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NBA

Apr 06, 2019

Sunday's Tip Sheet

Game of the Night: Nuggets at Blazers (-2 ½, 217) – 9:05 PM EST

All three division champions in the Western Conference have been crowned after Denver knocked off Portland on Friday night, 119-110 as six-point favorites at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets (53-26 SU, 41-38 ATS) clinched their first Northwest division title since 2010, while going from worst to first in one season (although they finished 46-36 in 2018).

In Friday’s victory, the two division rivals went back and forth as the Blazers (50-29 SU, 44-34-1 ATS) led by seven points after one quarter, but Denver outscored Portland in the second quarter, 34-21 to grab a six-point halftime edge. However, Portland led going into the fourth quarter until Denver pulled away with 35 points in the final 12 minutes. Paul Millsap led the Nuggets with 25 points, while Portland All-Star Damian Lillard was limited to 14 points on 3-of-14 shooting from the floor.

Denver has won all three games against Portland this season, which turned out to be the difference for the division title with the Nuggets leading the Blazers by three games heading into Sunday. The Nuggets are riding a six-game winning streak against the Blazers since last season, which includes a one-point triumph at Moda Center back in late November as one-point underdogs.

The Blazers are hoping to retain the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs and own home-court advantage against the Jazz in the opening round. Portland sits one game ahead of Utah with three games remaining as the final two contests for the Blazers take place against the Lakers and Kings. The Blazers have won 16 of their last 18 home contests since January 5, but Portland is 2-4-1 ATS in the past seven games at Moda Center.

Magic at Celtics (-5, 216) – 7:35 PM EST

What a difference a few days make as Orlando (40-40 SU, 43-36-1 ATS) has gone from outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture to currently the sixth seed. Granted, there is plenty of separation between the top five teams in the East and the final three teams that will qualify for the playoffs, but the Magic have been one of the better stories this season in the NBA.

After finishing with the second-worst record in the East last season at 25-57, the Magic are on the verge of clinching their first playoff berth since the lockout-shortened season of 2012. Orlando wrapped up its home schedule by blasting Atlanta on Friday, 149-113 to easily cash as nine-point favorites. Not only did the Magic pull off the four-game season sweep of the Hawks, but Orlando came through early by grabbing a commanding 42-18 first quarter lead.

The Celtics (48-32 SU, 38-41-1 ATS) are catching fire at the right time after suffering a four-game skid in late March by winning five of the past six contests. Boston moved one game ahead of Indiana for the all-important fourth seed in the Eastern Conference after routing the Pacers on Friday, 117-97 as one-point road favorites. Gordon Hayward returned to the city where he played his college basketball at Butler to score 21 points on 9-of-9 shooting for Boston, who will likely face Indiana in the opening round.

Boston has not had much luck covering numbers at TD Garden recently by compiling an 0-7 ATS record in the past seven home contests. The Magic has had the Celtics’ number this season by beating Boston twice by a combined five points, including a 93-90 upset in Beantown as 11 ½-point underdogs back in late October.

Clippers at Warriors – 8:30 PM EST

Last season, Golden State (55-24 SU, 34-44-1 ATS) managed to win its second consecutive title without owning home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. The Warriors are one win away from reclaiming that status as Golden State leads Denver by two games with three to go. Golden State plays its final game at Oracle Arena on Sunday before Game 1 of the playoffs as the Warriors seek their fifth consecutive win. The Warriors held off the Cavaliers in an NBA Finals rematch, 120-114 on Friday, as Golden State failed to cash as 15 ½-point favorites in spite of owning a 19-point halftime edge.

The Clippers (47-33 SU, 45-34-1 ATS) currently sit in the sixth position of the West, meaning a potential first round matchup with the Rockets. Depending on how thing shake out in the final two games against Golden State and Utah, Los Angeles could slip to seventh or even eighth, where it could face the Warriors in the first round. The Clips head to Oakland off back-to-back home losses to the Rockets and Lakers, while their last five wins have come against non-playoff teams.

In the first matchup this season at Staples Center, the Clipped outlasted the Warriors in overtime, 121-116 as 3 ½-point underdogs in mid-November. Golden State has captured the last two matchups, including a 112-94 blowout in L.A. as 7 ½-point favorites on January 18 on a hefty 242 total. That UNDER snapped a nine-game OVER streak between these Pacific division rivals dating back to 2017.

Jazz at Lakers – 9:35 PM EST

Following a trip to the conference semifinals last season, Utah (49-30 SU, 42-35-2 ATS) stumbled to an 8-11 start this season, which included an ugly 50-point loss at Dallas. However, the Jazz are headed to the playoffs for the third straight season, as Utah is riding a 12-1 run the last 13 games, even though 11 victories in this stretch have come against teams with losing records. The most recent win for Utah came in Friday’s 119-98 blowout of Sacramento as the Jazz jumped out to a 16-1 advantage.

The Lakers (36-44 SU, 33-45-2 ATS) had dreams of making the playoffs with LeBron James donning the Purple and Gold this season. However, James missed a significant amount of time with a groin injury after Christmas and the Lakers could never get over the hump in the playoff race as they will be missing the postseason for the sixth straight season.

In spite of the train-wreck season, the Lakers tripped up the rival Clippers as the road team at Staples Center on Friday as 11 ½-point underdogs, 122-117. Alex Caruso hammered a highlight-reel dunk against the Warriors on Thursday and followed that up with a 32-point, 10-rebound performance against the Clips. The Lakers squeezed by the Jazz at Staples Center back in November, 90-83, but Utah cruised past L.A. in the past two matchups in Salt Lake City, while all three meetings finished UNDER the total.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

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