NBA: 76ers (-7) Vs Cavaliers $
The Cavaliers appear to be hitting a wall. Their mid-season surge up the playoff standings is now in jeopardy. The Raptors are now within striking distance of taking away the coveted 6th spot and the final guaranteed playoff birth.
The dominant defence we were becoming accustomed to seeing from the Cavs has been taking nights off recently. Initially, I blamed their difficulties on the injuries in the guard position. In particular, the absence of Darius Garland appeared troublesome. But in their last game against the Hornets, the Cavalier’s two big men Evan Mobley and Jarret Allen, had major problems while Garland dropped 33 in his return from injury. The two big men were a combined (-48) +/- in this game against the Hornets. This suggests the Cavs have difficulties guarding speed and young talent that the Hornets have in abundance.
So what does this mean as they head into Philadelphia to face the 76ers? Obviously, Joel Embiid is going to be a major matchup problem for any team including the Cavaliers. But the 76ers also now have James Harden and young Tyrese Maxey for which to account. The Cavaliers could be a step behind in this matchup both in the paint and on the wings.
I see the Sixers winning this game and unless Cleveland shores up its defence liabilities, it will be an easy cover as well.
NBA: Pistons (+4) Vs Pacers $
Both of these teams have major major lineup changes in the last few weeks and it is safe to say that neither team is the same that started the season. One could argue the current version of the Pacers would likely be at least a play-in team if they played 82 games together.
The Pistons, however, look like they have turned the corner away from a bottom-feeding team. In the last week alone they have found quality road wins in Charlotte and last night in Toronto. Their young talent is now gelling and finding confidence. Cade Cunningham is moulding into a solid NBA starter in just his first year while Saddiq Bey is finding his full potential. Even veteran Kelly Olynyk is providing quality minutes off the bench and hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer against the Hornets.
Overall with the improvement, the Pistons have shown in the past weeks, they should not automatically be posted as home dogs against nearly every team in the league. This is a very winnable game for Detroit so I’ll take the points at home.
NBA: Magic (+8) @ Raptors $
I’ve flip-flopped on this game after watching the Raptor’s performance against the Pistons last night. The Raptors badly miss their team captain Fred VanVleet who is expected to be out again for this matchup. OG Anunoby is also expected out two more weeks with a broken finger.
The Raptors made their midseason surge by relying heavily on their five starters to play 36+ minutes a game each. With two of their starters now out, they have predictably struggled. Toronto has a drastic drop-off in talent beyond their top 7 players so remaining healthy will be their key to success the rest of the season.
Not a lot of good things to say about the Magic really. But this may be a good spot for them as they seem to be best suited as large roads dogs. Catching the Raptors while wounded may provide them with an opportunity for an upset, or at least a back door cover.
NBA: Pelicans (+3.5) Vs Jazz $
Both of these teams are playing well down the playoff stretch and have avoided any major injuries. The Jazz are solid as ever winning 9 of 10, while the Pelicans have moved into the 10 spot and are eyeing a play-in game against the Lakers. I feel the pain of Pelicans fans because with Zion Williamson in this lineup, they are a playoff team. Yet they continue to find their way without him and may still find their way into the tournament.
Nothing bad to say about the Jazz other than they do traditionally play better at home than on the road. Their season does not really begin until the NBA playoffs as the regular season has never really been their problem.
This is a major litmus test for the Pelican taking on the Jazz at home. If they want to prove they belong, they have to be competitive against the top teams in the west. This is a good number for the Pelicans and I think they can keep this game close.
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NBA odds provided by Odds Shark. Posted lines are of writing time.