There’ll be an unfamiliar look to the San Antonio Spurs tonight in Dallas, but will it throw them off course against the Mavericks? For a veteran team, there is a proud record of achievement when their biggest star sits out. But not having Tim Duncan available for their Texas short-hop could give Dirk Nowitzki the kind of opportunity he needs to try and crank the Mavs into life.
The German has seen his side improve to claim five wins from their last six games, including defeats of Memphis and Houston, and they’ve done so largely with more offence - a boon for a side which is 15-6 when they score over 100 points. And it is sure to help a veteran group that they’ve had five days rest since beating Orlando.
That would be manna for the Spurs, whose coach Greg Popovich is also missing this game due to illness. But his side got some extra help with Manu Ginobili’s return on Wednesday. Of late San Antonio’s scoring is down - well below their season average of 104.1 - but it hasn’t stopped them winning six games in a row. Minus Duncan, it could be a little closer than expected and the Mavs are worth a punt.
It's goodbye Hornets, hello Pelicans in New Orleans next season after the worst-kept secret in the NBA was revealed with official confirmation that the team’s old nickname is buzzing off (possibly back to Charlotte, where it always belonged). It might even coincide with a fresh start for the ‘Cans, who have gone 7-3 over their last ten games and look like a team with a bright future behind Anthony Davis.
They host Houston, whose best has looked behind them after a run of just two wins in ten that has coincided with the disappearance of Jeremy Lin on the court. The ex-Knicks guard has been awful, looking bereft of confidence, and if New Orleans can push the total points over the line of 200.5, they should hold sway. They’re available on the handicap at -2.5.
Bet of the day: Take the Mavericks over the Spurs.