Monday night is a fairly quiet in the NBA with only four games being played. Many teams have fewer than 10 games remaining, making each game a must-win if they want to make any movement in the standings. Game one features the Magic trying to keep their playoff hopes alive against a strong 76ers squad. Game two will show DLO and the Nets taking on Dame and the Blazers in Portland.
Game 1: Philadelphia 76ers (47-26) @ Orlando Magic (35-38)
The first game tonight will feature two teams in completely different mindsets. The 76ers are fairly safe in the 3rd seed, holding a 3 game lead over the Pacers with just 9 games remaining. The Magic are just a game behind Miami for the 8th and final seed in the East, making them hungry for a win tonight. Philly currently leads the season series 2-1, although all games have been fairly close. Can Orlando steal one against the 76ers to keep their hopes of making the playoffs alive?
The 76ers find themselves comfortably in 3rd thanks to losing streaks by the Pacers and Celtics. Considering they have a fairly easy schedule to finish out the season, they should secure 3rd without much issue. Unless they rest Embiid, which is possible considering they play two more back-to-back sets of games, the 76ers should only lose two more games at most this season. Tonight is certainly a game they should win.
- 18-17 road record, fairly average.
- Lost to Atlanta a few nights ago, but won 6 in a row prior to that, including wins against Milwaukee, Indiana, and Boston.
- Joel Embiid is asserting his dominance in March, averaging 29.2 points, 16.2 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game.
- 28-17 in games played against Eastern Conference opponents.
- Haven’t covered the point spread their last two games, and have covered just 4 of their last 10 games overall.
A month ago at the end of February, the Magic found themselves in the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference despite inconsistent play and a losing record. Now nearing the end of March, they’re a game behind Miami for the 8th seed. Fortunately for the Magic, they have an easier finish to the schedule than the Heat, leaving the door wide open to sneak into the final spot. To do that, they need to take care of business against Philly tonight.
- 22-16 home record, fairly decent considering their overall record.
- Have won 4 games in a row, but all against non-playoff teams.
- Nikola Vucevic has stood his ground against Embiid, averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1.7 steals in the three games played against Philly.
- 23-20 against Eastern Conference foes.
- Did not cover the point spread last game, but covered the 3 games prior and 4 of the last 10 overall.
Pick: Philadelphia 76ers -2.5
Even though Orlando comes into tonight with a winning streak, none of the teams they’ve beaten are legitimate threats. When healthy, Philadelphia is the best team in the East. Their starting lineup rivals the talent of Golden State, but they need some time to gel before they really get scary. Vucevic has been having a career year in Orlando, but he doesn’t have enough reliable help to push his team further. He won’t be able to carry his team tonight either. Expect Philadelphia to win.
Game 2: Brooklyn Nets (38-36) @ Portland Trail Blazers (45-27)
The Nets and Blazers played just a month ago, with Portland running away with a 113-99 behind 27 points and 12 rebounds from Jusuf Nurkic. D’Angelo Russell had just 14 points on 4-16 shooting, an inefficient performance from the emerging star guard averaging 20.7 points per game this season. Tonight will heavily focus on point guard play, with three excellent players in Lillard, Russell, and Dinwiddie taking the court.
With just 8 games remaining, it looks like the Nets may be on pace to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015. But before we get carried away, the last 8 games are all played against playoff teams, including Milwaukee twice. These final 8 games will be a true test of how capable Brooklyn is, and how well they’ll do in the postseason.
- Average 17-20 road record this season.
- Won their last two games, but lost three in a row prior, all to playoff teams.
- D’Angelo Russell continues his strong play in March, averaging 20.9 points, 8.4 assists, and 1.9 steals per game.
- Just 13-16 against the Western Conference.
- Have surprisingly covered the point spread their last 3 games, and 5 of their last 10 games overall.
The Blazers have quietly been a solid team all season, and now find themselves in sole possession of the 4th seed, and are just a ½ game behind Houston for the 3rd. Despite losing CJ McCollum to a knee strain, the Blazers haven’t skipped a beat, lead by superstar Damian Lillard. Odds are nobody had Portland as a top 4 team in the West this season, but here they are!
- Excellent 28-9 home record.
- Winners of 3 games in a row, and are 6-1 in their last 7 games played.
- Lillard has carried the offense this Month, averaging 28.1 points and 8.5 assists while shooting 49% from the field and just under 43% from three.
- Dominant against the Eastern Conference, with a record of 21-5.
- CJ McCollum is still
- Covered the point spread last game against Detroit, and have covered 5 of their last 10 games overall.
Pick: Portland Trail Blazers -6.0
The Blazers are a bit of a surprise team, but they shouldn’t be considering they won 49 games last year too. Considering the improved strength of the rest of the league, many thought Portland would falter and drop to a lower spot in the standings. Despite that, Lillard has been an excellent leader and has kept Rip City right on track. The Nets simply don’t play well against playoff teams, and Portland has absolutely destroyed the Eastern Conference all year. Expect Portland to win tonight.