The NBA season is almost always a sports attraction on Thursday night, given the TNT doubleheaders that populate the schedule. What’s in store for this particular Thursday?
Los Angeles Clippers @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Odds: Thunder -5.5
The Clippers have yet to establish the consistency head coach Doc Rivers is looking for. The Clippers lost the kind of game this past Monday night that could hijack their confidence in the days ahead. The Clippers lost to their playoff nemesis, the Memphis Grizzlies, at home in Los Angeles. What adds to the sting of that loss is that Memphis wasn’t even playing that well heading into the game. The Clippers figured to have the Grizzlies in a favorable position, but they faltered badly, and now the Clippers have to be doubting themselves just a little bit. The Clippers have to pick themselves up on a mental level, but that’s going to be challenging since Los Angeles has to go to Minnesota on Wednesday night to play the Timberwolves and then make the quick turnaround for this game one night later. The fact that Los Angeles will be playing the second end of a back-to-back set will only make this team’s mental challenge even tougher. The Clippers will be fighting their minds, but they will also be fighting their bodies in this game. Oklahoma City, meanwhile, will enter this contest with two full days of rest. The Thunder should be able to play with great energy and quickness at both ends of the floor. Their starting five should be able to set a good tone, and their bench – being at home – is in a better position to make all sorts of meaningful contributions. There are simply too many check-marks going against the Clippers in this situation. Oklahoma City is without doubt the smarter pick on the betting lines in this case.
Pick: Oklahoma City
Chicago Bulls @ Denver Nuggets
Odds: Bulls -1
On Thursday, this is the game that will receive less national publicity. The Bulls are working their way toward the top tier of the Eastern Conference, but they have not been as good as the Indiana Pacers or the Miami Heat to this point in the season. Chicago needs more from its starting lineup, especially center Joakim Noah, and so one should not view these Bulls as a lock to win on the road in Denver.
However, for all of the Bulls’ weaknesses to this point in the season, they seem to be figuring things out, especially at the defensive end of the floor. The Bulls held the Indiana Pacers in check this past weekend and dealt Indiana its first loss of the season. Chicago didn’t let down (or let up) this past Monday against the Charlotte Bobcats. The Bulls remained focused on the task at hand, something that had to please head coach Tom Thibodeau. Denver is not consistent enough to outmaneuver Chicago’s offense for 48 minutes. Choose the Bulls on the point spread in this spot.