Over the course of an 82 game season, there are any number of storylines that surround the National Basketball Association. With less than 20 games remaining, the stop story now focuses on who can make the playoffs and who can solidify their playoff positions.
The four games I’ve selected tonight deal with both of those scenarios and offer spreads from even to as much as one team entering a game on the road as an 18-point favorite. Enough of my yaking, let’s get to it.
LA Lakers (+17.5) at San Antonio – The Spurs stayed hot on Wednesday night with a solid win over slumping Portland. It was their eighth straight victory and ninth in their last ten games. Depending upon the outcome of the Thunder’s game last night, they’ll have either a half game lead or game and a half lead over Oklahoma City for the Western Conference top spot.
Ironically, the Lakers were the opponent for the Thunder last night. Regardless of how they did, they’ll come to San Antonio with tired legs and little to play for. The Lakers have announced that Kobe Bryant will be shut down for the season and speculation is ramping up about the future of Mike D’Antoni as the head coach.
I love the Spurs here to cover.
Denver (+10) at Miami – Miami enters this one coming off a loss to the Brooklyn Nets on their home court. Miami is now 0-3 against the surging Nets this season. Miami has won just six of their last ten and a small dip in performance couldn’t have come at a worse time.
One seed Indiana is struggling big time and the Heat could have been taking advantage by winning some games. Should the Pacers be able to hold off Miami for the top spot in the East, this is the stretch that will come back to haunt Miami.
The Nuggets come to South Beach off a win Wednesday night in Orlando. It was just their third win in their last ten games. Being ten games out of the final playoff spot in the West with 18 games to play doesn’t bode well for Denver.
I look for Miami to get back on track a bit tonight and I expect them to cover.
Memphis (EVEN) at Toronto – These two teams are currently playoff-bound as they hook up in Canada. The Grizzlies have played well for a good stretch now and because of that they are the current seventh seed in the West.
Both the Raptors and the Griz have won seven of their last ten games with Memphis having won their last four in a row. While the Raptors would have to really screw things up to miss the playoffs, their more important concern right now might be hanging on to the Atlantic Division lead.
With Brooklyn playing better and better, the Raptors have just a three game lead over the Nets. Memphis can relate because right now it’s them, Dallas and Phoenix essentially fighting for just two spots.
Indiana (-16) at Philadelphia – You thought I would give up on the Sixers? No way! Losers of 18 straight games now, Philadelphia hosts the Indiana Pacers who have stumbled of late and might be primed for an upset.
Well, that’s how you have to think if you’re the Sixers I guess. One of the bigger issues plaguing the Pacers during their recent 6-4 stretch is poor defense. This game should provide them the perfect opportunity to get that back on track. At the very least they can feel good about themselves I suppose.