With the finishing line of the NBA regular season in sight, some teams are making their move but others are buckling under the pressure.
In Golden State, the Warriors are suddenly looking, well, quite warrior-like. Five successive victories – with a good chance of another on Friday when they host the free-falling Sacramento Kings – have the 1.80 title favourites rolling nicely again towards the league’s best record and the accompanying number one seed.
It’s not quite time to declare them champions-elect. Not while Kevin Durant’s timeline to return remains uncertain. Not when the vanquished foes in their current streak are Philadelphia, Orlando, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City and Dallas, all – the Thunder apart – far from the NBA elite.
Yet there are promising signs for the championship hopes. Their last four triumphs have come while conceding 95 points or less, all while maintaining their position as the leading offense at 116.1 per game. While Klay Thompson has averaged 27.2 over the current spike to reassert himself alongside Steph Curry.
The real test of their credentials lies ahead. On Sunday, they host a Memphis Grizzlies team trying to remain in the hunt for homecourt in the first round and then it’s a four game schedule against San Antonio, Washington and Houston (twice).
While it looks a safe bet to take the Dubs by -16.5 against Sacramento at 1.75, the next ten days will be the benchmark, even if rivals Cleveland are stumbling defensively – rendering odds of 2.38 on a mere margin of -1.5 for the Charlotte Hornets an appetising option.
Similarly, the Atlanta Hawks have nosedived with five successive reverses and a negative points differential, handing the Milwaukee Bucks an opportunity to overtake them for fifth seed in the East when they square off on Friday.
Dennis Schroder looks less and less like a starting point guard and turnovers and flattening the Hawks. Washington, at 1.02 for the Southeast division, are now unbackable with even 15.00 on Atlanta a gamble too far.
And although Sunday’s visit from the Brooklyn Nets should provide the Hawks with respite – and the chance to cash in at -8.5 – their slide is coming at just the wrong time.
Best bet: Go under 211.5 total points in Golden State – Sacramento at 2.16.