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Two of the NBA’s basement dwellers look for a scrap of comfort on Sunday when the Boston Celtics host the Orlando Magic.
And for both, with over two months of the regular season left, the target is to salvage some pride and position themselves for the Draft Lottery, a huge regression for a pair of franchises who were in the NBA Finals not so long ago.
Boston (15-33) have won two games more than their rivals but have ceded 16 out of 18, including a four-game losing streak that underlined that not even the return of Rajon Rondo would spark them back to life.
The former All Star has averaged just 6.7 points and 5.7 assists in six games to date, both well below his career mark.
However Celtics coach Brad Stevens has pledged to raise Rondo’s minutes from a prior level of 24 to around 30 versus Orlando which may do something to raise his side from offensive hell.
The Magic, who are just 3-12 on the road, will be without Jameer Nelson but should have Nikola Vucevic available. That can give the visitors an edge in the paint and they’re good value at 2.65 for the victory.
Yet this will be an exercise in futility with going under the total points line of 191.5, available at 1.87, looking a safe bet on recent form.
Elsewhere, a rash of injuries is going to inflict some short-term pain on some of the Western Conference title contenders.
Chris Paul is perhaps a week from returning for the LA Clippers. Manu Ginobili is out for over a month from the San Antonio Spurs. While Russell Westbrook’s absence has coincided, impressively, with the Oklahoma City Thunder claiming the best record in the NBA.
The Thunder have shortened to 2.20 favourites for the West with the Spurs out at 4.00 and the Clippers at 6.50. And while OKC are certainly the team to beat, with or without their star guard, there is some great value to be had on their rivals.
Best bet: Take Orlando to beat Boston at 2.65