We have reached the second day of the Play-In Tournament and tonight is the Western Conference’s turn. Our NBA picks have analysed every aspect of the Spurs, Grizzlies, Warriors and Lakers to provide you with the best analysis for the two games, as well as the winners of each.
Who provides the best value and who do we have coming out on top? Read on below to find SportsTips’ NBA picks for the two Western Conference Play-In games tonight!
San Antonio Spurs @ Memphis Grizzlies – 7:30pm ET
Two sides with opposing formlines face off in the opening Western Conference Play-In game tonight as the Memphis Grizzlies host the San Antonio Spurs in the 9v10 elimination game. Memphis comes in having won five of their last six games while the Spurs have collected just two wins from their last 12 games of the regular season.
The Spurs do have their excuses however, with 10 of their 12 games coming against teams that have already qualified for the playoffs. A five game final week saw them play the Bucks, Nets, Knicks and Suns, twice, only managing a home victory over Milwaukee in the last seven days of the season. One of the Spurs’ biggest downfalls is their lack of a perimeter threat, connecting on just 10 threes a game, the equal lowest mark in the league.
With that being said, Gregg Popovic runs a well oiled machine and had the Spurs rank second for the fewest turnovers per game. That means they make the most of their opportunities, especially with DeMar DeRozan leading the way. The former All Star averaged 21.6 points on 50% shooting, along with seven assists per game this season. You can then add Dejounte Murray to the mix, who had a career year with averages of 15.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.5 steals per night. That backcourt duo, despite the Spurs downfalls this season, is extremely tough to go up against and should do a good job of slowing down Memphis’ explosive guards.
say dat louder 🗣 https://t.co/Q4R2TWSAuN
— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) May 17, 2021
Ja Morant, 2020 Rookie of the Year, is the leader of that pack and plays with a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove every single night. Morant has increased his scoring, rebounding and assists numbers from last season, being the dynamic, athletic playmaker that allows the team-first system in Memphis to thrive. Whether it be Jonas Valanciunas, Dillon Brooks, Grayson Allen, De’Anthony Melton or Jaren Jackson Jr stepping up to the plate, Memphis has no single star and prefers to play as a collective on both ends of the floor.
That style of play has seen them rank second in the league for steals, a number that has resulted in the Grizzlies finishing the season with the sixth best defensive rating in the league. However it was offense that got them over the line in their two wins over the Spurs during the season, winning the season series 2-1. In both wins, Memphis made more threes and had more assists, thriving in the open court and blowing San Antonio out of the water.
The fact that Memphis won the two most recent matchups between the sides, is at home for this one and has been playing much better basketball to finish the season gives them the edge tonight. While you can never count out Popovic and DeRozan, given they have the most postseason experience out of anyone on both sides, the Spurs are a step behind and have given us no reason to have any faith in picking them.
Golden State Warriors @ Los Angeles Lakers – 10pm ET
The main event of the evening, the matchup we have all been waiting for. LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers hosting Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. The winner takes the seventh seed and will face the Suns in the opening round of the playoffs while the loser has to play for their postseason lives against the winner of the earlier game.
Just two Western Conference teams enter the postseason having won more than three games in a row, the Lakers (5) and the Warriors (6). Golden State have won six straight and eight of their last nine, helping them jump ahead of the Grizzlies to secure the double-chance play-in game by finishing as the eighth seed. Over that nine game stretch, Steph Curry has played in eight of them and averaged 36.75 points per night, 6.625 threes and 5.6 assists per night.
His spectacular play has forced some into talking about him as a potential MVP darkhorse, especially given the Warriors went just 2-7 without him and 37-26 with him, a winning percentage that would have seen them finish fifth in the West. The big driving force behind their improved play with him on the court is the difference he makes on offense. With Curry the Warriors had a top five offense in the league, without him they ranked last.
Stephen Curry vs. LeBron James.
Warriors vs. Lakers.
West Play-In game.
— theScore (@theScore) May 17, 2021
That is such a massive difference, but could also be their achilles heel. The Lakers finished the regular season with the best defensive rating in the league and with Dennis Schroder back in the lineup, LA’s game plan will simply be to hound Curry all night long. In the three games between the sides this season, the Lakers won two of them and had an overall point differential of +55, while holding Curry to just 23 points per game on 42.3% shooting from the field and 34.6% from deep.
The Lakers were without Anthony Davis for the latter two matchups, both wins, but are back to full health now and were able to get a couple of tune-up games with the entire rotation to close out the regular season. After Davis, James and Schroder all missed extended periods of time for various injuries and illnesses, the Lakers needed two games on the floor together to get back in sync and that is exactly what they did, beating the Pacers and Pelicans, on the road, by a combined 19 points.
While the Warriors finished the regular season as the hottest team in the league, the Lakers have also won five straight, are back to full health and have a much deeper roster than their counterparts. James mentioned that the Warriors have championship pedigree on their roster, but only Curry, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney remain from the side that won back to back championships three seasons ago. The Lakers on the other hand just won the title last year, knows what it takes to win and potentially has an even better roster than a season ago.
When looking at the Warriors roster; Kelly Oubre Jr, their big offseason acquisition, and James Wiseman, the coveted number two draft pick, are both sidelined. This team is relying on Curry more than ever right now but the Lakers know that, will plan for that and negate that. This is going to be an incredible spectacle, but the Lakers are too good.
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*Odds and spreads correct at time of publication, courtesy of FanDuel.
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