Indiana at Oklahoma City
In the past 16 games, the Thunder has gone frompotential challenger to Golden State to an eighthseed in the West fighting for consistency. Sincethe All-Star Break, Oklahoma City is 6-11 straightup and just 4-13 against the spread. A team thatonce scored 117 or more points in 17 consecutivegames is 29th in offensive efficiency in its last17 contests. The injury to Paul George’s shootingshoulder seems to have hampered him quitea bit. In March, the one-time MVP contender isshooting 38.9 percent from the floor and just 34.5percent from deep. Steven Adams has regressedas well, averaging just 10 points this month whileshooting 32.4 percent at the free throw line. Fiveof the Thunder’s last eight games are againstplayoff teams, and that slate begins Wednesdayagainst Indiana. The Pacers have finally startedtheir descent back to Earth, posting a 7-9 straightup and against the spread record in their last 16games. Indiana’s offensive rating is 24th throughthose 16 contests, and the team has been held tounder 100 points in four of its last nine games. Caneither team fix its issues in time for the postseason?
Denver at Houston
It is looking more likely that this will be our semifinalseries in the Western Conference. Golden State stillholds a precarious half-game lead over Denverfor the top seed in the West, and a meeting nextTuesday in Oakland will go a long way towarddeciding that outcome. Until then, bettors will wantto watch this contest closely on Thursday. Houstonis 2-1 SU & ATS this season against Denver. The oneloss for the Rockets came without Clint Capela onthe floor, and it is no coincidence that Nikola Jokichad his best game of the season series, postinga plus/minus of plus-14 while scoring 31 points.It is widely believed that the Denver Nuggets arevulnerable and primed for an early exit, and Jokicis a big reason. Against Indiana over the weekend,Myles Turner repeatedly burned him on pickand-pops for wide-open, mid-range jumpshots.Turner finished the game 7-of-15 from the floorand plus-23 on the day. He does not defend well inspace. Against Houston, he will be forced to timeand again against their isolation offense. If JamesHarden and Chris Paul can exploit that mismatch,this figures to be a long night for The Joker.
Portland at Atlanta
This matchup was originally selected to showcasetwo teams that had been playing some of theirbest basketball. However, after a devastating injuryto Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, it seems likemore of a eulogy for Portland’s postseason hope.The Blazers pulled out the win in double-overtimein that game against Brooklyn, improving to 7-1straight up in its past eight games. However,the future is bleak without the Bosnian Beast,who was averaging career highs in points andrebounding with a career-best Player EfficiencyRating. This contest with Atlanta will be the team’ssecond without Nurkic, and it will be an extremelychallenging test. The Hawks are 12-4 againstthe spread since the All-Star Break, and TraeYoung is becoming the offensive threat Atlantaenvisioned he would be. In those 16 games Younghas averaged 25.3 points and 8.8 assists per gamewhile shooting 40.7 percent from deep. It is not justYoung either. The young Hawks have the eighthbest offensive rating during this ATS run, averaging111.9 points per 100 possessions. The team is evenstronger at home, covering five of six on their ownfloor. Nurkic’s absence will most certainly havean effect on the team’s power rating, but Atlantashould be a slight ‘dog come Friday. That will bewell worth a long look for bettors.
Boston at Brooklyn
The Boston Celtics seem content with landingthe fourth or fifth seed in the Eastern Conferenceif their recent play is any indication. With a lossto San Antonio over the weekend, the Celtics arenow 0-4 straight up and 1-3 against the line intheir last four contests. As of March 11, Boston isan even poorer 2-5 straight and 1-6 against thenumber. Again, the Celtics’ atrocious defense isbehind the slide. Over these seven games, Bostonis allowing 118.9 points per 100 possessions, arate that is 28th in the NBA. Kyrie Irving is restinggames regularly now, and both Jayson Tatum andAl Horford are dealing with injuries of their own.Boston will certainly be a tough team to peg downfor bettors in these final eight games. On the otherhand, Brooklyn continues to compete, even if thestraight up results continue to elude the team.The Nets have covered four straight, but have justtwo wins to show for it. It is part of a poor stretchoverall that has seen Brooklyn go 2-4 straight up,all of which has come on a seven-game road trip.They are tied with Detroit for the sixth seed in theEast, and just a game ahead of Miami in the eighthspot, so expect plenty of motivation for Brooklyn onSaturday.
Memphis at L.A. Clippers
The Memphis Grizzlies have found their fightdown the stretch of the regular season, and ithas actually given some hope to bettors with anover bet on the team’s win total! Over the past13 games, the Grizzlies have covered the spreadnine times while winning seven of those outright.Memphis will need four wins over its final eightgames to surpass its closing win total, but it isnot a task that is out of the realm of possibility.Having said that, taking down a Clippers team thathas won 10 of 11 games will be difficult. It is clearthat the oddsmakers have improved the powerrating on Los Angeles, and it has had a negativeeffect on the team’s against the spread record.Despite winning five straight the Clippers are just2-3 against the number, and 2-4 against the linein their past six. This 10-game stretch has beenimpressive for Los Angeles, leading the league inoffensive rating through this run. The team is only2.5 games behind Portland for a homecourt series!However, the market seems to have overreactedto the strong play, and inflated the numbers theyare laying on a game-to-game basis. Against ateam that has been strong as an underdog, bettorsshould have a ticket on Memphis in their pocketcome Sunday.