With just a handful of matchups left in the NBA betting regular seasons, this 66-game gauntlet of a season is finally coming to a close. That gives us barely two weeks to prepare for the playoff betting onslaught. This Friday, three teams are trying to hold onto their post-season dreams and so I'm previewing these games.
As is the case, my editor asks for these Wednesday morning so keep an eye on these matchups when they appear on the board Friday morning. All news and stats are relevant as of right now, and the home team is in CAPS. Best of luck.
NEW YORK KNICKS over Washington Wizards
The Knicks have gone through a roller coaster this year, and the ride isn't over as they attempt to fend off the Milwaukee Bucks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They could conceivably end up seventh in the conference with Philly falling apart, and though I'd love to use the old adage "their fate is in their hands", the Heat, Celtics, Clippers and Hawks might have something to say about that. Those are four of their final eight opponents in the regular season.
For all the wonder and splendor this team enjoyed before injuries stunted the Amare and Jeremy Lin runs, it's kind of crazy to think that the Knicks are a redux of the Denver Nuggets. Building your team around a strong center (exchange Nene for Chandler) and a bunch of support players around J.R. Smith and Carmelo is exactly how Denver was structured. They even have the veteran guard, instead using the carcass of Baron Davis in place of Chauncey Billups.
This team has gone a pretty bleak 6-4 SU and ATS over the past 10 games and the oddsmakers are having a much easier time grading them as a one-man army around Melo. The difference is that Chandler's rebounding efforts are giving the Knicks second chances they might not deserve. So against any defensive team, the Knicks are going to be rough bets.
Too bad the Wizards don't play defense. Washington is just 5-5 ATS in their last ten games, and Wall will have more trouble with Iman Shurpert than you'd think. Washington stands to get a bloated line here, but I'm not going to be scared of it. The Knicks are 18-11 ATS at home this season and there isn't a player on the Wizards' roster which can stop Melo for four full quarters. If you're nervous of the back door cover here, go with the Wizards, but I'm banking on the Big Apple Boppers (ok, fine, nobody calls them that).
Denver Nuggets over LOS ANGELES LAKERS
For the cover. Lost in the shuffle of the always intriguing Western Conference playoff race are the Nuggets, who have gone an unhealthy 5-5 SU and ATS over their past 10 games. The Nuggets have a slew of big bodies to throw at Gasol and Bynum, and while none of them can stop them from producing, they can give Denver balance on both ends of the floor.
Frankly, the Lakers have been a stay away play for almost the entire second half. Need proof? Fine. They're 6-4 SU in their last 10 games with losses to Houston, OKC, Memphis and Phoenix. Two of those losses are excusable, but what's nauseating from a Basketball gambling standpoint is their 1-9 ATS record over that run.
Denver desperately needs this game with Utah and Phoenix breathing down their throats for the final playoff spot out west, and with Kobe resting an injured shin, the Lakers are probably going to coast into a top-5 playoff spot and be happy with it.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS over Dallas
Portland isn't really mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but they are pragmatically. They gave up on the season at the mid-point, and it's hard to blame them. They will probably still have a top-7 draft pick to concern themselves with courtesy of New Jersey. At just 4-6 ATS in their last 10 games, they're not really a great bet momentum wise.
However, Dallas is going to get a big number in this game and I doubt they can cover it. They're just 5-5 SU and ATS over their last 10 games and have been pushed into overtime twice by Portland this season. To put it simply, the Blazers find ways to give the defending champions fits on the floor.
If Dallas is anything above -5.5 point favorites, I'd take the home team. If the oddsmakers play it smart and shrink the line to -4.5 or less, then Dallas is a better bet statistically. Just because Portland has basically forfeited a playoff run this season doesn't mean they're just slinking away into the shadows. They always play Dallas tough and Friday night at home won't be an exception.