The playoff teams in the Eastern Conference are now set. With their 100-93 victory Saturday over the Toronto Raptors, the Milwaukee Bucks have secured the East’s final playoff spot. The playoff appearance for the Bucks will be their first since the 2009-2010 season.
The win marked a return to form for Bucks guard Monta Ellis who, after a run of nearly two weeks of inspired, all-star level production, had been mired in a slump which saw him shooting just 11-33 in his last two games. Although Ellis was again just 5-14 against Toronto, he scored 22 points by doing what he does best: putting pressure on opposing defenses by constantly attacking the rim. In addition to going 10/10 from the charity stripe, Ellis kept the ball moving through the often stagnant Bucks offense by dishing out 9 assists.
However, NBA bettors would be wise to place the Bucks playoff appearance in its proper perspective. At just 37-39, Milwaukee appears poised to make the post-season with a losing record. Were they in the Western conference, they would currently be out of playoffs and tied for 10th with the Dallas Mavericks. Since the departure of Scott Skiles and personnel moves that often see them sporting the Jennings-Ellis-Redick three guard line up, the Bucks have been a putrid defensive team. The Bucks are currently allowing 100.3 points per game, a mark that puts them dead last among the East’s playoff teams.
The Bucks exact seed hasn’t yet been determined—there is still a chance they could leap frog Boston and move into the 7th spot. However, their recent lackluster play (just 3-7 over their last 10) all but ensures a first round match up against the Miami Heat. The Heat, fresh off a historic 27 game win streak, boast the best offense in the East at 102.9 points per game. This likely playoff series then will feature the conference’s best offense against its worst defense. On the season, Milwaukee has already been among the league’s worst in covering the spread; at just 33-41-1, they are currently in the bottom five. Although we will have to wait to see where Vegas sets the spread, this is a series NBA bettors should keep an eye on as Milwaukee will have trouble covering even the most generous of spreads.
The other significant story in the East is the continued inspired play of Carmelo Anthony. Against the Bucks on Friday, Melo dropped 41 points and posted his third consecutive game above 40. As we correctly predicted in our previous column, Melo’s shot totals per game are going through the roof as he makes a last run at capturing his first scoring title. Over his last three games, Melo is averaging 27 shot per game—over 5 more than his season average. With his recent scouring output, the Knicks forward is now just a tenth of a point behind Kevin Durant. The Knicks have six games remaining. Look for the shots to continue to fly and for Melo to reliably cover prop bets involving single game scoring marks.
As a team, the Knicks have now won 11 in a row and are comfortably 2 ½ games of the third place Indiana Pacers. A first round date with the Boston Celtics appears most likely—a rematch of the 2010-2011 series that Boston swept. Although Boston will be without Rajon Rando and is no longer the team it was two years ago, the Celtics remain a club known for being able to suddenly flick the switch during the playoffs. This should be one of the marquee first round match ups for NBA fans and bettors alike.
In the West, the Denver Nuggets received the devastating news that they will be without the services of Danilo Gallinari for the remainder of the season. While attempting a routine layup in Denver’s 95-94 win Thursday, the Denver forward planted awkwardly on his left leg. Tests after the game indicated a season ending ACL injury. The loss of Gallinari is a massive blow to the Nuggets playoff hopes. Gallinari was averaging a career high 16.2 points per game and, as one of Denver’s primary 3 point threats, was instrumental in spacing the floor on offense. With just five regular season games remaining, we will continue to track how Gallinari’s absence impacts the Nuggets potent offense and influences future Sportsbook lines.
The most exciting storyline remaining in the regular season continues to be the battle for the 8th spot in the Western Conference. This appears to be a two team race. As of this weekend, the Los Angeles Lakers cling to a tenuous half game lead over the Utah Jazz. At 37-39, the Dallas Mavericks have dropped out of the playoff picture and will miss their first post-season in the 13 years.
The Lakers have six games remaining on their schedule, four of which are against teams that will be in the playoffs: @ Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Hornets, @ Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets.
The Utah Jazz have only five games remaining, three of which will see them facing off against future playoff teams: @ Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City, Minnesota, @ Minnesota and @ Memphis.
Given their respective schedules, our money is on the Los Angeles Lakers being the best bet to nab the West’s final playoff spot. Los Angeles, who actually seems to be playing better without ageless guard Steve Nash in the line up, has five of their remaining games at home; Utah has only two, the first of which is against one of the league’s best teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Utah is an abysmal 11-27 on the road this season; unless they can suddenly right their road woes, look for them be at home during the 2013 playoffs—despite finishing with a record that will likely be better than the East’s last two playoff participants.
Although the NCAA tournament comes to a close Monday, basketball bettors need not despair. With the playoffs beginning April 20th, the NBA will feature a slew of nightly games offering exciting betting opportunities. At NBABetting.org we will continue to update our site regularly with recaps that aim to highlight the news, statistics and trends most relevant to those who love to wager on NBA games. If you haven’t already, check out our reviews of recommended Sportsbooks. By signing up through the links on our site, you’ll often be eligible for exclusive promotions and bonuses available nowhere else.