The Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz clash on Tuesday night in what could be a dress rehearsal for the opening round of the NBA play-offs. But first of all, the Jazz need to make sure they book a spot.
Despite sevens wins in their last eight, Utah have a mere ½ game lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in the race for eighth in the Western Conference and they’ll hope for a repeat of OKC’s last trip to Salt Lake City when the hosts pulled out a 109-94 victory.
During their late regular season surge, Utah have pushed up the pace to average almost 104 points per night but you have to go back to mid-March for the last time they defeated an elite opponent (Memphis) with a .600 record or better.
With a victory here, the Thunder could catch San Antonio for top spot in the West and their form suggests they’re worth backing on the handicap of -3.5, in a clash that should head over the total points line of 200.0, available at 1.91.
But what of the Jazz’s race with the Lakers? Although their next two games feature a home and away double-header with lowly Minnesota, everything could hinge on their final game, on the road at Memphis.
Their rivals, who have a game in hand, have a harder schedule. The Lakers host New Orleans tonight where they should come up trumps on the handicap.
Then they go to Portland, who have lost eight in a row. But then LA come home to finish off with a triple-header against Golden State, Houston and San Antonio, all of whom will likely still be jockeying for play-off seeding. With Utah holding the tie-breaker if they end up deadlocked, an interesting final week beckons.
The Eastern Conference play-off berths are now all filled and there’s a probable first round rehearsal in Miami when Milwaukee come to town.
With the Heat not looking to show their hand, it seems certain that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will continue to sit out, putting the focus on LeBron James, who is available at 1.85 to score over 29.5 points. But he is playing fewer minutes than usual while others have stepped up, so go under that line.
Bet of the Day: Take Oklahoma City on the handicap against Utah at 1.91
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