The NBA’s final weekend of the regular season is upon us. Teams in the East and the West are battling for position. These last few days will decide which teams make it into the top six and who will have to fight their way through the controversial play-in tournament. Let’s take a look at the key matchups this weekend and NBA predictions for May 14-16.
The NBA’s Final Weekend – NBA Predictions May 14-16
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Golden State Warriors
After a tough loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Pelicans have been eliminated from playoff contention. The Warriors will need the win to keep pace with the Memphis Grizzlies, who have a favorable two-game series against the Sacramento Kings this week. The Warriors showed true grit pulling off a win against the Phoenix Suns despite a bad shooting night from Stephen Curry. Andrew Wiggins stepped up big to secure the victory and he may be needed again in the play-in tournament if the Warriors are going to make it into the first round. This matchup with the Pelicans should be in the bag, though. New Orleans no longer has anything to play for, so this one seems cut and dry.
Prediction: Warriors win over Pelicans
Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks
This has the potential to be a first-round preview with the Heat battling the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks for the fourth seed in the East. The Bucks still have a shot at the two seed in the east, so it is unlikely that they will rest key players in this game. The Heat are coming on strong at the right time, winning six of their last seven contests. Jimmy Butler may be out after getting poked in the eye against the Boston Celtics. Miami will need their star player to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo in check. If Butler doesn’t play, the Heat will struggle to keep this one close.
Prediction: Bucks beat the Heat
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Indiana Pacers
Both of these teams need this win, which should make for an entertaining matchup. Both are also dealing with injuries to key players. Due to this, expect a low-scoring, highly contested affair. The Pacers could be without leading scorer Malcolm Brogdon and defensive anchor Myles Turner. Indiana can still rely on All-Star Domantas Sabonis and the emerging Caris LeVert to carry the offensive load. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis likely to rest in preparation for the playoffs, the Pacers could steal this one. If either star plays, then Indiana will almost certainly fall short.
Prediction: Lakers outlast Pacers
Charlotte Hornets vs. New York Knicks
This game features two of the better stories to come out of the Eastern Conference this season. It is great to see LaMelo Ball back healthy after suffering a fractured wrist. This young core has been exciting to watch all season. Devonte’ Graham and Miles Bridges have been solid contributors while veterans Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward have led the team in scoring. Hayward won’t return to the team unless they make it out of the play-in tournament and Bridges could be out for this matchup due to COVID protocols. The Knicks’ return to relevance in the NBA is great for the league and fans alike. Julius Randle has been the heart and soul of this team, leading New York in the three major per-game categories. Both teams are deep, with seven players averaging double figures on each side. Randle will be the difference here.
Prediction: Knicks knockdown Hornets
Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Another potential first-round matchup comes this Sunday in Portland. MVP candidate Nikola Jokic has led the Nuggets into the fourth seed with a strong second half to the season. Denver is 7-3 in their last ten games and remains one game behind the Clippers for the third spot in the west. Portland has been even hotter of late. The Trail Blazers have won five in a row and nine of their last ten outings. The Nuggets are an impressive 20-13 on the road this season, while Portland is only three games over .500 at home. Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. will be tough for Portland to handle, but the Trail Blazers need this win more. Damian Lillard and company will pull this one out with a late-game three from the logo.
Prediction: Blazers beat Nuggets
Charlotte Hornets vs. Washington Wizards
Charlotte will have to bounce back from a battle with the Knicks to beat the Wizards. Both teams are bubble-bound unless the Wizards fall apart here in the last few days of the season. If this were a best of seven series, I’d be betting on the Wizards. Russell Westbrook has shown the will and ability to lead teams out of the first round by himself and Bradley Beal is second in the league in scoring. Washington will likely lock up the tenth spot on Friday with a win over Cleveland and/or a Bulls loss to the Nets. However, home court in the first play-in game is not out of their reach so I expect them to give it their all unless the Pacers win out. Beal is listed as day-to-day, but if he plays the Wizards win.
Prediction: Wizards win over Hornets.
Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks
The power index is surprising here, giving the Celtics a 63% chance at victory. Boston will have to make its playoff run without Jaylen Brown, who will miss the rest of the season. While Jayson Tatum can explode for 30+ on any given night, being without their second-leading scorer has hurt the Celtics’ shot at any postseason success. Boston is 3-7 in their last ten games and might be without Marcus Smart in this one as well.
Prediction: Knicks beat Boston
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Golden State Warriors
This game will decide the final seeding in the west as the eight and nine spots duke it out. The Warriors have been tough to beat at home this year and look to end the season strong. Memphis has been surprisingly good on the road, performing better in away games than at home this year. While I agree with Draymond Green that this year’s team is not the ‘We Believe’ Golden State team from 06-07, I do believe they will win this one.
Prediction: Warriors win over Grizzlies
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