With just three days left in the NBA regular season, there are still a number of things that need to be settled. The top of the Eastern Conference – with Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Boston – needs to sort itself. The Nuggets and the Timberwolves are still fighting for the final guaranteed spot in the Western Conference playoffs. And Brooklyn, Atlanta, and Charlotte are still competing for preferred positioning in the East’s play-in tournament.
Tonight’s games will go a long way toward placing some of these teams, and it’s a great time – only a few opportunities left – to take advantage of must-win situations for a betting edge. We like these three tonight.
Cleveland @ Brooklyn
The Bet: Nets -9
A win by Brooklyn in this game would go a long way toward ensuring this matchup is a preview of the #7 vs. #8 game in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament, and the Nets should be doing everything in their power to make sure that happens. Cleveland is a shell of itself at the moment, and a meeting with them next week to claim a spot in the playoffs is much preferable to one against the scorching-hot Hawks or the suddenly healthy Hornets.
The Nets have been abysmal at home this season (8-30-1 against the spread), but of course, most of those games have been without Kyrie Irving and most weren’t against teams that are 2-8 ATS in their last ten games and 3-8 ATS in their last 11 road games. That’s the Cavs’ profile, and Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley aren’t walking down that tunnel to save them tonight. Take the Nets in what they’ll treat as a must-win game.
Charlotte @ Chicago
The Bet: Hornets +2
Both of these teams are coming off stretches in which they were blown out multiple times against the Eastern Conference elite. Charlotte is coming off a 29-point loss to Miami and 30-point defeat against Philly. Chicago, meanwhile, has dropped three straight at home to Boston, Milwaukee, and Miami by 23, 21, and 18 respectively.
At this point in the season, these teams are awfully similar. Charlotte is healthier following the return of Gordon Hayward to the lineup and the continued absence of Lonzo Ball for the Bulls. But ultimately, this pick comes down to who needs it more, and it’s the road team getting points. Charlotte is locked into the play-in tournament, but it has a chance (slim, but still) to avoid the #9 vs. #10 game if it can win and get some help down the stretch. Chicago is ostensibly locked into the #6 seed and just needs to wait to see who it will be matched up against, and in the process, it would like to avoid another serious injury. Charlotte is great against the spread on the road this season (22-17-1), and it should get another cover tonight.
Milwaukee @ Detroit
The Bet: Pistons +11.5
The Bucks remain locked in quite a battle with Boston and Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference standings – below Miami but comfortably ahead of Toronto and Chicago. So even with the spread inflated, why go against them against one of the worst teams in basketball this season?
Detroit has been great, and if you’ve been betting them, you’ve had a very lovely end of the season. The Pistons have covered 18 of their last 23 games, including six in a row as double-digit underdogs. Additionally, the Bucks are just 4-9 on the second half of a back-to-back, which this game is following Milwaukee’s game against Boston last night.
This isn’t necessarily an endorsement of Detroit to win outright (like they did the last time these teams played), but 11.5 is a lot of points, and if the Bucks have a comfortable lead late, it’s not hard to imagine them taking their foot off the gas and allowing the Pistons to grab a back-door cover.