Indiana – Chicago
For aficionados of brutal defensive basketball, Indianapolis is the place to be on Friday night. And expect points to be at a premium when the NBA’s two defensive juggernauts square off for the first of two meetings in four days.
The Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls have split their two previous clashes this term with home advantage proving decisive and the hosts, despite their recent stutters, still boast the league’s best record on their own floor at 31-4 where they concede a mere 87.1 points per game.
Yet on the road, Chicago give up only an average of 94.5, second to Memphis. It’s tantalising to think ‘what if?’ and wonder where the Bulls would sit if Derrick Rose had been able to spark an offense which delivers a league-low 93.4.
But when the Pacers came to the Windy City in November, they were beaten 110-94 and as we saw last week against Houston, Chicago can opt to get out and run and press for greater production. On Indiana’s homecourt though, if it becomes a war of attrition, there is surely only one victor.
Which is why it’s worth a punt over the total points line of 186.5 and on the Bulls on the handicap of +3.5 at 2.18. The Pacers might move to within two wins of clinching the Central Division title but it’s in the DNA of both teams to push this right to the wire.
Sacramento – San Antonio
The San Antonio Spurs bid for their 12th consecutive victory when they travel to the Sacramento Kings and on current form, there’s no reason why they can’t improve upon the NBA’s best record.
The Kings have previously lost twice to the Spurs by an average of six but that was before last season’s finalists really hit their stride. And although Sacramento has kept picking up the occasional victory over bad-to-middling opponents, you have to go back to early January, when they beat Portland, to see any success against the elite so back San Antonio on the handicap of -9.5 at 2.16.
Best bet: Go over the total points line of 186.5 in Indiana – Chicago at 2.50