Despite good television numbers, the NBA play-in started with a bit of a whimper. All of that is expected to change tonight. While the Memphis Grizzlies versus the San Antonio Spurs may not turn heads like yesterday’s Celtics-Grizzlies game, it should be more competitive. However, the main draw of the play-in tournament will be airing at 10:00 PM EST: LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers versus Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. The game will be for the seventh seed, so it is not exactly one and done, but will still provide the type of excitement (and ratings) that the NBA hoped for when they decided to money grab for at least one more season.
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1. Grizzlies -4 | -112 at DraftKings Sportsbook
Memphis has been the stronger team this season, as evidenced by winning the season series 2-1 and finishing the season with a 38-34 record, while the Spurs finished out at 33-39. Of course, none of that matters in a one game play-in scenario. Memphis enters tonight’s contest relatively healthy, missing only Grayson Allen from their projected playoff rotation. San Antonio is missing key guard Derrick White. Every game in the regular season series finished with at least 14 points separating these opponents, but playoff basketball should whittle that number down to the single-digit range.
As the better and healthier team, Memphis should be able to pull out the victory tonight, but the line has been set well. The Spurs will compete, especially in a one game series. They may not have the talent to withstand Ja Morant, Jonas Valanciunas, and Jaren Jackson Jr. if two of the three get hot. Memphis should win tonight by three points. However, reaching the five points necessary to cover will be a tougher ask. The game will, of course, see its runs but should remain close throughout. The expectation here is that Memphis sees the lead grow to the magic number or higher due to intentional fouls in the final minute. Four points still gives us a push, so probability dictates a one unit dalliance on the Grizzlies to cover.
2. DeMar DeRozan Over 6.5 Assists | -127 at DraftKings Sportsbook
Fading point totals in favor of rebounds or assists is the order of the day. DeMar DeRozan has become a reliable playmaker as a member of the San Antonio Spurs and has boosted his assist total to a stellar 6.9 per contest. He has a higher usage rate with Derrick White sidelined, and as long as the game stays within reach, he should log heavy minutes. His assist total took a massive hit in April, but that coincided with a reduction in minutes for the former multiple time all-star. The Spurs will need him to log all the minutes he can handle at the three if they are to have any chance of defeating the Grizzlies and advancing to play the eight seed. The assist total is high enough to keep this as a one unit play, especially when recent trends are taken into consideration.
3. Warriors +5.5 | -110 at DraftKings Sportsbook
You will not find many people who would bet against the Lakers in tonight’s contest despite LeBron James being banged up. Yes, Steph Curry is a shooting savant who could get hot and propel his team to a win against virtually anyone, especially in a one game series, but their best chance at victory relies on the Lakers going cold from the floor. However, the question before us is whether or not the Los Angeles Lakers will win tonight‘s game by six or more points. The Warriors should keep the game competitive enough to be within striking distance during the final stretch. Golden State has won 15 of their last 20 contests and are clicking well enough for an outright upset, so the five point cushion puts the cover projection squarely in their corner. This remains a one unit play due to injuries to James Wiseman, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Damion Lee, sapping the Warriors of the depth needed to become a multi-unit tap.
4. Steph Curry Over 5.5 Assists | -113 at DraftKings Sportsbook
Curry has averaged 5.8 assists per game on the season but has seen his assist totals start to fall since he went on his scoring binge. He averaged 29.7 points per game and 6.3 assists prior to the all-star break but saw that number drop to 34.9 points per game and 5.1 assists after the break. The thought process here is that Curry, in heavy minutes with the game slowed down, may be forced to facilitate more with the Lakers defense focusing on stopping him as a scorer. Los Angeles has surrendered 8.61 assists per game to the point guard position, giving Curry more than enough upside to hit six or more assists rather easily. Solidifying Curry as an over play is the fact that he hit seven assists in two of the three contests he played against the Lakers this season. Tap Curry as a potential multi-unit play.
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