NBA Weekend Shootaround: May 1-2

by Sean Murphy

There are only two weeks remaining in the NBA regular season and the sprint (or limp in some cases) to the finish is well underway.

Here's a look at some easily-overlooked spots to consider before you do your weekend NBA line shopping.

Saturday

Detroit at Charlotte


Despite missing a number of players due to 'injury management', the Pistons got up for the Mavericks at home on Thursday and actually hung with them for three quarters before ultimately falling by 10 points. Keep in mind, Dallas was without Luka Doncic and for as well as Detroit played, shooting better than 50% from the field, it still couldn't stay within arm's reach against an undermanned opponent. The Pistons have for all intents of purposes already moved on to next season. Next up is a trip to Charlotte to face a Hornets squad that is sure to be in a foul mood after back-to-back losses against the Bucks and Celtics. The Hornets are of course still fighting for playoff positioning, entering Friday's action in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. They certainly haven't given up on the season, even if a deep playoff run is unlikely, with LaMelo Ball and Malik Monk close to returning. The Pistons should be back at full strength for this one but they'll be hard-pressed to keep pace with the Hornets. Keep an eye on the line as the Hornets could be worth a look at a reasonable price point.

Indiana at Oklahoma City

The Thunder came out flat as expected at home against the Pelicans on Thursday night, unable to build off the positive momentum gained from Tuesday's upset win in Boston - their first victory in what seemed like an eternity (it was their first since March 31st). Now the Thunder draw a more favorable matchup against an injury-riddled Pacers squad that continues to play at a break-neck pace, often to its own detriment. Despite Thursday's poor showing, Oklahoma City is actually healthier than its been in a while and well-positioned to play spoiler against the playoff-hungry Pacers on Saturday. For whatever reason the Thunder appeared disinterested in pushing the tempo against a tired Pelicans squad playing the second of back-to-backs, and shot a miserable 38% from the field, but they should bounce back in what has the potential to be a track meet on Saturday night. If Oklahoma City is catching a generous helping of points again in this spot, it may be go-time for Thunder backers. While we're likely going to see an exorbitant total, the 'over' could be worth a look as well.

Sunday

New York at Houston


Perhaps Knicks bettors have been lulled into a false sense of security after a wildly-successful six-game homestand that saw New York go 5-1 straight-up and against the spread. This is precisely the type of spot where a young, confident team like the Knicks could get tripped up as they travel for a sleepy Sunday night matchup in Houston (against a Rockets squad they've already defeated by 22 points this season). This trip will get much tougher for New York after Sunday's contest as it will face the Grizzlies, Nuggets, Suns, Clippers and Lakers in succession - a murderer's row of Western Conference contenders. It would be easy to overlook the Rockets, who will be in a back-to-back spot after hosting the Warriors on Saturday. While Houston's season is essentially over, it hasn't thrown in the towel just yet, as evidenced by Thursday's upset win over the Bucks here at home.

Toronto at Los Angeles

This is a tough scheduling spot for the Raptors, who are simply playing out the string with no legitimate playoff hopes still worth reaching for. Toronto will be playing its third game in four nights, with two of those coming at altitude in Denver and Salt Lake City. The Lakers are rested and ready having returned home from a four-game road trip to host the Kings on Friday night. Of course, Los Angeles is gradually getting back to full strength with Anthony Davis working his way back to a full minutes load. With a tougher game against Denver on deck on Monday perhaps we see some 'load management' from the Lakers here but I'm quite honestly not sure that plays into their decision-making. Los Angeles doesn't really have the luxury of taking games off down the stretch as it enters the weekend in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference playoff picture. More help will obviously be coming with Lebron James' return imminent (at the time of writing on Friday). For now look for Los Angeles to take advantage of every winnable game on its schedule.


All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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