The NBA’s regular season comes to its end on Wednesday night and although there are a handful of play-off positions yet to be decided, the big prize is the vacancy in the eighth and final post-season berth in the Western Conference.
Nothing less than victory for the Utah Jazz at the Memphis Grizzlies will suffice if they are to stand a chance of ousting the Los Angeles Lakers at the very last.
It would be one of the most extraordinary tales in the league’s history if the star-studded Lakers, who started the campaign as third-favourites for the title, were to fall short. But their fate is in their own hands. Even if their rivals win, the Lakers will still book a first round meeting with the Oklahoma City Thunder if they defeat the Houston Rockets.
Utah won’t have it easy. Memphis still has a chance to earn homecourt in its first round series with the LA Clippers, if they take a victory here and their forthcoming foes lose at Sacramento. The Grizzlies have won two out of three in so far this season, including a triumph by 103-94 at the Fedex Forum in November, and they’ve emerged on top in 13 of their last 14 at home.
Memphis are favoured by -5 points on the handicap. Although the Jazz come in fresh from three consecutive roads wins and will be fighting for their lives, back the Grizzlies to wreck their hopes.
The Lakers will have also have the advantage that their game will likely tip off after Utah’s has finished. Should the Jazz lose, you can expect Mike D’Antoni to alter his line-up to allow LA’s starters some extra rest.
If it’s win-or-bust, the Lakers – who are -2 on the handicap at 1.91 - will have to do it without both Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. However their colleagues have pulled out four consecutive victories, the last two of which have been at home against play-off teams.
Houston are all but certain to end up seventh in the West. They have won their last two games against LA, and if there is nothing at stake, go with the Rockets. Should the Lakers have to put everything on the line, expect them to keep the total points under the line of 203.0 and to sneak through.
Best Bet: Back a double of Memphis at 1.55 and Houston at 2.15
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