Nets vs Bucks are at 1:30 pm, Suns vs Clippers starts at 4 pm, and the Celtics vs Heat start at 6:30 pm
Greg Frank’s NBA re-start record: 1-2
Pick: Nets +18.5
Brooklyn may not be a title contender sans Kevin Durant, but let’s not act like there’s nothing on the line for the Nets here. Interim head coach Jacque Vaughn is 3-1 and word out of Brooklyn is that Vaughn is a serious candidate for the full-time job. For a guy whose only head coaching experience was leading the Orlando Magic through the doldrums from 2012-2015, I would think Vaughn wants another chance, especially with Durant walking through the door next season. What better way to prove your worth as a coach than to have your team compete with the best the Eastern Conference has to offer? On the flip side, Milwaukee is off of a pair of close contests against Boston and Houston. After battling for 48 minutes with a pair of contenders, I’m not sure the Bucks keep their foot on the gas long enough to cover this big number here. After all, they just need one more victory to secure the top seed in the East and then the rest of these seeding games become exhibitions for Milwaukee. I’ll take Vaughn’s Nets to keep this within 18.
Pick: Clippers -9
The Clippers are playing everyone on a neutral floor against the Phoenix Suns and I only have to lay nine points to back them? Yes, please. I suppose I could have stopped there but in case you didn’t know the Suns were the last out of 13 teams in the West invited to the league’s restart in Orlando. They have won their first two games in the bubble but remain four back in the loss column of Memphis for the eighth seed and would have to jump the Kings, Pelicans, Spurs and Trail Blazers just to get into the 8-9 play-in scenario that the league instituted as part of the restart. Even with the recent victories from the Suns, the NBA invited too many teams to Orlando and Phoenix does not belong. We saw on Saturday what the Clippers could do to one of these fringe playoff teams as they throttled New Orleans 126-103. I’d expect a carbon copy of that this afternoon against the Suns.
Pick: Celtics -3.5
Fading a team playing the second leg of a back-to-back and third game in four days might not have the same impact now as it would have back in March, but I can’t resist. Miami beat Denver soundly in its first game in the bubble on Saturday and lost a close one yesterday against Toronto. Now the Heat square off with the Celtics tonight and I’ll be laying the short number to back the shamrock green. The Celtics are currently 2.5 games clear of the Heat for the third seed in the East which is relevant considering Boston was eliminated last year in the second round by the Bucks and dropping to fourth would mean drawing Milwaukee in the second round again. After tonight, only one of Boston’s remaining five seeding games is against a team over .500. A win here should secure the Celtics the third seed so that’s also what I’m betting on in addition to a tired Miami team.