Cleveland Cavaliers Over Indiana Pacers and Sunday’s Free NBA Picks
The NBA cooled down considerably on Saturday, dropping from a busy 11-game Friday night to a mild five-game slate. We still enjoyed some fun games and some solid betting success, but the opportunity to win big wasn’t really there across the board.
That changes in a big way come Sunday, as we get a slew of interesting matchups littered across a heavy 12-game schedule. Most of the teams hitting the hardwood tonight will be fresh, with just the Suns, Bulls, Lakers, Nets and Hawks having played last night.
There remains a good amount on the line to close out the weekend, with the Celtics, Raptors, Wizards and of course the Cavs playing games to help get us one step closer to finalizing the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. On the other side, the Jazz and Thunder continue to work out the Northwest Division winner.
With plenty to be figured out in the coming weeks, this Sunday slate is actually pretty crucial for a lot of the teams involved. Even beyond the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference and division races, we also have the Bucks, Bulls, Pacers and Nuggets just scraping by with the hopes to simply get into the playoffs.
Let’s take a look at the massive slate and see where our NBA betting loyalties should lie on Sunday:
Boston heads into the Madison Square Garden holding a one game lead over the Cavs for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They haven’t looked like a dominant team lately, however, as they got tripped up at home by the Bucks two games ago and almost lost on Friday night to the lowly Magic.
Teams are out to get the Celtics right now, but it’s still going to be very hard to not back them in this game versus a bad Knicks team. New York sat Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony on Friday and could very well do so again. Even if they don’t, the Knicks are still just 3-7 over their last 10 games and specifically in this series have lost 4 of the last 5 meetings.
Boston has been more than respectable on the road and New York shouldn’t have much of a chance at slowing down Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics also for this one.
Even if Bradley is out, the Celtics need to get this one. They can’t lose easy games with such little room for error in this tight race for the #1 seed.
Kemba Walker and co. just got a big home win over the Nuggets on Friday, but now they’ll face a much stiffer test when they travel to OKC to battle Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. OKC has been red hot lately, winning 7 of their last 10 games as they aim for the Northwest Division crown. They’ll look like a pretty safe bet going into this one, having posted a stellar 27-11 record at home so far this season.
The Hornets can certainly still provide problems do to a collection of big bodies down low. Walker can also pop off for 30+ points at any time and Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can switch off on Westbrook to give him issues on the perimeter.
While Charlotte shouldn’t be completely ignored here, they are tough to trust on the road (13-24) and haven’t had much success in this series. The Hornets won the previous meeting this year, but they needed 124 points to make that happen and had dropped the previous 11 games versus the Thunder.
OKC is at home with a lot on the line and the Hornets stink on the road. It’s a fairly easy call on paper.
We should have another gimme pick here at the Staples Center, as the Lake Show is crumbling before our very eyes, having lost three straight and 9 of their last 10. The Lakers do tend to get up for games in front of their home crowd, but they are certainly trending in the wrong direction right now.
Adding to the Lakers’ problems could be fatigue (they played last night) and a lack of interior depth. Big man with a badly sprained ankle and that suddenly thrusts Tarik Black into a huge role.
Black is capable of putting in solid minutes for the Lakers, plus if they absolutely have to they can turn to veteran big man, Timofey Mozgov. Their issues down low may not even be a huge deal in this specific contest, either, seeing as Grizzlies star center Marc Gasol has been missing time with a foot issue.
Gasol could still suit up for this one, of course, while Memphis still has Zach Randolph to contest with down low and Mike Conley comes in playing some of his best ball of the year. The Lakers could get hot and score a big home upset, but Memphis is still playing for playoff seeding. Unless they randomly rest both Conley and Gasol here, they look like the logical pick.
Dallas enters the Bradley Center in a weird spot, as their playoff hopes have been dashed and they may start shutting down key veterans to preserve them for next season. Seth Curry also comes in banged up and could be at risk of sitting this one out:
Seth Curry (shoulder) uncertain for Sunday.
— FantasyLabs NBA (@FantasyLabsNBA)
Curry’s absence would hurt Dallas from a scoring perspective and would put added pressure on Yogi Ferrell to run the offense. That could be bad news for a Milwaukee team that has a lot of length and plays strong defense on their home floor. Aside from that, the Bucks have been in flames lately, winning three straight and 8 of their last 10.
The Bucks are pretty much locked into a playoff spot thanks to their hot run, but they’ll want to keep winning to make sure they don’t drop out of the #5 seed. They figure to be a solid bet to do that at home, where they’ve risen to 22-17 on the season.
We should be set up for a gritty affair in San Antonio on Sunday, as the Spurs prepare to host Gordon Hayward and the Jazz. Utah continues their plight to secure the Northwest Division title, but they’ll have their hands full on the road, as the Spurs have been a blistering 29-8 on their home floor this year.
San Antonio has been pretty hot lately in general, too, as they took down the Thunder on Friday and have gone 7-3 over their last 10 games. This has been a favorable matchup for San Antonio over the years, as well, with the Spurs taking 5 of the last 6 games.
Utah’s desire to hold onto their division is big here and they can defend just as well as the Spurs, but we’re not going against San Antonio at home unless they sit some key players. There haven’t been any signs yet that they’re considering that, so we’ll rock the Spurs on Sunday.
Probably the most difficult game on this entire slate to gauge goes down in New Orleans, where Jimmy Butler will lead his Bulls up against the Pelicans. Chicago finished off sweeping Cleveland earlier this week and has their sights set on securing a playoff spot yet in the Eastern Conference.
There’s logic working against that being aided with a win on Sunday, as the Pels are tough at home (21-18) and have been tough to beat during a 7-3 run over their last 10 games. Chicago has been about as unpredictable as anyone all year, too, while their shaky 14-23 road record leaves a lot to be desired.
This simply isn’t a good matchup on paper for the Bulls, either. Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic have been blazing, but Solomon Hill and Dante Cunningham could give both fits on the outside and Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins could make penetration and rebounding impossible for Chicago. The Bulls need this win, but the Pels are building for next year and probably wouldn’t mind playing spoiler at home.
We get a blast from the past on Sunday, as and will make his debut versus former nemesis, LeBron James. Born Ready should be up for this game, but we have no clue what his role will be out of the gates and judging by Indy’s weak road record (11-27) this year, it’s tough to imagine one guy being added to the roster will suddenly give them the boost they need.
Indiana probably needs a lot more than Stephenson, as they’ve dropped three straight games and are suddenly in serious danger of sliding out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Cleveland won’t just lie down and let them get in, either, considering the Cavs don’t lose at home (29-8) and are still trying to lock up the top seed in the conference.
Paul George can always rise up and have a huge game, so it’s fair to suggest this game will be competitive and go down to the wire. We just trust the Cavs at home.
Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets are going backwards in their pursuit for a playoff spot, but a could open the door for them to make one final run. That has to start on Sunday in South Beach, where Denver will take on a solid Miami team that is also fighting for their playoff lives.
Miami figures to have the early edge here, as they’ve been a solid 21-17 on their home floor and could have an answer for the versatile Jokic down low via Hassan Whiteside. Denver has far more depth and provides the more explosive offense, but the Heat play well at home, run a slower pace and also can defend well. All of that could be bad news for the Nuggets in this spot.
The Hawks have been trending in the wrong direction for weeks, but have used some favorable matchups recently to get back on track with a two-game run. They still might not have big man Paul Millsap back as they take it to the road to battle the Nets, but this matchup may not require them to be at 100%.
Brooklyn has been better lately than they were for most of the year, but like the Hawks, they played on Saturday and could be a little run down. They have the benefit of being healthy and at home, but Dwight Howard will be a lot to handle down low for Brook Lopez and Dennis Schroder should be able to torch Jeremy Lin’s defense.
Atlanta is far from reliable these days – especially on the road – but they need to get wins if they want to make sure they’re in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Part of that process is locking down gimme games like this one.
The same goes for the Raptors, who have what figures to be an easy win on their hands when they host the 76ers on Sunday. Philly limps into Air Canada Centre with a two-game skid and just got done shutting down Jahlil Okafor for the year, so they’re officially trending in the wrong direction with waning depth.
Toronto has the meat down low to keep the Sixers from taking this game over via Dario Saric and Richaun Holmes, while should ease the pressure off of DeMar DeRozan on the outside. DMR and co. have been fantastic at home (26-13) and still have a shot at their division and possibly the #1 seed in the conference. The fact that they’ve secured wins in 14 of the last 15 meetings with the Sixers suggests they won’t blow it here.
The Rockets don’t have a whole lot left to play for in terms of changing their seeding, but James Harden and co. keep trucking on, trying to maintain momentum ahead of the playoffs. That hasn’t worked out so well lately, as Houston has dropped three in a row and Harden hasn’t looked like himself due to an injured wrist.
Harden resting at some point is a real possibility (and he totally should), while the Rockets are already without sharpshooting big man, Ryan Anderson. Houston can win this game without Harden, but there have been no signs he’ll take a break anytime soon.
On the other side, Devin Booker remains a lot for defenses to handle, but the young Suns still don’t know how to win. Phoenix hasn’t even been reliable on their home floor this year (13-24) and they’re stuck in a serious rut right now behind a nasty 10-game skid. Unless Harden sits this one out, the Suns don’t seem to stand a chance in a series Houston has won in 10 of the last 12 meetings.
Washington’s plight for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference has hit a brick wall. The Wizards had been on a nice tear and still have a mild chance of sneaking up for the kill, but they’ve dropped two in a row to the Clippers and Jazz and have an even more difficult test on their hands at the Oracle Arena tonight.
The Dubs have nothing to play for at this point and could start resting guys, but even if they do they still might be a solid bet to handle the Wiz at home. The Warriors are scorching hot these days (won 10 straight) and simply don’t lose much at home (32-4). Washington needs this one and their style meshes well with this matchup, but we don’t see them getting it.