Breaking Down Which Games Matter on Final Night of Regular Season

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Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 8:01 PM GMT

The 2016-17 NBA regular season comes to an end tonight with a 14-game schedule. Only a handful of those feature at least one team that will truly be trying to win. Here’s a look at those.

Betting on the NBA this late in the season is all about determining each team’s motivation level and thus which clubs might rest their best players. For example, six of the eight playoff seeds in the Western Conference have been clinched, so Golden State, San Antonio, Houston, Oklahoma City, Memphis and Portland have zero reason to play their starters Wednesday.

Here are six games where there is clearly one team still trying and worth backing in NBA betting. Opening odds from BetOnline.

Milwaukee at Boston (-13.5): This game tips off at 8 p.m. ET, the same time as Toronto at Cleveland. The reason I mention the time is that the Celtics will earn the top spot in the Eastern Conference with a victory over the Bucks or a Cavaliers loss to the Raptors. However, the Cavs clearly don’t care about finishing with the East’s best record as they didn’t play LeBron James or Kyrie Irving on Monday in Miami and won’t be playing James, at a minimum, for this one. Milwaukee has clinched a playoff spot and has nothing for play for here. There are reports the Bucks will sit their two best players, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. This is all about Boston, which is 1-1 vs. the Bucks in 2016-17.

Washington at Miami (TBA): There’s no opening line here because it’s not clear whom the Wizards might rest. They are locked into the East’s No. 4 seed so they are going to be sitting some guys. On Monday, the Wizards rested both John Wall and Otto Porter in Detroit. The Heat are sitting ninth in the playoff race. They must win this game and have either Indiana or Chicago lose to get in. If the Pacers and Bulls both lose and the Heat win, they will jump to the seventh seed, Indiana will be eighth and the Bulls will be out.

Atlanta at Indiana (-12.5): The Hawks will be playing the second of a back-to-back after hosting Charlotte on Tuesday. Atlanta probably will be locked into the fifth seed when it takes the court and thus could sit a handful of players. If Indiana wins this game, it will be no worse than the seventh seed. If the Pacers lose, the only way they miss the playoffs is if Chicago and Miami both win. Indiana and Atlanta have split two meetings this season.

Brooklyn at Chicago (-14): Chicago holds the eighth playoff spot and is in with a victory. The Bulls would get to the seventh seed with a win and Pacers loss to Atlanta. Chicago would still get in with a loss if Miami also loses. A Chicago loss and Heat win knocks out the Bulls. Brooklyn is playing out the string with the NBA’s worst record but isn’t necessarily tanking because the Nets don’t own their first-round pick. However, Brooklyn is planning to rest Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin. Chicago is 2-1 vs. Brooklyn this year but lost the most recent matchup.

Sacramento at LA Clippers (-15.5): This is really the only Western Conference game with any relevance. The Clippers are facing the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs, but what is unclear is which will be the No. 4 seed and which the No. 5. Utah hosts San Antonio at 9 p.m. and must win that game and have the Clippers lose to get the No. 4. It’s my feeling that the Jazz already have given up on that possibility as they rested some top guys Monday against Golden State (but still won). The Kings-Clippers game tips off at 10:30 p.m. ET. Thus L.A. should know around the second quarter or so if Utah lost. If that’s the case, then this game means nothing as the Clippers will be the No. 4. However, if the Jazz win then Clippers coach Doc Rivers would have to play his starters long enough to ensure a victory here.

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