Oklahoma City’s pursuit of ailing San Antonio for top spot in the NBA’s Western Conference is very much on. The Thunder can set up a showdown for supremacy with the Spurs if they see off Boston on Sunday.
OKC come in with four straight wins but they’ve also been able to rest up a little with their starters playing limited minutes in Friday’s rout of Charlotte. No-one logged more than 25 minutes and it also allowed last season’s beaten finalists to underline their depth with the likes of Reggie Jackson and even Derek Fisher taking their chance to shine.
The banged-up Celtics would kill for such reserves and there must be a case for Doc Rivers for the Coach of the Year honour for the manner in which he has nursed his side to 14 wins from their last 18 - a stretch that began with the loss of All Star Rajon Rondo for several months.
Boston have won five straight, with all but one coming against teams with .500 records or better. It’s hard to see them beating the Thunder though but with a wide handicap of -10.5 in favour of the hosts at 1.91, it’s worth a punt on the men in green to keep it tight. But it’s a safer shout to take over the points line of 200.0, available at 1.91.
After coming out fighting since All Star break, the Los Angeles Lakers can accomplish what many once thought was improbable and move into the play-off spots if they beat Chicago. With a 7-2 record since the mid-season hiatus, expect the bandwagon to start rolling on the Hollywood heroes as title contenders.
They’re currently at 20.00, a far-cry from being second favourites at the outset, but don’t jump on there just yet. Their recent schedule has been relatively soft and seven of their next ten games come against some of the NBA’s weak and wounded.
Chicago could fall into the latter category despite the murmurs of Derrick Rose’s impending return. But although they’ve had success in limiting the Lakers shooters in recent meetings, the form of Kobe Bryant and momentum mean LA are worth a punt on the handicap of -5.5.
Best bet: Take the Lakers on the handicap over Chicago at 1.91