All eyes are on conference tournaments in the lead-up to Selection Sunday, but bettors cannot allow themselves to forget about the ever-present opportunities in the NBA. We’ve got another week of the status quo in the Association as teams make their way towards the playoffs.
It is worth noting that the league’s schedule is a little more relaxed this week with some NBA venues taken over by conference tournaments and simply by the amount of interest in college hoops. In fact, by my count, there are only 10 sets of back-to-backs that fully take place from Monday to Sunday. That is definitely low by NBA standards.
With that in mind, let’s look for the opportunities that we can find and survey the situational betting spots for the week ending March 15:
Monday March 9
Toronto Raptors at Utah Jazz – We’ve got two really obvious spots from the selection of games on Monday. The first is this one as the Raptors finish up a long road trip with a B2B in altitude. Coming off of Sunday’s game against Sacramento, the Raptors are in Salt Lake City. This is the first home game back off of an Eastern Conference swing for the Jazz, though, and is a 4-in-6 and 5-in-8 for the home team. The spot isn’t nearly as bad as we would generally see for a consecutive game in altitude and I would even consider Toronto as the Raptors hope to end the trip on a high note.
Milwaukee Bucks at Denver Nuggets – The Bucks find themselves in a similar spot here as they take on Denver in the second game of a back-to-back. This is a little bit shorter and quicker of a trip for Milwaukee, but it is still a 3-in-4 and actually closes up a 6-in-9 run with five of the six games on the road. The spot is definitely much better for Denver, as the Nuggets are rested and haven’t been taxed too much by travel. They are also in a bounce back spot after a loss to the Cavs. I like the home team in this one, but the Superstar Subtraction Theory is active because Milwaukee will be without star Giannis Antetokounmpo, so tread lightly.
Tuesday March 10
Boston Celtics at Indiana Pacers – The Pacers draw a big home spot here on Tuesday night against the Celtics. Boston actually has two huge games in a row including Thursday’s tilt against the Bucks. The Pacers are trying to make some statements and also win as many games as possible to solidify their playoff positioning and also stack up against the best of the best. There really isn’t much to this spot, except that the Pacers are playing a first home game back off of a long trip. Playing an opponent the caliber of Boston should ease any fears about that situation.
Phoenix Suns at Portland Trail Blazers – The Trail Blazers are backing themselves into a corner. Back-to-back losses to Phoenix and Sacramento have really hurt in the push for the #8 seed in the Western Conference playoff picture. Portland is just 3-7 over the last 10 games and is at home here in a rapid revenge spot against Phoenix. The Suns just beat the Blazers on Friday night. The sense of urgency needs to be heightened for Portland, but they just might not have enough in the tank. This game will tell us a lot about how to handle them the rest of the way.
Brooklyn Nets at Los Angeles Lakers – This is an interesting spot for both teams. The Nets hit the road for a West Coast swing just days after firing Kenny Atkinson. The Lakers just keep winning games and making statements. This game, though, comes after a big game against the Clippers and in advance of Thursday’s TNT tilt against the Houston Rockets. Is this a flat spot for Los Angeles? It feels like it could be. Not flat in the sense that they lose, but flat in the sense that they may not cover as a big favorite.
Wednesday March 11
Denver Nuggets at Dallas Mavericks – The Nuggets are in a favorable spot on Wednesday night. They draw a Dallas team in a B2B with travel coming back from San Antonio. It is also a Dallas team that is playing a 7-in-11. Denver has had a much less daunting schedule of late. Let’s see how the Nuggets do in Monday’s game because if they are coming off of two losses in a row, they are very much a buy candidate here. If not, I still like them given the spot, but this could end up being my favorite play of the week.
New York Knicks at Atlanta Hawks – Normally I try to go in chronological order, but that first spot for Wednesday just stood out so much. This one does, too. The Knicks have an off night in Miami and then play Friday night before having three days off. For a bad team going nowhere, a trip to South Beach sounds pretty alluring. This is a back-to-back with travel after playing in D.C. on Tuesday. The Hawks are at least trying as they finish out the season. The Knicks aren’t. Again. I like the Hawks here.
Thursday March 12
Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic – Is this a similar spot to the Knicks? The Magic return home off of a four-game road trip to host the Bulls. The Bulls play in Miami on Saturday, so they’ll have a Friday night off in the Sunshine State. For a team not really going anywhere, this would seem to be a pretty difficult spot. The Magic need all the wins that they can get. If Orlando is fully focused here, I think they can name the score, but they are coming back from some road games, so I’m a little bit iffy on this one.
Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks – The Bucks came up short in their big litmus test game against the Los Angeles Lakers. I have to think that this is a spot in which they want to make amends. Even though the Raptors appear to be the chief competitor in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks are trying to bank as many wins as they can to chase down some records and some accolades. They’re the pick on Thursday night.
Brooklyn Nets at Golden State Warriors – This is a bit of an awkward spot for the Nets. They’ve been a poor road team this season and now make a quick trip from Los Angeles to Oakland and then go back to Los Angeles for Friday’s game against the Clippers. The Warriors might be looking up a little bit now with Steph Curry back in the fold. I’m not sure what this line will look like, but the awkwardness of this spot makes me think Golden State is the side.
Friday March 13
Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics – This game begins a 6-in-9 run for Washington and it comes against a Boston team in a back-to-back after losing to the Bucks. This spot is contingent on what happens in Thursday’s game for Boston. The Celtics may be hungover, win or lose, against Milwaukee. On the other hand, they could also be looking to let out some frustration on somebody and the Wizards are probably a good team to do so against. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how this one sets up.
New York Knicks at Miami Heat – If the Heat want, they can name the score here against the Knicks. Miami is in a decent spot. It is a B2B, but no travel with the Bulls in town on Saturday. The Knicks just aren’t going to be invested in most of their games and I’m not sure why they’d be invested in this one against the Heat. Miami will be a massive favorite here, but could very well cover a number of great magnitude.
New Orleans Pelicans at Utah Jazz – The Pelicans take on a surging Jazz team one day before they take on the Los Angeles Clippers out on the left coast. This is a really challenging back-to-back for a Pelicans team desperately trying to run down that #8 seed. They’ve got quite a bit of work to do, but every game is effectively a playoff game right now. I bet we get a game effort here from the Pelicans. In a pick your poison scenario between the Jazz and Clippers, you’d probably like your chances of beating the Jazz a little bit better. They should be focused and engaged here.
Saturday March 14
Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks – This is an interesting situation. This is a day game with a 1 p.m. CT tip-off. It is the first game since Tuesday for a rested Phoenix squad. Dallas played the tail end of a back-to-back on Wednesday and then had two days off. This effectively becomes a standalone road game for Phoenix because of the layoff. I have to think this is a good spot for a Dallas team that had played a lot of basketball and then got a chance to take a breather with two off days. I’d lay it and play it here on the Mavericks.
Golden State Warriors at Milwaukee Bucks – This was supposed to be a huge game with the ABC billing, but that isn’t really the case. Milwaukee has lived up to and even surpassed expectations. The Warriors have not, as injuries have played a huge role. They get a chance to remind everybody what they can be in this spot. Of course, they still aren’t the same team, but this is the first game of a road trip and I think this is a team that wants to finish strong. I actually like the Warriors a little here.
New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Clippers – The Pelicans are in a really tough back-to-back here with a game in Salt Lake City on Friday and then Los Angeles on Saturday. The Clippers are in a B2B as well, which is interesting because we’re either going to see Kawhi sit on Friday or Saturday. The Pelicans may get fortunate here and draw a watered-down Clippers lineup, but we’ll have to play it by ear and see.
Sunday March 15
Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers – Sunday is all about the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, but we also have a lot to consider in the NBA. This is the only game that really stands out from a spot standpoint, simply because we know Denver will try to throw its best at the Lakers. We’ll see how the Lakers respond to that. The spot isn’t bad either way and the Lakers actually have two days off before the game. A bigger question to me is Monday for the Lakers in a back-to-back scenario in the altitude. That will be a game for next week’s update.
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