Heat (+5) @ Nets (218)
Pick: Heat (+5)
For as long as we’ve been handicapping NBA regular season games, we’ve been trying to find motivational mismatches. The last night of the regular season has a few that we really like.
The Brooklyn Nets got things together before it was too late and will play beyond tonight. Their opponent remains up in the air and it’s possible they’ll play really hard in Game 82 knowing they could play Philadelphia with a win which would be preferable to Toronto or Milwaukee at this point. Although, in its playoff-clinching win on Sunday against Indiana, Brooklyn lost DeMarre Carroll to a wrist injury, and three-point specialist Joe Harris is questionable with foot soreness. So there’s a better chance the Nets treat this game like an NFL team treats the fourth preseason game than an NBA team would in a must-win situation. Avoiding further injuries is probably more important than playing hard to see who you get in the first round so we’re guessing Harris doesn’t play tonight and Carroll has already been ruled out.
While last night was Dwyane Wade’s last game in Miami, are the Heat really going to send him out with a loss? This line is where it is likely due to the fact that Miami was eliminated from the postseason last night. In most cases, that might result in an unmotivated team the next game. But, when that team has a future Hall of Famer playing his last game, and is getting five points, you should probably take them.
Magic (+4) @ Hornets (217)
Pick: Hornets (-4)
Much like Brooklyn, Orlando has clinched a playoff berth and seeding is the only thing the Magic have on the line tonight. Charlotte needs a win and a Detroit loss to clinch the final playoff berth in the East. We’re not banking on the Pistons losing in New York, but when it comes picking either the Hornets or Pistons tonight, Charlotte is the better value play. You’re laying more than twice as many points with Detroit on the road than you are Charlotte at home tonight. When it comes to betting favorites against the spread, the safer plays are the shorter favorites. It’s always risky when your interests veer too far away from the team’s interests which is a concern in taking the Pistons tonight. Detroit is laying 10 at Madison Square Garden. The Pistons just need to win the game, they have no reason to win by significant margin. It’s not a message-sending kind of game where that might come into play. I knew I wanted to take one of Charlotte or Detroit tonight, and four is a small enough number to get to the window with the Hornets.