Before we get to today’s NBA picks, a big congratulations to the Louisville Cardinals and their National Championship win last night, 82-76. The Cardinals knocked down huge shots and showed resilience throughout the Final Four and became the second overall #1 seed to win the tournament. A big thanks to all our readers who followed along throughout the college hoops season. It was one of the more difficult seasons to handicap in recent memory, and though we scraped out a winning record, it was a wild ride. Thanks for reading – I’m already looking forward to 2013-2014! (and hoping illogically that Trey Burke comes back for one more year…).
With the college season concluded the attention of the basketball world shifts to the professionals, and just in time for the final five games before the “second season” begins in earnest. 15 of the 16 teams have secured, or all but secured, their playoff position. Only one race remains, the oft-discussed battle between the Jazz and Lakers for the 8th and final spot. Given some recent injury concerns with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the 8th spot becomes even more intriguing if the Spurs hold on to #1 (remember what happened with Memphis just two years ago…).
Both the Lakers and Jazz are in action tonight; Utah hosting the Thunder while LA hosts New Orleans in a game they should and MUST win. Assuming things go as they are supposed to, the Lakers have a great opportunity to edge back in front in the Playoff race.
Toronto Raptors at Chicago Bulls -5
The walking wounded of Chicago host a better-than-advertised Toronto squad tonight in Toronto in a game that really doesn’t mean a ton to the Bulls. As such, expect both Luol Deng and Joakim Noah to miss the game tonight even though both are listed as “doubtful.” Chicago still has a good defensive team without the pair, but offense could be really difficult to come by, not to mention the effect on their overall depth.
Chicago is still favored by five points, which feels a little high with essentially their second string playing tonight. Nate Robinson has been entertaining as always, putting up a ton of points, but I don’t think he’ll be enough to beat the Raptors by themselves.
Chicago may get just enough to beat a Toronto team that struggles on the road (11-28 this season), but I’ll take the Raptor with the points. The Raptors have covered five of their last six meetings against the Bulls, and that was against mostly healthy and intact teams. I like them to get a similar result tonight.
Free Pick: Toronto Raptors +5