Steve Merril’s NBA Fullcourt Report (April 11)
The NBA Playoffs are right around the corner as there are only nine days remaining in the regular season. Five of the six division titles have been settled, while San Antonio and Dallas fight for the Southwest title and the top overall seed in the West.
Below is a look at all six NBA games for Tuesday night, including all meaningful injuries and playoff scenarios for each team.
TORONTO at MIAMI (-11, 205)
Double-digit underdogs on extended losing streaks are a long-term 65% ATS play over the years, but the Raptors are a risky proposition as it appears they have tossed the towel on the season. Toronto stands just 26-51 SU and has lost eight straight games since their leading scorer, Chris Bosh, was injured versus Milwaukee on March 26th. Bosh is now out for the season and led the team in scoring (22.5 ppg) and rebounding (9.2 rpg).
Miami has clinched the Southeast Division, but they must nevertheless play hard as they have only a 2 ½-game rule over New Jersey for the second overall seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Despite the need to win, the Heat are just 5-6 SU over their past eleven games, including a ineffective 2-4 SU this month.
Toronto has played well against Miami this season and the Raptors held a 16-point halftime rule in the most recent meeting on March 29th. Miami played without Shaquille O’Neal in that game and did rally for an eventual 98-94 win. Toronto nevertheless covered as a 5 ½-point home underdog and overall the Raptors are 3-0 ATS versus the Heat this season.
MINNESOTA at MEMPHIS (-11 ½)
The Timberwolves are having a very disappointing season and they have long been deleted from the playoff race with a 32-45 SU record. Minnesota has been particularly bad on the road with an 8-30 SU (16-22 ATS) mark, including a recent 0-13 SU road record since early February.
Minnesota has made a commitment to youth as the Timberwolves did not play their top two scorers, Kevin Garnett and Ricky Davis, in Sunday’s 84-83 home win over Atlanta. Garnett had started a league-high 351 consecutive games until Sunday and might miss the rest of the season due to tendonitis in his right knee, while Davis is also questionable to play again due to a groin injury.
Garnett leads the team in scoring (21.8 ppg), rebounding (12.7 rpg), and blocks (1.4 bpg), while rankings second in steals (1.4 spg) and third is assists (4.1 apg). Ricky Davis is second on the team in scoring (19.1 ppg) and assists (4.8 apg) since being traded from the Celtics in late January.
The Clippers loss on Monday has now moved the Grizzlies into the fifth seed in the Western Conference which is truly bad news for Memphis as they would now confront either Dallas or San Antonio in the first round. Had Memphis remained in the sixth seed, the Grizzlies would have faced Denver instead.
SEATTLE at SAN ANTONIO (-10 ½, 201)
The Supersonics were one of the best teams in the league last season, but they have underachieved this year and Seattle is out of the playoff race with a 33-43 SU (33-42-1 ATS) record. Despite the disappointing season, the Sonics are truly playing their best basketball of the season and stand 6-2 SU/ATS over their past eight games, including an impressive outright upset of Phoenix on Sunday as a 4-point home underdog.
San Antonio is currently the first seed in the Western Conference, but they are only a half-game ahead of the Mavericks in Southwest Division and San Antonio would fall to the fourth seed if they are surpassed by Dallas.
The Spurs overcame a nine-point deficit on Sunday to defeat Memphis 83-81 and did so without Manu Ginobili who missed the game due to a calf injury. Ginobili is likely to return tonight and he leads the team in steals (1.6 spg), is second in assists (3.6 apg), and is third in scoring (15.1 ppg).
NEW JERSEY (-1 ½, 182 ½) at CHICAGO
The Nets keep the hottest team in the league and they stand 15-1 SU (11-4-1 ATS) over the past month. New Jersey’s only loss during this span was last Saturday when they blew an 11-point rule at home versus Cleveland. New Jersey bounced backed with an easy 95-83 road win at Milwaukee on Sunday and are they now just 2 ½-games behind Miami for the second overall seed in the Eastern Conference.
Chicago is also in the playoff race and the Bulls are currently a half-game behind Philadelphia for the final identify in the East. Two greatly different results for the Bulls in their past two games as Chicago won easily at Philadelphia last Wednesday, 99-92, in which they led by 17 points and never trailed. The Bulls then struggled against Philadelphia at home on Saturday and lost 89-75 in a game in which they trailed by 26 points.
PHOENIX at SACRAMENTO (-4 ½)
The Suns have clinched the Pacific division and they are locked in the second seed in the Western Conference. The Suns can not enhance or hurt their position and they nothing to play for over the next week as they are eight games behind Dallas and 6 ½-games ahead of Memphis with just six games remaining.
Phoenix will finish with the third best record in the conference and they are likely to rest meaningful players over the next week, including point guard Steve Nash who is battling a hamstring injury.
Sacramento is currently 41-37 SU and tied with the Lakers for the seventh seed in the Western Conference. The Kings do keep up the tiebreaker and are just 3 ½-games behind the Clippers for the sixth seed.
GOLDEN STATE at L.A. LAKERS (-8 ½)
The Warriors were 4-1 SU (5-0 ATS) after losing point guard Baron Davis for the season in mid-March, but they have since struggled and gone 0-8 SU (2-5-1 ATS) over the past eight games. The Warriors were also without their leading scorer Jason Richardson on Saturday when they lost 95-92 at Denver. Richardson averages 23.5 points per game and he is expected to return tonight.
The Lakers are currently tied with Sacramento for the final identify in the Western Conference playoffs, but Los Angeles would be the eighth seed due to a tie-breaker disadvantage.
Los Angeles has made a commitment to defense recently and they stand 10-2 Under in regulation play over their past twelve games. The team is also a substantial 8-2-2 ATS during that span. The Lakers recent Under success will be tested tonight as they Over is 9-1 in the past ten head-to-head meetings versus Golden State.
STEVE MERRIL is a specialized sports handicapper and a proven member of The specialized Handicappers League. Get his Premium plays here.