The lengthy NBA All-Star break – one that’s longer than the Major League Baseball All-Star break, for instance – is over. It’s time for teams to go back to work on Tuesday night. Here’s a look at the betting lines along with our three-game parlay.
Toronto Raptors @ Washington Wizards
Odds: Wizards -3
Toronto and Washington have not played since Wednesday, Feb. 13, giving them almost a full week to gear up for this contest. Fresh legs will, at least for this game, enable the Raptors and Wizards to be viewed solely on the merits, not through the prism of which team is playing at home or which team is playing the second half of a back-to-back set of games. No, this is a game in which the quality of the two teams is what will decide the issue, and the Raptors are better than the Wizards right now. With Rudy Gay in the lineup, Toronto can score more – it can get production from more places and in more ways than before. A demonstration of the Raptors’ increased level of aptitude came on Friday night, Feb. 8, when they won in Indiana against the Pacers in overtime. The rest of the NBA has won only twice in Indianapolis against the Pacers, but the Raptors have won twice on the Pacers’ home floor this season. This is a team that is getting better, and against Washington, Toronto has an opponent it should be able to outclass at most spots on the floor.
Pick: Raptors +3
Charlotte Bobcats @ Orlando Magic
Odds: Magic -4.5
Orlando might have lost 12 straight games at one point just before the break, but Charlotte hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, losing 11 of 13 contests and showing very little improvement from month to month. The Bobcats have more negative momentum weighing them down. They beat Boston on Feb. 11, but everyone who watches the NBA closely is aware that Boston was playing the back end of a back-to-back set on the road after enduring a triple-overtime game against Denver the night before. Orlando’s win on Feb. 10 over an average but hardly horrible Portland squad shows that the Magic are still playing hard for coach Jacque Vaughn and are not about to mail in the rest of the season, perhaps tanking for a draft pick. Playing at home, Orlando should be able to establish the pace it wants and use its rested players to produce a fine performance. Go with the Magic here and lay the NBA betting odds.
Pick: Magic -4.5
San Antonio Spurs @ Sacramento Kings
Odds: Spurs -8.5
It’s really rather remarkable what San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich has managed to do the past two seasons. He has taken an aging core of increasingly brittle stars and surrounded them with role players who work so seamlessly together. Popovich has taken rookies and old veterans and molded them into an effective group that plays to its strengths and gives the trio of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili a lot of rest on the bench.
On Feb. 11, the Spurs and Popovich did something similar. Parker could have played, but he was benched by Popovich so that he could rest. The Spurs did not play with Parker, Duncan, or Ginobili, and yet they thrashed a pretty good Chicago team on the road by 14 points, 103-89. San Antonio simply finds a way to win under adverse circumstances, but in this game, the Spurs- coming off the All-Star break – should be fresh. They should thump Sacramento, no matter how you slice it.
Pick: Spurs -8.5