Barring a major shakeup in the Western standings, there are four teams fighting over the last three playoff spots. Will the heated competition help them beat the NBA odds?
Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to February 25 inclusive:
We’ve still got over 20 games left to go in the 2013-14 regular season, but the Western Conference has already divided neatly into three classes. There’s a 4.5-game gap between the No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers and the No. 6 Dallas Mavericks, and another 4.5 games between the No. 9 Memphis Grizzlies and the No. 10 Minnesota Timberwolves. This week’s tour of the West takes us through that ever-shrinking middle class. Which of these four teams will make the playoffs, and who will get left behind? Only time will tell.
Check out our last Western Conference breakdown!
Teams don’t get much hotter than the Mavericks (36-23 SU, 33-26 ATS) right now. They’ve won 10 of their past dozen games at 7-5 ATS, and they beat the NBA lines quite handily in Wednesday’s 108-89 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans (+6.5 away). Score another one for the good guys. Dirk Nowitzki (24.5 PER) left the game briefly after his shoulder “popped a little bit” while throwing a lob pass, but he returned to finish the game with 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Disaster averted. Next up for Dallas: a Friday night tilt (8:30 p.m. ET) with the Chicago Bulls, who did some damage of their own on Wednesday against the next team on our tour.
Golden State Warriors
This season is threatening to run away from the Warriors (35-23 SU, 27-28-3 ATS). They were trounced 103-93 in Chicago (+3.5), breaking a 4-0 SU and ATS winning streak despite the return of David Lee (19.5 PER) to the lineup. Or perhaps because of it. After missing two games with a stomach virus that landed him in hospital, Lee played 21 minutes off the bench and was held to 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting. However, once Lee gets back to full health, the Dubs have a chance to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. Their rotation is as deep as it’s been all season, thanks in part to the addition of Steve Blake (12.3 PER) at the trade deadline.
The Suns (33-24 SU, 36-20-1 ATS) are still the most profitable team on the NBA betting charts, even though they’ve lost their last three games SU and ATS, capped off by Wednesday’s 109-86 defeat at the hands of the Utah Jazz (–2.5 at home). Phoenix had to play without All-Star snub Goran Dragic (22.4 PER), who sprained his ankle the previous night against the Minnesota Timberwolves and had to sit out Wednesday’s game. Dragic is considered day-to-day for now; in his place, Ish Smith (11.3 PER) started against Utah and was held to 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting while posting a team-worst minus-24. Keep on fading them if Dragic doesn’t return for Friday’s matchup (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) against the Pelicans.
Winning isn’t everything – just ask anyone who’s been betting on the Grizzlies (32-24 SU, 25-30-1 ATS) lately. They’ve won five of their last six to close within half a game of Phoenix, but only at 2-4 ATS. That includes Wednesday’s 108-103 win over the Los Angeles Lakers (+11.5 away), who had a strong second half to pull off yet another matador cover. Can’t blame this dry spell on injuries, either. Tony Allen (16.7 PER) has played well in his three games since returning from a hand/wrist injury, giving head coach Dave Joerger the opportunity to use up to 11 quality players in his rotation. If you’re feeling charitable, you can make that 12, after the Grizzlies claimed Beno Udirh (12.5 PER) off waivers following his release by the New York Knicks. Sweet, sweet release.