The NBA makes its now-annual European detour on Thursday when the Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets come to London – with both hoping to find some home comforts on the road.
There’s been tourist stops aplenty in the UK, the usual photocalls at Big Ben, trips in black taxis and the customary trip to a “soccer” stadium.
But it’s the Pacers who have arrived on a hot streak with a five-game winning spell that’s moved them back above .500 and into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Here, insists Paul George, this is all business despite the fanfare. The All Star, averaging 22.5 points per game, has improved for having Jeff Teague as the other half of a one-two punch with the playmaker putting up 7.9 assists per. George is available at 4.50 to score over 29.5 points and that’s worth a punt.
And while defensively the Pacers are patchy, and they’ve benefitted from playing some poor opponents on their current stretch, it’s certainly a step in the right direction as the scrap for the post-season enters its critical phase.
If Indiana has warmed up, the Nuggets have frozen with five consecutive defeats – including losses to Sacramento and Philadelphia – that have come with an average of 123.8 points conceded.
Defensively, they’re a mess – ranked 28th overall – while awaiting to see if Nikola Jokic and Kenneth Faried return. But offensively, there’s been a sharing of the load with Danilo Galinari only averaging a team-high 17.1 points per amid a team mark of 108.0 per night, sixth best in the NBA.
With plenty of time to adjust since landing across the Atlantic, fatigue shouldn’t be a factor so it could be one to look at going over 221.5 total points.
And if the UK is to be OK for one NBA tourist, it’s likely to be the Pacers heading home happy.
Best bet: Take Indiana over Denver at -6.5
The Dallas Mavericks are freefalling with three successive losses and a Sunday date with the Minnesota Timberwolves that will remind them of how rebuilding takes time – and losses.
On Tuesday, the T-Wolves grabbed a 101-92 win over the Mavs with Karl-Anthony Towns scoring 34 points. Right now Dallas has few means to limit the centre and a similar story is expected in the rematch.