It’s going to be interesting to see who returns to the court and who doesn’t over the last two weeks of the NBA regular season. Many of the game’s top players have been sidelined by various ailments, as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and others have missed significant time and are still out. We are starting to see some players return though as Karl-Anthony Towns and Ja Morant both came back to the court in the last couple days. Given all the injuries we have seen over the course of this season, the playoffs could very well be a war of attrition.
NBA Betting Odds at BetRivers Sportsbook
Houston Rockets at New York Knicks
The Houston Rockets have their eyes on the prize. Houston has the worst record in the Western Conference, and the Rockets are just two games behind the Detroit Pistons for the worst record in the league. The Rockets would love to be able to select either Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson in this summer’s NBA Draft, so the mandate going forward is clear.
Houston has lost three straight games as of Friday morning, and the Rockets are now in the middle of a five-game road trip that will see them play in Cleveland on Sunday evening for heading to the Big Apple to face the New York Knicks. This is a great spot for the Knicks as they will have a full three days of rest before this game, potentially allowing Jalen Brunson to get healthy.
Brunson has been one of the most impactful free agent signings this offseason. His play has made the Knicks a playoff contender, and he is averaging 23.8 PPG and 6.2 APG while making 41.1% of his three-point attempts. The team would really miss him if he was unable to suit up against the Rockets, and that would have a big impact on the NBA betting odds.
This is a must-win game for the Knicks. The rest of their games are against potential playoff teams, and they have lost three straight games coming into this one. They want to make sure to hold on to the No. 5 seed as that would set up a matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers instead of either Boston or Philadelphia. New York has a real shot of getting past Cleveland, but the Knicks would have a tough time with either the Celtics or the Sixers.
Chicago Bulls at Los Angeles Clippers
Speaking of injuries, the Los Angeles Clippers used load management in order to avoid major injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Leonard has only played in 45 of the Clippers’ 74 games, and George has taken the court on 56 occasions. Unfortunately, George is dealing with a sprained right knee and will probably miss the first round of the playoffs as a result of the injury. That means that Leonard will likely need to step up in order to take the Clip Show into the conference semifinals.
Many observers have waited for this team to get it in order all year, and they are starting to feel acquitted now that the Clippers have won six of their last eight games and are four games above .500. Thas has this team two games ahead of the Play-In Tournament. Leonard is averaging 23.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 3.9 APG, and he is hitting 51.7% of his field goals, 42.1% of his threes, and 87.2% of his free throws.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls are holding on to the last spot in the Play-In Tournament in the Eastern Conference. Chicago is 1.5 games ahead of Indiana and 2.5 games ahead of Washington for the right to play their way into the NBA Playoffs. They are pretty banged up right now with Lonzo Ball out for the season, and both DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso are day-to-day with injuries.
If DeRozan is out, the top two scorers on the Bulls will be Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. They are teaming up to average 42.5 PPG, but they are both pretty bad in defense. The Clips should be able to exploit that at home to get a comfortable win by the NBA betting line.