Teams will soon begin resting players for the postseason as seeds get clinched, but we’re not there yet. Several games this week will have playoff-like atmospheres as the contenders make their final push.
It’s an exciting time to engage in some online gambling in the NBA. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at our weekly version of a power ranking, complete with plenty from the NBA news cycle. After that, check out our NBA picks and NBA predictions.
The Milwaukee Bucks are in the midst of a stretch in which they play three of the other top five teams on this list in a short span. They failed the first test Saturday at Denver with a lopsided loss to the Nuggets, with matchups vs Boston and Philadelphia on the horizon.
A game at Detroit on Monday gives Milwaukee a chance to get back in the win column. If the Bucks do, they’ll avoid consecutive losses, something that hasn’t happened in well over two months.
The loss to the Denver Nuggets came with a bit of an asterisk, as the Bucks were finishing up a road back-to-back in the altitude of the Rocky Mountains, something that can derail the best of them. Naturally, they were outscored by 26 points in the second half.
“We still play, still got to be better, there’s no excuses about that,” Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton said. “But I’m sure for a lot of fans, a lot of people out there, they’d love to see healthy teams, or not coming off back-to-backs.”
The next back-to-back ends with a home date with Boston. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the energy level late in that one.
We dropped the Boston Celtics to fourth last week amid a long stretch of relative mediocrity, but they’ve revved the engines again and are back within 1½ games of the Bucks in the East. Their current win streak is three and it started with a huge win at Sacramento to complete a 4-2 road trip that had them bouncing all over the country.
Since returning to Boston, the Celtics have defeated two lesser teams by 25 points and 44 points, so the offense is humming. They didn’t even need leading scorer Jayson Tatum (hip) in Sunday’s rout of the Spurs.
“When you get the opportunity to be the guy that everybody’s kind of leaning on, it’s a privilege, it’s an honor,” Jaylen Brown said after scoring 41 points. “I don’t take those moments for granted. Every night, I strap my shoes up and I get my guys ready to go.”
Boston is averaging 129.7 points while shooting 52.5% during the win streak.
JAYLEN BROWN. NASTY. pic.twitter.com/MQTb1VWvqD
— Pull up shoot (@NElGHT_) March 26, 2023
They seem to have righted the ship after a recent slump and are closing in on the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed. We mentioned that rout of the Bucks in a recent matchup of conference leaders, and Denver will get another chance to test themselves against Philadelphia on Monday.
Nikola Jokic gets the attention but the Nuggets often go as Jamal Murray goes, and he’s been going just fine lately. They are 18-3 when Murray scores at least 24 points and the former Kentucky product is averaging 23.3 over the last four games while shooting 63.0% from the arc.
With Murray doing stuff like that, the sky’s the limit for this squad. Take a look at their NBA title odds and see if a long-term wager is worth it.
They’ve flip-flopped with the Celtics this week amid a stretch in which James Harden has been sidelined and a road-heavy schedule has delivered some L’s.
The latest was a 125-105 setback at Phoenix in which Joel Embiid was just 8-for-19 from the floor and Philadelphia’s thin bench provided very little support.
“We didn’t play well,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “We didn’t move the ball today. The ball was stagnant offensively. That’s not how we play.”
Harden hopes to return soon and the road trip ends in Denver on Monday. Perhaps once home, this team will look like a contender once again. If not, they could slip behind Cleveland and into fourth place in the East.
difficulty level: expert. pic.twitter.com/MzomBWXXtB
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 26, 2023
Ja Morant is back and the Memphis Grizzlies are on fire once again, winning six straight to keep the heat on the Nuggets in the West (three-game gap entering Monday).
In his first start since returning from suspension Sunday at Atlanta, Morant went for 27 points while handing out six assists and turning it over just one time in 29 minutes. He and his mates have learned how to dominate without big man Steven Adams, and it’s usually coming through a fast-paced attack with shooters all over the place.
The Luke Kennard acquisition is proving to be perhaps the best of the trade deadline period. He made 10 of 11 3-pointers in a rout of Houston the other night and has just about locked up his second straight 3-point percentage crown.
When placing a bet online for the playoffs, think long and hard about how dangerous this team will be this spring.
26. Trail Blazers
They’re talking of shutting down Damian Lillard despite still being within shouting distance of a play-in spot, likely knowing that entry into that pool doesn’t mean much.
That would mean two straight seasons out of the playoffs with one of the game’s most dynamic scorers in his prime (soon to be out of it, though), all for a team that was in the Western Conference finals just four years ago.
Give this crew credit for finishing strong and playing the spoiler role well. They’ve won three of their last four, including two straight over a Dallas team that could go down as one of the bigger disappointments in years.
Sunday’s win over a desperate Mavericks team even came with Terry Rozier and Kelly Oubre Jr. on the sidelines. Indeed, it’s been a disappointing season in Charlotte, but the team has shown some fight at times.
Kelly Oubre Jr. o21.5 pts (-120) 1.5u
Free plays on a 8-4 run 🔥
Sign up for the rest of the plays ⬇️https://t.co/5zqtCq3dGr pic.twitter.com/exWmrVtI7x
— Lenny Lockz (@LennyLockz) March 23, 2023
They lost by 44 points at Boston on Sunday. Coach Gregg Popovich said his players “embarrassed ourselves.” That gave San Antonio four straight losses and left it four defeats away from 60, which would be the third time in franchise history.
A recent 5-3 stretch showed some of what this team is capable of. So, too, did the current five-game slide featuring several lopsided losses. Like the Spurs, the Rockets are careening towards 60 losses, something that franchise has “accomplished” just three times previously.
They are mired in a 1-16 stretch and play five of their last seven on the road (after a home date with Milwaukee), so it’s not going to get any better. The page has been turned to next season and there will be some changes before the 2023-24 edition steps on the floor.