The NBA playoffs get underway in less than a month, so teams are still duking it out for postseason seeding. The Golden State Warriors find themselves in a dogfight atop the Western Conference, while the Indiana Pacers are vying to remain in the top-4 out east.
The 2-time reigning champs are 3-1 over their last 4 games and 48-22 on the season. While their record isn’t as impressive as it’s been in seasons past, they know that regular season supremacy means nothing. This team won 73 games the same year they blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals at the hands of the Cavaliers. If anybody knows they can coast through the season, it’s this team.
The Dubs enter Thursday just a half-game ahead of the Denver Nuggets for the top spot, and Denver will be in D.C. to take on the Wizards tonight, as well. A top-2 spot looks all but assured for Golden State at this point, but you can bet they want that top seed.
The Pacers are fourth in the east, though they have plenty of competition. They’re now 3 games south of the 76ers for the No. 3 seed, but they’re just a game ahead of Boston as it stands today.
The following odds are courtesy of our live odds feed:
|2019 ATS Home||21-15-0||12-21-1|
|2019 ATS Away||14-21-1||17-19-0|
|2019 O/U Home||11-25-0||14-20-0|
|2019 O/U Away||19-17-0||19-17-0|
Many (myself included) wrote off Indiana once Victor Oladipo was lost for the season with a knee injury. Oladipo ruptured a quad tendon in late January, so it would make sense that the Pacers would struggle moving forward without their All-Star swingman.
However, that hasn’t really been the case. Indiana has used stifling defense to remain relevant in the playoff picture. The Pacers boast the third-best defense in the league (per defensive efficiency), trailing only Milwaukee and Utah. Indiana hasn’t been quite as prolific on the offensive end (ranking 17th in ORTG), but if your defense is elite you will always have a chance to stay competitive.
Without Oladipo, guys like Myles Turner, Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic have been forced to step up. Turner has been excellent over the past few months, and the Texas product is up to 13.3 points and 7 rebounds with 2.8 blocked shots per game. Turner quietly leads the NBA in rejections, and his status as one of the game’s premier rim protectors is a big reason for the Pacers’ stingy defense.
Indiana could be a little more short-handed tonight, however, as Darren Collison is listed as questionable with a quad injury of his own. He was unable to suit up the other night when the Pacers lost to the Clippers, and Cory Joseph drew a start in his place. Joseph wound up struggling in his 20 minutes of action, but he’s proven to be an excellent backup all year long.
Collison sitting would also lead to added playing time for Aaron Holiday and Tyreke Evans off the bench. Evans was strong against the Clippers the other night, finishing with 19 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in 29 minutes of action. If the Pacers are going to be without Collison again tonight, Evans is going to have to show up in order for Indiana to have a chance against the champs.
Whenever the Warriors endure some kind of slump during the season, experts begin to wonder if they’re just bored. We all know Golden State is going to turn it on once the playoffs roll around, so why go all-out during the regular season? The Warriors have stumbled their way through a number of winnable games, most notably a recent loss at home to the lowly Suns that caused Klay Thompson to chide the team’s fanbase.
DeMarcus Cousins is expected to return for the Warriors tonight after missing the last couple of games with a sore foot. Whether Cousins’ return actually helps the team is up for debate, but his presence will at least give Golden State a big body capable of giving Turner problems on both ends of the court.
The Warriors have been one of the least-trustworthy teams from a betting standpoint all season long. Golden State is typically listed as a massive favorite given their incredible on-paper talent, but they have often failed to live up to expectations. The Dubs are just 29-40-1 against the spread on the season, which is one of the worst marks in the entire league.
Given the Warriors’ relative struggles to take care of business on their home floor combined with the Pacers’ defensive strength, an 11-point spread looks pretty big for this game. Regardless of whether Collison suits up, this is a game I think the Pacers can keep close throughout. I’m skeptical of their chances to win it outright, but Indiana at +575 to do so is admittedly tempting.
However, the safer bet here is to take the Pacers to cover that 11-point spread. The Warriors will likely still find a way to eke out a win in this spot, but I like this game to stay competitive for 4 quarters. GIve me the Pacers to cover the spread in Oakland on Thursday night.
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