We stole one last night, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. The Orlando Magic picked up a nice backdoor cover with a bucket late to get a half-point inside the seven and a half point line. We dodged a bullet, but not nearly as big a bullet as the one that the Oklahoma City Thunder dodged when Russell Westbrook’s 16th technical foul of the year was recinded by the league office. Had the tech stood, The Fightin’ Westbrook’s would have just the Fightin’… Dion Waiters’s?? Either way, it would have been bad.
The result was a Thunder win over the reeling and depleted Blazers to keep them even with the Pelicans with one game to play. But, they are in a decent position as the Pelicans play the Spurs, who will likely need to win to retain the second seed in the West while OKC gets Minnesota (who needs to LOSE to secure the worst record in the league – what a weird scenario with each team needing opposite results.) Conspiarcy theories abound, but personally, I like letting the teams decide it on the fllor rather than seeing Russell benched over a pretty benign and ridiculous 16th technical.
Only two days to go in the regular season, so let’s get a few more winners before the playoffs kick into full gear.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Toronto Raptors at Boston Celtics (pick em)
Boston has gone a delightfully surprising 22-12 over the backhalf of the season to earn an unexpected playoff spot. Brad Stevens won’t win NBA Coach of the Year, but he deserves some votes for the job he has done with a young and star-less Boston roster.
Yet, oddly enough, despite the Celtics under-.500 record, it’s the Raptors who have more to play for tonight. Boston is in the playoffs, likely in the seventh seed, though falling to eighth would silently not be a bad thing (most teams would rather see Atlanta than Cleveland). The Raptors are a half-game behind Chicago for the third seed, and nearly all teams would rather play young Milwaukee than Washington in the opening round.
Boston has said they will not be resting players tonight, and that could be the difference at home. Toronto is struggling a bit while Kyle Lowry tries to get healthy – and despite the chance to move into the third spot, perhaps there is something good about being the four seed. Atlanta, again, being the more preferable second round opponent than the Cavs.
Boston is on fire right now, and I think they get the win at home. Toronto is just 2-8-1 ATS in their last eleven trips to Boston, and this is likely the strongest Boston team in several years. The Celtics have covered four straight home games and look like a legitimate playoff team since the acquisition of Isaiah Thomas. I like ‘em at home tonight to settle into the seven spot and push Toronto to the four, leaving only the final spot in the East up for grabs.