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Thursday’s slate will finally offer us clarity on the Western Conference’s hotly contested No. 8 and No. 9 seeds. In short: the standings go in this order: Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs. Should the top two teams win, they’re in (in that order). Should either lose, just go down the line. Should they all lose, the top two still make it in. 

So how can you take advantage of play-in fever of Thursday? Here are today’s best NBA bets, all featuring teams with play-in stakes in their seeding game finales. 

All lines via Williams Hill Sportsbook and SportsLine

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Brooklyn Nets: Nets +10

Three 50-point games in a row aren’t impossible. Kobe Bryant did it. Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 for a season. Maybe Damian Lillard has another one in him. More likely, he falls down to Earth and scores something closer to 30, making Portland vulnerable to at least a cover against a Nets team that has an impressive 5-2 record in the bubble. The Blazers are, in all likelihood, winning this game. They’re better, and they have more to play for. But the Nets have looked so good at Disney that giving them so many points is an overreaction to Lillard’s hot streak. This game will be competitive. 

Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks: Suns -8.5

This one is simple. In one corner, we have a Mavericks team with absolutely nothing to play for. They are locked into the No. 7 seed, and their priority at the moment needs to be preserving their health for a first-round showdown with the Clippers. The Suns have everything to play for. A win coupled with a loss by either Memphis or Portland gets them into the play-in. Phoenix has already beaten Dallas once in Orlando, and that was the motivated version of the Mavericks. With their season on the line, the Suns will take care of business again. 

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Memphis Grizzlies: Grizzlies -3

This one is very tricky, because even without Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks would be favored in an even matchup. With Giannis off of the floor this season, the Bucks outscored opponents by 2.8 points per 100 possessions. The Grizzlies have been outscored by 2.9 points per 100 possessions in Orlando. This is a mismatch, on paper, even without the MVP. But the Bucks have rested players liberally. Many key pieces were out on Tuesday, when Giannis committed that fateful headbutt. Milwaukee, with the No. 1 seed in hand, has no reason to give Khris Middleton 35 minutes of playing time. And the cherry on top? Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins was an assistant of Bucks’ coach Mike Budenholzer’s as recently as last season. The Bucks would never throw a game for the sake of a former colleague, but let’s not pretend their foot is going to slam the gas pedal here. Milwaukee probably isn’t going all out, and that’s what the Grizzlies need for a win. 

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