Today might not feature a ton of dazzling head-to-head matchups between teams battling directly for playoff positioning, but the NBA’s second to last weekend of the regular season has a handful of games with huge impact.
The first game of the day, a matinee between the always-entertaining Heat and Knicks might not matter a ton to the Heat, but with the Knicks still feebly nursing eight-seed dreams the Heat can take a big step towards ensuring their opening round opponent is the Hawks as opposed to the talented but beleaguered Knickerbockers. Would either team really scare Miami in a seven game series? Of course not, but given my druthers between the Hawks and Knicks, I’d choose the former every time.
Meanwhile both the Suns and Grizzlies have difficult games in must-win situations. The Grizzlies are on the road at San Antonio, an unenviable position to say the least, while the Suns host the Oklahoma City Thunder. Ironically, the Spurs fell to the Grizz as a #8 seed several years ago, and they can take a big step to NOT seeing them again if they can dispatch of the tonight at home.
And then of course, the Lakers get to play the Clippers on national TV to lessen some of the sting of their franchise-worst defeat the Clipps laid on them a month ago.
It’s a great day of NBA action. Let’s dig in with a free pick and try to erase the sting of last night’s narrow missed cover by the Raptors.
Oklahoma City Thunder -3 at Phoenix Suns (Total: 212)
The Suns have covered in both games this season while splitting straight-up against the Thunder. However, the Thunder covered and won the seven games before that and have generally had their way with Phoenix over the past three seasons.
This game today means a little more as the Suns still find themselves right on the edge of the playoff picture with just a week and a half of the season to play. Picked by most pundits to finish dead last in the West, Phoenix has come so far this season. It’d be a shame to see it slip away in the final week and end up in the Lottery despite a fantastic season.
However, a visit from the Thunder is a tough task. OKC is good on the road, holding a positive 4.3 ppg differential; one of the best in the league. Meanwhile, no team has been better against the number than Phoenix. They are 49-26-1 ATS overall and 25-14 ATS at home. The way you hit a number like that? You play well in situations where people doubt you.
Everything tells you that OKC wins this game, except for all the advanced metrics. Phoenix has excelled in exactly this spot all season long. Add in Russell Westbrook being likely to sit out tonight’s game, and I’ll ride with the numerical trends and Phoenix.