A sixth successive win would be enough to clinch the Central Division title for the Indiana Pacers on Friday night, but that won’t come easy against Oklahoma City.
The Pacers have answered the doubters who wrote off their chances when Danny Granger was lost for the season last week. Since then they’ve pushed onwards, taking victories over quality opponents including Houston, Dallas and the LA Clippers while scoring over 100 points throughout their current streak.
Indiana are 22-3 to date when racking up the century mark but it’s their defence that should be key tonight. They'll give the Thunder a different kind of test to the one they passed on Thursday, when they defeated San Antonio to close in on top seed in the Western Conference.
The hosts are allowing only 89.9 points per night (second in the NBA), although they did fall short in a 104-93 loss in OKC in December. However Indiana did do a solid job of limiting Kevin Durant’s offensive opportunities and a repeat would make them worth a punt on the handicap of -2.5 in a game likely to go over the total points line of 191.0.
It’s looking like a two-way fight now between Utah and LA Lakers for the last play-off spot in the West. The Jazz have one of a must-win tonight when they host New Orleans. The Hornets haven’t won on the road in almost seven weeks and they’ve also been increasingly uncompetitive as their season nears its end. Utah should come up trumps on the handicap of -8.5 at 1.91 but their defence has slipped over the last three games. That could boost the Hornets and drive the total points over the line of 192.0, available at 1.91.
Elsewhere, the play-off match-ups for the Euroleague have been set and there’s a definite route to the title for 2.40 favourites CSKA Moscow. Caja Laboral stand in their way first, followed by what appears a favourable semi-final against either Efes Istanbul or reigning champions Olympiacos.
Barcelona (2.75 for the title) and Real Madrid (7.50) are on course to meet at the last four stage in London if they get through the next round. And at this point, the two best value bets might be on Real to end as champions or Olympiacos to end up in the top three, available at 4.00.
Best bet: Take Indiana over Oklahoma City on the handicap at 1.91