Five storylines to watch in NBA’s sprint to playoffs

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We tend to call what’s left of the NBA season following the All-Star break the second half of the season. That’s not accurate. Teams have 25-29 games left (around a third of the season) — what’s left is a sprint to the playoffs. It’s also when some teams try to flip the switch and actually start caring about the regular season.

I’ve teamed up with Jay Croucher, the lead betting analyst at NBC Sports, to break down a list of five things to watch the rest of the NBA season — and how you can profit from them.

1) Are the Clippers for real?

Yes.

Count me among the media members who have the scars to prove they picked the Clippers in the past, but there’s a different vibe around this team.

“All four of us are at the same place in our career, we’re seeing things the same way,” Paul George told NBC Sports about himself, fellow All-Star Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. “We’ve made money, we’ve gotten the accolades and awards, now we’re focused on one thing, the same thing.

“We just want to win.”

The Clippers have been doing just that. Since Dec. 1 (after they found their footing after the Harden trade), the Clippers are 28-7 with the best offense in the NBA (122.8 offensive rating, via NBA.com) and a +6.6 net rating. They are playing a selfless brand of basketball led by a two-time Finals MVP in Leonard, who is playing MVP-ballot-level ball this season, and they are a threat.

Defending champion Denver remains the team to beat in the West. Oklahoma City and Minnesota could well finish first and second in the conference, but both those teams are untested in the playoffs and have younger core players. The Clippers are the biggest threat to the Nuggets.

Jay’s Take: “Absolutely they’re for real. At this point, when you look at the net rating and their underlying stats, basically after that 0-6 skid after they first got James Harden, and then they’ve been close to the best team in the NBA…

“I think the betting market is caught up now. Tonight, the Clippers are like 2-point dogs in Oklahoma City, and homecourt advantage is worth like 3.5 points these days in the NBA. So they’re saying that they’re 1.5 better…

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Source link : https://sports.yahoo.com/five-storylines-watch-nba-sprint-161615947.html

Author : NBC Sports

Publish date : 2024-02-22 16:16:15

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