Only twice in NBA history have the reigning NBA champions missed the play-offs completely the following season. After Boston in 1970 and Chicago in 1999, could the Dallas Mavericks be about to join one of the NBA's most exclusive clubs?
Just three wins separate Dallas in sixth and Phoenix in tenth in the Western Conference standings with just 7 games of the regular season remaining. And even with the distraction of Lamar Odom now removed from within, Dirk Nowitzki and Co. are scrapping for every possible victory now.
A trip to Portland on Friday might have posed them huge problems after a 99-97 loss when the teams met last week. However with Dallas taking consecutive wins, and the Trailblazers losing LaMarcus Aldridge for the rest of the season, take Dallas to win at 1.68 and the game to go over the points total of 191.
There's a good reason that Frank Vogel is among the prime candidates to win the NBA Coach of the Year. The Indiana Pacers have exceeded all expectations with a 36-22 record, holding firm in third place in the Eastern Conference with a relatively easy final stretch of the regular season.
That run begins against Cleveland with the Pacers favoured by 11.5 at 1.91. The Cavaliers have showed glimpses of potential this term under Rookie of the Year hopeful Kyrie Irving but they're on a 2-8 losing burst over their last ten games. But two days ago, they beat Indiana 104-98 in overtime after splitting their initial two meetings. So it's worth a bet on the Cavs to run them close again.
Elsewhere, in Spanish ACB League, it now looks a three-way race between pacesetters FC Barcelona and the chasing Real Madrid and Caja Laboral Baskonia. However, Baskonia have an easier run-in than Real, so take them to finish in the top two at 3.50.
Bet of the Day: Take the Cavaliers on a handicap of 11.5 over the Pacers at odds of 1.91.