Wins At Warriors, Blazers Should Earn Thunder the West's Top Seed
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has never made it a secret that he will put his players' health ahead of the team competing for a better seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Meanwhile, Thunder coach Scott Brooks hasn't in the past worried about resting superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the season's final few games. Thus if the Thunder can win at Golden State on Thursday and Portland on Friday - with both having Live Play-by-Play Betting at the book - OKC should beat out San Antonio for the West's top spot.
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The Spurs entered Wednesday's game at Denver, which is the best home team in the NBA, with a half-game lead over the Thunder. The teams split four regular-season meetings, so the tiebreaker shifts to conference record. OKC has a two-game lead in the loss column there, and that's even before San Antonio's likely loss on Wednesday.
The trips to Oakland and Portland are the Thunder's final two road games. The Warriors are very good at home (28-11, 22-17 ATS) but just clinched the franchise's first playoff berth since 2007 on Tuesday and only its second in 19 years. Can you say letdown on Thursday? Golden State has little to play for the rest of the way, other than holding onto the No. 6 seed ahead of No. 7 Houston. The Warriors have lost two of three against the Thunder this season but did win 104-99 in the one game in Oakland. That was a tad misleading as it was the second of a back-to-back for the Thunder, who won a big game at the Clippers the night before.
Portland shouldn't put up much of a fight Friday as the Blazers entered their game Wednesday against the Lakers on a nine-game losing streak (1-8 ATS). The Thunder are 3-0 against the Trail Blazers this season, two of the wins in a rout.
The Thunder then close the regular season at home against Sacramento and Milwaukee and will be heavy favorites in both. The Thunder are 8/5 at Bovada to win the West while the Spurs are 9/4.
Trap Game For Knicks?
New York is riding high right now, making a franchise-record 20 three-pointers in crushing the Washington Wizards 120-99 on Tuesday for the Knicks' 13th straight victory (12-1 ATS; the only non-cover against the NBA's worst team, Charlotte). The win clinched the Atlantic title, the Knicks' first division crown in 19 years.
Should New York win out the rest of the way, it would tie the franchise mark with 18-straight victories. The Knicks visit the Bulls on Thursday night, which also will have Live Play-by-Play Betting. On the surface, that looks like a good place for the Knicks' streak to end. Chicago is 3-0 against New York this year and stopped Miami's 27-game winning streak a few weeks ago. Plus the Knicks might be due for a letdown of their own and the Chicago matchup is the first of a road back-to-back (Cleveland on Friday).
New York should catch a major break, however in that the Bulls are expected to be without All-Stars Luol Deng and Joakim Noah along with big man Taj Gibson due to injuries - and of course Derrick Rose.
Carmelo Anthony had 36 points against the Wizards and is now averaging 40.6 in his past five games. He now leads Kevin Durant 28.6-28.3 ppg for the NBA scoring title. Melo has played in two of three games against the Bulls this season and is averaging 34.0 points. Anthony would break Hall of Famer Bernard King's franchise record with a sixth-straight game of at least 35 points overall.
Operation Shutdown in Miami
The Heat's home game against Boston will have Live Betting Friday night, and don't expect to see LeBron James or Dwayne Wade for the Heat. Wade already has been essentially ruled out for the rest of the regular season to rest his ankle. LeBron had missed three games to rest his hamstring before returning Tuesday and already has made it clear he will sit out at least a couple of the remaining games.
Miami is locked into the No. 1 seed and there's no reason to risk anything in what is normally a heated rivalry with the Celtics. Normally teams are less likely to rest their stars in a home game, but the Heat know they have plenty of those upcoming in the postseason. The Celtics also could rest Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett once they clinch the No. 7 spot to avoid the Heat in the first round of the playoffs. Coach Doc Rivers has said he has a plan in place for resting Pierce and KG.
Lakers Control Their Destiny... For Now
Tuesday's Lakers win over visiting New Orleans and Utah's loss at home to Oklahoma City temporarily gave Los Angeles the No. 8 spot in the West, with the Lakers having one fewer loss than the Jazz. Utah, remember, does hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
L.A. hosts Golden State on Friday and San Antonio on Sunday, the latter of which will have Live Play-by-Play Betting at the book. That's one of those Catch 22 games for San Antonio. Do the Spurs go all out and avoid a dreaded potential first-round playoff matchup against the Lakers by helping to knock them out? Or do the Spurs sit their stars? The Lakers are 0-2 against San Antonio this season.
Also available for Live Betting Sunday is Bulls at Heat (that game looked huge when the schedule came out - not so much now) and Mavericks at Hornets.
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