The NBA Playoffs are here and for the second season in a row the league is using the play-in format.
Before we get to the classic playoff bracket we will be treated to six play-in games where teams will vie for the chance to earn the seventh or eighth seed in their respective conferences. The first two games were played yesterday resulting in convincing wins for the Celtics and the Pacers.
The whole thing will wrap up on May 21 with the final games determining the 8-seeds.
If you're new to NBA betting, check out our guide on how to bet on the great sport of basketball finest league.
Before all the action takes place, let’s get ready with a breakdown of everything you should expect in this year’s play-in games.
What to watch for
These play-in games have all eight teams playing for their lives. In this ‘win or go home’ scenario you can expect the defensive intensity to be ratcheted up to new heights and every team laying it all out to survive.
It’s important to treat these just like playoff games. After all, that’s how the teams will treat them. That means big minutes for star players and veteran experience being a premium commodity. The most veteran-laden teams in this set of games include the Lakers, Warriors and Celtics; while the rest of the teams are relatively young. The Hornets and Grizzlies are two of the NBA’s youngest teams. Boston is equally as young as Charlotte but has been to six straight playoffs.
Here's how the play in tournament works:
It is yet to be seen how participating in the play-in will affect the teams that play on. These extra games wear on those playing while giving the higher-seeded teams extra rest. It will be a tough hill to climb to advance in the playoffs, even for a team like the Lakers.
As you consider who to back going into these games and beyond, consider which teams are hot and which ones are not. Golden State and Washington have been rolling through the regular season. Boston, Charlotte and San Antonio have been ice cold.
Read on as we take a peak at each of tonight's games.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies
The Spurs and Grizzlies get the Western Conference side of the play-in started on Wednesday.
Memphis has a 2-1 edge over San Antonio this season. The Spurs won the season opener before getting blown out back-to-back.
The Grizzlies have been clicking of late, going 6-2 in their last 8 games. They’ve quietly been a strong defensive team, ranking in the top-10 in rebounding, steals and turnover ratio.
San Antonio has been quite a different story. The team is limping into the postseason since losing 10 of its last 13 games. The Spurs are in the bottom third of the NBA in offense and below average in each of the four major defensive factors.
While it's always tough to go against San Antonio coach Greg Popovich in an important game such as this one, the Spurs have simply not been playing well enough over the last month compared to the Grizzlies who has a +5,8 point differential over the last 5 games, even including their bad outing against Golden State in the last game of the season.
Our pick: Memphis -4 against the spread, though it's a bit lean.
Golden State Warriors vs Los Angeles Lakers
The premier matchup of the play-in games is Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers are 2-1 against the Warriors this season. The frontcourt has been where L.A. has had the greatest advantage. They’ve held an average rebounding advantage of 52-32. With a frontcourt featuring Anthony Davis, Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol and Andre Drummond, this is one of the deepest and strongest frontcourts in the league.
On the other side, Golden State is thin up front, but it’s no secret its game starts and ends with Curry. He won his second scoring title this season after averaging a career-high 32 PPG. The Warriors are one of the hottest teams right now, winning six straight headed into this game. If Curry can put together a little more magic anything can happen.
Our pick: Lakers -210 moneyline. Don't bet against Lebron in an important game such as this one, this pick will feature in our daily picks as well and we really like it all the way to around -230.