Just under half the league will play in games on the final day of March. With less than two weeks until the end of the regular season, all eight Western Conference playoff teams have been decided. The final three spots are still up for grabs in the Eastern Conference – will Miami, Orlando, or Charlotte grab the final spot?

Game 1: Dallas Mavericks (29-46) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (44-32)

The Western Conference playoff teams have been decided, but the final seeding is still up for grabs. Going into tonight, the Thunder and Mavericks have met 3 times thus far, with Dallas leading the season series 2-1. This comes as a “surprise” for the playoff bound Thunder team, although they did win the last game decisively, 122-102. Then again, OKC losing games they should win is no real surprise this season.

Dallas

The Mavericks have been eliminated from playoff contention this season, but that’s no cause for concern for Dallas fans. With superstar in-the-making Luka Doncic and the prolific Kristaps Porzingis on the roster for next season, the Mavs are looking towards the future rather than worrying about right now. That said, they’ve still won nearly 30 games this season in a throwaway year, with two of those elusive wins coming against this very Thunder team.

  • Tied for 3rd-worst in the league for their road record. Just 7-31 on the year.
  • Only 15-31 against the rest of the West this season.
  • Since February 10th, the Mavs have played 20 games. They have gone just 3-17 in that stretch, effectively eliminating any chances of making the playoffs.
  • Rookie of the Year candidate Luka Doncic will not play tonight due to a thigh contusion. In their 3 prior meetings, Doncic averaged 21.3 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists on 50% shooting from the field.
  • Did cover the point spread last game, and have covered 5 of their last 10 games overall.

Oklahoma City

The Thunder have made it really difficult not to be down on them this year. On February 11th, they were 37-19 and looked like a legitimate contender this year behind the incredible play of Paul George and Russell Westbrook. Almost two months later, the Thunder are now just 44-32, and find themselves at the bottom of the playoff standings. While they looked like a team with potential of making the West Finals, they now look like a team bound for a quick first round exit.

  • 24-13 home record this year.
  • Fairly average against the rest of the West at just 25-23 on the season.
  • Just 2-6 in their last 8 games, although they did play 7 playoff teams during that stretch.
  • Paul George’s scoring, efficiency, and defense have all suffered the past month. PG13 is averaging 26.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.5 steals in the month of March. He’s shooting just 40% from the field and 34% from downtown, down from season averages of 44% and 39% that were even higher before this month.
  • Did not cover the point spread last game, and have covered just 4 of their last 10 games overall.

Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder -12.0

While the Thunder hold a better record and should certainly win because Luka Doncic isn’t playing, I’m very hesitant to pick them as 12 point favorites. The Thunder are good at only one thing this year – failing to meet expectations. They’ve played a rough stretch of games lately, but they’re being handed a freebie tonight in a Mavs team that struggles on the road and is missing their best player. Tonight the Thunder should run Dallas out of the building, hopefully helping them build some form of momentum heading towards the playoffs. It still feels very wrong picking the Thunder tonight, but nonetheless… Expect Oklahoma City to win tonight.

Game 2: Charlotte Hornets (35-40) @ Golden State Warriors (51-24)

While this may not seem like an interesting game on the surface, Kemba Walker has been a giant killer lately, keeping the Hornets’ playoff hopes alive and well. The Warriors will certainly come into tonight as heavy favorites, but that’s right up Kemba’s alley. Especially after the Warriors lost in overtime to Minnesota last game, they’re in the perfect mindset for an upset. 5 All Stars against just 1 – who comes out on top?

Charlotte

The Hornets have become a different team the last five games, backed by some incredible play from Kemba Walker. He’s scored 60 points in a game this season, and has eclipsed the 30 point mark a couple dozen times. While it hasn’t necessarily translated to wins for the team, there is no doubt that Kemba has talent. The Hornets now have an improbable chance to make the playoffs, being just 2.5 games behind Miami, and 2 games behind Orlando. The Heat have a harder remaining schedule, but they really need the Magic to lose some games as well. Charlotte isn’t likely to make the playoffs, but they do still have a chance.

  • Pitiful 11-25 road record this year, but one of those wins did come in their last 5 games against Toronto.
  • Only 9-18 against the Western Conference this year.
  • 4-1 in their last 5 games, with wins against Boston, Toronto, and San Antonio. You can ignore their loss because it came against Lebron James and the Lakers. Kemba Walker is 0-24 in his career against the King.
  • Kemba is averaging 28.8 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists, and 1.4 steals in the past 5 games, including 38/9/11 against San Antonio and 36/11/9 against Boston.
  • Did not cover the point spread last game, but covered the last 4 in a row, and just 5 of the last 10 games overall.

Golden State

The Warriors are certainly the most blessed team in the league. They’ve truly put in the smallest amount of effort they could have this season, but still manage to find themselves in 1st place in the Western Conference. They easily have 4 players they can rely on to carry the team to a win any night, needing just 1 of the 4 to have a good game to win. Can it really be fun for them when it’s this easy to cruise to an NBA title? Golden State will certainly become fun to watch again once Durant leaves this offseason, but for now it’s simply boring.

  • 26-11 at home this year.
  • 20-8 against the Eastern Conference this year, fairly solid overall.
  • 6-3 in their last 9 games, including key wins against Houston, OKC, and Indiana.
  • Steph Curry has found his stroke once again. Over the past 5 games, the greatest shooter of all time is averaging 28.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.4 steals, but more importantly he is shooting 52% from downtown in that stretch. He’s made a whopping 35 three pointers in the last 5 games, including 8 against Minnesota, 5 each against Indiana and Detroit, 6 against Memphis, and an incredible 11 last game against Minnesota. Can you say HOT?
  • Failed to cover the point spread last game, and have covered only once in their last 4, and 5 of their last 10 games overall.

Pick: Golden State Warriors -12.0

While I’d love to do nothing more than pick Kemba and the Hornets tonight, so many things need to go wrong for the Dubs to lose this game. Curry has been lights out the past few games, so he should definitely be capable of out-dueling Kemba tonight. Even if he doesn’t, it’s not like the Warriors are lacking offensive firepower without Curry making shots. I wish I could say the Hornets won’t lose by more than 12, but it’s really hard to see them bridging the gap in Oracle Arena. Expect Golden State to win tonight.

 

 

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