Wednesday is a huge night in the NBA, with all 3 Eastern Conference teams near the 8th seed playing tonight. There’s also a potential playoff preview in the West, where the Rockets will head to LA to face off against the Clippers. That will be the second game we’ll breakdown for tonight, with the first showcasing the Raptors heading to Brooklyn for a duel with the Nets. If you love NBA basketball, the best time to watch is rapidly approaching! There’s just one week left until the regular season ends!
Game 1: Toronto Raptors (55-23) @ Brooklyn Nets (39-39)
This game is also a potential first round playoff preview, considering Toronto will undoubtedly finish with the 2nd seed and Brooklyn currently sits in 7th place. The Nets are in danger of missing the playoffs if they don’t win a few more games, considering Miami and Orlando both play tonight and are both within 1 game of the Nets. There is no pressure for Toronto tonight, but Brooklyn is certainly feeling the heat.
The Raptors have quietly cruised to the second best record in the entire league, behind only Milwaukee. They’re on track to keep that standing, which will give them home court throughout most of the playoffs. It’s unclear whether the Kawhi Leonard experiment has been a success, considering the Raptors finished with a 59-23 record last year, and they can only match that record this year if they manage to win out the rest of the season.
- One of the best road teams this year, currently sitting at 24-14.
- 34-15 against the rest of the East, 11-4 against the rest of the Atlantic Division, and 2-1 against Brooklyn this season.
- Kawhi Leonard has been great against the Nets this year, but Kyle Lowry has struggled. In the 3 games they’ve played against one another, Kawhi is averaging 27.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2 steals on 49% shooting from the field and 50% from downtown. During those same games, Lowry is averaging just 6.7 points and 8.7 assists on 35% shooting from the field and 29% from three.
- OG Anunoby is out with a concussion, but Danny Green should play tonight despite a thumb injury. Both players have struggled against Brooklyn this year.
- Toronto has been a good cover team lately, managed to cover the point spread their last 3 games in a row. Overall, they’ve covered 6 of their last 10 games.
The final week of the regular season is truly make or break for the Nets. They currently sit in 7th place in the Eastern Conference at 39-39, but Miami is right behind them at 38-39, and Orlando is close still at 38-40. All 3 teams play tonight, but Orlando has the easiest game as they play the Knicks. Brooklyn finds themselves in quite a precarious situation, as their last 3 games after tonight are against Milwaukee, Indiana, and Miami.
- 22-17 at home this year.
- 26-22 against the rest of the East, just 8-7 against the rest of the Atlantic Division, and 1-2 against Toronto so far this year.
- DLO has been great against the Raptors this year, but Spencer Dinwiddie has struggled to find his shot. Russell is averaging 27 points and 9.3 assists on 52% shooting, while Dinwiddie is down to 12.5 points and 5 assists on 33% shooting in their 3 games.
- In the midst of a brutal 8 game stretch strictly against playoff teams. They’re just 1-3 in their past 4 games played.
- Fairly solid cover team as of late, even though they did not cover the point spread last game. They’ve covered 6 of their last 10 games overall.
Pick: Brooklyn Nets +1.5
Somehow 2 of the 3 games these teams have played have been decided by just 2 points or less, and the one victory for the Nets did come when they played in Brooklyn. They’ll play again in Brooklyn tonight and D’Angelo Russell knows how important tonight’s game is for his young squad’s chances of making the playoffs. I think Brooklyn pulls off an upset tonight, or at the very least covers the spread. Expect Brooklyn to win tonight.
Game 2: Houston Rockets (50-28) @ Los Angeles Clippers (47-31)
If you had said the Rockets and Clippers would be separated by just 3 games with a week left in the regular season back in October, you would definitely have been called a nutcase. Nobody could have predicted it, but the Clippers are the best team in Los Angeles this year, even though they aren’t the ones with one of the top 2 players of all time on their roster. The Rockets and Clippers rivalry extends back quite far, with the two teams having some dicey meetings in previous playoffs. The season series has been dominated by the Clippers so far, currently leading 2-0. Does Houston change the script for their final meeting?
The Rockets have been analyzed a lot lately in daily picks, but this is likely one of the last times they’ll be on here for the rest of the year. They’ve been talked about so often because there just hasn’t been a better team in the second half of the season. Houston has gone 17-4 since the All-Star break, and now find themselves in 3rd place in the Western Conference. But tonight they’ll play a team they haven’t managed to beat yet this year.
- 21-18 on the road this year.
- Very good against the rest of the West at 30-19, but are 0-2 against the Clippers this year.
- James Harden has only played in one game against LA, but he scored 31 points and collected 14 assists in the loss. In the last half of March, Harden tallied 57 points against the Grizzlies, 61 the following game against the Spurs, and 50 a few nights ago against the Kings.
- Houston is certainly happy to have Clint Capela healthy again. He averaged 15.4 points and 12.8 rebounds on 68% shooting in March, all on top of anchoring Houston’s defense.
- Great cover team right now. They’ve covered the point spread 5 times in their last 6 games, and 7 times in their last 10 overall.
The Clippers are calmly striding towards the playoffs, picking up crucial win after crucial win. They’ve been nearly as good as the Rockets since the All-Star break, sitting with a record of 15-4 since then. Los Angeles certainly knows how to get things done against weaker opponents, as all their losses since the All-Star break are to playoff teams. The Rockets are no chumps though, and tonight will be a huge game for both squads.
- 25-13 at home this year.
- 27-21 against the rest of the West, and currently 2-0 against Houston, but they haven’t played since October, back when Carmelo Anthony was still on the Rockets. Basketball isn’t quite the same without the prolific volume scorer with gorgeous jumpshot form.
- Gallo and Trez both played pretty well against Houston in October. Montrezl Harrell scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the first game, and finished with 30 and 6 in the second game. Gallinari scored 20 points and snatched 9 boards in the first game, and 16 points on 4-5 shooting in the second game.
- The Clippers have had help from multiple sources, but Danilo Gallinari has been consistently their best option as of late. In March, he led the Clippers to a 12-1 record (he didn’t play in their other loss) on averages of 23.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists on 52% shooting overall and a scorching 45% from downtown.
- Phenomenal cover team the past week, covering the point spread in their last 5 games in a row. Across their last 10, they’ve covered 6 games.
Pick: Los Angeles Clippers -1.5
Houston has the the team with superior talent, but the Clippers play better team basketball than them. The 2 games played in October mean nothing now, especially when both teams have been fantastic since the All-Star break. Tonight’s game will probably be the hardest pick all year, but I’m taking the Clippers at Staples Center tonight. I think Houston’s threes will fall flat, especially after playing last night against Sacramento. Expect the Clippers to win tonight.