At this point in the NBA season, everyone is gearing up for the playoffs. The top teams are prepping their rotations and sneaking some rest, the borderline teams are fighting for position, and the bottomfeeders are organizing for next season. Here are some NBA predictions for some of Week 19’s key games.
NBA Predictions: April 26-28
NBA Prediction for April 26: Phoenix Suns @ New York Knicks
On Monday the Phoenix Suns will be stopping by New York City to take on the hottest team in basketball. Tom Thibodeau has completely changed the culture of the New York Knicks since taking over in the offseason. The Knicks are a gritty, hardworking team, and their efforts have earned them the fourth-best defensive rating in the league.
Most improved player candidate Julius Randle has been the on-court leader for the Knicks. Randle is now a true 3-level-scorer with the ability to take over games, dropping 40+ points twice in the Knicks 9-game winning streak. With defenses keyed in on Randle, the 3 point shooters are getting better looks, and the Knicks are second in the NBA in 3 point percentage since their win streak began.
The Suns have been treading water as of late. In their last 5, they’ve lost to both the Spurs and the Celtics, and narrowly beat the Bucks and 76ers by a total of four points. Bringing the fight to the top teams and coasting against the lower teams is a sign that the Suns are shifting into playoff mode. They will also be on the second half of a back-to-back, fresh off losing to the Brooklyn Nets in Kevin Durant’s return.
For the Suns, this game against the Knicks is a clear trap. They came into New York focused on the Brooklyn game, and keeping the Knicks as an afterthought could be to their detriment. Expect the Knicks to try and punch Pheonix in the mouth early in hopes that they’ll roll over. Chris Paul will have to fight to keep the Suns engaged against a team that will make them very uncomfortable.
NBA Prediction: New York Knicks continue their hot streak
April 27: Minnesota Timberwolves @ Houston Rockets
This game will have absolutely no impact on the playoffs. In fact, these are the only two teams to be officially eliminated from the playoffs so far. However, this game could be very important for the draft lottery, so let’s make some final NBA predictions.
The Houston Rockets have been forced to bottom out after trading away James Harden this season. They do not own their pick outright this year, and if it falls to 5 or lower, conveys to the Thunder. If anything, the Rockets should be incentivized to lose this game and retain their 52.1% odds to keep their pick.
The Minnesota Timberwolves join the Rockets in the race to the bottom, but the Wolves are in an interesting spot. Their roster indicates that they should be competing for a play-in spot, but due to injuries, have fallen to the bottom. With their roster finally getting healthy, should they be winning games or tanking to retain their pick? Golden State currently owns the Wolves pick with top 3 protection, so a win here could compromise their own 40% odds.
The Timberwolves have performed much better since the return of D’Angelo Russell, and have had a positive record when he plays with Karl-Anthony Towns. In a game where both teams will look like they want to lose, expect the Timberwolves’ talent to win out.
Prediction: Timberwolves beat the Rockets
April 28: Portland TrailBlazers @ Memphis Grizzlies
The competition is always fierce at the bottom of the Western Conference. Both of these teams are currently in the play-in, and looking to escape. This game could be extremely important for seeding at the end of the season, and could be the difference between making the playoffs or getting bounced in the play-in.
The Blazers just lost a close game to the Grizzlies on Sunday, and will be looking for their revenge. The Grizzlies were able to force Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to take tough shots all game. The Blazers went down double digits and needed Carmelo Anthony to bring them back. Once Melo had cooled off, the Grizzlies just had to stick to the plan and were able to keep the Blazers at bay. Expect the Blazers to make a number of adjustments for the rematch.
Prediction: Blazers get their revenge on the Grizzlies
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