It’s the final day of the regular season, and I hope you’re excited for the playoffs to start soon! Tonight still matters for seeding in the playoffs, and 1 Eastern Conference team still must be decided. Tonight is do or die for Charlotte and Detroit! The first game features the Orlando Magic playing the Charlotte Hornets, while the second game will cover the Detroit Pistons facing off against the New York Knicks. It’s been a blast covering games this season!
Game 1: Orlando Magic (41-40) @ Charlotte Hornets (39-42)
These two teams have been in the dance for the 8th and final spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Magic out-danced everyone and are now in the 7th seed. The Hornets do come into tonight’s game with a 2-1 series lead over the Magic, but tonight everything is on the line and they must win just to have a chance to steal the 8th seed.
The Magic share a record with Brooklyn, but the Nets hold the tiebreaker over them. If Brooklyn wins tonight, the Magic will absolutely finish with the 7th seed. If the Nets lose and Orlando wins tonight, they’ll finish with the 6th seed. That might not make a huge difference when that means either a date with Toronto or Philly in the first round.
- Just 16-24 in away games this year.
- Average 29-22 record against the rest of the East, including a 1-2 tally so far against Charlotte.
- 10-2 record in their last 12 games to make it into the playoffs. This includes wins over Philly, Miami, Indiana, and Boston.
- Nikola Vucevic has looked scary all season, but especially lately. In the Magic’s last 3 wins, Vucevic is averaging 26.3 points, 12 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1 block on 57% shooting.
- Great cover team as of late. They’ve covered the point spread in their last 3 games, and in 7 of the last 10 overall.
The Hornets are in a must-win situation if they want to participate in the playoffs this year. They are a full game behind Detroit, but they own the tiebreaker with them, and will steal the 8th seed if they win tonight and the Pistons lose. The Pistons are playing the worst team in the league though, but that shouldn’t stop the Hornets from going all out at home.
- Very solid at home this year with a 25-15 record.
- Also 29-22 against the rest of the East, and leading 2-1 over Orlando so far.
- On a 4 game win streak, including a win against Detroit to clinch the tiebreaker. They did lose 3 in a row before that, but also won 4 in a row prior. Overall, they’re 8-3 in their last 11 games.
- Kemba Walker will be the dying effort for the Hornets, but there’s nobody they’d rather have. Walker is averaging 32.4 points, 5 rebounds, and 6.4 assists on 50% shooting from the field and 40.5% from downtown.
- Quite possibly the best cover team in the league at the moment. They’ve covered the point spread their last 5 games, and managed to cover 8 of their last 10 overall.
Pick: Charlotte Hornets +1.0
The Hornets are playing at home, while Orlando struggles in road games. Kemba Walker will have a huge night to try and push his team into the 8th seed. Expect Orlando to put up a solid fight, but they’ve already clinched and won’t have the same fire as the Hornets. The Hornets have been taking names against anyone lately, tonight won’t be a different story. Expect Charlotte to win.
Game 2: Detroit Pistons (40-41) @ New York Knicks (17-64)
This series has been entirely one sided for Detroit, as the Pistons currently lead 3-0. This shouldn’t come as a shock since the Knicks just suck this year. There is no better way to phrase that. The Pistons are averaging 113.3 points to the 101 of the Knicks. Will the Knicks find a single bright spot in a dark year?
The Pistons quite literally almost handed the 8th seed to Charlotte last night, but they overcame a 19-point deficit at halftime to defeat the Grizzlies to maintain a 1 game lead over Charlotte. Blake Griffin was a non-factor, collecting just 5 points and 2 rebounds in 18 minutes. This could spell disaster as the Pistons visit the lowly Knicks tonight.
- Only 14-26 in road games this year.
- Just 26-25 against the rest of the East, but 3-0 over the Knicks.
- Ish Smith provided a huge boost the last 2 games, especially in the comeback victory against the Grizzlies. He’s averaging 21 points and 4 assists on 58% shooting across the last pair of games.
- No concrete news on Blake Griffin, but he’s been held back lately with knee soreness. There is a very high likelihood Griffin rests or is ineffective again tonight. He’s averaging just 10.5 points and 3 rebounds over the last 2 games.
- Downright bad cover team this month. They’ve failed to cover the point spread the last 5 games in a row, although they did cover the previous 5 to stay an even 5 of 10 for their last 10 games.
The Knicks are the worst team in the league this year. Plain and simple. Despite that, New York somehow finds themselves with momentum after winning the last 2 games. The 17-win Knicks can do the unthinkable and create a true Cinderella story by winning tonight. Well, not quite, but they can deny the Pistons from making the playoffs. That might ease the burden of a terrible season. That, or knowing that Zion might be coming in the draft this year won’t hurt either.
- A laughable 9-31 at home this year.
- Just 11-40 against the rest of the East, including an 0-3 record against Detroit.
- Mario Hezonja has come on strong lately. In 3 games this month, he’s averaging 25 points, 10.3 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1.7 steals on 54% shooting.
- Kevin Knox has also played great. In 5 games this month, he’s averaging 17.2 points and 7 rebounds, although has shot the ball at just 39%.
- Just not a good cover team all year. They did cover the point spread their last 2 games, but covered just 3 times in the last 10 games.
Pick: New York Knicks +9.5
I never thought I’d pick the Knicks to cover a spread this season, let alone win a game. In an ultra-unlikely scenario, the Knicks have a solid win streak coming into tonight. Blake Griffin is the best player on the Pistons, but he doesn’t look fully healthy right now. I did predict that Detroit would win tonight in an analysis of who will take the final 8th seed in the East, but that was before games finished last night. It feels crazy to say this, but New York definitely has a chance to win tonight. Expect New York to win.