Last weekend I went 2-1 in my debut UFC picks, despite seeing a somewhat boring fight card. Jon Jones won by decision to retain his Light Heavyweight Championship belt, as I predicted. In the other title fight, Kamaru Usman upset Tyron Woodley by decision in the Welterweight Championship fight. After learning about Usman’s intense style of fighting, I picked him to pull off the upset. He proved me right, and dominated Woodley through all five rounds. My season record is now 29-19, and I’m hoping to keep the winning streak going this weekend.
March is definitely one of best months for basketball. The NBA season starts winding down and teams are competing for final playoff spots, while the NCAA March Madness Tournament begins in just two weeks. This week, we’ll take a look at some impactful NBA games taking place over the weekend.
Never bet before? Here are two quick definitions. The spread is a figure that oddsmakers set that predicts by how much a team is expected to win or lose. The over/under is a prediction of the final combined score of both teams.
Oklahoma City Thunder (39-25) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (37-29)
Spread: Los Angeles -2
Analysis: Going into the NBA season, no one expected the Clippers to be the best team in Los Angeles. But here we are with less than a month left in the regular season and the Clippers are expected to make the playoffs, while their Staples Center counterparts are far removed from postseason play. Led by reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, the Clippers have won seven of their last 10 games. Williams is averaging 19.8 points per game this year while shooting 35.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Midseason acquisition Landry Shamet has been playing the best basketball of his life since arriving in LA. He was part of the Tobias Harris trade to Philadelphia and has averaged 12.4 points per game and 46.2 percent shooting from three — major improvements from his 8.3 points per game and 40.4 percent 3-point shooting in Philly. The Clippers will need Shamet’s production going forward if they hope to secure a playoff spot.
Tied for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder has struggled recently by losing four of its last five games. It’s not the time in the season for a team to play poorly when they have championship aspirations. However, Paul George’s scoring hasn’t been an issue for the Thunder. The small forward out of Fresno State has averaged 28.6 points per game this season, doing his best to lead the Thunder.
Meanwhile, teammate Russell Westbrook is having a tough shooting year. Westbrook has never been the best shooter in the world, but he’s a career 80.3 percent foul shooter and is only shooting 65 percent this season. The triple-double king is still playing well enough for the Thunder to make noise in the playoffs. If Westbrook can get back to his career averages, then OKC has a much better chance to dethrone the Warriors in the postseason.
Bet: Oklahoma City covers and bet the under.
Denver Nuggets (43-21) vs. Golden State Warriors (44-20)
Spread: Golden State -6.5
Analysis: Surprisingly, the Denver Nuggets are the No. 2 seed right now in the Western Conference, and sit just one game behind Golden State. They rely heavily on star center Nikola Jokic and have surrounded him with great shooters. The 7-foot center is a beautiful passer with great court vision, averaging 7.7 assists per game this year. He’ll face one of the best defensive centers in the league, Demarcus Cousins, when they play Golden State on Friday night. In addition to Jokic’s 20.5 points per game, the Nuggets have six other players averaging over 10 points per game. The depth of guards like Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton has been successful for Denver. The Nuggets will experience a playoff atmosphere when they face off against the Warriors with the No. 1 seed on the line.
Don’t worry about the Golden State Warriors — they’ll be just fine despite a pedestrian 5-5 record over their last 10 games. Sharpshooter Klay Thompson, who’s been out the past two games with a knee injury, is expected to return. The Warriors sure could have used his shooting last Tuesday when they got destroyed by the Boston Celtics 128-95. It was a wake up call that the team needed, and showed them what a potential NBA Finals matchup could look like.
Looking to make an improvement for the playoffs, the Warriors brought back center Andrew Bogut, who played with the team from 2012 to 2016 and helped win the 2015 NBA Finals. Bogut may be 34 years old, but the center seems thrilled to be back.
“To come back to the NBA, for me, was basically Golden State or nothing. But the fact it was Golden State — it was the kind of opportunity that I would be kicking myself if I didn’t take” he said.
Bogut has been playing for the Sydney Kings in his native Australia this season. Getting him back for the playoffs shows the Warriors have one focus — NBA Championship or bust.
Bet: The Nuggets will cover the spread and bet the over.
Utah Jazz (37-27) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (26-40)
Spread: Utah -5
Analysis: Currently in a tough playoff position, the Utah Jazz are tied for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference with two other teams. Luckily, the Jazz aren’t slacking around and have won seven of their last 10 games. The frontcourt duo of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert dominated in the team’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans Wednesday night. If the Jazz can continue to get consistent scoring from their big men, then the playoffs are a realistic destination next month. Their first step is beating a bad team that’s surprisingly done very well against them this year.
The Memphis Grizzlies may have only 26 wins on the season and are already planning offseason vacations with the playoffs out of sight, but they’ve beaten Utah twice already in three meetings this season. In those games, the Grizzlies have held Utah to an average of 93.3 points per game. That’s a big drop-off for a Jazz squad that averages 110.3 points per game for the season.
But the Grizzlies no longer have star center Marc Gasol on the roster, as he was traded at the deadline last month. They received center Jonas Valanciunas in the trade, who’s been off to a hot start in Memphis averaging 18.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. He replaces Gasol on offense, who was great at spreading the floor and playing the pick and roll with point guard Mike Conley. But it doesn’t seem like Conley is missing Gasol very much — he went for a career-high 40 points in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday night. The Grizzlies aren’t in the playoff picture, but seem to have an edge against Utah and could hurt the Jazz’s playoff position Friday night.
Bet: Memphis covers and bet the over.
Odds taken from https://www.oddsshark.com/nba.