Wednesday has to be considered one of the worst days of the year. Why? Well, you have better paid your income taxes by the end of the day. And to make matters worse, it's also the last day of the NBA's regular season. I suppose from a glass half-full perspective that simply means more important basketball is right around the corner with the start of the playoffs this weekend. Some games Wednesday -- only the Clippers and Suns don't play -- have some playoff relevance. Here's a look. Hornets-Raptors and Pacers-Grizzlies will be shown on ESPN. A lot of TBAs because some teams might rest key guys.
Hornets at Raptors (-12.5, 199.5)
Toronto was in Boston on Tuesday. The Raptors were a half-game behind Chicago for the No. 3 seed in the East. If Toronto wins Tuesday and here then it will be the No. 3 and play Milwaukee in the first round. If the Raptors lose one of the two games and Chicago beats Charlotte then the Raptors are No. 4 and face Washington. So I'm not sure if Toronto will care in either game. Power forward Amir Johnson seems likely to sit both out as he has missed four straight. Charlotte has totally mailed it in, having lost five straight and has shut down most of its starting lineup.
Key trends: The Hornets have covered 10 of their past 12 meetings in Toronto. The "over/under" has gone over in four of the past five.
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Hawks at Bulls (TBA)
Atlanta somehow lost at home to the Knicks on Monday despite playing every starter but the injured Paul Millsap. I'd be stunned if any Hawks starters play here because it means less than nothing. What will the Bulls do? Should they rest many of their regulars ahead of the playoffs? Try to win and earn the No. 3 seed for an easier first-round matchup with Milwaukee? Try to lose and get the No. 4? Yes, that's a harder first-round series with Washington but then no Cleveland until the East Finals. I do expect at least Joakim Noah to sit out after doing so in Monday's rout of Brooklyn. The Hawks go for the series sweep here.
Key trends: Atlanta is 2-6 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 7-1 in the past eight in Chicago.
Early lean: I expect more Bulls of note to play than Hawks, so they are the pick.
Trail Blazers at Mavericks (TBA)
Expect most key Dallas guys to sit out as the Mavericks are locked into the No. 7. Portland has nothing to play for as it's locked into the No. 4 as a division champion. One guy who for sure won't play is starting small forward Nicolas Batum as he is having an MRI on his injured right knee on Tuesday. He hurt it Monday. Guard C.J. McCollum hurt his ankle on Monday but doesn't need an MRI. Don't expect to see him, either. Or LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed Monday's loss to the Thunder with a foot injury.
Key trends: The home team has covered the past four meetings. The over is 6-1 in the past seven in Dallas.
Early lean: Wait and see who plays, but I suppose lean the home side.
Jazz at Rockets (TBA)
Houston still has something to play for. It is currently the No. 5 seed but has the same record as No. 2 San Antonio and No. 3 L.A. Clippers. Memphis is just a game back at No. 6. Plus I'm fascinated to see what James Harden might do. He's currently at 27.5 points per game, with Russell Westbrook leading the NBA at 28.0. Harden probably would need at least 69 points to catch Westbrook. In fact, he would need exactly that number if Westbrook doesn't play Wednesday, but he's going to play. Utah looks to continue its post-All-Star break momentum into next season. Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Trey Burke have all missed the past two games. I don't see why any would play here but thus the TBA.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 7-3 in the past 10 in Houston.
Early lean: Houston should win easily.
Celtics at Bucks (-2, 200.5)
Boston hosted Toronto on Tuesday. The Celtics clinched a playoff spot with Brooklyn's loss on Monday, so this game could simply determine whether Boston is the No. 7 or No. 8 seed depending on what it does Tuesday and Wednesday also what the Nets and Pacers do to finish the season. Milwaukee is locked into the No. 6 so could sit several players. The Bucks unveiled a new logo Monday night that the team will start using after this season. Check it out, and it's an improvement over the current model.
Key trends: The underdog is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 7-0 in the past seven in Milwaukee.
Early lean: Wait and see what Boston does Tuesday. If the No. 7 is locked then starters should sit here.
Thunder at Timberwolves (TBA)
I would never recommend anyone bet their house on a game -- but you probably would be safe taking OKC on the moneyline at least here. The Thunder must win and have the Pelicans lose to get the No. 8 seed (both games start at same time). Even better, half the Wolves roster is out injured (thus the TBA), and they will get the most ping-pong balls in the draft lottery with a loss. They are ahead of the Knicks by one game for the NBA's worst record and have lost 11 straight. If I'm Flip Saunders, I sign five guys from the Mall of America in Minneapolis to play this game
Key trends: The Wolves are 1-6 ATS in their past seven at home. The over is 9-1 in OKC's past 10 after an ATS win.
Early lean: Thus should be a massive blowout.
Spurs at Pelicans (TBA)
If New Orleans wins this game or Oklahoma City loses in Minnesota, which isn't going to happen, then the Pelicans are in. The problem for them is that San Antonio is playing its best basketball of the season, winning 11 straight, and needs a win to clinch the No. 2 seed in the West and avoid Golden State until the West Finals -- plus lock up a nice first-round matchup against Dallas. Spurs center Tiago Splitter has been ruled out, but I presume Coach Gregg Popovich plays everyone else.
Key trends: The Spurs are 1-7 ATS in their past eight at New Orleans. The over is 6-1 in New Orleans' past seven against the West.
Early lean: If the Spurs care, they will knock New Orleans out.
Magic at Nets (-9.5, 203.5)
Brooklyn totally laid an egg Monday night against the Bulls and lost control of its destiny to make the playoffs. The Nets are a half-game behind Indiana but hold the tiebreaker. So Brooklyn needs a win and at least one Pacers loss or two Indiana defeats as it played Tuesday night as well. The worst part is that if the Nets miss the playoffs and somehow win the draft lottery, the Hawks get to switch first-round picks from the Joe Johnson deal a few years ago. The Nets' pick isn't protected, so obviously Atlanta will switch regardless but think of how painful it would be if that pick was No. 1 overall. Orlando has dropped three straight. Could Billy Donovan be the team's head coach the next time it takes the floor for a regular-season game? It's possible.
Key trends: Orlando is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 4-1 in the past five in Brooklyn.
Early lean: Take the desperate Nets.
Wizards at Cavaliers (TBA)
Washington was at Indiana on Tuesday and planned to play all of its starters even though the Wizards are locked into the No. 5 seed. I don't expect that to be the case here, and I very much expect the Cavs, who are locked in as the No. 2 seed, to rest LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love as they did in Sunday's blowout loss to Boston.
Key trends: Washington is 1-7 ATS in its past eight in the second of a back-to-back. The over is 5-0 in Cleveland's past five on Wednesday.
Early lean: Just steer clear because this could be scrub city.
Pistons at Knicks (+6.5, 196.5)
New York has to lose and hope Minnesota upsets the Thunder on Wednesday to get the most ping-pong balls in the draft lottery. The Knicks picked the absolute worst time to go on a two-game winning streak. That four-point win in Atlanta on Monday was a surprise because the Hawks actually tried a bit. This should be the final game as a member of the Pistons for forward Greg Monroe, who will become an unrestricted free agent. You already hear that he might sign a max deal with the Knicks.
Key trends: The under is 7-2 in the past nine meetings. The Pistons are 9-0 ATS in their past nine after a loss of more than 10 points.
Early lean: Knicks and over.
Heat at 76ers (TBA)
Miami kept very slim playoff hopes alive with Monday's 100-93 win over the Magic. The Heat need a win here and losses by the Pacers in both their remaining games and by the Nets on Wednesday to get in. Frankly it benefits the Heat to lose. They aren't making any waves in the playoffs, and if they get a draft pick in the Top 10 then the Heat keep it. If the Heat fall to 11th in the draft order then the Philadelphia 76ers get the Heat's pick. Right now the Heat would pick 10th if not moving up in the lottery. So really it benefits Philly to lose.
Key trends: The Heat are 1-7 ATS in their past eight games. The under is 11-2 in Philly's past 13 vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Wait and see what Indiana does Tuesday. If Pacers win, most key Heat players will sit here.
Pacers at Grizzlies (TBA)
Indiana hosted Washington on Tuesday. The Pacers controlled their destiny for the playoffs. Win that game and this one and they are in. Lose both and out. I guarantee you the Hawks or Cavaliers don't want to see this team in the first round now that Paul George is back. If Memphis loses this it will stay at No. 6 in the West. It has a chance to move to No. 5 with a win and a Houston loss. Still, the Grizzlies might give injured guys like Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph the night off instead.
Key trends: Indiana is 1-4 ATS in its past five on the road. The under is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Another wait-and-see.
Nuggets at Warriors (-11, 215)
No reason at all for Golden State to play anyone of note. Expect Denver to look very different next season. It's possible that interim head coach Melvin Hunt gets the full-time job, but I think guys like Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried are likely to be traded. It's time to reboot this franchise and build around rookie center Jusuf Nurkic and through the draft.
Key trends: Denver is 2-5 ATS in the past seven at Golden State. The over is 8-2 in the Warriors' past 10 at home.
Early lean: Like the over because neither side will care about playing defense.
Kings at Lakers (-3.5, 205)
I'd like to say something interesting about this game but have nothing. Both clubs are locked into their respective lottery positions (Lakers fourth-worst record, Kings sixth worst). These teams played Monday night in Sacramento, a 102-92 Kings win. I actually think they have a chance to compete for the playoffs next season with a full season under Coach George Karl and one solid offseason addition (Lawson maybe?). The Lakers do need a win here to avoid the franchise record for worst winning percentage. The 1957-58 Minneapolis Lakers went 19-53 and had a .264 winning percentage. The current Lakers are 21-60 (.259).
Key trends: The Kings are 1-4 ATS in their past five at L.A. The over is 12-5 in the Kings' past 17 on the road.
Early lean: DeMarcus Cousins is out, so go with L.A.
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