Two weeks remain in the 2021 NBA regular season. A play-in tournament for the NBA Playoffs will follow, as the #7 through #10 seeds participate in a fight-for-your-lives playoff round. The #7 and #8 face each other to determine the #7 seed, while the #9 and #10 teams play to see who advances to face the loser of the 7/8 game. The winner of that matchup will be the #8 seed.
Confused? Don’t be. You still have two weeks to understand the playoff format because 14 days of regular season basketball are left.
The first full week of May brings a lot of interesting games and situations to the forefront, along with the playoff seeding drama. Some schedules are very condensed for teams here at the very end, so you’ll want to be aware of the situational spots and the times when teams may rest players to gear up for the postseason.
With that in mind, here are the NBA situational spots to consider for the week ending May 9:
Monday May 3
Portland Trail Blazers at Atlanta Hawks – We’ll start with an obvious situational spot in a West vs. East game between Portland and Atlanta. This is the fifth road game in seven days for Portland after stops in Indianapolis, Memphis, Brooklyn, and Boston. One more game is left on the trip in Cleveland. This is a B2B with travel from BOS to ATL. This is a 6-in-9 for the Hawks, who finished up a 5-in-7 on Saturday at home against Chicago, but with the off day, they’re in a better spot than their opponents.
Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons – These games always intrigue me late in a season. The Pistons and the Magic are both planning for the future. There is nothing left to gain from this season. Figuring out which team is more engaged and more worthy of your hard-earned money is tough to do. Neither team has been playing particularly well. This is a standalone road game for the Magic, who return right back home to face Boston on Wednesday. That points me towards the Pistons, as this may be a spot where the Magic simply don’t care and just want to be back at home.
New York Knicks at Memphis Grizzlies – Another rest difference is present in this game, as the Knicks play the second night of a road back-to-back. New York was in Houston on Sunday and now heads to Memphis for the second game of an all-important six-game roadie. This is a 3-in-4 for Memphis, but at least they’re on one day’s rest as they fight for seeding in the play-in tournament. Memphis has struggled at home this season and the Knicks have been poor on the road, so those angles cancel out. It may simply be about rest vs. fatigue here.
Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls – The Sixers are jockeying for position at the top of the Eastern Conference, but their playoff fate is sealed at this point in time. The Bulls are a long shot to make the playoffs at this point because of Washington’s recent surge, but they are the rested team in this matchup. We know that Philadelphia has been extremely careful with back-to-backs and I’d expect them to be careful here as well. Make of that what you will for this handicap.
San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz – Lots of spots on Monday to open up the week. File this one under obvious as well, as the Spurs are in a B2B with the second game in some elevation against Salt Lake City. This is the first of two between the teams, as they’ll play again in SLC on Wednesday. Not only do we have some angles here, but keep Monday’s result in mind for Wednesday’s game.
Tuesday May 4
Charlotte Hornets at Detroit Pistons – The Rapid Revenge Theory will be in play here, as the Hornets and Pistons change venues and play a rematch of Saturday’s game. This is a standalone road game for Charlotte. The slumping Hornets need this game worse than the Pistons and Detroit is in a B2B scenario here. Even though it is a standalone roadie for the Hornets, their sense of urgency should be a lot higher.
Phoenix Suns at Cleveland Cavaliers – I’m thinking flat spot for the road favorite Suns here. The Cavs are clearly a mess right now, as they have been every year without LeBron James, but Phoenix is playing the front end of a back-to-back with the Hawks on deck. Having clinched a playoff spot for the first time in a decade last week, there are sure to be some sleepy spots. This looks to be Phoenix’s last game against a non-playoff team and I think it shows here. The Cavs getting a hefty number at home is one of my favorite spots of the week.
Brooklyn Nets at Milwaukee Bucks – The Nets and Bucks will run back Sunday’s game here as they play for the final time in the regular season. These two teams could very well meet again in the playoffs. Like you’ve been doing all season long, see what happened in the previous meeting and apply it to your handicap of the second game.
Golden State Warriors at New Orleans Pelicans – A double dip in the Big Easy is the story here, as the Warriors and Pelicans play again in NOLA for the second consecutive night. This is the last game of the four-game trip for the Warriors and their last road game of the season. They’ll finish up with six straight at home. I’m thinking we get a big effort from Golden State knowing that it is the last road game and also with what they have in play right now in terms of the playoff picture.
Wednesday May 5
Phoenix Suns at Atlanta Hawks – If Tuesday goes as I anticipate, the Suns are in a play-on spot on Wednesday. If they sleepwalk through the game against Cleveland and suffer an embarrassing loss or win by a small margin, I would assume we get a more focused effort on Wednesday. Of course, we could see a watered-down roster where maybe a veteran like Chris Paul sits out, but you’ll have to stay up on the latest news for that.
Portland Trail Blazers at Cleveland Cavaliers – The Blazers are finishing up their six-game road trip in Cleveland on Wednesday night. The Cavaliers are in a B2B coming off of that Suns game on Tuesday. Much like I just mentioned about the Suns if they come out flat, I’d fade the Cavs if they beat the Suns. Prosperity is hard to sustain for bad teams and the Cavs are a bad team. Portland should have sufficient motivation to end the trip on a high note before going home for three big games.
Washington Wizards at Milwaukee Bucks – The Wizards have done an incredible job to put themselves into the playoff picture with some outstanding basketball of late. They’ll have a tall task on Wednesday, but the back-to-back games between the Bucks and Nets could soften Milwaukee up a little bit here. This is an important game with a tough trip down to Tampa for Thursday’s game against the Raptors. I won’t be the least bit surprised if Washington pulls the outright upset here. If nothing else, take the points with the Wizards. It would be a surprise to see Milwaukee fully invested. They won’t finish lower than third in the East and also just played the two playoff-like games against Brooklyn.
Sacramento Kings at Indiana Pacers – The Pacers would have to be my starting point on Wednesday. Sacramento is finishing up a four-game road trip and I can’t imagine a team in their situation is excited for a game like this. This is a B2B with travel from Oklahoma City and a 4-in-6 trip that started in Los Angeles last Friday. The Pacers need wins to try and improve their chances with the play-in tournament. The play looks to be laying it here, but we’ll have to see how big the number is.
Thursday May 6
Washington Wizards at Tampa Raptors – The Raptors have three games left in their adopted home of Tampa, Florida. They should be able to play at home north of the border when the NBA season begins again in October. They’ve only been around a .500 team at home this season, but draw a Wizards team in a tough spot with a long trip from Milwaukee to Tampa for Thursday’s game. This is the first game back for the Raptors off of a four-game west coast swing, so it’s fair to look down on this spot for them as well. It’s probably a stay away, but you can weigh the spots on both sides and make a judgment for yourself.
Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers – The Hawks hit the road one final time for the regular season with this standalone road game against the Pacers. Indiana is in a back-to-back at home, whereas the Hawks are in a B2B with travel from ATL to IND. The Pacers have not defended their home court well this season, but I do think that this is a bit better of a spot for them, given that the Hawks are only on the road for a day and the Pacers get to come right back on their home floor.
Los Angeles Lakers “at” Los Angeles Clippers – The Lakers draw the designation of being the road team at the Staples Center for this one against the Clippers. The Clippers are a rarity at this point in the season in that they’ve only played two games since April 28. Days off have been few and far between for a lot of teams, but they are pretty well-rested, all things considered. It’s tough to bet the Lakers until everybody gets assimilated back into the fold and back into rhythm, but the Clippers have had their share of injuries, too. It’ll be a spotlight game with a lot of attention, but maybe not a good one to bet.
Friday May 7
Orlando Magic at Charlotte Hornets – Beware the “must-win premium” at this time of the year. Bad teams like the Magic will face fringy teams like the Hornets. Bettors will think to themselves about how a team has to win the game and will bet as if the spread is irrelevant. Whether by design or as a result of betting action, lines often get too high on mediocre teams against bad teams late in the regular season. While this spot is not great for Orlando as a standalone road game, the Hornets are finishing a 5-in-7 run. Just know that you’re probably paying a price that is a point or so too high on teams in situations like Charlotte’s on Friday.
Houston Rockets at Milwaukee Bucks – Hide the women and children from this game. This looks like a get-right spot for the Bucks. The Rockets are horrible. The Bucks are not. Depending on what happens with the second Nets game and then the Wizards game in a bad spot, Milwaukee may have a lot of frustration to let out here. With two days off following the game, there are no look-ahead spots. This is the start of a meaningless four-game road trip for the Rockets, who play three Western Conference playoff teams after this. Milwaukee can name the score here and they’ll probably need to in order to cover a big number.
New York Knicks at Phoenix Suns – I don’t know if there’s a good angle here to make a play, but there are a lot of good angles to discuss. The Knicks are playing their fourth road game in six days. The Suns are back after a quick three-game trip. The Lakers are on deck for the Suns on Sunday, an upstart team looking to prove that it belongs with the upper echelon of the West. This has to be a look-ahead spot for Phoenix. On the other hand, this is a rough late-season trip for a Knicks team playing with expectations that haven’t been seen in a long time. Fascinating game, just not sure which side is helped more by the spots.
Los Angeles Lakers at Portland Trail Blazers – Another fascinating one here to finish up Friday. The Lakers are at full strength, but this is a back-to-back, so we could see some guys on the sidelines for this one. This is the first game back after the six-game trip for Portland, which is usually a fade spot, but the Lakers are in a B2B after playing the rival Clippers. There is a lot going on with this game to say the least.
Saturday May 8
Washington Wizards at Indiana Pacers – The Wizards and Pacers just played Monday in D.C., so they’ll run it back in Indy on Saturday. This is a 5-in-7 stretch for the Wizards that includes two road back-to-backs. The Pacers are in a better spot in that regard. Washington has certainly been in better form of late, but the spot would seem to favor Indiana. See what happened in Monday’s game and determine if that has any bearing on this one.
Detroit Pistons at Philadelphia 76ers – As always, it is important to consider Philadelphia’s situation with a back-to-back here. The Pistons are not a good team by any measure, so the Sixers could decide to sit some guys out, as they only have a few games left before the playoffs begin. Detroit is in a standalone road game here and plays Chicago the next night at home, so I don’t think we get much of an effort from them no matter what. Even a watered-down Sixers squad has a good chance at a win and cover here, but don’t bet the game until you know who is playing for Philly, as the line will adjust with any late-breaking news.
Brooklyn Nets at Denver Nuggets – This is a brutal back-to-back for Denver. After playing rival Utah on Friday, the Nuggets will host the Nets on Saturday. Brooklyn has one more game left on the road trip, but it isn’t until Tuesday in Chicago, so this isn’t that bad of a spot in that regard. It will be Denver’s fifth straight game against a playoff team over eight days. I think the Nets are the play here, price dependent, of course.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden State Warriors – Another obvious spot here, as these two teams will play again in Oakland after playing each other on Thursday night. See what happened, react accordingly.
Sunday May 9
Dallas Mavericks at Cleveland Cavaliers – An interesting one here, as the Mavs and Cavs will have just played on Friday down in Big D. This is a 6-in-9 for Dallas and a 4-in-6 for Cleveland. I don’t really know what the Cavs will have in store given where they are, but Dallas would certainly like to grab this win before heading to Memphis. Will this be one of those games with the “must-win premium” and an inflated line? It wouldn’t surprise me.
Miami Heat at Boston Celtics – The Heat and Celtics play on Sunday and will play again on Tuesday. These could be two enormous games in terms of the #6 and #7 seeds in the Eastern Conference, so keep an eye on how the week shakes out and what the standings look like. Which team do you trust more? From a spot standpoint, all things are pretty equal, so it’s a pure handicap of the team that you trust more. Figure that out and hopefully cash a ticket.
Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers –It’s a pretty pure handicap if Los Angeles is healthy still at week’s end. They’re playing a 5-in-8 stretch, but that’s pretty common this season. The Suns are in a slightly better spot in that regard, but a healthy Lakers team may be out to make a statement. It’s a good way to end the week, that’s for sure.
Keep an eye out for these NBA situational spots every week at ATS.io!