After winning eight of their first nine games, the New York Knicks became the early contenders to provide this season's fairytale rise. But now the Big Apple giants will have to prove they have the toughness to bounce back from back-to-back losses when they face Detroit at Madison Square Garden.
The 3-9 Pistons should, in theory, be cannon fodder for their hosts, who are unbeaten in NYC this season. But in defeats to Houston and Dallas, the Knicks gave up an average of 122.5 points, showing uncharacteristic defensive lapses which were duly punished. A poor start in both games proved costly but with the Pistons averaging only 84.9 points per game, New York – who are 1.12 to prevail in regulation – is a safe bet against a side against whom they went 3-0 last term.
Carmelo Anthony has been exceptional so far, scoring 25.3 per night while maintaining the same kind of defensive consistency he showed during the Olympics. If the Knicks can bounce back to form, and maintain their push, the All Star might be a worthy candidate for MVP where he is currently available at 8.50, third favourite behind LeBron James (2.10) and Kevin Durant (3.50).
The Orlando Magic will lean on home comforts to hold off Boston and extend their winning run to three games after victories over Cleveland and Detroit. They have been a vastly better side at the Amway Center, where four of their five triumphs so far have been acquired. There may be some hope of breaking a run of five straight reverses to the Celtics.
Boston come off a 108-100 win over Oklahoma City Thunder, but that was still the third straight game in which the Cs have conceded over 100 points. Orlando has been able to hold its opponents to an average of 93.5 points to date and although they may not have enough to win out, it's worth looking at the handicap of +5.5 at 1.91 or going under the total points forecast of 192.5.
The Philadelphia 76ers were dealt a blow on Saturday when Andrew Bynum was ruled out indefinitely with problematic knees. The All Star was due to be the Sixers' new centrepiece but his team-mates have carried on regardless, taking the Thunder to overtime before losing 116-109.
They host Phoenix on Sunday with the Suns also coming over an OT performance, a victory at New Orleans on Friday. The Suns remain the worst defensive team in the NBA, conceding 103.2 per game but with 24 hours extra rest, and Marcin Gortat handed a much easier task in Bynum's absence, take Phoenix at 2.50.
Bet of the day: Take New York over Detroit at -12 points at 1.91.