Sunday evening will cap off a busy day of basketball, with more than half the league suiting up for action throughout the day. Two key games to focus on include the Nuggets vs. the Pacers and the Spurs vs. the Celtics. All four teams are close to another team in the standings, making each game crucial to securing a better seeding for the playoffs.
Game 1: Denver Nuggets (49-22) @ Indiana Pacers (44-29)
The Nuggets and Pacers meet just twice a year, with this matchup being their final of the season. Last time they met, Nikola Jokic was ejected late in the game, but Denver narrowly escaped with a 102-100 victory behind a late layup made by Paul Millsap. The Nuggets have been the better team all season, can Indy steal one from Denver tonight?
After losing to golden state on March 8th, the Nuggets have been recharged and responded by winning their last 6 games in a row, including a win against Indiana on the 16th. Fortunately for them, the Warriors got blown out in Dallas last night, giving the Nuggets just a ½ game lead over Golden State for the first seed. Nikola Jokic continues to play at an MVP level, elevating the Nuggets to an elite team with one of the best records in the league.
- Just a 19-16 record on the road this season.
- 19-8 in games played against Eastern Conference teams.
- Paul Millsap has played fantastic since the All-Star break, averaging 15.5 points, 9 rebounds, and 1.4 steals on 52% shooting from the field to go along with stellar defense.
- Still have 7 games remaining against Western Conference playoff teams.
- Did cover the pointspread last game, and have covered 5 of their last 10 games.
Just 13 games ago, the Pacers were 40-20, making them a legitimate threat in the East even without star Victor Oladipo. Unfortunately for Indiana, they ran into several excellent playoff-bound teams, resulting in 9 losses in their last 13 games. Some may say the Pacers overachieved and are returning to genuine form, but to their credit, most of their losses have been to good teams. Now Boston is hot on their tail for the 4th seed, making the rest of the season critical to securing home court advantage in the first round.
- 27-9 at home this season.
- Even 14-14 record against Western Conference teams.
- Tyreke Evans has come to life the past two games, averaging 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists.
- Darren Collison is questionable to play with a quad injury.
- Have not covered the pointspread in their last 3 games, and have only covered 3 of their last 10 games played overall.
Pick: Denver Nuggets -1.5
This betting line is far closer than it should be, and will likely favor Denver even further as it gets closer to game time. Denver is in excellent shape, having won 6 in a row, while the Pacers are going in the opposite direction, having lost their last 4 games. Jokic had 26 points last time these teams played, the Pacers don’t have a chance of keeping him down tonight. Expect the Nuggets to win tonight.
Game 2: San Antonio Spurs (42-31) @ Boston Celtics (43-30)
The Spurs took the first game against Boston, and tonight will be the last time the two play. The Spurs pulled away with a 120-111 victory behind 32 points from LaMarcus Aldridge, despite Jaylen Brown scoring 30 off the bench for Boston. Nearly three months have passed since then, with both teams still having similar records now. Both teams are on losing streaks, needing a win tonight to gain momentum to finish off the season strong.
The Spurs are a pretty confusing bunch this year. This is likely to be their second year in a row of not winning at least 50 games, but a few games ago they looked primed to change that. They won 9 in a row, including a victory against Golden State, but then lost the next two to Miami and Houston. Fortunately for the Spurs, the rest of their schedule is fairly easy, definitely a bonus considering how tight the Western Conference standings are shaping up to be.
- Absolutely terrible road record of 13-23.
- 13-11 against Eastern Conference foes this season.
- After a hot start to March, LaMarcus Aldridge has cooled off scoring-wise, scoring more than 20 points in just 1 of the last 5 games.
- Currently in 8th place in the Western Conference, but just 1 game separates them from 5th place OKC.
- The Spurs have been a fantastic pointspread cover team lately, covering their last game and 8 of the last 10 games played overall.
The Celtics look out of sorts and simply dysfunctional at times. What’s new for Boston this year? They’ve gone through losing streaks and bounced back several times, except it’s now almost the playoffs and they’ve lost just as many games as they’ve won the past two months. Right now Boston isn’t even a top 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, a big disappointment for the team an offseason removed from playing in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
- 26-11 in games played at home this season.
- Record of 14-15 against Western Conference opponents, with tonight being their final game against the West.
- Kyrie Irving has caught fire the past 5 games, scoring 30+ in each game, averaging 31.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1.6 steals in that stretch.
- Played last night against Charlotte, losing 124-117. Jayson Tatum bruised his lower back during the game, and is listed as day-to-day.
- Failed to cover the pointspread last night against the Hornets, and have covered 4 of their last 10 games overall.
Pick: San Antonio Spurs +2.0
The Celtics played a back-to-back last night, during which Jayson Tatum injured his back. The Celtics will likely have Al Horford in the lineup, but it’s unclear if Gordon Hayward is set to return following the concussion protocol. Honestly neither team is looking very good right now. What’s clear is Kyrie Irving is going off and trying to put the team on his back, but it isn’t necessarily resulting in victories. More of the same is likely to happen tonight. Expect the Spurs to win.