The NBA Playoffs begin on August 17, but there are two spots still left to be decided as the NBA Regular Season draws to a close from the NBA Disney Bubble.
Those spots come in the Western Conference where there will be a play-in game, and potentially, a 3-game series between whoever claims the 8th and 9th spots in the Western Conference Standings.
Today’s games will officially decide who will play in the first-ever NBA Play-In Game on Saturday, here’s how the schedule shakes out and what are favorite bets are for these pivotal matchups.
Bucks vs. Grizzlies — 4:00PM ET (NBA TV)
It doesn’t get much easier for Memphis in this one. Win and they’re playing Portland on Saturday. Lose and they go home, well barring a miraculous set of circumstances anyway.
The Grizzlies catch a break in this one as the Bucks have absolutely nothing to play for, and their best player and prohibitive favorite to be the league’s MVP for the second-season in a row, Giannis Antetokounmpo is out of this game after channeling his inner Zinedine Zidane on poor, unsuspecting Mo Wagner.
With the Bucks having nothing to play for whatsoever, we’re going to take the Grizzlies despite their recent struggles in the bubble ever since losing Jaren Jackson Jr. for the season with a knee injury. And while the Bucks are still a dangerous team even without Antetokounmpo in the lineup, Giannis’ suspension is about the worst news possible if you’re a Suns or Spurs fan at this point.
The Hook’s Best Bet: Grizzlies (-3.5)
Mavericks vs. Suns — 4:00PM ET (TNT)
It’s almost criminal to keep the Suns out of the playoffs at this point, especially considering how Memphis is backing their way into the Play-In Round, but that is what is likely to happen given the easy roads ahead for both Portland and Memphis.
The Mavericks, like the Bucks before them, have nothing to play for in this matchup and are locked into a date with the Los Angeles Clippers next week. In our opinion, that has all the makings for a blowout victory in favor of the only undefeated team in Orlando.
The Suns go 8-0 in the bubble with a resounding victory, but bettors that took a stab at their 55-to-1 price to make the playoffs before play resumed have got to be absolutely crushed if the Suns can’t get a shot at the Play-In Round.
The Hook’s Best Bet: Suns (-9.5)
Spurs vs. Jazz — 6:30PM ET (TNT)
This game is potentially dangerous for bettors, as the Spurs need outright chaos to prolong their historic playoff-streak. In all likelihood, the Spurs will be eliminated from the playoffs before their game tips off, rendering this matchup to be quite meaningless. If for some miracle both Memphis and Phoenix lose to open the door for the Spurs, look for that spread to move before tip.
Utah has struggled of late and needs a get right game, and this one is likely not going to mean anything for the Spurs. Their playoff streak is over, pour one out for that. Also take the points.
The Hook’s Best Bet: Jazz (+7)
Blazers vs. Nets — 9:00PM ET (TNT)
There’s no hotter basketball player in the world right now than Damian Lillard, and the explosive scoring guard looks to secure the 8th seed in the Western Conference with a win over a Brooklyn Nets team that has played surprisingly well in the bubble so far.
Lillard seems like a man possessed, however, and the Blazers are 5-1-1 ATS in their seven bubble games to date, showing they are playing some of the best basketball in the league right now.
Brooklyn’s seeding position is locked in, and they have a date next week with the defending NBA Champion Toronto Raptors. The team may elect to rest players ahead of what will be a demanding series against an extremely deep Toronto team.
It’s hard to lay the double-digit points in the NBA, particularly with a Brooklyn team playing so well.
We’ll take the Nets to make the Blazers sweat, but for Dame Time to carry them into a matchup against the Grizzlies on Saturday.
The Hook’s Best Bet: Nets (+10.5)