With the playoffs fast approaching, jockeying for the final postseason positions is of utmost importance as NBA action moves into the weekend.
Several key battles are on tap for Friday night, as we take a look at the entire Friday card and highlight angles and trends of note in each matchup.
Oklahoma City at Indiana: First meeting of the season between these two. Note that OK City enters on a 2-game SU losing streak, its first of the season since early January; the Thunder has yet to lose three in a row outright this campaign. Note Indiana’s recent uptick that includes wins and covers in its last three games. The Pacers are also trending “over” lately, going that way in four straight, seven of nine, and 10 of their last 14 outings. This is also likely to be just the fourth time the Pacers have been a home 'dog this season (they’re 2-1 previously in role).
Washington at New Jersey: Curious series trends this season between these two with the road 'dog winning outright in the first two meetings, including the Wizards' 108-89 romp in Newark on March 21. Pointspread failures as chalk at the Pru Center have been common for the Nets, who are just 5-13 as a home favorite this term. Washington, however, might be losing traction, failing to cover in its last three outings prior to Thursday night vs. the Pistons, and note a turnaround of the Wizards’ recent “under” pattern (now “over” two straight prior to facing the Pistons on Thursday after “under” in 11 previous games).
Detroit at Atlanta: This has not been an easy matchup for the Hawks, who have been pushed to the limit twice by the Pistons while failing to cover both of those games, including an 86-85 loss at the Palace on March 9. Atlanta has, however, won and covered four of its last five at home after Wednesday’s romp past Charlotte. Note that Detroit’s overall road 'dog mark is subpar (9-16), and that the Pistons could be reversing their recent “under” trend by going “over” two in a row prior to facing the Wizards on Wednesday (Pistons “under” in five previous outings).
Memphis at Miami: First meeting between these two this season after the home team won and covered both clashes a year ago. Miami’s recent spread form has been a bit inconsistent (just 6-9 last 15), although maybe the Heat will be spurred by Thursday’s win over Oklahoma City that has put them almost within touching distance of the Bulls for the best record in the East.
As for the Grizzlies, they looked to be finally getting in order after a spate of spread losses following Zach Randolph’s return to active duty, but the Wednesday loss at Dallas puts Memphis at just 4-9 vs. the number its last 13 on the board. “Totals” note would include “unders” in last six and eight of last nine for Memphis.
Cleveland at Toronto: The Raptors have already scored the hat trick at Cleveland’s expense this season, winning and covering their first three meetings. The banged-up Cavs, now minus Duke rookie star Kyrie Irving until further notice, have lost nine in a row SU, not coming closer than nine points in any of those defeats. Cleveland had also dropped seven straight vs. the line prior to barely squeezing inside of a double-digit impost at Milwaukee on Wednesday night.
New Orleans at San Antonio: The Spurs have won the first three meetings vs. the Hornets but didn’t have an easy time in any of those games, failing to cover twice in the Big Easy. San Antonio did get the cover, however, when New Orleans visited AT&T Center on Feb. 2, and the Spurs are in a rich vein of form at the moment, having won their last nine and dropping the spread decision just once in that span. Still, might be wary of the Hornets in what has been a profitable road dog role (18-8). Note “overs” in 11 of Spurs’ last 15 games as well.
Charlotte at Milwaukee: Charlotte’s high point of the season might have come on opening night when beating the Bucks by one at Time Warner Cable Arena. It’s been all downhill after that for Paul Silas’ team, which is off another crushing road defeat (120-93) at Atlanta on Wednesday night. The Bobcats have suffered numerous lopsided beatings this season and Milwaukee inflicted one of those by a 112-92 count at Bradley Center on March 23. The Bucks have been providing pretty good value lately, covering 12 of their last 17.
Portland at Dallas: Dallas survived in OT in the first meeting between these two back on Feb. 11, but the Mavs still couldn’t cover the number in a rematch of an entertaining first-round playoff series last spring. Note the Blazers’ current zig-zag SU pattern; it’s been lose-win-lose-win for then straight games, and if the pattern holds it’s time for a SU loss tonight in Big D. Despite that earlier cover at AA Center, Portland is just 6-11 as a road 'dog in this distracting term. The Mavericks enter this one having won and covered four of their last six.
Phoenix at Denver: Possible Western Conference playoff implications here as these sides jockey for one of the last postseason berths. Denver won and covered by 17 in the first meeting at Pepsi Center back on Feb. 14, but that was before the Suns caught an updraft that has put them on the periphery of the playoff mix. Alvin Gentry’s team has now won and covered three straight in its latest uptick and is 16-7 vs. the spread since Feb. 19. Meanwhile, despite their earlier win and cover vs. the Suns, the Nuggets (back home after a 7-game road trip) are just 9-15 as home chalk this term.
Golden State at Utah: In one of the more-surprising current team trends in the NBA, Golden State has covered four straight and nine of its last 10 on the road (all as an underdog). One of those covers came at Salt Lake City on march 17 in a closely-contested OT loss vs. the Jazz. As for Utah, it is looking a bit shaky at the moment, losing and failing to cover four of the last five outings.
Houston at LA Lakers: The Rockets made a hurricane-like late rally to collar the Lakers by a 107-104 count in their most-recent meeting on March 20 at Toyota Center. As for the Lake Show, it has won its last four games SU but has not been covering numbers, having dropped seven straight and 10 of 11 against the line prior to Wednesday’s win vs. the Clippers. Kobe & Co. have also surprisingly dropped nine in a row vs. the number as a host at Staples Center (they were the designated “road” team on Wednesday vs. the Clips).