After three straight 1-1 days on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, it was nice to hit both of my NBA betting picks on Monday. There wasn’t much skill that went into the first pick. The New York Knicks are trying to lock down the No. 5 seed in order to avoid the Big Three in the Eastern Conference, so they needed to take care of business against the tanking Houston Rockets. The Knicks were 13-point favorites by the NBA betting odds, but they had no trouble on their way to a 22-point victory in which they won every quarter.
There was a little more thought that went into my second play. Although the Chicago Bulls are facing a must-win situation too, it’s a little less dire considering it looks like the Play-In Tournament in the Eastern Conference now seems to be essentially set. Chicago has a three-game lead on the Indiana Pacers with seven games left in the regular season, and the Bulls get the benefit of closing out the year with a home game against the awful Detroit Pistons. That made it less likely that they would knock off the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night, especially after the Bulls beat Portland and the LA Lakers on Friday and Sunday.
NBA Betting Odds at BetRivers Sportsbook
Los Angeles Lakers at Chicago Bulls
The Los Angeles Lakers were unable to beat the Chicago Bulls on their home court on Sunday. Chicago played spoiler after LeBron James returned to the team after missing a month due to a foot injury, beating the Lakers by 10 points in LA. Given what happened over the weekend it might seem weird to back the Lakers on the road in the Windy City, but there is reason to back LA on Wednesday night.
Currently, the Lakers only have a half-game edge over the Dallas Mavericks for the final spot in the Play-In Tournament. The Lakers would absolutely love to move up to the No. 6 seed in order to automatically qualify for the playoffs proper, but they likely need to win out to have that happen with just seven games left. Fortunately, the return of James makes this team dangerous, and it’s highly unlikely that both James and Anthony Davis struggle again like they did on Sunday night.
James will be additionally motivated after being taunted by Patrick Beverley. The veteran guard is known for his defense and his ability to get under players’ skin, but it’s typically not a good idea to do that against The King. We will almost certainly see a much better performance out of James in the rematch, and the Lakers will have a rest advantage even though they are on the road.
Sacramento Kings at Portland Trail Blazers
It seems like we’ve seen our last of Damian Lillard this season. Lillard has missed three straight games with what’s listed as a calf injury, and the Portland Trail Blazers have played their way out of playoff contention. They have lost nine of their last ten games to fall five games behind LA and Oklahoma City for the final spot in the Play-In Tournament, so it seems clear that the front office is more focused on ping pong balls than play on the court at this point.
Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings are trying to lock up the No. 3 seed as quickly as possible. Sacramento is about to lock up its first playoff berth in 17 years, and the Kings have a distinct home court advantage. They would love to chase down the suddenly hot Memphis Grizzlies too in order to be the No. 2 seed, but the Grizzlies are the hottest team in basketball right now.
Sacramento has the most efficient starting five in the NBA this season. The Kings don’t play great defense, but we are seeing De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis play off each other extremely well. Fox is averaging 25.3 PPG and 6.1 APG, while Sabonis is averaging 19.2 PPG, 12.5 RPG, and 7.2 APG as the third-best center in the league. Their presence has given Sacramento a lot of great looks when they have the ball, so the Kings should light up the scoreboard here.