Here are my top three NBA picks for this final Monday of the 2014-15 NBA regular season. It's a busy one with 12 games on the schedule. Some teams have something to play for and others don't.
Bulls vs. Nets (+1.5)
This is the only that matters to both teams on the schedule in terms of playoff positioning. Chicago (48-32) is currently tied with Toronto for the No. 3 seed in the East, but the Raptors win the tiebreaker as a division champion (even though the Bulls dominated the season series). If I'm the Bulls, I would prefer the No. 4 seed because that means you get to avoid the Cavaliers (locked into No. 2) and LeBron James until potentially the Eastern Conference Finals. Brooklyn (37-43) currently is the No. 8 seed, winning a tiebreaker over Indiana, which holds the same record. So this game clearly means more for the Nets. They close the season at home Wednesday against Toronto so the Nets will have a big say in who the Bulls play in the first round. The Bulls can lock up home-court advantage in Round 1 with a victory here. Expect more minutes from Derrick Rose, perhaps as many as 30. In his third game back from injury on Saturday, he played 28 minutes and looked great with 22 points, eight assists and no turnovers. Chicago has gone 18-7 when he scores at least 20, including four straight wins. The Bulls lead the season series 2-1, with all three games in 2014. The Bulls are 5-5 in their last 10 road games against the Nets.
NBA Free Pick: Take the points. Nets need it more. They have covered five of their past seven at home.
Knicks vs. Hawks (-14.5)
This game is fascinating in a way even though it's the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference against the club with the worst. The Knicks need to lose -- they are tied with Minnesota at 16-64, although New York "wins" the tiebreaker. The Knicks close the season with a winnable game Wednesday at home against the Pistons. It would almost be perfect if they blew the chance for the most ping-pong balls in the draft lottery with how much of a disaster this season has been. The Hawks have squat to play for as the top seed in the East and likely will be without All-Star power forward Paul Millsap again. However, Coach Mike Budenholzer plans to play the rest of his starters after sitting a few guys in Sunday's 108-99 loss in Washington. Before placing your NBA pick, keep in mind that the Hawks have won five straight at home, while the Knicks have just six road wins all season. Atlanta has won three straight against the Knicks.
NBA Free Pick: New York. Hawks starters won't play all that long. The Knicks have covered four of their past six games overall.
Trail Blazers vs. Thunder (-8.5)
NBA odds favorites tonight, Oklahoma City, caught a massive break on Monday when the NBA rescinded a technical foul called on Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook on Sunday. That was his 16th, which would have meant a one-game suspension. That would have been disastrous with OKC currently tied at 43-37 with New Orleans for the final playoff spot in the West. The Pelicans win the tiebreaker so they could clinch tonight with a win in Minnesota, which is likely, and a Thunder loss to Portland. The Blazers really have nothing to play for as they are locked into the No. 4 seed in the West. Westbrook comes off a career-high 54-point performance in Sunday's loss to Indiana. He took a crazy 43 shots, the most in the NBA by any player since Kobe Bryant jacked up 44 when he had that memorable 81-point night on Jan. 22, 2006. The Blazers have dropped two straight and are likely to again be without All-Star big man LaMarcus Aldridge and shooting guard Arron Afflalo for this one. Aldridge has a sore left foot and probably could play if the game mattered. Afflalo will not return before potentially midway through the first round of the playoffs.
NBA Free Pick: Thunder -8.5 at BookMaker