Narratives have formed and changed so quickly within the bubble that it's hard to get a grip on what is real and what isn't. The Toronto Raptors were championship contenders ... until the Boston Celtics exposed their offense and wiped the floor with them. The Thunder were the third-best team in the West ... until they were blown out by a depleted Grizzlies team. The Rockets are statistical whiplash.
It's as if an entire season's worth of trends, debates and stretches have been condensed into two weeks. Normally, you could ride waves like Toronto's for consistent profit, but with so much uncertainty in Orlando, it's important to fall back on what you know to be true about teams rather than allowing yourself to be fooled by a tiny sample. That feeds into Saturday's best bets ... in which I still somehow feel comfortable taking the Suns based on four incredible games.
Lines via William Hill Sportsbook.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Indiana Pacers: Lakers -6
The Lakers are shooting a miserable 23.6 percent on 3-pointers in Orlando. That's not remotely sustainable, and while there are deeper structural issues at play in their offense, even league-average shooting lifts their offense to the point at which their elite defense can take over games. Indiana started to see some regression of its own against Phoenix. TJ Warren is not James Harden. He wasn't going to average 40 points per game forever. Without their offensive fulcrum in Domantas Sabonis, scoring with Warren playing at his usual levels should be a slog. Against a stellar Lakers defense, it will be.
So who wins Lakers vs. Pacers? And which side of the spread hits over 50 percent of the time? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Pacers vs. Lakers spread to jump on, all from the advanced model that is up over $4,200 on its NBA picks this season, and find out.
Miami Heat vs. Phoenix Suns: Suns -2
The issue with assuming Phoenix will regress is that there aren't really areas in which it is overachieving. The Suns are shooting 37.4 percent on 3-pointers in Orlando. That's fairly sustainable. They're barely drawing fouls either. They aren't magically avoiding turnovers. Opponents are shooting only 28.8 percent on 3-pointers against them, but that's typical variance in a four-game sample combined with better overall defense. With the Suns playing this well, a two-point spread is pretty generous when the Heat won't have Jimmy Butler or Kendrick Nunn to handle the ball. A hobbled Goran Dragic, if he even suits up, isn't going to be enough to carry the offense.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Dallas Mavericks: Mavericks +5.5
Neither team has much to play for overall, as the Bucks have clinched the No. 1 seed while the Mavericks are essentially locked into No. 7, but Milwaukee has more consistently managed the workloads of its players in Orlando. Dallas, for the most part, has treated these games like any others, and remember, it beat Milwaukee on the road in their one matchup this season. The Bucks give up a ton of 3-pointers. The Mavericks gladly take them. And there are few rim-protectors better equipped to build a wall against Giannis Antetokounmpo than Kristaps Porzingis. If the MVP was guaranteed to play 35 minutes, this would be a different story, but in context, the Mavericks are the pick.