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NBA Team Motivation & Situational Spots (May 15th-May 16th)
Here’s a look at some spots that are interesting spots for both Saturday/Sunday in the Association, with playoff seedings and lottery odds coming into focus as we round out the 2020-2021 regular season:
The Minnesota Timberwolves have shown no desire to lose games and give themselves a better chance at retaining their first-round pick. The pick goes to Golden State if the Timberwolves falls outside the top three and with the league’s fifth-worst record, things aren’t looking good for Minnesota in terms of keeping the pick. The Timberwolves have gone 6-4 in their last 10 games, and their next one is against a Celtics team that is guaranteed to be in the play-in round - more specifically the 7 vs. 8 game of the play-in - which requires just one win to get into the actual first round of the NBA Playoffs. It’s hard to project this line not knowing what kind of lineup Boston will dress come Saturday afternoon, though our power ratings would have Boston as four-point road chalk at full strength. You can wait to see what kind of lineup Boston throws out there first, and see how that moves the line, but it’s Minnesota or pass here.
The San Antonio Spurs are locked in as the No. 10 seed in the Western Conference and will have to win two games to get to the first round. The Spurs host the Suns on Saturday afternoon, and Phoenix still has a chance to catch Utah for the top seed. Even if the Suns do not catch the Jazz, their magic number is one (win) for the number two seed, which will certainly matter. A potential second-round series with the L.A. Clippers looms for Phoenix and home court in that series could be pivotal. Look to lay the points with the Suns on Saturday in the Alamo City. We’re projecting Phoenix as a six-point road favorite as of Friday.
The Utah Jazz are currently first in the West, and there’s a good chance Quinn Snyder's club has that top spot locked up by Sunday night when it visits Sacramento. Any reason to think the Jazz will care at all here if that's the case? It’s highly likely Utah would sit players in this game, but we’d still back the Kings given the younger guys on the roster playing for contracts and potentially Luke Walton still coaching for his job.
The Los Angeles Lakers are going to want LeBron James to play at least one game this weekend before the postseason, or at least that's what we believe. Los Angeles can finish no lower than seventh in the West currently, and a win against Indiana on Saturday afternoon here would make for quite an interesting Sunday night in the NBA. The Lakers defeating the Pacers would tie them with the Trail Blazers for the sixth seed, which avoids then them the play-in round. Los Angeles and Portland in a tie? Well, they both play their final regular season games at the same time on Sunday night - the Lakers are in New Orleans and Portland hosts Denver. Obviously you need some contingencies for this spot to check out, but if the Lakers win on Saturday and LeBron is active on Sunday night, expect them to treat it like the start of the playoffs and blow out the Pelicans. We’re projecting the purple and gold as a two-point road favorites right now, so make it a point to jump on this one extremely early if we're accurate about Saturday's outcome.