By Chris David
Five days remain in the NBA regular season and only two of the 16 playoff seeds are not locked up. While we talked about some clubs playing out the string in a previous piece, tonight we look at must-win situations for a quartet of clubs.
Let’s break ‘em down!
Indiana vs. Charlotte: The Pacers are barely hanging on for dear life, needing to win out and then get some help from the Hawks. Indiana stopped Charlotte 102-95 on Mar. 19 as a 3½-point home favorite, which snapped a two-game losing skid to the Bobcats. Indiana’s Ronald Murray led six players in double figures with 22 points.
The Pacers will be playing in a back-to-back spot after visiting Philadelphia on Friday. Indiana has won three straight games prior to this battle and owns a 9-12 straight up and 12-8 against the spread mark on zeros day rest.
Indiana isn’t known for its defense but four of its last five opponents have been held under the century mark. The ‘under’ is 5-0 during this stretch.
Meanwhile, Charlotte’s defense has surrendered 100-plus points in six straight outings. The ‘over’ has gone 4-2 during this span and the club is just 2-4 SU and 1-5 ATS.
After this game, the Pacers travel to Washington on Monday before closing the season at home versus New York on Wednesday.
Atlanta vs. Boston: The Hawks are inches away from clinching their first playoff berth since the infamous “Lock Out” season in 1998-1999. Atlanta has finished the season strong, winning eight of its last 10 games and only needs to win three of its final four games to wrap up the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta will be playing its second game in two nights after facing New York at Madison Square Garden on Friday. Mike Woodson’s team is just 9-11 both SU and ATS in back-to-back spots.
Boston has already defeated Atlanta twice (1-1 ATS) this year, both wins coming by double digits. The Celtics are expected to rest here on out, and will be the first round opponent for Atlanta if it clinches the No. 8 seed. The Hawks are 25-14 SU and 20-18 ATS at home this year.
Denver at Utah: As quickly as Denver wants to celebrate its 114-105 victory over Golden State on Thursday, head coach George Karl knows his club still has work to do. The Nuggets hold a one-game lead over the Warriors plus the head-to-head tie-breaker, but need to win two of their final three games to earn the final playoff spot in the West.
It’s going to be a tough task to get a victory on Saturday, especially against a Utah club that owns a league-best 35-4 SU record at home. The Jazz have captured two of three against the Nuggets this year, including a 132-105 thrashing on Mar. 8 as six-point home favorites.
Most books tabbed the Jazz as healthy seven-point favorites, while the total has jumped up to 226½ points. The ‘over’ has gone 6-0 in the previous six meetings between the two clubs and based on recent tempo, another winnig ticket is very possible.
Denver is 2-0 both SU and ATS in its last two games, including Thursday’s win over the Warriors. The ‘under’ has gone 2-0.
Utah has been solid for gamblers lately, going 4-1 SU and 5-0 ATS. The lone loss came Thursday in a heartbreaking 97-94 setback to Dallas, as Dirk Nowitzki drilled a game-winning 3-pointer. The ‘under’ has gone 3-2 in last five games.
Denver concludes its season with a pair of home tilts against Houston on Sunday and Memphis on Wednesday.
Golden State vs. L.A. Clippers: The Warriors choked on Thursday and now face must-win situations the rest of the way. Saturday’s game versus the Clippers looks like a lock, especially since Los Angeles has dropped four straight games by 12, 26, 18 and 28 points. The Clips just can’t score these days, evidenced by a 6-0 ‘under’ run.
Golden State picked the wrong time of the year to play its worst basketball. The club is 2-4 SU and 1-5 ATS in its last six, only being able to bully Memphis (117-86) and Sacramento (140-132).
The Warriors are 2-1 both SU and ATS versus the Clippers this year, including a 116-100 win on Mar. 19. The ‘over’ has cashed in two of the three battles.
After this contest, the Warriors travel to Phoenix on Monday before hosting Seattle on Wednesday in their season finale.