Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to April 14 inclusive:
All good things must come to an end. So do the 2013-14 New York Knicks. Their season draws to a merciful close on Wednesday when the Toronto Raptors visit Madison Square Garden. New York will finish in ninth place in the Eastern Conference; Toronto is tied with the Chicago Bulls for the No. 3 seed, and since the Raptors have the tiebreaker, they can nail down third place with a win at MSG.
Do they even want to? The Indiana Pacers have clinched first place in the East, while the two-time and defending NBA champion Miami Heat will be the No. 2 seed. That means Toronto as a 3-seed would have to play the Heat in the second round if both teams advanced. As a 4-seed, the Raptors would get to play Indiana. But then they might first have to deal with the much-improved Brooklyn Nets, who continue to hold down the No. 5 spot in the East despite losing 109-98 to the Knicks (+7.5 away) Tuesday night. Not surprisingly, this confusing matchup is circled on the NBA odds board as we go to press.
Bodily Harm Will Visit You
Not having any other information about Toronto’s strategy for Wednesday night (8:00 p.m. ET, MSG), perhaps our best hope is to look at what the Raptors did in their last game, Monday’s 110-100 win over the Milwaukee Bucks (+10 away). The key takeaway: DeMar DeRozan (18.4 PER) was given the night off. Greivis Vasquez (14.0 PER) got the start instead and led the Raptors with 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
If the Raps were willing to sit DeRozan on Monday, they’re probably not all that concerned about what seed they end up with, and they’re probably going to give DeRozan and/or someone else another maintenance day against New York. Kyle Lowry (20.1 PER) and Amir Johnson (15.5 PER) would be prime candidates after recently missing action due to injury. As always, I strongly recommend you monitor the projected lineups for Toronto before placing your NBA bets.
The same goes for the Knicks lineup, but at least in this case, we know that Carmelo Anthony (24.4 PER) will not be playing on Wednesday. He was diagnosed with a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder – curiously, this happened after Anthony suited up in an otherwise meaningless game against the Chicago Bulls, scoring 17 points in 28 minutes as the Knicks (–3.5 at home) won 100-89. We knew Anthony’s shoulder was hurt. Why was he allowed to play? Just to ruin another one of my NBA picks? Probably.
The Knicks certainly didn’t roll over against the Nets Tuesday night just because Anthony wasn’t available. Amar’e Stoudemire (18.7 PER) got the start despite being a game-time decision and scored 14 points in 21 minutes. Head coach Mike Woodson reportedly let Stoudemire decide whether or not he played; again, we can presume that will be the case on Wednesday when the Raptors come to town.
New York did end up building an early lead against Brooklyn, making it an easy choice to go deep into the bench and give heavy minutes to players like Shannon Brown (10.1 PER) and Toure’ Murry (10.4 PER). This will make it easier for the Knicks to recover and play Toronto on zero days of rest; however, the Raptors will be that much more likely to win if Brown and Murry are featured prominently in Wednesday’s contest. Once more unto the breach, and may the sphere be with you. Playoffs are next.
NBA Pick: Take the Raptors