Happy Saturday. Yesterday was a solid day. We’ll always take a 7-5 NBA record. We could use another strong day today after an NBA slide early in the week. And then we also have the two Final Four games. Let’s find some winners. But first, a look at last night’s action…
- The Sixers, led by twenty-point double-doubles from Joel Embiid and James Harden, held off the Raptors in Philly. Two straight Sixers wins and two straight Cavs losses have ended any possibility of Cleveland rising into the 3 seed; Philadelphia now has a three and a half game lead there. They’re also two and a half back of the Celtics, which means the 3 seed (and likely the Nets) await in the first round. Scottie Barnes fell a little short of a 30-point triple-double for Toronto, and the Raptors will remain tied with the Hawks for the 8 seed. The Bulls are just a game back, and those 8-10 slots could go quite a few different ways. The 8 seed means you need just one play-in win, with the second game coming at home. The 9 and 10 seeds must win two games, but the 9 seed gets the first one at home. Those differences matter. None of those teams in the 8-10 range are very good on the road, but Toronto has been especially bad at 12-25. Not dropping to 10 will mean more to them than anyone else.
- Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, and DeMar DeRozan all scored at least 20 points, and the Bulls routed the Hornets in Charlotte. It was 62-46 at half after two identical 31-23 quarters, and Chicago also scored 31 in the fourth. The Bulls are back within a game of the 8 seed, and they’ll have their chance at moving up. Perhaps more importantly, the Wizards are three games back and rapidly running out of time. A huge game with the Hawks is coming on Tuesday in Chicago. The Hornets are locked into the league’s fourth-worst record. These results have no practical impact for them.
- SGA returned and dropped 39, but the scuffling Thunder still dropped one to the beat-up Pacers in Indiana. The Thunder have now lost four of six, including losses to the Hornets and Pacers, and they’re just half a game up on the 11 seed Mavs. The remaining schedule will do them no favors – Phoenix, @Golden State, @Utah, Memphis. The Pacers are three and a half back of the Bulls and likely out of time. A 4-0 finish would require either a 1-4 or 0-5 finish from Chicago to make the play-in. Lottery positioning is the more interesting question, and Portland is free falling into the 5th spot, leaving the Magic, Pacers, and Wizards, all within a game of each other, to fight for 6-8.
- Paolo Banchero (30), Markelle Fultz (25), and Franz Wagner (20) combined for 75, and the Magic just about ended the Wizards’ season with a win in Washington. The Wizards were still more than just mathematically alive heading into last night, but a three game hole with just five games to go will be very hard to climb out of. It makes sense that they lost last night; Porzingis, Kuzma, and Beal were all out, as has been the theme all year. The Wizards just haven’t had their best players on the court enough. Orlando faces an even steeper climb to the play-in at four games out, so this doesn’t do much for them beyond keeping their season alive for a little bit longer. But it does create some intrigue in that aforementioned 6-8 range of the lottery.
- Jayson Tatum dropped 39, and the Celtics handled the Jazz in Boston. They’re within a game and a half of the Bucks at the top of East. Milwaukee’s magic number remains at 4. The pressure has been applied. The Jazz are still only a game and a half out of the play-in, but they’re running out of time. Tomorrow’s trip to Brooklyn is very close to a must-win. Getting healthy would help; Lauri Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson, Colin Sexton, and Rudy Gay all missed last night’s game.
- Jalen Brunson scored 48 to outdo Donovan Mitchell’s 42-point showing, and the Randle-less Knicks pulled away from the Cavs in Cleveland. That Cavs are very likely locked into the 4 seed. They have at least three games on either side of them with just four to play. And they’ll likely be facing the 5 seed Knicks in the first round. New York has a two and a half game lead on the Nets behind them. Julius Randle’s health will be the big thing to monitor over the next two weeks.
- Mikal Bridges led the way with 42 points, and the Nets had no issues with the Hawks in Brooklyn. The Nets are two up on the Heat and quickly closing in on that last guaranteed playoff spot out East. The prize is a first round date with the Sixers, but that’s probably better than getting the Bucks or Celtics. The Hawks will remain tied with the Raptors for the 8 seed.
- Jalen Green and KPJ combined for 65 in a win over the Pistons. Detroit is going to be the league’s worst team. The only question is whether it will be Detroit-Houston-San Antonio or Detroit-San Antonio-Houston. Houston owns the tiebreaker over the Spurs, who are just half a game ahead with an extra game to play, given their division record, so it might be advantage Spurs after last night.
- The Grizzlies got off to a bad start, but they came roaring back to beat the Clippers and earn a split in their mini two-game series. Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr both returned for Memphis, and the Grizz are now within two games of the Nuggets at the top of the West. That magic number is still just 3 for Denver, but it’s been sitting there for a few days now. Things aren’t wrapped up quite yet. Memphis also remains two games ahead of the Kings, and that 2 seed could be huge for second round home court. The Clippers are tied for the 5 seed with the Warriors, a game and a half back of the 5 seed Suns and a game and a half ahead of the 7 seed. They have a big trip to New Orleans today. A loss makes that 4 seed pretty far away.
- AD put up 35 and 17 to lead the Lakers to a win in Minnesota. This was one the Timberwolves will feel they should have had since it was at home, but they got beat. Los Angeles has done a good job since the trade deadline to push themselves up into play-in positioning. They’re currently tied for the 7 seed with the Pelicans. They get what should be an easy trip to Houston tomorrow too, though the Rockets haven’t been very easy for the Lakers this year. The Timberwolves, after two straight losses, are half a game back in the 9 seed. They’re a game ahead of the 10 seed Thunder. They also get an easy game tomorrow, hosting a Blazers team that’s dead in the water.
- De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Keegan Murray, and Malik Monk all scored exactly 20 points, and the Kings beat the Blazers by 24. The win helps them keep some pressure on the Grizzlies and the 2 seed. The Blazers look absolutely awful, and they’re now all alone with the league’s fifth-worst record, a game back of the Magic.
- The Warriors needed the full 48 to get rid of the Spurs, but they ended up getting it done in the fourth. Steph, Klay, and Jordan Poole combined for 91 in the win. The Warriors are tied with the Clippers and have that game and a half lead on the 7 seed. They’re still in the running for the 4 seed too. San Antonio is right there with Houston in the tanking battle for the league’s second-worst record.
- KD and Devin Booker combined for 57, and the Suns had no problems with the depleted Nuggets. Denver is acting a little carelessly with the 1 seed; their lead there is down to two games after a 5-7 run. Phoenix is now a game and a half up on the 5 seed, and they have a good shot at securing that first round home court advantage.
NBA record: 211-180-7 ATS, 32-62 ML, 109-87-3 O/U, 1-9 parlay, 0-1 props, -16.89 units
- Heat -1
- Clippers +3.5
CBB record: 253-229-12 ATS, 56-82 ML, 5-5 O/U, 17-25 parlay, -16.33 units
CBB regular season record: 198-181-8 ATS, 47-75 ML, 4-4 O/U, 12-24 parlay, -30.85 units
CBB conference tourney record: 34-31-4 ATS, 7-10 ML, 0-0 O/U, 4-3 parlay, + 5.87 units
NIT record: 5-5 ATS, 1-0 ML, 1-0 parlay, +3.3 units
NCAA Tourney record: 16-12 ATS, 6-6 ML, 1-1 O/U, 0-0 parlay, +5.35 units
- FAU ML (+125) – TWO UNIT PLAY
I’m going to keep riding with the Owls. They just win. They’ve been doing it all year. This is not an overwhelming matchup from a talent perspective. The Aztecs just win too, and this should be a really good game. But I can’t go away from FAU. I think their balance wins the day. San Diego State has a top five defense on KenPom, but their offense is all the way down in 75th. FAU is in the top 30 in both. For those wondering, Tennessee ranks 1st on KenPom in defense, so this won’t be a new thing for them to face either.
- UConn ML (-245) – THREE UNIT PLAY
- UConn -5.5
It’s UConn. They have one of the best offenses in the country and a really good defense, snd they’ve just been smashing teams on the way to the Final Four. They made Gonzaga look silly. Miami is really good. Their guards are awesome. 15 has really jumped off the screen with his play. They’ve knocked off both Texas and Houston. But if there’s a side of the court that’s going to falter here, it’s Miami’s defense. They’ve fallen behind to both Drake and Texas, and they’ll fall behind again here. They won’t be able to come back this time though.
CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT CHAMP PICKS
Record: 11-21 (10 losses in title game)