New York is a 5-point dog for sports bettors at Toronto with a total of 194.5, while Atlanta is +6 on NBA odds at Brooklyn with a total of 203 at sportsbooks.
Knicks Need Miracle
The Knicks-Raptors game tips off at 7 p.m. ET. New York will be eliminated with a loss and an Atlanta victory, with the Hawks' tip in Brooklyn a half-hour later. The Knicks essentially need to win out to have a shot. They finish Sunday vs. Chicago, Tuesday at Brooklyn and Wednesday vs. Toronto. Atlanta would have to go 1-3 for the Knicks to get in if they go 4-0. That's not impossible. The Hawks host Miami on Saturday (will the Heat play many guys in the second of a back-to-back after a big one Friday vs. Indiana?), host Charlotte on Monday and visit the NBA's worst team, Milwaukee, to close the season.
Should New York (33-44 ATS, 43-35 O/U at sportsbooks) miss out, it can likely point to last Friday's devastating 90-89 home loss to Washington. Bradley Beal hit the go-ahead jumper with 6.9 seconds left in a game Carmelo Anthony turned the ball over a ghastly nine times. J.R. Smith missed the potential winning 3-pointerwith 2.2 seconds left. Why is Smith taking that shot and why a 3-pointer when a 2 would have done? Smith knows no better.
In Sunday's 102-91 loss in Miami, Smith jacked up an NBA-record 22 3-pointers, making 10 of them. He took 10 3-pointers in the fourth quarter alone while Anthony didn't attempt a single shot. Melo hasn't been at his best the past two games, totaling 23 points on 9-for-31 from the field. He's dealing with a shoulder injury that likely shuts him down should the Knicks be eliminated.
Toronto (45-31-2 ATS, 42-36 O/U) isn't just going to lie down here. It is tied with Chicago for the third seed in the East and can clinch the second Atlantic Division title in franchise history with a victory or Nets loss. The Raptors' next victory also would tie franchise record of 47, set by the 2006-07 team that also won the Atlantic. The Raptors have won four straight and welcomed back starting point guard Kyle Lowry -- a guy the Knicks tried to trade for earlier this season -- in Wednesday's 125-114 victory over Philadelphia. He had missed the previous three games with a knee injury but played 38 minutes vs. the Sixers and finished with 29 points and eight assists.
The Raptors are 2-0 against New York this season, beating the Knicks by 12 and 15 in a home-and-home in late December. Lowry averaged 23.5 points and 11.0 assists in the two. Anthony missed both.
With the 30-minute tip difference and barring overtime the Hawks (34-43-1 ATS, 43-34-1 O/U) should know by about the start of fourth quarter in Brooklyn whether they can clinch with a victory. Atlanta has made the postseason six straight seasons but has about zero chance of advancing against either Miami or Indiana. GM Danny Ferry hinted previously he might prefer to land in the lottery instead.
It's questionable whether the Hawks will have starting center Pero Antic for this game. He sat out Wednesday's 105-97 home win over Boston with an ankle injury. Undersized Elton Brand would start again if Antic can't play.
Brooklyn (42-36 ATS, 39-35-4 O/U) could really help the Hawks out by resting some guys, and the Nets might do just that. They are all but locked into the No. 5 seed so there's little to play for in this one, other than extending a 15-game home winning streak, the longest in the NBA this season. The Nets held out Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston and Andray Blatche in Wednesday's loss in Orlando -- a defeat that could be seen coming for miles after the Nets' huge win in Miami on Tuesday. Coach Jason Kidd did say Kevin Garnett would play as they want to get him used to 20-25 minutes a night for the postseason. He has been back only two games since a long injury absence. If there's one guy who needs a night off it's probably Deron Williams. He is averaging 11.6 points on 36.4 percent shooting in the past five games.
The Nets are 2-0 against the Hawks this season, winning by five at home and 17 in Atlanta, and going for their first sweep in nine years.
NBA parlay picks: Desperate Knicks to win outright at +180 on the moneyline (conversion of spread at +5) and under 203 in Hawks-Nets at -110. That would pay out at around +435.