The Betting Impact of NBA Playoff Scenarios for Tuesday’s 11 Games
Photo credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kemba Walker
- Bryan Mears breaks down what's at stake in every Tuesday night game and how NBA playoff scenarious are creating potential betting values.
The final two regular-season NBA slates are tonight and tomorrow, which means there’s a ton of motivation angles. Some teams are fighting for their playoff lives, some are angling for better seeding and some actively want to lose to get better lottery odds for the 2019 NBA Draft.
With motivation being such an outsized factor, I thought it would be useful to break down what’s at stake for every Tuesday night game and how that might potentially lead to betting value.
Memphis Grizzlies at Detroit Pistons (-10.5): 7 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: The Grizzlies are obviously way out of the playoff race, but they could improve their lottery odds with a loss. They’re currently tied in the win column with both Washington and Dallas, and they’re one behind the Pelicans.
No surprise, Mike Conley has already been ruled out.
The Pistons absolutely need to win tonight. There’s one more playoff spot up for grabs, and it’ll come down to them, Charlotte or Miami. The Pistons control their own destiny among those teams: Win out over the Grizzlies and Knicks tomorrow, and they’re in. If they lose either, the final spot could go to the Hornets, who are one game back and own the tiebreaker.
Betting impact: Detroit is getting 78% of the money, and the line has moved from -9.5 at opening to -10.5 as of writing (see live odds here). Favorites in Games 81-82 of the season with a one-point line move in their direction have covered the spread at a 57.6% rate historically, per John Ewing. The Pistons match that trend.
Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards (-4.5): 7 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: The Celtics have nothing to play for; they’re already locked into the 4-seed in the East. As a result, they’re resting seven of their top-eight players: Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes are all out for rest.
The Wizards are out of the playoffs and could improve their lottery odds with a loss: They’re tied in the win column with Memphis and Dallas, and they’re one behind the Pelicans.
Betting impact: Despite the Wizards needing to tank, it doesn’t seem like they’re interested. They’ve continued to play their starters, and there’s no reports of Bradley Beal not playing.
There’s some sharp money on the Wizards, and that’s been historically profitable to follow. In March and April, home favorites getting sharp money have produced an 8.9% Return on Investment since 2015.
Charlotte Hornets (-8) at Cleveland Cavaliers: 7 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: The Hornets have their playoffs lives on the line tonight. They’re one back of the Pistons but own the tiebreaker. They’ll need some help — Detroit has to lose — to get in, but that starts with them winning.
The Cavs are tied for the second-worst record in the league with the Suns, but the new lottery odds give the same probability to land the No. 1 pick to the three-worst teams. Thus, tonight’s game is meaningless.
Betting impact: As Ewing mentioned in that piece above, favorites are valuable in Games 81-82. Road favorites are especially valuable, covering the spread at a 60.4% rate historically.
The Cavs will sit both Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, making a Hornets cover even more likely.
Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat (-5.5): 7:30 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: The 76ers have nothing to play for: They’re already locked into the No. 3 seed. As a result, both Joel Embiid and J.J. Redick will sit.
The Heat are battling with the Hornets and Pistons for the final playoff spot. Miami is highly unlikely to get it — FiveThirtyEight gives the Heat a less than 1% chance to make it — but there’s technically still a chance.
Betting impact: With the 76ers injuries and lack of motivation, this line has moved from Heat -3 at opening to -5.5 currently. Thus, they qualify for Ewing’s trend above highlighting favorites in Games 81-82 with at least a one-point line move.
New York Knicks at Chicago Bulls (-1.5): 8 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: The Knicks will finish with the worst record in the league. Tonight’s game is meaningless.
The Bulls are locked into the fourth spot of the NBA Draft lottery; they’re seven games behind the Hawks and three games up on the Cavs and Suns. Tonight’s game is meaningless.
Betting impact: With both teams having nothing to play for and not playing really any starters from the beginning of the year, this is a difficult game to handicap. There’s no real motivation edge.
Golden State Warriors (-8.5) at New Orleans Pelicans: 8 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: The Warriors are locked into the No. 1 seed in the West. They’re a half game back of the Raptors in terms of overall record and lost the season series tiebreaker. If the Warriors win both games and Toronto loses tonight, they would get home court in a potential NBA Finals matchup.
The Pelicans are out of the playoffs and can’t really get a worse lottery position. They’re one game up on the Wizards and a half game up on the Grizzlies and Mavericks, so they’d need one of those teams to win in order to get better lottery odds.
Betting impact: It’s tough to handicap this game, as we really don’t know the Warriors’ motivation. Per our FantasyLabs news feed:
Durant was originally listed out vs. the Pelicans on Tuesday for rest purposes, but he wishes to play Tuesday and appears likely to be rested Wednesday instead. Coach Steve Kerr said he would rest four of his eight regulars Tuesday, but the only players currently listed out are Andrew Bogut (rest) and Andre Iguodala (toe).
On the Pelicans’ side, Anthony Davis is listed as “probable,” as he has each of the last six games. He’s sat out each of those despite the tag.
Toronto Raptors (-8) at Minnesota Timberwolves: 8 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: The Raptors are locked into the No. 2 seed in the East. As mentioned in the Warriors section, they could lock up home court in the NBA Finals against Golden State if they want.
The Timberwolves are out of the playoffs. They’re a half game back of the Lakers in terms of lottery odds, so a loss would ensure more ping pong balls.
Betting impact: The Wolves downgraded Karl-Anthony Towns to questionable; that’s a big injury to monitor. The Raptors seem to be rolling with their starters tonight, but 1) that could change and 2) it’s possible the starters may not play a full allotment of minutes.
Make sure to monitor the news on this one, as it could possible lead to betting value.
Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks (-8.5): 8:30 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: The Suns can’t improve their lottery odds. This game is meaningless.
The Mavericks are tied in the win column with Washington and Memphis, so a loss could potentially give them better lottery odds.
Betting impact: The Suns have shut down most of their players for the season; they’re rolling with Ray Spalding as their starting center. The Mavericks don’t seem to be tanking, as Luka Doncic is listed as probable tonight. Thus, there could be some value on Dallas.
Denver Nuggets at Utah Jazz (-2.5): 9 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: The Nuggets are a half game up on the Rockets for the 2-seed. Houston owns the tiebreaker. If the Nuggets win both remaining games, they’ll get the 2-seed; if they lose, they’ll need a Rockets loss or Denver will slip to the 3-seed.
The math is quite complicated with the Jazz: They could fall anywhere from the 4-seed to the 6-seed.
Betting impact: Our own Matt Moore broke down the implications of this game due to playoff seeding motivation here, so I’ll leave it at that. He makes a compelling case that the Jazz could actually benefit from losing tonight.
Houston Rockets (-2.5) at OKC Thunder: 9:30 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: The Rockets are a half game behind Denver for the 2-seed and own the season series tiebreaker. If they win tonight and Denver loses either game, the 2-seed and home court until the Western Conference Finals is theirs.
The Thunder control their own destiny for the 6-seed: Win both games and it’s theirs. Lose one, and it’s likely the Spurs will get the 6. There’s a scenario (although a bit unlikely) that they could get into the 5-seed with two wins.
Betting impact: Both teams can improve seeding with wins, so they’ll both be motivated to win tonight. We broke down this game in full here.
Portland Trail Blazers (-9.5) at LA Lakers: 10:30 p.m. ET
What’s at stake: The Blazers can’t get to the 2-seed because the Nuggets own the tiebreaker. The Blazers do have it against the Rockets, however, so if Portland wins both remaining games and the Rockets lose to the Thunder, the Blazers will be the 3-seed. If they lose both games, they could fall to the 5-seed behind Utah, so they’re incentivized to win.
The Lakers are out of the playoffs. They’re 1.5 games behind the Heat in terms of win/loss record and a half game up on the Wolves. A loss could potentially give them slightly better lottery odds.
Betting impact: The Blazers should want to win this game to ensure at least home court in the first round, and they match Ewing’s trend mentioned above about road favorites in Games 81-82.