NBA Preview 13/03

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Wednesday was an interesting day, with many of our tips blowing big leads. Knicks blew a 16 point lead at HT against the Wizards, Memphis blew a 13 point lead against the Magic, Pacers had a lead against the Celtics with less than 2 minutes to go, whilst the Lakers were surprisingly out-played and out-hustled by the Nets.

However, Friday is a new day with a new set of tips and it seems that we are moving into uncharted territory, with the Golden State Warriors being told that they will host the Brooklyn Nets to a crowd-less arena due to the recent two-week ban on gatherings of more than 1000 people in the San Francisco area, in response to the spread COVID-19.

First up is the Magic ($1.3) hosting the Bulls ($3.3). Magic were unrelenting in their win over the Grizzlies, clawing back from a 13 point deficit off the back of a spark from Ross off the bench, who led the scoring for Orlando with 24 points. An alarming statistic for the Magic is their record against teams over .500, only winning 19% of those games which is a genuine concern about the impact they’ll have in the playoffs. However, Magic are the 9th best team in terms of defensive efficiency, and with Lavine still not being expected to return, I expect Orlando to hold down their home-court advantage against the below .500 team and extend their winning streak to 4 in a row.

Bucks take on the Celtics. Milwaukee decided that to give their roster a sabbatical in the absence of Antetokounmpo and Bledsoe, relegating Middleton and Lopez to the bench. They should be well-rested as a result, expecting to regain Bledsoe from his knee injury. Whilst the Celtics pulled off an impressive win on the road against the Pacers, Brown is unlikely to return for this game. Bucks are also the best home team in the league, boasting an impressive 28-3 record. I expect Bucks to comfortably take care of the Celtics, even without their MVP.

Blazers travel to Memphis in what proves to be the most important game of the day. The Blazers sit just 3 games below the Grizzlies in 9th place, and a win would see them cut that margin to two games and make an unlikely playoff berth into a real possibility. On the other hand, a win for Memphis would mean extending their breathing space in 8th seed. Dame time and the Blazers made a return back to form against the Suns with 25 points and a 16 point win, after a dismal display against the Kings, shooting 26% resulting in a double-digit loss. The key to this game is whether Memphis can contain Lillard. Grizzlies are ranked 27th in field goal percentage and as a result, often rely on their opponents to have similar shooting performances to win. However, Lillard is coming off the back of a 47% shooting performance and I expect him to return to his mid-season form and score 30+ in a back and forth between him and Morant. Blazers to win.

Game of the day. Lakers ($1.36) return to the Staples Center to play against the Rockets ($3). Lakers shockingly lost to the Nets in a major upset. After trailing for most of the game and facing a 9-point deficit in the last quarter, the Lakers still gave themselves the chance to win the after a Lebron drive and dish to AD who missed a wide-open 3-pointer with no time remaining on the clock, however, it wasn’t meant to be. Lebron still put on a dominant display with 29-12-9 in a stretch that would have you awing at the fact that he’s in his 17th season. Houston returned to the winners column after a win against the Wolves. They trailed by as much as 10 points in a game that they should’ve blown out. Nonetheless, a win is a win, and this is perhaps all the Rockets needed to get back into the form that saw them knock off the Jazz, Celtics and the Lakers. Harden and Westbrook combined for 64 points with a combined field goal percentage of 57.35%. If they are to beat the Lebron in the form that he is in, they will need to replicate this scoring performance and increase their production from supplementary pieces such as House (4 points), Tucker (3 points) and Covington (10 points). I expect the Lakers to win, however, $3 provides real value for the Rockets, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them cover the line at 6.5.

In an unprecedented first, the Warriors will play the Nets in an empty stadium. It’s hard to forecast how this will affect the players’ psychology, but my prediction is a high scoring game without the increased pressure of the crowd, allowing the players to put their best foot forward and exhibit dominant shooting displays. Keeping this in mind, players like Harris, LeVert, and Curry should benefit. The Nets are in the midst of a 3 game winning streak and should beat the Warriors, although anything is possible in a game with these circumstances. Nets to win.     

Daniel’s Tips

Magic to beat the Bulls

Bucks to beat the Celtics

Blazers to beat the Grizzlies

Lakers to beat the Rockets

Nets to beat the Warriors

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