Five of the NBA teams taking the floor on Saturday night won’t be playing in this year’s playoffs. The other seven have either already punched their ticket or are fighting to get in. That gives way to some very interesting matchups tonight, while also throwing a wrench into some NBA betting. We can probably safely assume maybe two of tonight’s games will have both teams competing at a high level. The other games could involve players sitting/resting or teams giving up.
Naturally, as the NBA season winds down, betting large amounts of cash on any given night can be a greater risk than usual. We made out OK on a busy Friday night (10-2), only getting tripped up by the Celtics winning in Cleveland (the hell?) and the Timberwolves falling to the Lakers in L.A. We still made our way up the ladder to 704-350 on the year and should continue our hot run into the weekend. Let’s hit each matchup and see which way you should lead if you’re betting on any games tonight:
Knicks @ Magic
Orlando is about as good as it gets for the atrocious Knicks to have a chance at getting a win down the stretch, but it coming on the road makes New York tough to trust (5-34 on the road). Orlando hasn’t been amazing, but they’re a pretty competitive losing team and thankfully play their best ball at home. They won’t disappoint the fans at the Amway Center by falling to the Knicks.
Pick: Magic 106, Knicks 101
Raptors @ Heat
Miami is still fighting for their playoff lives, while Toronto would like to lock up the #3 seed. That means everyone who matters should still play, although Toronto will be without big man Amir Johnson (ankle) for this one. The Heat are at home and need this more, so we can see them pulling it out in the end.
Pick: Heat 99, Raptors 97
76ers @ Bulls
Chicago is fighting with Toronto for that #3 seed and Derrick Rose is supposed to see more minutes tonight. Philly has actually played the Bulls quite close in both previous clashes, but this one should be more decisive with the importance being so much greater.
Pick: Bulls 109, Sixers 94
Grizzlies @ Clippers
Memphis and L.A. have had one gritty battle (Clippers won), while the Grizz easily one the other two matchups. This battle is huge for seeding if Memphis loses their division race, but this game is probably way more important for the Grizzlies. That being said, Memphis is without point guard Mike Conley and swing man Jeff Green might also sit this one out. That’s bad news when you’re going up against a Clippers team that excels on their home floor and is red hot with nine wins in their last 10 games.
Pick: Clippers 107, Grizz 104
Jazz @ Trail Blazers
LaMarcus Aldridge is out with a foot sprain and the team will also hit the floor sans Arron Afflalo tonight. Portland’s offense and defense both take a hit, and they’ll need big outings from C.J. McCallum and Meyers Leonard on offense to get past a nasty Utah defense. The Jazz have nothing to play for, but they’d love to take down the Blazers to end the year. That being said, Portland rarely loses at home and still has slim hopes of locking down the #3 seed out West.
Pick: Blazers 104, Jazz 99
Timberwolves @ Warriors
Golden State never loses at home (two losses all year) and they surely aren’t about to let the T’Wolves be loss number three. NBA bettors should be mildly concerned about stars like Stephen Curry and others sitting this one out, but even Golden State’s spares should be able to take down Minnesota. The T’Wolves might even be without Kevin Martin (illness), so if you’re going to bet hard tonight, do it here with the Warriors.
Pick: Warriors 116, T’Wolves 102