Knicks Surging in East and on Futures Odds
The good news for the New York Knicks: they are the hottest team in basketball, having won 12-straight games (11-1 ATS), and are in the driver's seat to nail down the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference (and thus avoid the Heat until the conference finals). The bad news for the Knicks: that probably means a very tough matchup with Boston in the first round of the playoffs.
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The Knicks will clinch the Atlantic Division title this week, and Carmelo Anthony is making a late push for some MVP votes, although it's a lock LeBron James wins that award. New York's 125-120 win at Oklahoma City on Sunday was the most impressive victory of this winning streak. Yes, the Knicks also won at Miami, but the Heat rested LeBron and Dwyane Wade. Melo had 36 points against the Thunder to overtake OKC's Kevin Durant for the NBA scoring lead, yet it might have been Anthony's worst game in his past four. In the previous three, he scored 41, 40 and 50 points and shot at least 60.7% from the field. Those 131 points were the most by any player in a three-game stretch this season. Anthony has made at least 15 field goals in each of his past four games. The only other player in the last 25 years to do that is Kobe Bryant (twice).
What's even more amazing about the winning streak is that New York won the first 10 without an injured Tyson Chandler, the NBA's reigning Defensive Player of the Year. The Knicks aren't winning due to defense. Their offensive efficiency during the streak is 118 points per 100 possessions. Their defensive efficiency is 103.6, which is about what it's been all season.
The Knicks (50-26) lead Indiana by 2.5 games for the No. 2 seed as the Pacers (48-29) have dropped two straight. Indiana, the Central Division champion, does hold the head-to-head tiebreaker by winning two of the three season meetings. The teams play their final regular-season game against one another Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Boston is 1.5 games behind Atlanta for the No. 6 spot and 2.5 games ahead of Milwaukee for No. 8. The Knicks would much rather face the Hawks than the Celtics in the first round. New York is 3-1 against the Celtics this year and 2-0 versus the Hawks. However, the Celtics are playoff tested, while the Hawks have yet to prove they have much of a heart once the playoffs roll around.
New York has reclaimed the second spot in the Bovada odds to win the Eastern Conference as well. They are 7/1 to win the conference, still well behind the Heat (1/4). Indiana is now 9/1. New York is 15/1 to win the NBA title, behind the Heat, Thunder and Spurs.
Wade Out Until Playoffs?
Don't expect to see Heat star Dwyane Wade for the rest of the regular season. While coach Erik Spoelstra has rested several players due to semi-phantom injuries, Wade does have a knee problem. He has missed the past four games and six of the past eight because of soreness and inflammation in his right knee.
There's really no point in Wade returning until the playoffs with Miami having sewn up the Eastern Conference and on the verge of also taking the No. 1 overall seed in the NBA. The same goes for Chris Bosh. He missed Saturday's game with a hyperextended right knee and said he wasn't sure when he might return. LeBron James had sat out three games with a hamstring injury before returning Saturday. He's not likely to play heavy minutes the rest of the way.
The Heat host Milwaukee on Tuesday night in what looks to be a first-round playoff preview. That also would have been the game in which Miami could have been going for an NBA record 34th-straight win had that streak still been active.
Early-Week Live Betting Schedule
The Lakers' loss Sunday to the Clippers was historic as it clinched the Clips' first division title in franchise history. That leaves only two other active franchises yet to win a division crown: the Grizzlies and Bobcats. It also completed the Clippers' first season sweep of the Lakers since the 1974-75 season.
The Lakers don't care about any of that, as they simply want to get into the playoffs. The defeat dropped L.A. a half-game behind Utah for the No. 8 seed, although the teams are tied in the loss column. The Lakers return to action Tuesday at home against New Orleans in what is certainly a must-win game - they all are at this point in the season. It will have Live Play-by-Play Betting at the book. Since Utah holds the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Lakers have to finish a game ahead of the Jazz to reach the postseason. Lakers point guard Steve Nash has missed the past three games with a hamstring injury and is questionable for Tuesday.
Also available for Live Betting Tuesday is Suns at Rockets. Phoenix is terrible, having lost nine straight (3-6 ATS), and will finish with the second-worst record in franchise history. New Orleans handed Phoenix their seventh-straight defeat at home on Sunday, and the Hornets entered having not won a road game since before the All-Star Break. The Suns are 2-14 since center Marcin Gortat went down with an injury. The Rockets are the NBA's highest-scoring team and shouldn't have much trouble putting up at least 110 against the Suns, one of the league's worst defensive teams. Phoenix has allowed triple-digits in seven of their past eight games.
On Wednesday, the book offers Nets at Celtics and Spurs at Nuggets. Don't be surprised if Spurs coach Gregg Popovich shuts down All-Star point guard Tony Parker the rest of the regular season as he is dealing with several injuries. Parker is being called "day-to-day." He has missed two of the past three games and struggled badly in the one he did play, a loss to the Thunder.
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