As the 2020-21 NBA regular season comes down to its last few days, a couple of superstars from two of the top title contenders are getting set to make their much-awaited return from injury.
The Lakers’ LeBron James and the Nets’ James Harden could both be back on the court and will be eager to lead their respective teams to victory. The Lakers, in particular, are in desperate need of a win as they look to avoid the play-in tournament.
Meanwhile, the Blazers and Mavericks – who are both just a game ahead of the Lakers – will both be keen to win and keep LA at bay.
Read on below as SBOTOP breaks down an NBA slate that is full of playoff ramifications.
Washington Wizards @ Atlanta Hawks
Washington’s No. 10 spot in the East play-in tournament looks all but secure thanks to the amazing run they’ve been on for the last month. The Wizards have gone 15-5 in their last 20 games, with four of their losses coming by just three points or fewer.
Russell Westbrook has been instrumental in their success. He had 28 points, 13 rebounds, and 21 assists in their narrow loss to the Hawks to break Oscar Robertson’s record for most triple-doubles in history.
With top scorer Bradley Beal still nursing a hamstring injury, Westbrook will once again lead the Wizards in their second matchup against Atlanta.
Trae Young starred in their close win the other night with 36 points, while John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic had 28 and 25 points, respectively.
Betting Tip: Washington Wizards +6.50 Asian Handicap @ 1.92
San Antonio Spurs @ Brooklyn Nets
The Spurs also look set to be the No. 10 seed in the West play-in tournament. They are coming off a record-setting 87-point first half against the Bucks en route to a 146-125 victory. DeMar DeRozan led a balanced Spurs attack with 23 points, while five other Spurs had at least 19 points.
San Antonio will now face another major test in the form of the Nets, who beat the Bulls 115-107 last night. Kevin Durant led eight Nets players with 21 points.
Kyrie Irving left the game early after getting hit in the face with an elbow, so his status for this game is questionable. But the Durant-James Harden partnership could be reunited as The Beard is close to coming back from his hamstring injury.
Betting Tip: San Antonio Spurs +5.50 Asian Handicap @ 1.88
Boston Celtics @ Cleveland Cavaliers
Things are going bad to worse for Boston. Not only are they all set to play in the play-in tournament, but they have also been rocked by the NBA 2021 news that All-Star Jaylen Brown will miss the remainder of the season due to a wrist injury.
The Celtics lost their second straight game to the Heat last night as their losing streak has extended to three games. Kemba Walker had 36 points in a losing effort, but he will likely miss the Cavaliers game to rest on the second night of a back-to-back.
But even without Brown and Walker, the NBA 2021 odds still have the Celtics favoured against the struggling Cavs, who have lost 11 games in a row.
Betting Tip: Cleveland Cavaliers +9.50 Asian Handicap @ 1.96
New Orleans Pelicans @ Dallas Mavericks
The Pelicans’ play-in hopes look all but over as they remain 2.5 games back of the Spurs. Stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram have missed the last three games due to injury, and they are both unlikely to return against the Mavericks.
That’s certainly good news for the Mavs, who are still looking to make sure they avoid the play-in tournament. They suffered a 29-point mauling at the hands of the Grizzlies last night, which snapped their four-game win streak.
Luka Doncic will be eager to bounce back after having one of his worst games of the season with just 12 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
Betting Tip: Dallas Mavericks -9.50 @ Asian Handicap @ 2.02
Portland Trail Blazers @ Utah Jazz
The Blazers’ stunning hot streak continues. They have now won four games in a row and are 8-1 in their last nine games as they look on course to finish in the West’s top six. Of their last eight wins, seven have been by double digits.
Unsurprisingly, Damian Lillard has led the charge for Portland, scoring 30 or more points in six of his last seven games.
The Blazers now have a great chance to extend their win streak to five games as they take on a Jazz team that will still be without starting guards Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley.
The Jazz have continued to play well without Mitchell and Conley, though. They had won five in a row before falling to the Warriors. Sixth man Jordan Clarkson had 41 points in a losing effort.
Betting Tip: Portland Trail Blazers +4.50 Asian Handicap 1.88
Houston Rockets @ Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are still desperately fighting to avoid the play-in tournament. They improved their chances of doing so by picking up a big 101-99 overtime win over the Knicks last night thanks to Talen Horton-Tucker’s game-winning 3-pointer.
Anthony Davis cooled off after back-to-back big scoring games, but Kyle Kuzma picked up the slack with 23 points off the bench.
Meanwhile, there’s more good news for the Lakers as LeBron James looks set to make his return to the lineup against the Rockets.
But even with King James far from full strength, the Lakers should still roll to a comfortable win over the league-worst Rockets, who have lost six games in a row.
VISIT OUR BLOG TO GET YOUR FIX FOR ALL OF THE MOST CURRENT BASKETBALL NEWS STORIES & FEATURES