Westbrook’s 54 Points Overshadowed by 16th …

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The Oklahoma City Thunder is battling for the eighth and final spot in the NBA Western Conference playoff race. With just two games to play in the regular season, the Thunder is tied with the New Orleans Pelicans in eighth place, but the Pelicans own the tiebreaker between the two teams thanks to winning the season series.

The Thunder has had its share of injuries including a season ending one to top scorer Kevin Durant.

However, Russell Westbrook helped to pick up the slack in Durant’s absence. On Sunday night, the Thunder guard scored 54 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and handed out 8 assists. Few NBA players can fill out such a box score like Westbrook can. Nevertheless, those numbers came in a loss on Sunday to Indiana 116-104.

Westbrook hit 21 of his 43 shots from the field. He was 5 for 15 from behind the 3-point line, while the rest of the Thunder players shot just 20 for 52.

However, one number that does not appear in the stat sheet that might have the biggest impact on the Thunder, is Westbrook was called for his 16th technical foul for this season, which earns him an automatic one game suspension for Monday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

As good as Westbrook is, why would you jeopardize your team’s playoff hopes by being whistled for another technical when the season is on the line.

A loss to Portland could end the season for the Thunder. If the Thunder lose and the Pelicans win, the Pelicans will hold a one game lead over the Thunder, which would clinch a playoff berth since they hold the tiebreaker over the Thunder.

It is still unknown if Westbrook must serve the suspension right away or if it can be pushed back.

Should the Thunder have to play without Westbrook, then D.J. Augustin will receive the minutes that Westbrook normally sees.

However, the Thunder would have a huge headache on their hands without Westbrook in the lineup, as they are so reliant on him scoring 25 to 30 points in each game.

Prior to the start of the season, it seemed crazy to consider the Thunder missing the postseason, but the club is playing with fire these last two games and could be burnt.

If Westbrook’s suspension does in fact partially cost the Thunder a berth in the postseason, it would be par for the course this season. It seems that everything that could go wrong has for the ball club.

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Pair of NBA Games with Playoffs Implications

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Friday night’s NBA calendar has a pair of important games with playoff implications. The Boston Celtics visit the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns travel to play the New Orleans Pelicans.

Celtics vs. Cavaliers

Cleveland has clinched the Eastern Conference second seed and the title of the Central Division. Thus, Cleveland does not have much to play for over its final four games of the season. LeBron James is expected to sit out the first game of this home and home series with Boston. His status is unknown for Saturday’s game in Boston. On Wednesday, Cleveland defeated Milwaukee 104-99 to win the division, but did not cover as a road favorite of 6.5 points.

The Cavaliers are 1-4 against the number over their past five games. The last time James sat out, Kyrie Irving scored 55 points versus Portland.

Boston has won five straight on the road following its 113-103 win at Detroit on Wednesday. Boston is currently in the No. 7 spot in the East tied with Brooklyn, but owns the tiebreaker against the Nets. Since the NBA All-Star break, Boston had covered 10 of the 14 games it has been the dog, but one of those four games they did not cover was a blowout loss to Cleveland 110-79 as an 11-point dog.

Phoenix Suns vs. New Orleans Pelicans

The slim hopes for the playoffs for Phoenix evaporated on Wednesday when they lost at Dallas 107-104. The Suns covered as an underdog of 8.5 points but have lost 7 of their past 8 games overall. Phoenix has won six of its past seven games versus New Orleans.

New Orleans won on Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors as the home dog 103-100. However, they were defeated the next night by Memphis 110-74 against a tough defense that shut the Pelicans offense completely down.

New Orleans is 9-3 SU in its past 12 games at home, but 3-5 ATS as a favorite at home during that stretch. New Orleans starts the day on Friday tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder in eighth place in the Western Conference playoff race, but holds the tiebreaker as they defeated the Thunder in three of the four head-to-head games this season.

The season has less than a full week before the playoffs start, but teams are still battling for the postseason, which makes games such as these easier to wager on. Other games played between teams with no hope of making the playoffs or teams that have clinched and are resting players, makes is more difficult to wager on.

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NBA Central Division Showdown Between Chicago and Cleveland

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While the NCAA Tournament takes a one-day break before the national title game on Monday, the NBA regular season is winding to an end. On Sunday, two Central Division rivals will tip off when the Chicago Bulls visit the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers are currently favored by 8 points with the point total sitting on 198.5.

Cleveland leads Chicago by three games with only six remaining for each team. Overall, Cleveland is 49-27 and 39-37 ATS on the season and Chicago is 46-30 SU and 35-41 ATS. Cleveland is attempting to hold off both Chicago and Toronto, which is 45-32, for the Eastern Conference’s second seed behind just the Atlanta Hawks who have already clinched the No. 1 seed.

Cleveland has not played since Thursday night when they routed Miami 114-88 as a home favorite of 9.5 points. Prior to the Miami win, the Heat defeated Philadelphia 87-86 and lost to Brooklyn 106-98.

The Cavaliers have won 17 consecutive games at home, last losing in early January to Houston. Kevin Love missed Cleveland’s last outing due to a sore back. Love is probable for Sunday’s game.

Chicago won at home against on Friday by the score of 88-82 as a favorite of 9.5 points over Detroit. In their past five games at home, Chicago is 5-0 SU while 4-1 ATS, but has many more troubles playing on the road where the team is 3-7 SU and 2-8 ATS in its past 10 games overall away from home. As road dogs, the Bulls are 0-5 ATS in their 5 games on the road. The UNDER has cashed in both of the past two games played by Chicago. In the 11 games prior to the past 2, the OVER has cashed in 9 of the 11.

The Bulls are 1-2 SU as well as ATS this season against Cleveland. Chicago lost to Cleveland 108-94 the last time they played in Cleveland. Chicago must get a better showing in this game as they could possibly meet in the second round of the Eastern Conference.

Cleveland has only four losses against the spread in its past 17 games at home. Cleveland has strong emotion towards winning and securing its playoff spot. Chicago needs the win bad, which should make for a competitive game.

Pick: Lean toward the OVER and to a Cleveland win.

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Three Road Favorites Highlight Games I Like in the NBA …

Wade
Wade

Dwyane Wade has helped keep his Heat in the thick of the Eastern Conference Playoff race.

March is typically that month where everyone forgets about the National Basketball Association because college basketball gets all the attention. That’s partially true but I haven’t forgotten about the Association and neither should you. Here’s three games featuring road favorites that I like this evening.

Miami (-1) at Milwaukee – The Bucks and Heat are separated by a game and a half in the Eastern Conference Playoff race. Milwaukee is currently in the sixth spot while Miami is seventh. Besides each other, Charlotte is in the eighth spot at the moment and is clawing at the heels of both teams.

Milwaukee appears the most vulnerable as they’ve lost six straight and eight of their last ten. This is not the time to be struggling. The Heat have gone 6-4 over the same stretch. As of right now, it looks like very unlikely either of these teams can reach the fifth seed so what that means is avoiding the seventh spot because that means a date with Cleveland in the first round.

Trends: Miami is 7-3 straight up in their last ten against the Bucks… Milwaukee is 4-6 against the spread in their last ten versus the Heat… Miami is 32-34-3 ATS this season… The Bucks are 15-18 ATS at home in 2015.

The Pick: I like the Heat on the road tonight to cover.

Pop

Greg Popovich appears to have the Spurs peaking at the right time.

San Antonio (-2) at Dallas – The Spurs and Mavs are in the sixth and seventh spots out West respectively and are separated by just a game. They have a fairly good lead over eighth seeded Oklahoma City but both teams have their eyes set on teams in front of them. The Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and LA Clippers are all within two or less games from San Antonio.

The Mavericks have lost two in a row and have gone 5-5 in their last ten. This continues to make me wonder if the Rajon Rondo trade wasn’t a bad move after all. San Antonio is 8-2 in their last ten games and have won three straight. Are they getting hot at the right time?

Trends: The Spurs are 6-4 straight up against the Mavericks in their last ten games against them… Dallas is 7-3 against the spread in their last ten games versus the Spurs… San Antonio is 17-18 ATS on the road this season while the Mavericks are 17-18 ATS at home.

The Pick: It’s hard to pick against the Spurs this time of year so I won’t. Take them to cover.

Golden State (-5) at Portland – The Warriors have already wrapped up a playoff spot and with a seven and a half game lead over second seeded Memphis, the number one seed isn’t far off. If the playoffs ended today, Portland would have a crazy-good match-up with the fifth seeded Clippers. That would probably be more ideal than a first round go with the defending champion Spurs.

Both teams are heading in opposite directions as the Warriors have won five in a row while the Blazers have lost four in a row.

Trends: Golden State is 6-4 straight up in their last ten games against the Blazers… Portland is 4-6 against the spread in their last 10 contests versus the Warriors… Golden State is 16-18 ATS on the road this season… Portland is 19-4-1 ATS at home in the 2014-2015 season.

The Pick: I like the Blazers tonight getting the points. Plus, you never know when Steve Kerr will want to rest guys.

 

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Odds For Thunder Soar After Durant Announcement

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Despite a record of 5-1 over its past 6 games overall through Sunday’s victory over Miami, the Oklahoma City Thunder had its odds to win the 2015 NBA Championship lengthened from last week’s 8 to 1 to this week’s 30 to 1.

On Friday, it was revealed that scoring machine Kevin Durant stopped all activities related to basketball because of a setback in his recovery from his foot injury.

If Oklahoma City is going to reach the playoffs, they will have to without their best player. Thunder general managers Sam Presti said late last week Durant was out for an indefinite period. That news comes only one day after Durant sat out of practice due to soreness in this foot.

Presti added that Durant was not making progress the way we had hoped and were expecting. Presti did not say the length of time Durant would sit out, but it was not as if they were expecting him back soon.

The goal said Presti is to get him on the court again healthy whenever that happens to be. If that is the rest of this regular season, or the playoffs, that is what it will be.

Durant has not played for the Thunder since February 19. He has averaged 25.4 points a game in his 27 games played this season. The Thunder is 38-30 and in the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference, but by only a single game.

While Cleveland remains at the top of the futures board as the favorite to win an NBA title this season, Golden State has closed the gap between the two teams over last week.

Cleveland has won 9 of 12 games during March and has played better as the season has progressed. Golden State has the NBA’ best overall record and is 10-1 in its past 11 games after defeating Washington on Monday night. The Atlanta Hawks still lead the Eastern Conference by 8 games over Cleveland but have lost three straight games and have cooled off a bit from earlier in the season.

2014-05 NBA Championship Odds

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS 7-4
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 3 to 1
SAN ANTONIO SPURS 7 to 1
ATLANTA HAWKS 8 to 1
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES 10 to 1
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS 12 to 1
HOUSTON ROCKETS 18 to 1
CHICAGO BULLS 18 to 1
DALLAS MAVERICKS 30 to 1
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS 30 to 1
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 30 to 1
TORONTO RAPTORS 30 to 1

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Good Slate for a Monday Night in the Association

George
George

Paul George is close to returning but doesn't want to disrupt the Pacers' winning ways right now.

Usually it’s Sunday that gets all the attention in the National Basketball Association but tonight’s line-up is nothing to shake a stick at it. There are several match-ups I like so let’s get to it.

Toronto (+5) at Indiana – These two teams are both headed to the Eastern Conference Playoffs in all likelihood but they are heading in opposite directions at the moment. The Raptors have dropped eight of their last ten games while the Pacers have won eight of their last ten. Despite the Raptors being much more secure in the playoff position, this is game is arguably bigger for the Pacers. Indiana is the hottest team in the NBA since the All-Star Game but they could easily slip out of the playoffs if they aren’t careful.

Trends: The Raptors have won six of the last ten games against the Pacers… Indiana is 2-8 against the spread in their last ten games against the Raptors.

The Pick: Take Toronto getting the points.

WM

The loss of Wesley Matthews hasn't slowed the Blazers yet but it could in the long run.

Portland (+2.5) at Washington – The Wizards seem to have righted the ship after a tough stretch of losses. They’ve won three straight and five of their last ten games. Portland keeps plowing forward despite injuries. They’ve won seven of ten and have been victorious in their last two games. Portland suddenly has its’ sights set on the two seed as Memphis as slipped recently. The Blazers are within just two and a half games of the Grizzlies. Meanwhile, Washington looks pretty secure in either the fourth or fifth seed as the playoffs approach.

Trends: Portland and Washington have each won five in their last ten meetings… The Wizards are 6-4 against the spread in their last ten against the Blazers.

The Pick: I like the Wizards at home.

Cleveland (-6) at Miami – LeBron James returns to South Beach where he helped the Heat to two NBA Titles. His Cavs come in just 20-18 on the road this season and the return is no doubt emotional for “The King.” The Heat are one half game behind Charlotte for the eight seed in the East which is pretty remarkable considering they are without Chris Bosh for the remainder of the season and Dwayne Wade isn’t getting any younger.

Trends: The Heat have won nine of their last ten games against the Cavaliers… Cleveland is 6-4 against the spread in their last ten games versus the Heat.

The Pick: Take Cleveland to cover on the road behind a big night from LeBron.

Oklahoma City (+3) at Dallas – OKC is fighting desperately to hang onto the eight and final spot in the West and most of that is on the heels of Russell Westbrook  who has been hotter than a firecracker in recent works. The Mavericks are currently tied with the Clippers at 11 games back of Golden State and they’re a half game up on San Antonio. Dallas has gone just 5-5 in their last ten games and I don’t think they’ve really pulled things together since the flare-up between Rajon Rondo and Head Coach Rick Carlisle.

Trends: Oklahoma City has won seven of their last ten games against the Mavericks… Dallas is 5-5 against the spread in their last ten games against the Thunder.

The Pick: I love the Thunder here getting the points.

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Some Good, Some Bad in the NBA Tonight

Randolph
Randolph

Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies head to Washington after playing in Boston last night.

There’s three games I’m looking at tonight in the National Basketball Association and each has different meaning. The first has playoff implications for both. The second is a potential NBA Finals preview while the last one may cause you to avert your eyes.

That’s life in the NBA when the season gets down to the final 20 games or so.

Memphis (Pick’em) at Washington – The Wizards are 3-7 in their last ten games and have slipped into a fairly stable position in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards biggest problem is that they give up almost literally as many points as they score. Close games are nice, but a little more separation from the offense and defense would be nice.

The Grizzlies have slipped to five and a half games behind Western Conference leader Golden State but are still up on the Rockets by two and a half games for the second spot. They’ve been really good on the road at 21-11 and they’ll need to be tonight because the Wizards are 22-10 at home.

Trends: Memphis is 16-6-1 straight up in their last 23 games… Washington is 3-8 straight up in their last 11 games… The Grizzlies are 10-4-1 in their last 15 games on the road… The Wizards are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at home.

The Pick: Take the Grizzlies on the road tonight.

TD

The Spurs may have to deal with the Cavaliers without Tim Duncan who has an elbow injury.

Cleveland (Pick’em) at San Antonio – Earlier this season I might have considered this a possible NBA Finals preview but I’m not convinced the Spurs are prepared for another run. Tim Duncan has what’s being called “a minor injury” but at his age is anything “minor” anymore? That said, they’ve won six straight and are creeping up on teams in the fourth and fifth positions.

The Cavaliers enter having won two straight and seven of their last ten games. They are just one game over .500 however on the road and the Spurs are always good at home (24-7). After spanking Dallas two nights ago in Big D, the Cavs seem poised to carry that momentum into San Antonio tonight. No one has a better plus/minus in the league than do the Cavs starting five when they’re on the floor together.

Trends: San Antonio is 10-0 straight up in their last ten games versus Cleveland. The Spurs are 8-2 against the spread in their last ten games against the Cavs.

The Pick: I love the Cavaliers in this one.

New York (+7.5) at LA Lakers – The Lakers achieved one of the most dubious marks in their franchise history this week. Yesterday marked the earliest in the season since they moved to Los Angeles (1961) that they were eliminated from the playoffs. They are also coming off a game last night at home against Detroit so their legs won’t exactly be fresh let alone inspired.

About the only difference between the Lakers and the Knicks is that the Lakers aren’t in last place. They are in second to last place two and a half games ahead of Minnesota. New York has no such privilege as they are the bottom feeders in the Eastern Conference. At 12-51, they trail the 76ers by two games in an effort to stay out of the basement.

Trends: LA is 6-4 against the spread and straight up against the Knicks in their last ten games… The Lakers have won two straight against New York.

The Pick: I like the Knicks getting the points tonight over a tired LA team.

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