Things are starting to get interesting in the NBA bubble.
A quartet of Western Conference teams are battling for the two play-in spots – and those four teams (Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs) are all in action Thursday. The team that finishes eighth will face the club that places ninth in a play-in series in which the ninth seed will need to win two games vs. the No. 8 team without losing.
Got it? Good!
Here are my top NBA betting plays for Thursday (Odds courtesy FanDuel Sportsbook):
You know we’re on the verge of the NBA playoffs when a team like the Wizards is a slight favorite over the No. 3 seeds in the Eastern Conference. But the Celtics are expected to rest all of their starters – in fact, they’ll be so shorthanded that you might actually be on the active roster today. It’s a bit of a stretch here given that Washington hasn’t won since the restart, with all seven of those losses coming by eight or more points – but this game means nothing to Boston, and slightly more than nothing to the Wizards, who should pick up the W here.
We’re taking FanDuel’s team props feature for a spin here, taking the Suns to dominate in a must-win game against a Mavericks team that has already been locked into the No. 7 seed in the West. Even though the Mavericks haven’t ruled out Kristaps Porzingis or Luka Doncic, there’s little incentive for either player to see much (if any) action here, while Phoenix has been on an absolute tear and will need that to continue in order to stay alive for the play-in series. This is a longer shot, but the situation is favorable.
The Grizzlies only control half of their fate in the race for the West’s No. 8 seed; they need a win over the Milwaukee Bucks combined with a Portland loss to Brooklyn. And while the latter doesn’t look good (Portland is a 9 1/2-point favorite), the Grizzlies can at least put some pressure on the Blazers with a victory against a Bucks team that has already clinched the top seed in the East. Morant will be chucking with regularity as he looks to lead Memphis to victory – and that makes the Over on his point total a strong option Thursday.
Sure, the Trail Blazers are also in must-win mode (sort-of), but it isn’t like they’ll be facing the Lakers, Bucks or Clippers here. The Nets have secured the East’s seventh seed and will likely take the opportunity to give their starters a breather ahead of their first-round meeting with the defending-champion Raptors. This game could be over midway through the third quarter – and while Lillard’s scoring exploits will certainly play a hand in that scenario, he simply won’t see enough minutes to warrant taking the Over on such a high point prop.
Three of the four teams that need to win Thursday are comfortably favored (Memphis faces the smallest advantage at -3 over Milwaukee.) But with all four of their opponents having little or nothing to play for Thursday, the likelihood of those four foes playing their starters for long periods – if at all – are remote. And while circumstances could derail how these four games play out, you could do worse than building a four-team parlay out of the four clubs with the most to gain (or lose) on Thursday’s packed schedule.