It’s official: LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers will miss the playoffs. LeBron had reached the postseason every year since 2005 when his Cleveland Cavaliers went 42-40 and finished ninth in the East. His streak of 13 straight years with a playoff appearance is tied for the 13th-longest of all-time. Karl Malone and John Stockton hold the record, each playing in 19 straight postseasons. Here’s a look at two intriguing NBA matchups early this week. Check back for NBA odds.
Top NBA Betting Picks of the Week – March 25th Edition
Hear from CP3 after a big road win in NOLA. 🎥⤵️ pic.twitter.com/i5K6mbH16K— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) 25 de marzo de 2019
Houston Rockets at Milwaukee Bucks
- When: Tuesday, 8 PM ET (TNT)
This season’s NBA MVP will be playing in this game as Houston’s James Harden, last season’s MVP, and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo square off for the final time this season. The Greek Freak is the betting favorite to win the MVP for the first time in his career. Probably won’t be the last one, either. That’s assuming both plays Tuesday. Harden doesn’t take games off unless he’s hurt, but the Bucks have been resting the Freak occasionally to keep him fresh and healthy for the playoffs. He is dealing with a sprained ankle.
About the only thing the Freak doesn’t do great is shoot three-pointers, but he’s improving. The entire Bucks team is firing from deep much more. Last season, the Bucks ranked 27th in made 3s per game (8.8). This season they rank second at 13.3, meaning they’re scoring 13.5 more points per game from downtown. Credit that to new coach Mike Budenholzer’s system.
Last season, no player on the Bucks averaged more than five 3-point tries per contest. This season they have three — Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, and Nikola Mirotic — averaging six or more. Mirotic is currently out injured.
Harden, meanwhile, is leading the league in scoring by a mile. Amazingly, he has scored 57+ points 6 times this season, the most in a season by a player not named Wilt Chamberlain. Harden has joined Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Chamberlain as the only players ever to have multiple 60-point games in a single season. Harden also has six of the eight 55-plus scoring games in the NBA this season.
The Bucks look for the season sweep as they were 116-109 winners in Houston on Jan. 9. The Bucks opened the third quarter with a 14-4 run and extended their lead to nine heading into the fourth; the Rockets had 7 of their 19 turnovers in the quarter.
Milwaukee led 107-94 with 5:56 remaining before Houston went on a 12-2 run but the Rockets couldn’t complete the comeback. Antetokounmpo had 27 points and 21 rebounds. The Bucks outscored the Rockets 70-24 in the paint. Harden had 42 points. Clint Capela had 18 points and 13 boards but shot 4-of-16 from the floor.
The Bucks haven’t won a season series since taking the only meeting in 2011-12 (3 ties since). The Rockets have won 8 of the past 11 games after losing three of the previous five meetings. Houston has won 8 of past 12 on the road after losing 37 of the first 47 meetings in Milwaukee.
Indiana Pacers at Oklahoma City Thunder
- When: Wednesday, 8 PM ET (ESPN)
This is the only game on Wednesday that features two teams that will make the playoffs. Still to be determined where the Pacers finish in the East and the Thunder in the West. Of course, in the summer of 2017, the Pacers traded superstar Paul George to Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. The deal was panned at the time for Indiana, but it turned out quite well – even though Oladipo is now out for the season. He has blossomed into a star and Sabonis is a darn good player. OKC isn’t complaining as George is having his best season and will get some MVP votes.
Ranking among the NBA leaders in several defensive categories this season, the Pacers currently have allowed the fewest points in the league this season at 103.9 per game. Indiana is 19-1 this season when limiting opponents to 97 or fewer points.
OKC owns the fourth-best defensive rating in the league (105.8) as well as the ninth-best net rating (3.4). OKC also scores the second-most points off opponent turnovers (19.6), the third-most second-chance points (15.3) and the fifth-most fast break points (18.1) with the fourth-highest pace (103.87).
The Pacers look to sweep regular season series over the Thunder for the second time in the last three seasons. Indiana was a 108-106 home winner vs. Oklahoma City on March 14. Wesley Matthews tipped in a basket with 1.8 seconds left and Indiana rallied from a 19-point deficit. Sabonis added 26 points against this former team. It was Indiana’s second-largest comeback this season. Darren Collison had 17 points, six rebounds, and seven assists. Tyreke Evans missed it for personal reasons.
George had 36 points against his former club and Russell Westbrook finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists. He missed a 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key as the buzzer sounded. Steven Adams had 17 points and eight rebounds. OKC was playing the second of a back-to-back. The Pacers had won their previous two road games at Oklahoma City before dropping their only visit last season in October. Oklahoma City leads the league for both the most steals per contest (9.56) and the most turnovers forced per game (17.0). This is the second-straight season that OKC has led the league in each of these categories.
Expert NBA Betting Picks
Bet Bucks – but only if the Freak plays – and Thunder.