With the NBA season ending shortly, the games are only getting bigger. The Thunder are nearing a must-win situation as they fight for a playoff spot, but beating the Rockets isn’t going to be easy, even at home. Elsewhere, the Spurs and Warriors, and Heat and Bulls also face off in what could be a preview for the Western Conference and Eastern Conference finals, respectively. And we can’t forget about the battle of Los Angeles (or can we?). James Harden and Stephen Curry will try to improve their MVP odds in a Sunday slate packed with plenty of action.
Here are today’s picks:
Houston Rockets (-1) at Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder continue to struggle, and for good reason, as their team is depleted by injuries and Russell Westbrook can’t do everything (right?). They haven’t beaten a team with a winning record since March 20 against the Hawks. OKC is playing for the playoffs, while Houston needs a win so they don’t see the Spurs in the first round.
The Thunder haven’t done many things well on the defensive end lately and that’s not something that will work against James Harden and the Rockets. Dwight Howard is getting close to full strength as well.
The Pick: Rockets -1
Chicago Bulls (+8.5) at Cleveland Cavaliers
The Bulls are usually known for playing up in big regular season games, but that hasn’t really been the case this season. It doesn’t help their case that they only have one relevant road win in the last two months (at Toronto on March 25). Cleveland will get Kevin Love back for this game, and while that doesn’t mean a whole lot, it at least shows they want to win. The Cavs showed their strength against the Heat in their last game and should do the same in this one.
The Pick: Cavaliers -8.5
Golden State Warriors (+3.5) at San Antonio Spurs
People will say this could be a preview for the Western Conference Finals, but they’re just hoping for a story line. This is a back-to-back for the Warriors, and they don’t really have anything to play for right now. Will they want to show their hand in this game? This is the only regular season meeting between these teams in San Antonio.
Both teams are playing well, but the Spurs aren’t dealing with a back-to-back and are 9-1 ATS in their last 10. That’s good. The last time they had trouble in a home game was on March 12 when they lost to the Cavaliers in overtime as Kyrie Irving went for 57 points. Stephen Curry could do the same, but these 3.5 points don’t seem like enough for a Warriors team with nothing to play for besides pride.
The Pick: Spurs -3.5
Miami Heat (+3) at Indiana Pacers
Paul George is coming back (don’t click link if you don’t want to see him break his leg again). And because Paul George is coming back, a lot of people will automatically be on the Pacers. In addition, this is a big matchup for playoff purposes. Miami is struggling and Dwyane Wade continues to battle injuries. Even if George wasn’t playing here, the Pacers would be the better play. The Pacers want the 8-seed, and have won their last two home games against the Hornets and Mavericks. And the Heat just gave up a game at Detroit in which Wade played.
The Pick: Pacers -3
Los Angeles Clippers (-12) at Los Angeles Lakers
There’s not a whole lot to say about this game. The Lakers have thrown in the towel it seems, or they are just this bad, which is possible. They haven’t competed against a team with a winning record in a while (cover at Warriors on March 16). As for the Clippers, they are still clinging to the 5-seed and home court advantage. They are coming off a win at Portland, and have carved through every other road game against weak teams (Boston by 13, Philly by 21, New York by 21).
This is a back-to-back for the Clippers, and the only hope is that the Lakers show something in the battle for LA. That’s hard to do with their roster, though.
The Pick: Clippers -12