Our expert handicapper selects the most important NBA games this week and explains why we can find betting value for our NBA picks with these matchups.
Wednesday, April 6
Thunder vs. Trail Blazers
The Thunder visit the Trail Blazers in a potential Western Conference playoff preview. If the regular season ended today, these two teams would meet in the first round of the playoffs. The Thunder are coming off a 118-110 loss against the Rockets last Sunday while the Trail Blazers saw their four-game winning streak end after a 136-111 road loss against the Warriors. Oklahoma City leads the season series with Portland 2-1, including a convincing 128-94 home win on March 14 behind 26 points from Enes Kanter. The Trail Blazers are 26-12 at home for a reason and they want to prove that their unexpected success isn't a fluke, so we are going to have an entertaining game.
Cavaliers vs. Pacers
The Cavaliers visit the Pacers, a team that they could face in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Both teams are peaking at the right time, with the Cavs winning three straight games while the Pacers have won their last two. This game means more to Indiana because the Bulls and the Wizards are chasing them and the Pistons for the last playoff spot and being at home adds motivation and pressure. The Cavaliers lead the season series with the Pacers 3-0 but all the games were decided by five points or less and one even went to overtime. Look for another close game tomorrow and back the Pacers with your NBA picks.
Thursday, April 7
Bulls vs. Heat
Time is running out for the Bulls in what has been one of their most disappointing seasons in a long time. The Heat might not have Dwyane Wade back for this game, which helps the Bulls, but Miami has dominated them this season, winning all three meetings, including a 118-96 victory on March 11 in Chicago. Will Wade be able to play on Thursday? Can the Bulls find a way to keep their season alive in this complicated visit? It will be interesting to see the NBA odds for this contest. Miami is the better team, even without Wade but Chicago has more to play for, so it will be tough to call this one.
Spurs vs. Warriors
The two best teams in the NBA collide when the San Antonio Spurs visit the Golden State Warriors in what many want to be the NBA Finals this season, although it's impossible for obvious reasons. The teams have split two meetings this season, with each one winning on their respective home court. The Warriors no longer have a perfect home record but they're still chasing the 95-96 Bulls and their 72 regular season wins. Will Golden State feel extra pressure because of that? Will San Antonio use all their best players or prefer to rest key starters as part of coach Popovich's mental games? I expect the Spurs to give the Warriors all they can handle in order to spoil their chances to reach 72 wins and hurt their motivation in the process. San Antonio proved that they can beat Golden State and it will be interesting to see if they use the same game plan on Thursday.
Friday, April 8
Pacers vs. Raptors
The Pacers and Raptors are on opposite ends of the Eastern Conference standings, but that doesn't mean that this won't be a fun to watch game. The Pacers look to remain in seventh place while the Raptors hope to catch the Cavs for the best record in the conference. Toronto is currently 3.5 games behind Cleveland with six games to play. The Raptors lead the season series with the Pacers 2-1, including a 101-94 overtime win at Indiana on March 17. On paper, Toronto has the better team but Indiana's roster can at least keep this one close. Two of the three meetings have been hard-fought games and I see the Pacers coming out fired with the playoffs almost here.
Saturday, April 9
Celtics vs. Hawks
This is going to be a fun to watch contest because both teams have identical 45-32 records as of this writing, good for third-best in the Eastern Conference. Both teams are evenly matched but playing at home could tip the scale in favor of Atlanta. The Celtics are in this position for a reason but you have to consider that the Hawks lead the season series 2-1 and that they have more team chemistry because they have been playing together longer.
Cavaliers vs. Bulls
The schedule isn't doing the Bulls any favors as the regular season comes to an end because hosting the Cavaliers is always extremely tough, even if they haven't been as dominant as most people expect them. The Bulls have played well against the Cavaliers this season though, leading the season series 2-1, but the Cavs prevailed in the most recent encounter, 106-95 on February 18. The Bulls can't afford to lose more games, as their destiny is not in their hands anymore but it's hard to figure out this team, as they haven't been consistent, especially at the United Center.
Sunday, April 10
Warriors vs. Spurs
The Warriors and the Spurs meet for the fourth and final time in the regular season. The teams face each other at ORACLE Arena on Thursday and this clash means a lot to San Antonio because they're 39-0 at home and they want to keep their perfect record there while hurting Golden State's chances at 73 wins. This is a statement game and once again I don't see coach Popovich resting his best players. The outcome of Thursday's meeting will impact this game from a betting perspective but I expect another instant classic with a playoff atmosphere and a lot at stake.