Tonight marks the final Friday of the regular season, as there are just 5 days left on the schedule. Many teams have close records, meaning there is still time to shake up the standings. Today we’ll breakdown two games that will do just that! First we have the Celtics and Pacers, potentially a first round playoff preview assuming Philly wins another game. After that, the Trail Blazers and Nuggets will face off in attempt to disrupt the top 4 seeds in the West! Get ready for the playoffs, because they’ll be here before you know it!

Game 1: Boston Celtics (47-32) @ Indiana Pacers (47-32)

This will be the 4th time these teams have played each other. Indiana won the first game by just a point, but the Celtics responded by winning the last 2 games. Considering these teams look destined for a meeting in the first round, tonight will be a great example of what we’ll see in the playoffs.

Boston

The Celtics have not looked like the team that went to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals just last year. Instead they look like a talented collection of players playing individually rather than together as a team. For their efforts, Boston has failed to meet expectations, and now will have home court only in the first round if they don’t lose tonight.

  • 19-20 on the road this year.
  • 33-16 against the rest of the Eastern Conference and 2-1 against Indiana.
  • Gordon Hayward looks to be slowly improving and looking more like his pre-injury self. In the last 6 games he’s played, he’s averaging 15.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3 assists on 52% shooting. More importantly, he put up 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists last game in a big win over Miami.
  • Al Horford is probable, Jaylen Brown is doubtful, and Marcus Morris is out All of them have played well against Indy this year, combining to average 47 points across the 3 games played.
  • They did cover the point spread their last game, but haven’t been a good cover team lately, covering just 3 of their last 10 games overall.

Indiana

The Pacers certainly looked for a team headed for a date with disaster towards the end of the season, but they’ve reclaimed some face by winning their last 2 games, both against the team right behind them in the standings, Detroit. Had they not lost 9 of their last 12 games prior to that, they’d likely be the 4th or even 3rd seed in the East. Instead, they’re in 5th and need to win tonight if they want any chance of home court against Boston.

  • 29-10 in home games this season.
  • 32-17 against the rest of the East, but 1-2 against Boston this year.
  • Thaddeus Young looked great the last 2 games against Detroit. In both games combined, he totaled 40 points, 17 rebounds, 9 assists, and 2 steals on 17-27 shooting from the field.
  • Darren Collison and Wesley Matthews are both questionable, and will be game-time decisions to play tonight. Both players have struggled against the Celtics. Collison has been held to an average of 9.3 points and 4.3 assists in the 3 games, and Matthews has averaged 10 points on 38% shooting, both decreases from their season averages.
  • Fairly average cover team lately. They did cover the point spread their last 2 games, but have covered just 5 of their last 10 overall.

Pick: Boston Celtics -1.0

These two teams are quite different, but nonetheless find themselves tied in the standings. Boston has been inconsistent all year, but the Pacers were actually pretty good until the last half of the season. They’ve both won their previous 2 games, and need tonight’s victory to secure the 4th seed in the East. Boston is the better team that looks scary when Hayward is playing well like he currently is. Expect Boston to win tonight.

Game 2: Portland Trail Blazers (50-28) @ Denver Nuggets (52-26)

This game between the Blazers and Nuggets has become much more interesting now that the teams are separated by just 2 games. Unfortunately for Portland, the Nuggets have won both of the previous matchups between these two teams, although the losses were both by 3 points or less. Now they will play the next 2 games against each other, giving Portland a golden opportunity to even the playing field.

Portland

No Nurkic? No problem for Portland. Since the center’s injury, Portland has gone 4-1 in their last 5 games, although their wins were all against non-playoff teams and their loss came to playoff-bound Detroit. It hasn’t been entirely the Lillard show either, considering there were 3 other Blazers that led the team in scoring in those games. Now they face a true test against the Nuggets, and they’ll get a double dose considering they play again on Sunday.

  • 20-19 on the road this year.
  • Just 26-22 against the rest of the Western Conference, and 0-2 so far against Denver.
  • Enes Kanter has played well in Nurkic’s absence. In the last 3 games, he’s averaging 20.3 points, 13.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 1.3 blocks on stellar 62% shooting.
  • CJ McCollum is close to making a return, but is out for tonight’s game. In their 2 meetings, McCollum is averaging 25.5 points on 53% shooting.
  • Great cover team the past few games, covering the point spread 4 of their last 5 games. When looking at the last 10, they’ve managed to cover 6 games.

Denver

The Nuggets have been pleasantly excellent this year, and find themselves in the running for one of the top seeds in the Western Conference. Most of that credit will go to the outstanding play of Nikola Jokic, the man who is currently ranked 5th in the entire league for player efficiency rating (PER). The Dubs have stolen the 1st seed and will most likely finish with it, but Denver can claim the 2nd seed with a pair of wins against Portland.

  • 2nd best home team in the league at 32-7 this year.
  • Excellent against the Western Conference, currently at 32-16.
  • Jokic has been deadly against the Blazers this year. He’s averaging 27.5 points, 8 rebounds, and 7.5 assists on 63% shooting in the 2 games.
  • After a 6-game win streak in the middle of March, Denver has gone just 3-4 in their last 7 games, including losses to the teams closest to them in the standings, Houston and Golden State.
  • Not a great cover team of late despite covering the point spread last game. They’ve covered only 4 times the last 10 games and never in consecutive games.

Pick: Denver -6.5

Although the last 2 games were close, the Blazers had Jusuf Nurkic available to battle with Nikola Jokic in both of them. Now he has a broken leg, which hasn’t seemed to slow Portland down. They’ve mostly been untested since then, with their next 2 games against Denver offering a clear idea of how they’ll look in the playoffs. Kanter has played well but he has no chance of containing Jokic. Playing in the Pepsi Center without their 2nd and 3rd best players, the Blazers are looking like deer in headlights. Expect Denver to win tonight.

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