These are the days of our playoff lives. With most teams looking at around 15-17 regular season games left on their schedule, every night matters.
The bottom of the Western Conference is as jam packed as it’s ever been in the short history of the play-in tournament with only three games in the loss column separating the 5th seed and the 13th. In the first of ESPN’s doubleheader, the Dallas Mavericks (34-32) are on the back end of a back-to-back visiting the New Orleans Pelicans (31-34). Last night, Kyrie Irving’s 33 points and 8 assists and Luka Doncic’s 29 points and 6 assists fueled a win in Salt Lake City. It was just their third W in eight games that Irving and Doncic have played together.
Further out west, the Los Angeles Clippers have Kawhi Leonard’s former team, the Toronto Raptors, in town. LAC won their first game with Russell Westbrook on Sunday vs. the Grizzlies. Westbrook has put up decent numbers in his first six games — 15.3 points on 52.1% shooting with 4.0 rebounds and 8.3 assists a night — but it’s questionable whether or not he’s helped Kawhi Leonard and Paul George improve the Clips with a -6.2 net rating over that span. They welcome a Raptors team still trying to figure out who they are at Game #67. After many believed that they’d be sellers at the trade deadline, Toronto has gone 6-4 since reacquiring Jakob Poeltl (15.4 points and 8.9 rebounds in his return to the 416). The Raptors are currently seeded 9th in the East with a realistic chance to be hosting a play-in game or putting more stock into the ping pong balls at the draft lottery.
On the road, the Mavericks are two-point favorites entering New Orleans. The Pelicans are without Jose Alvarado, Larry Nance Jr., and of course, Zion Williamson. In the Battle of the Small Forwards in LA, the Clippers are 3.5-point home favorites against the visiting Raptors. Sixth Man of the Year candidate Norman Powell has been sidelined with a dislocated shoulder.
After missing two weeks, Fred VanVleet is averaging 15.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 10 assists in his four-game return. With the Raptors seemingly fully committed to making the playoffs this spring, FVV is playing a ton of minutes a night. Our friends at DraftKings have a quick single game parlay for the Raptors point guard to spice up the night cap. They’re giving +330 odds if VanVleet hits 25+ points, 5+ rebounds, and 5+ assists.