Clashes are becoming increasingly important as the NBA season draws to a close, and this weekend is no exception. Firstly, a pair of Pacific Division rivals square off, needing wins to maintain a home advantage in the playoffs.
Then, first place in both conferences face off in Denver, with one side looking to secure the regular season’s best record in a competitive race. Finally, the reigning champions face a Minnesota Timberwolves side looking to snatch the final automatic postseason spot. Here are our NBA picks for the weekend’s basketball action.
The fourth and final battle between two conference and divisional rivals is set for Friday night as the Phoenix Suns travel to California’s capital to face off against the Sacramento Kings. The series this season is split 2-1 in favor of the Suns, with the Kings winning the previous meeting. With the two sides sitting in third and fourth in the Western Conference, both teams will want to use success in divisional games as a springboard to future success in the NBA Finals.
Phoenix placed a large bet on the 2022/23 season, trading for Kevin Durant to add another superstar to its roster for the playoffs. After signing Durant, Phoenix’s odds of winning the NBA Finals dropped significantly, with most US betting apps placing the team as the +800 third favorite. Despite boasting the NBA’s best offense and a better record, Sacramento has remained an outsider with sportsbooks priced at +6500.
The Suns have gone 1-5 in their last six games, a stretch beginning with the loss to the Kings. Each of those matches, KD has been absent with injury. Their latest loss was an 11-point defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Kings lost out against the Boston Celtics last time but are close to confirming their first postseason appearance in 16 years.
A win will boost the hope that the Kings can secure home-court advantage in the playoffs. In truth, nothing will be decided during this final matchup of the series. However, with only a short time left in the season, both sides can seize the momentum heading into the playoffs.
The first-placed teams in the Western and Eastern Conferences clash at Ball Arena as the Denver Nuggets, and the Milwaukee Bucks meet. Denver has a record of 49-24, while Milwaukee has a 52-20 record. Both are guaranteed a place in the playoffs, but a win for Milwaukee would help them in the race for the first Maurice Podoloff Trophy, awarded to the team with the best regular season record.
In the previous fixture between the two teams, the Bucks defeated the Nuggets by eight points at the Fiserv Forum. However, Milwaukee is short-handed for this game, with Khris Middleton, Jae Crowder, Goran Dragic and Meyers Leonard all missing through injury. Both teams are among the favorites with NBA betting apps to win the championship this year, with Milwaukee the outright favorite at +260, and Denver priced at +750.
Having already clinched a playoff berth, the Bucks are 2.5 games ahead of the Celtics for the best overall regular season record in the NBA. Milwaukee leads its Central Division, is 7-3 in its last 10 games, and is 8-0 against Northwest Division opponents. Denver is 6-3 against Central Division opponents this year and has already won its Northwest Division, as it is 12.5 games ahead of its nearest divisional rivals, Minnesota.
Both sides are looking to build up their wins columns before the end of the season. For the Bucks, however, there are titles on the line: to be the first-ever recipient of the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.
Sitting just one game behind in the play-in places, the Minnesota Timberwolves travel to California to face the Golden State Warriors in a pivotal game for the Western Conference postseason picture on Sunday night.
Both teams are expected to reach the postseason - Golden State is priced with most NBA betting sites at -1430 and Minnesota at -115.
Golden State has won just two of its last five games in an eight-day road stretch. Still, it is 38-36 and will face the Philadelphia 76ers for its homecoming before clashing with Minnesota. While attention has rightly been on Steph Curry in recent weeks, with the guard posting some high scores, Jonathan Kuminga is growing in influence, scoring 20+ points twice in the previous three games.
Minnesota has also won two of its last five, beating the New York Knicks and the Atlanta Hawks this week. The return of Karl-Anthony Towns for the first time since November has boosted the Timberwolves’ performances, as he scored a walk-off free throw at the end of regulation against the Hawks during the week. His return will be critical to the battle for an automatic playoff spot in the coming 10 games.
Both teams have been short on consistency in 2022/23 but have put themselves in an excellent position to make the postseason. Minnesota, currently sitting in the play-in places, needs the win more. Still, Golden State will want to generate some good performances in the lead-up to defending its title during the NBA Finals.