Players around the NBA got a much-needed break to gear up for the playoff push. Well, that or the race to the bottom.
The play-in tournament means 20 of the league’s 30 teams won’t be finished when the 82-game regular season concludes in about six weeks. These days off are like an oasis in the desert.
Some teams will be ready to hit the ground running when play resumes Thursday. Others may not be as excited to get back to the grind. If you can isolate those teams, you can start the post-All Star schedule with some profit.
Before the All-Star break, I talked about how veteran teams are usually good bets because they understand the importance of trying to bank some wins when other teams are sleeping. To some degree, you could argue that the games right after the break are built more for the younger, more eager teams that are excited to get back on the floor.
There are also going to be other situational spots worthy of a mention, and I’ll hit on a few of those here for Thursday and Friday:
Cavaliers at Pistons: The Cavs are one of those teams that should be amped up for the postseason push. They’re a young team with spunk and have a chance at some revenge against the Pistons. Cleveland lost 115-105 to Detroit on Jan. 30, which was one of just 13 wins for the Pistons this season. The Cavs will want to get that game back and they should be able to do it, especially riding the wave of all of the All-Star Game excitement in Cleveland.
Suns at Thunder: I’m not sure we’ll get a fully focused effort from the Suns in a sizable favorite role on the road against the Thunder. This is a standalone road game for Phoenix, as the top seed in the West heads right back home to host New Orleans on Friday and then Utah in a Sunday matinee on ABC. Does Phoenix lose this game? Probably not, but the Suns may not cover in a big road favorite role that might be viewed as a throwaway game coming off of the break.
Rockets at Magic: Professional athletes are not good losers. Losing is no fun and certainly not what these guys signed up for. The Rockets seem hell-bent on being as awful as possible in hopes of reviving the franchise in the post-James Harden years. The Magic are also building toward the future, but that process seems to be a little further along. Both of these teams are bad, but I like to back home teams in spots like this. Orlando has 13 wins and only five of them have come at home. But do we really think the Rockets will be excited to get back to work, especially against a team of zero consequence to them?
Spurs at Wizards: The NBA schedule can be a cruel mistress. The Spurs were on their annual rodeo road trip prior to the All-Star Break and still have three games left before it’s over. When San Antonio finally plays another home game, it will have been 27 days between home tilts. After some downtime with family and friends, the frequent flier miles will start adding up again. It wouldn’t be a stunner to see the Spurs come out sluggish against a Wizards team fighting for a spot in the play-in tournament.