The NBA took a backseat to MLB’s Opening Day on Monday, sporting precisely zero games on yesterday’s docket. That should give us some time to get our barrings straight, however, as we prepare for a fully loaded 11-game slate on Tuesday night.
The stars are back out to play, as LeBron James, Stephen Curry and even Blake Griffin should all take the court in their respective games tonight. Teams are mostly just putting the finishing touches on seeding, while we need to pay special mind to teams resting players and the teams that do still have something to play for. Let’s take a look at tonight’s heavy slate and see which way you might want to be leaning with your NBA bets:
Cavs @ Bucks
Line: Cavs -7.5 Total: 203
Cleveland continues to be a risky play just because they can and will rest key players, but they also want to make sure they keep the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, as well as keep their positive momentum going. They’re less formidable on the road and the Bucks are good at the Bradley Center, but Cleveland is rounding into a title contender right before our eyes. Provided their main guys are active, they should win their fourth consecutive game tonight.
Pick: Cavs 104, Bucks 97
Bulls @ Grizzlies
Line: Bulls -3 Total: 201
Derrick Rose (elbow) is back tonight, which should give the Bulls an extra shot int he arm on the road against the Grizz. The Bulls are being led by Jimmy Butler, who is playing at a high level despite not being fully healthy. Chicago won their last game and is slowly starting to right the ship now that they’re getting healthy. They could still collapse and are a shaky bet, but I like them to get another win and get back closer to a playoff spot.
Pick: Bulls 102, Grizzlies 96
Blazers @ Kings
Line: Blazers -2.5 Total: 223
The second biggest Total of the night is in Sac-town with the Blazers and Kings facing off. DeMarcus Cousins is only playing homes games to close out the year, so he’ll be on hand to try to fend off a Portland squad that can still lock up the #5 seed. They’ve also won all three of the previous meetings, so we’ll take the Blazers in a shootout.
Pick: Blazers 108, Kings 105
Lakers @ Clippers
Line: Clippers -14.5 Total: 208
Kobe Bryant takes on the Clippers in a “road” game at the Staples Center tonight, just days after dropping 34 points on the Celtics. He looks to be giving it his all as he wraps up a brilliant career, and it will be interesting to see if he can keep the Lake Show within tonight’s rich spread. Blake Griffin is back and the Clippers have been stout all year, though, so it’s tough to buy a close game here. That being said, the Clippers aren’t playing for anything right now and may take it easy on their guys enough to let the Lakers hang around.
Pick: Clips 111, Lakers 104
Pelicans @ 76ers
Line: 76ers -2.5 Total: 207
These are two terrible teams, as both lack talent and are also ravaged by injuries. Philly gets a slight edge with Ish Smith and Robert Covington in their lineup, plus they’re at home, but New Orleans has oddly remained pretty competitive even though all their stars are done for the year. The talent level will keep this game close, but the Pellies have shown enough lately to have a little faith.
Pick: Pelicans 102, Sixers 98
Hornets @ Raptors
Line: Raptors -4 Total: 200.5
In easily one of the more meaningful games of the night, both the Hornets and Raptors should play hard as they try to lock up seeding. Charlotte is actually still playing for first in the Southeast Division, while Toronto holds onto faint hopes of catching the Cavaliers for the best record in the Eastern Conference. The latter isn’t going to happen, but Toronto is tough (29-9) at Air Canada Centre and this series has been split, 1-1. Being the better team, look for Toronto to seal the deal and take the season series lead at home.
Pick: Raptors 106, Hornets 102
Suns @ Hawks
Line: Hawks -14 Total: 207
Atlanta has really turned their season around, as they quickly went from a pedestrian squad to one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. They suddenly have a shot at their division and being at home (24-14 on their home floor) against a beaten up Suns team gives them a clear advantage tonight. Brandon Knight (groin) has been ruled out for the rest of the season, too, so Phoenix will be far less of a threat in this one. Even so, a -14 line is too gaudy to chase.
Pick: Hawks 106, Suns 97
Pistons @ Heat
Line: Heat -4 Total: 202
Here’s another game where two teams have a lot to battle for, as the Heat have a division title to win and the Pistons are still trying to keep the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Detroit isn’t that great on the road and Miami specifically plays their best ball in South Beach, but Dwyane Wade’s status (questionable) could have a big impact on this one. We’ll take Miami to cover if he’s in, and a Pistons upset if he’s out.
Pick: Heat 103, Pistons 98
Thunder @ Nuggets
Line: Thunder -8.5 Total: 216
OKC has no business sending their main guys out there at the Pepsi Center tonight, but it’s likely Billy Donovan and co. will want to keep their momentum going. The Thunder are the easy call if their main stars play, but be sure to keep an eye on whether or not Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant rest. For now, OKC looks like an easy pick to win/cover.
Pick: Thunder 107, Nuggets 96
Spurs @ Jazz
Line: Spurs -3.5 Total: 183
Two stingy defenses battle it out in Utah tonight, but with nothing but momentum to play for, we should see some Spurs sit this one out. Utah is pretty good on their home floor (24-14) and still needs to finalize a playoff spot, so this could be a good place to go for an upset over the Spurs.
Pick: Jazz 96, Spurs 92
Timberwolves @ Warriors
Line: Warriors -15.5 Total: 225
Golden State is no longer invincible at the Oracle Arena, as they did fall to the Celtics last week at home. That being said, they’ve lost just one on their home floor in the past calendar year and the Timberwolves are a very erratic team. They can make this one competitive initially due to a solid offense, but Steph Curry and co. should pull away late for a big home win. Golden State shouldn’t be resting anyone, either, as they continue their bid for NBA history.
Pick: Warriors 116, Timberwolves 106