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NBA on ESPN Preview: Potential Playoff Teams Fight for Position

4 teams. 2 games. Playoff implications. It’s Wednesday Night hoops on ESPN

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

As the NBA season comes to its final leg, there is still a lot of uncertainty on playoff matchups. The Western Conference is in a tight race, and the East has 5 teams vying for home court advantage. We will see four of those squads on Wednesday night on ESPN.

The Philadelphia 76ers lead the Cleveland Cavaliers by two games in the Eastern Conference standings, and the Cavaliers will surely be looking to jump into the 3-seed if they can. The 76ers meanwhile will be looking to jump to number 2, to avoid a potential matchup with a dangerous Knicks squad. In the late game, the Golden State Warriors, who have won 7 of their last 10, and Los Angeles Clippers, winners of 3 straight will fight for better standing in the West, securing home court advantage.

These games have the makings of playoff matchups, and should make for entertaining basketball. So head to DraftKings to get in on the action this Wednesday night.

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (6:30 p.m. CT)

1.) Joel Embiid over 31.5 points (-105)

With the Nuggets faltering as of late, Embiid has begun to strengthen his MVP case. The 76ers superstar is having his best stretch of the season, averaging 37 points on 60/50/81 shooting splits in March. The last time he scored under 30 points was on February 27th when he had 27 points against the Miami Heat.

The Cavaliers are no slouch on the interior, with elite defenders Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. They are one of the league’s best defensive units, allowing the least amount of points per game in the NBA (106 per game.) The two times these teams have matched up this year, Embiid scored 29 and 19 points. This will be one of the biggest tests for the potential MVP, but I’m riding the hot hand for the over on his point total.

2.) James Harden over 2.5 threes (-115)

Cleveland’s three-point defense is very confusing. They hold teams to the lowest amounts of attempts a game, and the second lowest amount of makes, yet they are allowing teams to hit a high percentage from deep, at 37%. That puts them in the bottom of the league in opponent three-point percentage. Harden has been a good shooter on high volume this season, hitting 40% of his 7 attempts per game.

In his last game against the Cavaliers, Harden hit 3 shots from deep. In March, he’s shot a hair over 43% from deep. With the Cavs struggling to defend the 3, and Harden’s hot shooting, this feels like a good game for the guard to hit over 2 shots from deep.

3.) James Harden over 3.5 turnovers (+100)

James Harden is having one of the best playmaking seasons of his career, averaging nearly 11 assists per game. It helps to play with the league’s potential MVP. He’s also turning the ball over 3 times a game, which doesn’t mean he’s loose with the ball in his hands, but he certainly has his fair share of giveaways.

The Cavs on the other hand are elite at turning opposing offenses over. They rank 5th in the league in opponent turnovers a game, forcing 15 a game. In their two matchups against Philly this season, Cleveland has caused them to turn the ball over 10+ times in each matchup. Harden had 3 turnovers in his only matchup against the Cavs this season. This stout defense will rely on their ability to make Harden and the 76ers give them extra possessions to stay in the game.

Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers (9 p.m. CT)

1.) Klay Thompson over 3.5 threes (-160)

Klay Thompson was nothing short of incredible on Monday night against the Suns. The splash brother went off for 38 points, hitting 8 of his 14 threes. He’s a historic shooter, and has been on a hot streak as of late. Thompson is shooting 41% from three this season, and is hitting 4.5 a game.

Meanwhile, the Clippers are giving 15 three pointers a game to opposing offenses, allowing them to hit them at a 36% clip. That’s in the bottom half of the NBA for both metrics. In the last three meeting between these teams this season, Thompson hit three or more shots from behind the arc. Look for him to continue that hot streak against the Clips.

2.) Russell Westbrook under 22.5 Pts + Reb + Ast (-110)

Many scratched their heads when Westbrook signed with the Clippers after being bought out by the Jazz at the trade deadline. Star forward Paul George pushed to reunite with the veteran guard, and the results have been... mixed. In his first few games Russ put up some nice lines in games against the Kings and Nuggets, but has since seen a minutes reduction, and his impact has lessened.

In his last game against the Warriors on March 2nd, Westbrook was a -10 in 27 minutes of play, putting up 8 points and 6 assists. He’s played a smaller role since that point. The Warriors aren’t an elite defensive team, but they have been picking up momentum as of late. I’m hammering the under for Russ here.

3.) Ivica Zubac under 8.5 rebounds (-110)

While Zubac is average 10 rebounds a game this season, he has struggled to secure boards in the last 3 Clippers matchups. The emergence of Mason Plumless has also cut into his role as the only true big man on the roster. The starting big man hasn’t had over 8 rebounds in the last 3 matchups.

He’s also struggled mightily against the Warriors this season. Securing no more than 6 rebounds in a game. The Warriors aren’t an elite rebounding team – they are in the bottom half of the league in opponent rebounds, letting them secure 44 a game. But given Zubac’s recent struggles, and his poor play against this team, this looks like a time to bet the under.

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