It's the last day of April, and as the calendar turns to May, you can just feel the NBA Playoffs heating up.
We've got the renewal of a historic rivalry in the East.
A Game 7 to advance to play the Lakers in the West.
What's better than this?
Here's your full Sunday NBA preview, with odds provided by Betfred Sportsbook.
Miami Heat at New York Knicks (Sunday, 1:00 pm ET, ABC)
Spread: New York (-3.5)
For his next feat, Heat forward Jimmy Butler will seek to disrupt the Knicks’ efforts to finally become a respectable franchise. He will attempt to poke holes in well-constructed game plans that his former coach (Tom Thibodeau) will surely attempt to scheme. And Butler will try to take advantage of a possibly limited Julius Randle, who aggravated his sprained left ankle in the Knicks’ series-clinching win over Cleveland.
The Heat already upset an NBA contender (Milwaukee). So why can’t Miami do the same thing to New York? In fairness, the Heat eliminated the Bucks partly because Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo missed 2 ½ games with a back injury. But Heat culture should not be discounted with its quality coaching (Erik Spoelstra), positional versatility (Bam Adebayo), veteran leadership (Kyle Lowry, Kevin Love) and young depth (Gabe Vincent, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson). And of course there’s Butler, who shows he remains among the NBA’s elite players when healthy.
Granted, the Knicks will be a handful. New York expressed optimism Randle will be available against Miami. Knicks guard Jalen Brunson has become both an elite scorer and an exceptional team player. Just like Miami, the Knicks have a lot of willing and capable role players (Josh Hart, Immanuel Quickley, Mitchell Robinson). They also have Thibodeau, who surely has prepared some defensive schemes to stop his former player (Butler).
Expect a grind-it-out fest that will remind NBA fans of 90s hoops. That seems fitting considering the Knicks and Heat had plenty of epic playoff clashes during that era (1997-2000). Get ready for an equally captivating series to take place.
Final score prediction: Knicks 109, Heat 101
Betting Pick: New York (-3.5)
Golden State Warriors at Sacramento Kings (Sunday, 3:30 pm ET, ABC)
Spread: Sacramento (-1)
The Warriors’ home court usually represented a source of comfort and success during a turbulent season. Somehow, someway, the Warriors experienced a 19-point loss to Sacramento in a potential closeout Game 6 in what marked the largest home playoff loss since May 13, 1989.
The Warriors have won road playoff games for an NBA record 28 consecutive playoff series, including a Game 5 victory in Sacramento. Other than that, the Warriors went 11-30 on the road this season. How are they going to pull off a pivotal road win in a Game 7 in Sacramento?
Sure, this marks Sacramento’s first playoff appearance since 2006. But as shown in this seven-game series, the Kings have emerged as a legitimate playoff threat. They have one of the league’s most explosive offenses. In Game 6, Sacramento made a series-high 17 three-pointers. Throughout the series, the Kings have also improved their defensive execution.
Still, it seems all too poetic for the Warriors to steal a Game 7 on the road. They have been wildly inconsistent this season, particularly with their road performances. But just like during their championship seasons, the Warriors have a knack for pulling off the spectacular.
Final score prediction: Warriors 125, Kings 120
Betting Pick: Warriors (+1)
Mark Medina is a veteran NBA reporter who will be contributing to Aaron Torres Online and Aaron Torres Media throughout the NBA playoffs - follow him on Twitter @MarkG_Medina
To get full odds on the entire NBA Playoffs visit Betfred Sportsbook
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