklyn hot, there is tremendous motivation to cap off this run and sneak up a rung in the playoffs out of the eighth seed. Brook Lopez has been a big reason why, averaging 27.2 points per game over his last 13 games and finally looking healthy and like one of the best big men in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee can lock up not only a playoff berth, but also the sixth seed in the playoffs as they already own the tie-breaker over the Celtics and would take the season series with the Nets 3-1 with a win today. They’ve played some close tense games with the Nets this season, and I expect today to be similar. However, they’ve lost three of their last four home games, none to great teams, and the nets just seem to be playing at a different level right now. I think they’ll go into Milwaukee and keep things rolling today.
BONUS PICK: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets -5.5
The Pelicans caught a bad break with the Rockets falling from second to sixth after a one-point loss to San Antonio. Houston now NEEDS to win this home game desperately to avoid a long road-game road to the goal of the NBA Finals. They’ll be bringing everything they have today, and that likely means more James Harden than they can handle.
The Pelicans hold the tie-breaker over OKC, so likewise, every game is vital for the Pels (the Thunder have a tricky road game at Indiana who are 3-0 since Paul George returned and is also fighting for their playoff lives), so it is possible they can stay afloat even with a loss tonight, but they can certainly not count on that result.
This game is going to be playoff-intense. In a tight game, I’ll take the experience and the home court edge of the Rockets to win narrowly. However, NOLA has won two of three against the Rockets this season and has already won once in Houston. They have a +25 point differential, winning twice easily and losing by just a single bucket in their last meeting. The Pels have won seven of nine including a huge home win over Golden State, but the road hasn’t been especially kind to them this season.
I expect a good game – so I’ll take NOLA and the 5.5 points.