Three teams have secured playoff berths as the NBA meanders towards the climax of the regular season.
The tank race is as intriguing as the playoff competition, though, with the top eight having a cushion in the Eastern Conference. The West, meanwhile, sees 3.5 games separated third and 10th.
Monday means a week of NBA previews, so here we are:
Tuesday, 11pm: Minnesota Timberwolves @ Washington Wizards
Minnesota beat the Golden State Warriors on Sunday evening as Karl-Anthony Towns proved once again that he is a future MVP contender.
The Timberwolves are just two games back on third in the West. Their away record this year, however, is poor, sitting at 13-21 heading into this week.
The Wizards swept aside New Orleans two games ago to extend their winning streak to five. That was ended by the Heat at the weekend as Washington’s defence collapsed to give up 43 points in the third quarter.
I fancy Washington to win this one. Their home record is actually the worst of any playoff contender in the East, but the Timberwolves have struggled on the road all year. These are the games where Jimmy Butler will be missed most.
TIP: Washington Wizards to win @ 8/13
Thursday, 2:30am: Los Angeles Lakers @ Golden State Warriors
The Lakers are flying at the moment at 7-3 over their last 10. That has included some special performances individually, but none have been better than the 36 points scored by Julius Randle in Sunday’s beating of Cleveland.
Los Angeles travel to northern California to face a Warrior team who have fallen 1.5 games back on Houston.
The absence of two-time MVP, Steph Curry, has forced a change in Golden State’s play and is another reminder of their underwhelming depth options.
A lot leans on Kevin Durant at the moment. Luckily, the other former MVP has stepped up. This is the second of a back-to-back for the Lakers and I think Golden State should have too much for them.
TIP: Over 220.5 points
Thursday, 11pm: Toronto Raptors @ Indiana Pacers
Toronto not only ended Houston’s lengthy winning streak last week, they also confirmed their playoff place. Their own win streak is at eight at the time of writing.
Now 3.5 games clear of Boston, too, the Raptors are very likely to secure number one seed in the East. Their home record is a stunning 28-5.
Things are looking good for the hosting Pacers. Indiana are 7-3 over their last 10, including a shock victory over the Celtics. Victor Oladipo notched 27 points in Boston as the latest chapter in a stellar year for the former Oklahoma City Thunder man.
I have been so impressed with Toronto of late. Their win over the Rockets can be qualified to irrelevance, but it was still a sign that the Eastern Conference’s number one seed will be no walkover in the playoffs. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are majestic at the moment, they should orchestrate a Raptor win.
TIP: Toronto Raptors to win
Friday, 12:30am: New Orleans Pelicans @ San Antonio Spurs
New Orleans and San Antonio are among eight teams jostling for seeding position in the West. The return of Kawhi Leonard for this game is the headline, however, which should be a turning point in the Spurs’ season as they chase that third seed spot.
The Pelicans’ Anthony Davis is compiling an MVP argument for himself, but injury has harmed New Orleans as much as it has San Antonio through the absence of centre DeMarcus Cousins.
Davis has to keep up his form – that saw ludicrous numbers posted in February – if New Orleans are to pose a threat in the playoffs.
This is such a tough one to call. Spurs are at a low ebb, but they have only lost eight at home all season. Gregg Popovich’s side should squeak this, though it could be a thriller.
TIP: San Antonio Spurs to win
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*