There’s just one week left on the NBA schedule and those teams placed outside of the postseason picture have little to play for down the stretch.
Some clubs are sizing up roster changes, others are preparing for the upcoming draft. These four teams, however, while missing the playoff cut still have plenty of fight left in them and would relish the chance to play spoiler for opponents still jockeying for postseason position.
Dallas Mavericks (38-40 SU, 45-33 ATS)
Covers Expert and NBA Power Rankings author Bryan Power tabbed the Mavericks as “the best non-playoff team” this week. Wednesday’s loss to the Phoenix Suns did little to back up that claim. If you ask Dirk Nowitzki and his gnarly "non-playoff" beard, Dallas plans on fighting to the finish.
“I’m going to finish the season like everybody else and try to win the next game,” Nowitzki told the Dallas Morning News, “try to get us at least to .500. We’ve had a couple chances now and every time we kind of laid an egg. … We obviously want to finish the season with a positive record I think we owe that to everybody, the franchise and the fans.”
The Mavs have four games left – two against the New Orleans Hornets. The other two, versus Denver and Memphis, and could throw a wrench in the Western Conference standings with both teams vying for home court in the first round.
Toronto Raptors (30-48 SU, 37-40-1 ATS)
Another promising year went down the tubes for the Raptors, who now sit 10th in the Eastern Conference. Injuries plagued Toronto all season, including rookie standout Jonas Valanciunas’ recent neck injury. Those ailments haven’t stopped the Raps from going down swinging, winning three of their last four heading into Friday’s home date with Chicago.
Toronto’s final four games are all against playoff-bound conference foes. It hosts Brooklyn before a trip to Atlanta and a home finale against Boston. The Raptors have three chances to make amends with the Air Canada Centre faithful and get above .500 at home, where they are 18-20 SU and ATS.
Minnesota Timberwolves (29-49 SU, 35-40-3 ATS)
Minnesota is another team that entered the 2012-13 season with high hopes. Much like Toronto, injuries slammed the door shut on the Timberwolves’ breakout year, most notably losing All-Star Kevin Love to a season-ending knee surgery. Things aren’t all bad for Minnesota, which has split its last 10 games with wins over Oklahoma City and Boston.
The T-Wolves can be a huge thorn in the side of their division rivals, the Utah Jazz, in the home stretch of the season. Minnesota takes on Utah twice in its final four games and could snuff out the No. 9 Jazz’s playoff push. Minnesota also closes the schedule at San Antonio and could help decide the No. 1 seed in the West.
Orlando Magic (20-59 SU, 36-41-2 ATS)
Orlando doesn’t have its final three foes shaking in their hightops but the Magic, who sit second last in the Eastern Conference, have been at their best when the odds are stacked the highest. And they will be when Orlando takes on Boston, Chicago and Miami to wrap up the year. The Magic are 12-5 ATS when tagged as double-digit underdogs this season and remain one of the “best bad bets” in the NBA.
They’re just 2-8 SU in their last 10 outings but have come away as pointspread winners in six of those contests, going 6-3-1 ATS in that span. Orlando’s promising youngsters Tobias Harris, Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic will be out to impress in this stretch and could cause troubles for the Bulls and Celtics, who are still trying to improve their seeding.