The NBA heads into the All-Star break this weekend but the first half of the season wraps up with a top-tier NBA betting doubleheader on TNT on Thursday night. The schedule opens up with a rematch from last year’s Finals featuring Miami and Oklahoma City, two teams to be considered favorites for another championship meeting.
The second game holds its own as another edition of the Battle of Los Angeles goes down at the Staples Center between the Lakers and the Clippers.
Miami Heat @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Odds: Thunder -4.5
LeBron James has been on a historic tear for the Heat, becoming the first player ever to average 30 points or more on 60% or greater career shooting, and he posted 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds on 12-of-20 shooting in a 103-97 win for the Heat over the Thunder in Miami on Christmas Day. Kevin Durant led OKC with 33 points, seven rebounds and six assists, but the defending champs dominated the Thunder in the paint by a score of 42-28, and played some lockdown defense in the final quarter to hold on to the win.
Oklahoma City has won three of the last five at home against the Heat, splitting a pair in the Finals last season, and the Thunder are 23-3 straight up while covering in 17 games on their own floor this season. The Heat have covered 10 times on the road, and you can expect this game to go down to the wire.
Pick: Heat +4.5
Los Angeles Clippers @ Los Angeles Lakers
Odds: Clippers -3.5
The Clippers have won three of their last four as they’re finally starting to get healthy, and they’ve won the last two meetings against their Staples Center co-tenants, who have been arguably the biggest story in the NBA over the first half of the season. The Lakers have won eight of their last 11 games, but the Kobe Bryant-Dwight Howard saga has hung over the team along with a slew of injury problems and they’re 3 ½ games out of eighth in the competitive Western Conference. The Clippers are steady in third, but they may be one big trade-deadline move away from a trip to the NBA Finals.
The Clips have split their last 10 meetings with the Lakers when they’re the “home team”, but they’ve covered on seven of those occasions. The last three have gone over the posted total, which you should expect as defense is neither of these teams’ strength and there is always the potential for a couple of SportsCenter-worthy plays on either side. The Lakers fell 107-102 to the Clippers on January 4th as Chris Paul led the way with 30 points, 13 assists and six rebounds, but Kobe Bryant dropped 38 as the Lakers outscored their rivals 31-20 in the fourth quarter. Like the Heat-Thunder game, this could be a nail biter on the betting lines as the NBA prepares for a weekend off before the action really gets intense in the second half on the road to the Finals.
Pick: Clippers -3.5